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E. & J. Gallo buys Germain-Robin luxury brandy distiller in Mendocino County

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E. & J. Gallo Winery has purchased Germain-Robin, a Mendocino County maker of what’s said to be California’s first luxury brandy.

Gallo’s acquisition includes the Germain-Robin brand, inventory of aged and aging brandies, and all finished goods, the company announced Wednesday, Aug. 16. That includes brandy lots that are over 30 years old, made from a traditional Cognac and Armagnac grape varieties, as well as nontraditional brandy varietals such as pinot noir and zinfandel.

Other terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founders of the distillery, located near Ukiah, are Ansley J. Coale Jr. and Hubert Germain-Robin. They are thought of as pioneers in world-class California brandies, as well as innovatively blending Cognac traditions and techniques with California winemaking and premium grape varieties.

“For decades, Germain-Robin has struggled to place brandy distilled from California wine where it belongs: a category, long overlooked, in fact worthy of inclusion at all levels among the world’s finest spirits,” said Coale in a statement. "We hope — indeed, intend — that our unique knowledge and capabilities, supported and augmented by, and carefully integrated into, Gallo’s deep experience and powerful resources in both production and marketing, will help bring brandy from California wine the recognition it so richly deserves."

In 1981, Coale is said to have had a chance encounter along Highway 101 in Northern California with Hubert Germain-Robin of the Jules Robin family, Cognac producers since 1782. Hubert’s desire at that time was to create a small distillery using traditional craft-method distillation techniques, according to Gallo.

“We are fortunate to have Ansley Coale and Joseph Corley, Hubert’s apprentice and current Germain-Robin distiller and cellarmaster, remain involved as part of the acquisition,” said Ernest J. Gallo, general manager of Gallo’s spirits business. “We are pleased to continue delivering remarkable and unique California brandies that will appeal to whiskey and bourbon drinkers and other connoisseurs of brown spirits around the world."

Coale and Ansley established Germain-Robin in 1982. The two men began making brandies from premium California winegrapes. By the late 1990s, when Germain-Robin’s cellar had matured, their brandies gained attention as some of the world’s finest spirits recognized for their elegant, complex and distinct taste.

Germain-Robin brandies retail for $35–$120 a bottle.

International Wine Associates was the exclusive financial adviser for Germain-Robin.

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