Cue Josh & Sarah Opatz, the owners of Young & Yonder Spirits, a House of Brands; who left their corporate, big city life behind to live off the grid in Wine Country and pursue their passion of creating high-quality distilled spirits.
Wait what, there are Distilleries in Wine Country?
There sure are! As a category, Distilled Spirits is a growing industry in Wine Country. As of 2015, there were 13 craft distilleries in Sonoma County. In the 2017 Wine and Craft Beverage Industry Report it stated “the number of distilleries has more than doubled in the last three years and is among the highest among California metro areas”.
So who are the Opatz and why Wine Country…
In my opinion, this couple is a total power house! Josh, originally from Sonoma County, has a background in finance, family roots in the wine industry and a deep passion for distilled spirits. Sarah, with a background in PR, Advertising, and Design, coupled with her passion for craft beverages, and a ‘let’s do this’ attitude make for a great team.
But Young & Yonder didn’t happen overnight, quite the opposite. When Josh and Sarah met in San Francisco, Josh was home brewing in the basement of his apartment. Which quickly turned into a hobby the couple both enjoyed and gradually morphed into home distilling that they shared amongst friends and family. It was only after lengthy encouragement from friends and family to pursue their dream and passion did they take the leap! And in December of 2013, in Cloverdale, CA they opened Young & Yonder. In 2017 Young & Yonder moved into their current retail and warehouse space in Healdsburg, CA, opening its doors in March 2018.
But what is a ‘House of Brands’?
At Young & Yonder there are 5 distinct distilled spirits: Vodka, Lime Vodka, Gin, Bourbon, & Absinthe. Young & Yonder pays tribute to each of these spirits with their own label. Which makes a lot of sense, as each of these brands took years to develop. For example, the H.O.B.S Gin took 2 years to build, honing the herbs and spice blend, playing with infusion methods, dried versus fresh herbs and spices. The commitment and passion to developing each of these brands from the grain to the graphic shows and it goes above and beyond what you would expect, you can taste the difference!
One of the things I enjoy most about their house of brands, is the story behind each label. I hope you enjoy it as well…
Armont Vodka - Armont is the name of a family friend of Josh’s who lived in San Francisco and was known for throwing lavish parties that embodied the ‘Great Gatsby’. The label pays tribute to him and that lifestyle. When you see the label you will know what I am talking about.
H.O.B.S Gin - Harbor of Broken Souls - This label is fantastic, the detail and artwork is beautiful… it’s in black and white and all I want to do is color it! But more importantly this is a tribute to the long relationship between Gin and its interlacing with Naval History.
Fellows & Foragers Absinthe - Now you don’t see Absinthe on the menu often or if you do, you associate it with a European brand, so I was excited to see this spirit on the list. Its flavors while vibrant (Young & Yonder uses 75 lbs of botanicals in each batch), are not overpowering. And the label is fun, a bit of a play on figures: Dapper fellows who would have commonly enjoyed the spirit but as the animals who forage the botanicals found in the Absinthe.
Stave Robber Bourbon - This sweet label is named after their dog, who loves to cool off in the cellar amongst the barrels and staves. Hence Stave Robber.
Y/Y Distiller’s Series _ Lime - I am not usually a fan of flavored vodka but this lime vodka is tasty. It reminded me of a Lime Otter pop but creamy. I promise it’s good and a great base for a Moscow Mule. As for the label, this was left rather open ended to allow the Young & Yonder team to continue to play with flavors for the future.
So the next time you are visiting Wine Country or just looking for something new, give Young & Yonder at try… chances are, you’ll find the duo + Josh’s step brother Shane mixing up a batch and slinging hand crafted cocktail tastes. Cheers!