Petaluma is sprouting innovative, talented chefs, sommeliers and mixologists, and pairing food and drink is a prime preoccupation. The city is cupped in rich farmland and the new Petaluma Gap AVA. Fresh local crops are a prime driver, paired with support for local businesses — and happily, some of the best local creators of wines and spirits are pairs themselves.
Meet four dynamic duos who make outstanding, unique libations and epitomize Petaluma’s community spirit.
Lorraine and Mike Barber made their first wine in their San Francisco apartment. Mike, who’d been in wine retail, taught himself winemaking by devouring course books from UC Davis and laboring in Dry Creek Valley vineyards. Lorraine had been restoring Victorian and Edwardian homes, which came in handy for building Barber Cellars’ tasting room, the first in downtown Petaluma — even though she was pregnant at the time.
Handcrafted, low-intervention and small production is their hallmark, and they have no intention of changing that. “We want people to taste the terroir, the sun, the wind and the rain, what was special about that year,” Lorraine says. “Everything we do is something we’re passionate about.”
The Barbers’ tasting room is warm, the cheese and salumi local, and the wines sublime.
Jenny and Michael Griffo founded Griffo Distillery on a bit of a whim. Jenny was traveling the world over for education nonprofits, and PhD physicist Michael was stuck in an airless lab. As a couple, they yearned for fulfillment and a sense of community. Jenny’s out-of-the-blue suggestion of a distillery was actually the perfect path.
“I think Mike and I chose each other as partners because we have such different skill sets,” Jenny says. “I don’t know another distiller who’s able to balance rigorous, scientific testing with the nonnegotiable of love of craft and creating beautiful flavor in your glass.”
In their Maker Alley distillery, visitors can try cocktails made with ingredients from local purveyors.
Caryn and Bill Reading make ports at Sonoma Portworks that begin with sustainably grown grapes from a vineyard owned through six generations of the same family. “They deliver beautiful grapes to us, and when the grapes get into our cellar, we treat them with the same care they do,” Bill says.
The Readings press by foot, use natural yeast, and eschew sulfites. They use the leftover pomace to create grappa and send the rest back to the vineyard for compost. Unique in California, the Readings also age the alcohol used to fortify the wines in oak barrels. Bill is always pushing the envelope with new twists on port.
You can usually count on meeting one of the couple in their warm, inviting Foundry Wharf neighborhood tasting room, where Caryn teaches people how to pair ports with cheeses and pastries.