Korbel Brandy named best in the U.S.

10Best readers choose Sonoma distillery as best for brandy

Brandy is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to renewed interest in classic cocktail recipes. The term "brandy" refers primarily to spirits distilled from wine, and more broadly to spirits distilled from fruits (also called eau de vie).

  • Korbel Brandy
    Sonoma, Calif.

    Korbel has been producing California brandy since 1889. This award-winning spirit is made from California grapes, distilled in small batches and aged in fire-charred oak barrels to produce a golden brandy with a rich butterscotch nose and a smooth finish.
    Photo courtesy of Korbel Brandy

  • J. Carver Distillery
    Waconia, Minn.

    J. Carver Distillery crafts Minnesota’s first apple brandy made from Minnesota-grown apples distilled and aged in barrels coopered right in the state. The results is a Calvados-like brandy with a nose of caramel apple and a smooth, lasting finish. The limited release Island View Brandy was made in collaboration with local wineries using cool climate grapes.
    Photo courtesy of J. Carver Distillery

  • Catoctin Creek
    Purcellville, Va.

    While Catoctin Creek might be best known for its flagship rye whiskey, the Virginia distillery also makes the state’s first commercial grape brandy since the founding of the Commonwealth. This 1757 Virginia Brandy, made from locally grown wine grapes, is aged in French oak barrels for at least two years.
    Photo courtesy of Scott E. Harris / Wikimedia Commons

  • Huber's Starlight Distillery
    Starlight, Ind.

    Located at Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards, Huber's Starlight Distillery uses estate-bottled wines to produce artisan European-style brandies and ports. Fresh blueberry juice is distilled into a wonderful blueberry liqueur that gets aged in red wine barrels for five to ten years, while a small-batch peach brandy is distilled from home-grown peaches.
    Photo courtesy of Huber's Starlight Distillery

  • In Distill of the Night Spirits
    Fresno, Calif.

    Velvet Night from In Distill of the Night Spirits in Fresno starts with carefully selected Central California wines, carefully distilled and aged in American and European oak barrels. This gives the brandy a bourbon-like nose, bold flavor and smooth finish.
    Photo courtesy of In Distill of the Night Spirits

  • Finger Lakes Distilling
    Burdett, N.Y.

    Each brandy from Finger Lakes Distilling is distilled from fresh local fruit and meant for sipping. The lineup includes Riesling Grappa, an unaged pomace brandy made from local grapes, as well as a Cognac-style grape brandy aged in whiskey barrels to add notes of vanilla and oak.
    Photo courtesy of Finger Lakes Distilling

  • St. Julian Winery
    Paw Paw, Mich.

    St. Julian Winery and Distillery produces three excellent brandies, including a classic aged grape brandy is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Vidal Blanc grapes. The apple brandy features notes of vanilla, hazelnut and butterscotch, while the cherry brandy has a fruity nose and notes of cherry jam on raisin toast.
    Photo courtesy of St. Julian Winery

  • Napa Valley Distillery
    Napa, Calif.

    Napa Valley Distillery was the first distillery to open in the region since Prohibition, and it’s no surprise that a distillery in the heart of California Wine Country makes excellent brandy. One of the signature spirits is the Napa Reserve Neutral Brandy, made from single-distilled Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Other offerings include cherry, sweet basil, plum and pear brandies.
    Photo courtesy of WineCountry Media / Flickr

  • Clear Creek Distillery
    Hood River, Ore.

    Hood River's Clear Creek Distillery showcases the bounty of the Pacific Northwest through its line of brandies. Pear brandy is made from Bartlett pears grown in the Hood River Valley, while fresh Oregon and Washington cherries are crushed, fermented and distilled to make a clear cherry brandy. Other clear brandies are made from Italian blue plums, Mirabelle plums, raspberries and Douglas fir buds. Apple brandies are barrel-aged for complexity.
    Photo courtesy of Clear Creek Distillery

  • St. George Spirits
    Alameda, Calif.

    St. George Spirits offers a lineup of three fruit brandies, each made from fresh, flavorful fruit used whole without any added sugar or artificial flavors. Brandies are distilled in copper pot stills a single time. The flagship pear brandy features 30 pounds of organic Bartlett pears in every bottle. The raspberry brandy has an intense flavor of ripe berries, while the barrel-aged apple brandy has notes of honey and cinnamon.
    Photo courtesy of Ben Krantz / St. George Spirits

The top 10 winners in the Best Craft Brandy Distillery category are as follows:

  1. Korbel Brandy - Sonoma, Calif.
  2. J. Carver Distillery - Waconia, Minn.
  3. Catoctin Creek - Purcellville, Va.
  4. Huber's Starlight Distillery - Starlight, Ind.
  5. In Distill of the Night Spirits - Fresno, Calif.
  6. Finger Lakes Distilling - Burdett, N.Y.
  7. St. Julian Winery - Paw Paw, Mich.
  8. Napa Valley Distillery - Napa, Calif.
  9. Clear Creek Distillery - Hood River, Ore.
  10. St. George Spirits - Alameda, Calif.

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Emily Arden Wells (Gastronomista); Brian Christensen (Artisan Spirit Magazine); Ziggy Eschliman, one of America's most authoritative and entertaining libation experts; Kevin Gray (Bevvy); Eric Grossman (Craft Spirits) and Jack Robertiello, a spirits competition judge, were chosen for their knowledge of the American craft spirits scene.

Congratulations to all these winning distilleries.

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Emily Arden Wells

Emily Arden Wells

Brian Christensen

Brian Christensen

Ziggy Eschliman

Ziggy Eschliman

Kevin Gray

Kevin Gray

Eric Grossman

Eric Grossman

Jack Robertiello

Jack Robertiello