Windsor Beverage District serves up artisan booze, collaborative spirit

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Subscribe

If You Go

Some highlights of what is informally known as the Windsor Beverage District.

Russian River Brewing Co.: 700 Mitchell Lane, 707-545-BEER, www.russianriverbrewing.com, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Tilted Shed Ciderworks: 7761 Bell Road, 707-657-7796, www.tiltedshed.com, tasting room open noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays

Barley & Bine: 7765 Bell Road, 707-657-7774, www.barleybinebeercafe.com, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays

Colagrossi Wines: 7755 Bell Road, 707-529-5459 www.colagrossiwines.com, tasting room open noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Sipsong Spirits: 7759 Bell Road, 707-799-7052, www.sipsongspirits.com, tastings by appointment

Two Shepherds: 7763 Bell Road, 415-613-5731, www.twoshepherds.com, tasting room open noon to 5 Saturdays

St. Florian’s Brewery: 7704A Bell Road, 707-838-BREW, www.stfloriansbrewery.com, 4-8 p.m. Thursdays, noon-8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2-6 p.m. Sundays

Grand Cru Custom Crush: 1200 American Way, Windsor, 707-687-0905, www.grandcrucustomcrush.com, member wineries host tastings by appointment

K Squared Cellars: 7975 Cameron Drive, Building 100A, 707-687-3300, www.ksquaredcellars.com, noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, weekday tastings by appointment

Upcoming events

Artisan Alley will have Friday night bashes from 5-8 p.m. on Sept. 20 and Oct. 18, with each business offering tastings and sales of wine, spirits, cider and beer. There will be a food truck and games on site. Visit www.artisanalleywindsor.com for more info.

Grand Cru also is hosting an open-house marketplace event Nov. 30 during which 15 of the wineries that make wine on site will be pouring different wines. There will be food trucks and local small business owners selling their wares as well. Tickets are $15.

Just west of Highway 101, in the heart of an unassuming industrial neighborhood that used to be farmland, Windsor’s hottest drinking destination is drawing huge crowds.

The area, colloquially dubbed the Windsor Beverage District, comprises more than a dozen places to imbibe everything from wine and beer to cider and spirits. A few of the artisan booze-makers even offer food.

Most visitors know the region by its anchor tenant: the $50 million, 85,000-square-foot

Russian River Brewing Co. facility that opened last year. In truth, however, Russian River only represents a part of the story — most of the other companies in the area are small, maker-owned businesses that get by with help from their closest friends.

“This isn’t just a part of the county where small and growing companies have settled; it’s a full-on zone for collaboration and inspiration,” says Tara Jasper, who owns Sipsong Spirits, one of the artisan brands in the mix. “In addition to great products, that’s what makes the (Windsor Beverage District) so special — the sense of camaraderie and the personal touch you get every time you come in for a tasting or visit.”

Artisan Alley

Fittingly, the center of the new beverage district is an alley in an industrial office park on the north side of Bell Road.

Shop owners and entrepreneurs who first moved into the space back in 2014 and 2015 affectionately nicknamed the enclave “Artisan Alley.” The name stuck. Now it has its own website, artisanalleywindsor.com.

All told, the Alley has six public-facing tenants: Colagrossi Wines, a small-lot winery that specializes in Italian varietals; Sonoma Brothers Distilling, which makes high-end spirits; Sipsong Spirits, which makes high-end gin; Tilted Shed Ciderworks, which makes ciders from local fruits; Two Shepherds, a boutique winery that crafts Rhone-style wines; and Barley & Bine, a taproom and cafe. Across the street, on the north side of Bell Road, sits another brewery and tap room: St. Florian’s.

As Jasper noted, collaboration reigns supreme among this crowd. Some of the makers share a forklift. Most regularly send business to their neighbors. And on the third Friday of every month from 5-8 p.m., tenants bring in a food truck, close the alley to car traffic, open the garage doors and encourage guests to sip and stroll (and, of course, buy).

Each of the artisans is different; each has a different story.

St. Florian’s for example, was founded by Windsor Fire Captain Aron Levin and his wife, Amy, and the brand gives a minimum of 5% of all profits to fire-related and community-based organizations.

Sonoma Brothers was started by twin brothers with similar backgrounds: Brandon Matthies is an officer with the Santa Rosa Police Department, while Chris Matthies is a firefighter with the Santa Rosa Fire Department.

The Matthies boys share distilling and tasting room space (and their $100,000 copper still from Germany) with Jasper, who founded her gin brand in 2016 as an attempt to create spirits (and, eventually, liqueurs) with botanicals from farms and other natural spots in and around her Healdsburg home. Jasper started tasting her gin at the space earlier this year.

Then, of course, there’s Tilted Shed. The place is only open for tastings on Saturdays, but co- owners Scott Heath and Ellen Cavalli are sure to make the experience educational (and, therefore, memorable).

If You Go

Some highlights of what is informally known as the Windsor Beverage District.

