Autry Cellars enters realm of distilling, releases two brandies

The spirits for sale at Autry Cellars in Edna Valley
The spirits for sale at Autry Cellars in Edna Valley

A love of physics and a background in aerospace engineering led an Edna Valley winemaker to join the small but growing number of San Luis Obispo County wineries dabbling in distilling.

“Distilling is all about physics,” said Autry Cellars winemaker Steve Autry, who so far has released two grape brandies, one aged in American oak, the other in Hungarian oak, and a grappa — a type of brandy in which the juice is fermented on the skin, with an apple brandy aging in barrel. “It really toots my geek whistle.”

Distilling is all about physics. It really toots my geek whistle.

Steve Autry, winemaker for Autry Cellars

Rather than paying up to $50,000 for a commercial still, Autry fashioned his own for about $400 using a turkey burner, copper heat exchangers, a garden hose and other spare parts.

The brandies age for a minimum of two years in custom-toasted barrels that impart additional flavors and aromas.

The spirits, which run $60 for a 750ml bottle and $35 for the 375ml, are available at the winery’s tasting room at 5450 Edna Road, with a tasting fee of $5.

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