Last month I took a trip to northern California to have fun with some college friends and do touristy things. A few days up and down the coast and around the Bay Area then a few days in Sonoma. Sonoma Valley, California is known for many things - and I'm pretty sure all of them start with "wine." That's why I have the utmost respect for Fred and Amy Groth of Prohibition Spirits for going against the grain - pun intended.
It all started when Fred visited Sonoma one year and was shocked to learn that in a climate so similar to Italy's no one was making limoncello. Pursuing a dream, he and his family relocated to Sonoma in 2008 to begin producing Limoncello di Sonoma under their Hello Cello brand.
After seeing much success with their limoncello, the Groths expanded their endeavors by experimenting with other spirits. Aptly named, Prohibition Spirits was the first micro-distillery in Sonoma since Prohibition swept through the region in the 1920s. A big reason the local spirit industry was on hiatus for so long was that many of California’s archaic Prohibition-era laws remained in place. However, in 2013 a determined Groth couple was instrumental in the reversal of a pesky anti-tasting law that hindered growth for several artisanal distilleries throughout the state. As a result, Prohibition Spirits is now able to bring consumers in to educate on the distillation, fermentation, and aging of their spirits then cap it off with tastings of Limoncello di Sonoma, Solano Vodka, Sugar Daddy Rums, and my personal favorite, the Hooker’s House Whiskey line.
When Fred introduced his whiskey lineup to me he said he had wanted to set a particular tone and chose to use the name Major General “Fighting Joe” Hooker, whom called Sonoma home before earning a second commission in the US Army during the Civil War. Hooker was often labeled as tenacious and a ladies man who took his whiskey strong. Some even wager that his persona was responsible for the term “hooker.” Rather fitting for some bold American whiskeys.
|General "Fighting Joe" Hooke|
What sets Prohibition Spirits apart from many artisanal distilleries is the impact Sonoma’s wine country has on the Groths’ ability to experiment. Fred and Amy source fine whiskey from Kentucky then use a variety of wine barrels to age it a bit longer. For example, they finish their Hooker’s House Rye in Zinfandel barrels and Hooker’s House Bourbon in Pinot Noir barrels. This adds quite an interesting twist on classic spirits.
I really enjoyed meeting Fred and Amy and appreciated the opportunity to learn about their unique methods as well as their outlook on the spirits industry in Northern California. Best of luck to them!