Russian River Brewing Co.: 700 Mitchell Lane, 707-545-BEER, www.russianriverbrewing.com, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Tilted Shed Ciderworks: 7761 Bell Road, 707-657-7796, www.tiltedshed.com, tasting room open noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays

Barley & Bine: 7765 Bell Road, 707-657-7774, www.barleybinebeercafe.com, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays

Colagrossi Wines: 7755 Bell Road, 707-529-5459 www.colagrossiwines.com, tasting room open noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Sipsong Spirits: 7759 Bell Road, 707-799-7052, www.sipsongspirits.com, tastings by appointment

Two Shepherds: 7763 Bell Road, 415-613-5731, www.twoshepherds.com, tasting room open noon to 5 Saturdays

St. Florian’s Brewery: 7704A Bell Road, 707-838-BREW, www.stfloriansbrewery.com, 4-8 p.m. Thursdays, noon-8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2-6 p.m. Sundays

Grand Cru Custom Crush: 1200 American Way, Windsor, 707-687-0905, www.grandcrucustomcrush.com, member wineries host tastings by appointment

K Squared Cellars: 7975 Cameron Drive, Building 100A, 707-687-3300, www.ksquaredcellars.com, noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, weekday tastings by appointment

Upcoming events

Artisan Alley will have Friday night bashes from 5-8 p.m. on Sept. 20 and Oct. 18, with each business offering tastings and sales of wine, spirits, cider and beer. There will be a food truck and games on site. Visit www.artisanalleywindsor.com for more info.

Grand Cru also is hosting an open-house marketplace event Nov. 30 during which 15 of the wineries that make wine on site will be pouring different wines. There will be food trucks and local small business owners selling their wares as well. Tickets are $15.

Most tastings include anywhere from three to five samples of current ciders made from apples that grow on the owners’ Sebastopol farm. Heath or Cavalli usually run the tastings, and spend time discussing the different apples that go into each cider, as well as the flavor profiles unique to every variety of apple.

“Cider is misunderstood as something that’s one-dimensional and sweet,” says Cavalli. “We want to show people there’s a lot more that goes into it — a lot of complexity and nuance — and that grapes aren’t the only local (fruit) that can make something worth drinking.”

Perhaps the liveliest of the Artisan Alley businesses is Barley & Bine.

The beer cafe welcomes kids and dogs, it and has an open-air patio that is particularly conducive to kicking back and enjoying a crisp fall day. It’s also hosting an Oktoberfest bash Oct. 4-5.

Co-owner Jeff Reitz is careful to note he doesn’t run a brewery; all the beers he serves are made elsewhere. Instead, Reitz prides himself on bringing in small-batch and hard-to-find brews from independent breweries around the North Bay (and sometimes farther afield). In many cases, the Healdsburg High School alumnus will drive to pick up kegs himself.

Among the fan favorites in recent months: beers from Humble Sea Brewery in Santa Cruz; Del Cielo Brewing Co., in Martinez; and Moonraker Brewing Co., in Auburn.

Barley & Bine also serves a limited menu of lunch and dinner items such as grilled sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, cheese plates, and nachos — pretty much anything one can make in a high-speed convection oven.

“The beer scene around here has gotten to the point these days where it’s hard to go into a spot and feel like you’re not getting judged based on what kind of beer you’re ordering,” says Reitz, who owns the place with his wife, Lindsay Osborne. “We just wanted to build a welcoming environment where everyone can come and relax and enjoy themselves.”

A WeWork for wine

In wine parlance, the phrase “grand cru” is the classification of a vineyard known for maintaining a consistent reputation for producing quality wines year after year.

The same could be said about Grand Cru, which sits south of Russian River Brewing on American Way.

Think of Grand Cru like WeWork for wine. The 31,000-square-foot state-of-the-art production facility is a cooperative and collaborative winery space where a dedicated staff helps smaller, boutique labels make wine and build brands. It is home to more than 20 boutique Russian River-area wine labels that are big enough to have established winemaking but too small to own winery operations of their own. All told, the facility can produce roughly 30,000 cases a year.

Nine of the “member” wine labels — Ernest, Flambeaux, Smith Story, Mueller, Bucher, Eric Kent, and Stringer among them — share a dedicated hospitality staff and six tasting salons with open-air patios.

Nicole Yasinsac runs that hospitality staff and says tastings in these rooms work like those at any other standalone winery; the only difference is that guests are encouraged to book in advance through Grand Cru’s website, grandcrucustomcrush.com, to guarantee their slot.

“It takes us time to set up each tasting and make each experience special, so we like having a heads up,” says Yasinsac, whose formal title is director of hospitality and events. “We may not be able to accommodate everybody exactly when they want to get in here, but we usually have enough flexibility to get everyone in.”

While most of the tastings at Grand Cru are exclusive to one brand, Yasinsac has curated two tastings that incorporate sips from several different labels.

The first, a sampling of summer rosés, is only available until the end of the month (September 2019), and includes the 2017 rose of pinot noir from Smith Story, the 2017 rose of pinot noir and syrah from Mueller, and the 2018 rose of Cinsault (dubbed “The Country Wife”) from Ernest.

The Vintners’ Selection tasting pulls six different samples from the nine wineries that share the salons. Yasinsac changes the lineup every quarter; this summer the tasting included a 2015 chardonnay from Black Kite, a 2016 chardonnay from Magnolia Blossom, the 2015 “The Engineer” Pinot Noir from Ernest, and a 2017 zinfandel from Flambeaux.

Both tastings are $25 per person and include a tour of the winemaking facility.

Grand Cru also is hosting an open house marketplace event on November 30 during which 15 of the wineries that make wine on site will be pouring different wines. Yasinsac says the facility will bring in food trucks and local small business owners to sell their wares as well.

Tickets are $15 apiece.

Show Comment

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine