I don't know what it was exactly that happened, but when Dan Farber came by yesterday to taste us once again on his locally-produced, Santa Cruz Mountain brandies something simply clicked. Maybe it was the fact that I had just been to Cognac and was more seasoned in my brandy experience. Maybe it was the fact that the brandies have simply improved now that Dan has quit his job at Lawrence Livermore Lab and devoted his full time to distillation. Whatever the reason, these brandies tasted better than ever. The standard alambic brandy was more streamlined and focused, lacking the ruggedness I once attributed to it. The XO and Hermitage blends (coming in later this week) were absolutely outstanding, the closest I've ever tasted to Cognac from a domestic producer.
When you talk in depth with Dan, you're immediately struck by how informed he is about the distillation process. He talks quickly and with confidence, continuously blowing your mind by how precisely he can describe to you why the brandy tastes like it does. He can speak at length about the weight of solubles as they pass through his Cognac still or the fact that, while he doesn't personally use boise, he finds the practice completely fascinating when done responsibly. He sources Colombard, Pinot Noir, and other California varietals from the central coast and makes his own distilling wine at the nearby Santa Cruz Mountain Winery. He had just finished a batch of riesling before dropping by. There's too much information that I want to share to fit inside a tidy little blog post now, so look for a new podcast episode soon featuring Dan where we can expound a bit on these topics. We've also booked a tasting date in March where you can all come and meet him, while sampling his wares.