First look: Griffo Distillery’s The Bottle Shop in Petaluma

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Vote for Griffo

Griffo Distillery was recently nominated by a panel of craft spirit experts as a finalist for the U.S.A. Today – 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards in the Craft Gin Distillery category. Voting is open through Monday, Sept. 23, with fans able to cast their vote each day until then. Visit 10best.com/awards/travel/best-craft-gin-distillery-2019/ to vote. Other Petaluma makers also in the running, but in the category of Craft Mixers, are Bitter Girl Bitters and Monarch Bitters so be sure to vote for them too. Additionally, several other distilleries are in the running in categories ranging from Craft Whiskey to Craft Brandy.

Griffo Distillery is taking the plunge and diving deeper into Petaluma by opening a new venture in the historic downtown. The Bottle Shop will offer barrel tastings, craft cocktails and small bites at 157 Petaluma Blvd. N. This will be in addition to its existing Scott Street location.

The Argus-Courier sat down with proprietor Jenny Griffo to discuss the new venue, and the business of making booze in Petaluma.

HP: Why do you think our area is so big for distilleries?

Griffo: The North Bay has been a hot bed for innovation in food and drink for a long time. With distilled spirits coming to the forefront it makes sense to me that the North Bay would attract people who want to do it right.

HP: Is that what brought you here?

Griffo: Yes. For us, this was the right area for Griffo Distillery because of the accessible knowledge base and resources of our community, and the fresh ingredients that are grown right here that make our spirits shine. The land and its bounty are so inspiring. We have local grain farmers who make the most beautiful grains for our whiskeys and we have live-stock farmers who pick up our spent grain — we’ve donated over 30,000 gallons of grain to date.

Getting to be a part of these natural systems is an honor and also why the juice in the bottle tastes so good. A big part of our revenue comes from tourists from San Frnacisco and beyond coming to Sonoma County for wine tasting, so this community of makers and creators is definitely one other reason we’re all here.

HP: What will be the theme of the new downtown location?

Griffo: We’re calling it The Bottle Shop, with a capital “T” and are shooting for a simple, clean aesthetic, with key elements to bring the feel of the distillery to the center of the experience. We hope to make The Bottle Shop into a community hub with lots going on: Griffo bottles, classic cocktails, seasonal bites, a relaxing environment and good music.

The interior will be a classic clean design created by local designer Lizzie Wallack (of Double Happiness) with fresh locally sourced materials it will be an easy and inspiring place to grab drinks and a bite to eat with friends or taste the newest spirits Mike Griffo and his team are creating.

HP: Obviously, drinks will be a key focus?

Griffo: We’ll have tastings straight from the barrel as well as our full spirit line including limited release items. Classic cocktails featuring Griffo spirits with fresh, simple twists. Griffo will always have fresh mocktails for the non-drinker and for kiddos stopping in with their parents.

HP: And what is this I hear about a club?

Griffo: Yes, with the launch of The Bottle Shop, we will also be launching our Spirit Club. Since we’re not allowed to ship direct, being centrally located allows us to create an easy way for members to pick up their spirits. It also gives us a primo spot to throw incredible Spirit Club parties and we are already scheming on some fun and surprising themes.

HP: You know I’m going to ask, because I’m always hungry, so what about food?

Griffo: The Griffo roots are Sicilian so we’ve been inspired by Sicilian cooking — simple, beautiful, seasonal and to be shared. Those were the same concepts that drove our spirit and brand development for the distillery. Local chef and powerhouse Katie Powers will be designing the menu seasonally. Think shareable apps.

Vote for Griffo

Griffo Distillery was recently nominated by a panel of craft spirit experts as a finalist for the U.S.A. Today – 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards in the Craft Gin Distillery category. Voting is open through Monday, Sept. 23, with fans able to cast their vote each day until then. Visit 10best.com/awards/travel/best-craft-gin-distillery-2019/ to vote. Other Petaluma makers also in the running, but in the category of Craft Mixers, are Bitter Girl Bitters and Monarch Bitters so be sure to vote for them too. Additionally, several other distilleries are in the running in categories ranging from Craft Whiskey to Craft Brandy.

HP: When we met a few months ago, you mention music and album shares. Tell us more.

Griffo: We are passionate about music so will be playing LPs with a focus on jazz and its many offspring. We will be featuring a locals night where community members can have their album selection (with a theme of some sort) picked and bring their albums out from their dusty sleeves and share with the rest of Petaluma. It will be a place to share good music.

HP: This seems like a lot of work, on top of running a distillery and raising a family. Why open a second location?

Griffo: Since we launched Griffo six years ago, the best part of our business is our community — sharing what we lovingly create with Petalumansn face to face. So, bringing Griffo downtown is a natural decision. The location, in the heart of the historic district allows us to have more community events, reach more visitors and Petalumans.

We have no aspirations of being some huge global brand. We want to be here, in Petaluma, in our community, always, and this move allows us to do just that. It’s a stunning building with gorgeous and subtle architecture and we can’t wait to bring it to life with Lizzie’s beautiful concept.

HP: What’s the timeline look like?

Griffo: The owners of the building need to finish up their work first, which will likely be this fall. Then we begin creating our vision, which will hopefully only need a few months. Likely it will be early 2020, though we have our fingers crossed its late 2019. Construction timelines are so hard to predict.

HP: Will the distillery tasting room remain open?

Griffo: Yes. We love being a part of the east side and plan to keep our Distillery Tasting Room open. As demand for tours continues to increase we will begin scheduling more tours throughout the day and we’ll explore staying open later as the season turns.

HP: You know I love special events, like the chocolate and spirit pairing Griffo put on a while back. I know it’s early, but anything planned yet for The Bottle Shop?

Griffo: We’ve got lots up our sleeves but it’s hush hush until a little bit closer to opening. Fans can join our mailing list to be the first to know about them. There will definitely be a special soft opening launch for newly minted Spirit Club members.

HP: We all enjoy Petaluma’s great food and drinks but few know what goes on behind the scenes. Is there anything your fans should know about what it’s like to be on the “business” side?

Griffo: The spirit and craft spirit business is a tough, tough game where most people play really dirty. Making a small craft distillery really work is extremely difficult. However, we have found Petaluma to be unique in the way it has rallied behind Griffo and treated us as their own. It is a huge part of why we are becoming a solid, strong, here-to-stay local business and we truly appreciate how locals have helped make this happen. By coming downtown, we will be able to share more of what we’re doing with Petaluma and stay true to our roots of doing things with love and integrity.

HP: Any parting thoughts?

Griffo: Just a simple and heartfelt thank you to Petaluma for helping us make all this happen by being so welcoming and supportive. We’re again blown away by everyone’s support on social media when we made the announcement about The Bottle Shop a couple days ago. It is definitely soothing the nervous tension that comes with expanding into the unknown. Thank you Petaluma!

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