We opened the doors to Occasio Winery in 2008, driven to recapture the winemaking traditions that made the early wines from Livermore legendary. This has been no simple task, as these winemaking traditions have been lost for generations, victims of a rush to quantity over quality, and of a diaspora of talent that occurred here more than half a century ago.
Through hard work and careful research, however, the past is giving up its secrets. We continue to discover the preserved records from our pioneering winemakers, documents that survive only because the wines of Livermore Valley were so special. Now, putting our discoveries to work, we are beginning to recreate these early wines, and with Sidewinder Spirits, the inspiration for our distillation.
Rediscovering what has been lost, and making it new again, requires ownership of our craft. No step, no matter how insignificant, can be entrusted to others. It is essential we control both the provenance and the quality of all that goes into the crafting of our wines and spirits.
It is this need for ownership, provenance and control that gives birth to Sidewinder Spirits. The idea for Sidewinder arose from our need to gain ownership over the manufacture of the brandy used in our port wine. Although most pay no heed to the provenance of the brandy used in port wine production, we know two things:
1) prior to prohibition, Livermore was prized for its brandy, and
2) only this prized brandy was used in Livermore port wines.
Occasio Winery Port – California’s Highest Rated Port – 94 Points, Wine Enthusiast
“Made in the style of a classic Port, this powerhouse of a sweet wine combines opulent fruit flavors with richness and body, balanced by bracing acidity and a generous shot of fine tannins. With a little time, violet, dark chocolate, raspberry and fig nuances roll across the palate, blending with the boysenberry fruit for a complex and layered finish.”
Jim Gordon, Wine Enthusiast Magazine
Put simply, authenticity requires our own brandy distilled from our finest Livermore fruit. We will again claim ownership of the components used in our fortified and aperitif collections, with each component crafted specifically for the final product.
And what of our name, Sidewinder Spirits?
Most think of a Sidewinder as a type of snake – something that might bite if you’re not careful. Indeed, there is a hint of this danger in distilling spirits. But a sidewinder is also a type of pocket watch, where the winding post is at three instead of twelve. This watch, though slightly askew, is our bond with the spirit of Occasio Winery, where provenance and quality drive the production of our crafted spirits as they do with our wines. Now, we can create a Livermore brandy in the historic style that, against all odds, won the gold medal at the Paris Exposition in 1889.
The story of Sidewinder, however, goes beyond brandy and port wine. The Livermore family planted wheat, not grapes. A special red wheat grew here that was highly prized for its aromas and its suitability for fine grain spirits. This is the story, another side to Livermore’s past, to be explored by Sidewinder Spirits. It is a story of Livermore Valley that went underground during prohibition, a story lost when the great stills of Livermore were taken apart and moved to the sanctuaries of our nearby canyons. It is a story waiting to be rediscovered.