Dinner with Jacopo Poli

What a pleasure we had last night, getting the world's premier grappa distiller all to ourselves for a private dinner and tasting at Donato in Redwood City. Jacopo Poli is to grappa what Robert Mondavi is to California Cabernet or Jack Daniels is to American whiskey. It's the most renowned name in the genre and we had Jacopo himself to guide us through the ins and outs of grappa production and distillation. The sun was setting on a lazy Monday afternoon as we poured our first glass and nibbled on appetizers. We were settling in for a long evening of Italian magic.

While grappa doesn't bring out the masses en force like a whisky tasting would, the group you do get is more dedicated and curious. We had a fine collection of folks in the room last night, asking questions, taking notes, and having fun. 

I think what ultimately interested everyone was hearing about the evolution of grappa as a beverage in Italy. Like most spirits, it started it mainly as a form of preservation—as a way of at least getting something out of the grape must before it spoiled—before being perfected into more of an art form. Jacopo talked about finer cuts of heads and tails, destemming, and various other procedures that he and he father fought over as the business evolved. Old school grappa threw everything into a big vat: various varietals, the seeds, the stems, and just let it go. Over time, Jacopo began to finesse the process a bit, removing the bitter elements that result from stems, doing single varietal distillations, and taking smaller heart cuts. 

Plus, he only distills two months a year. Can you imagine that in today's overproduced world of booze? A successful, family-run distillery that doesn't try to stretch its supply beyond what they can properly achieve?


Many thanks to Jacopo and his team for a great evening.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll