Berkeleyside: Lance Winters: Master Distiller, ‘evil genius,' April 15, 2013


n 1982, Jörg Rupf founded St. George Spirits and, using the extraordinary fruit grown in California, began producing eaux de vie. At the time, St. George, named for the patron saint of Rupf’s native Freiburg, Germany, was one of the only artisan distilleries in the United States. In the years since, Rupf has trained numerous distillers, launched an American craft spirits renaissance, and received no fewer than four James Beard Award nominations. Recently, Rupf passed on the reins of running the business to another maverick, current Master Distiller Lance Winters.

It was 17 years ago that Winters approached Rupf with his resumé — a bottle of homemade whiskey — and he was hired on the spot. After eight years working together, the pair moved St. George Spirits into its current home, a 65,000-square-foot airplane hangar at Alameda’s Naval Air Station. Coincidentally, Winters had worked previously from the Naval Base, as a nuclear engineer stationed aboard “The Enterprise.” Now he engineers a different sort of material but enjoys the same Bay Bridge view.