Booze News

Soft Tail Spirits: Western Washington’s First Craft Distillery

The Woodinville grappa-maker currently offers three pomace brandies, and there are more on the way.

October 6, 2009

Dennis Robertson, part-owner of Woodinville-based Soft Tail Spirits, first encountered grappa on a business trip in Italy where he was buying machinery for Scrivanich Natural Stone. (He’s part-owner of that business too.) He fell in love with the fragrant grape-based brandy, and marveled at its environmental implications. “In Europe they use everything,” says Robertson.

Not here. Back in Woodinville the piles of leftover raw product from Di Stefano winery, the stoneyard’s neighbor, lingered in the parking lot, filling Robertson’s head with dreams of fragrant pomace brandies. But at the time, it was nearly impossible to open a craft distillery due to steep fees and draconian state laws. That changed in 2008 when the law relaxed; today Washington’s micro distillers pay smaller fees and can open tasting rooms where they are permitted to serve samples to customers and sell them up to a half gallon of spirits per day. Robertson saw his chance: he started construction on a distillery/tasting room, collected raw product from local wineries, and bought a copper still from Portugal. Soft Tail soon became the third licensed craft distillery in Washington and the first in Western Washington.

Soft Tail’s first line of grappas is comprised of three products, all made from a blend of grapes. (Robertson plans to roll out more refined single varietal grappas in the coming months.) There’s the Grappa Blanco ($34), an 84 proof grappa made with a blend of merlot, syrah, and cabernet grapes and stored in stainless. The Grappa Giallo ($34) is stored in French oak and is also 84 proof. The reserve ($44) is 100 proof. We don’t know who grows the grapes: Robertson says the wineries he works with have been cautious about associating their name associated with a new product, but he’s optimistic about future cobranding opportunities.

Visit the distillery on weekends from 12-5pm for a tasting, or ask your local liquor store to order. The grappas have also been known to show up behind the bar at Taste restaurant, and Robertson says Tidbit and Zig Zag will both be carrying carrying Soft Tail grappas soon.

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Take a tour of Woodinville wine country with our weekend guide.

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