Over in Sonoma, Daylight Wine and Spirits has also expanded beyond vino with their brand Ammunition. Initially, the Ammunition label sold a red blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Syrah, with cofounder and child-of-wine-country Andy Wahl at the helm.
“We started our company in 2013, and I actually had a different idea, but growing up in wine country, I saw how important these brands were,” said Wahl. “The thing that we say is that a great wine starts in the vineyard, and grapes are the ammunition to make great wine.”
Wahl and his business partner Bill Kerr ran with the wild west theme for Ammunition, and released their first vintage in 2014. Since then, Wahl says they have doubled their wine sales every single year, often selling out of popular varietals. So instead of adding another wine to the label, they branched to whiskey.
Wahl had been a drinker of whiskey for years and had even been in Ireland and Scotland during the Jameson craze, so this new project was one of passion. Less expected, though, was how well their new product would go over with their existing clients.
“After going to a lot of different wine dinners and things, the women loved the Ammunition brand, and they would bring their husbands who were not necessarily drinking wine. But because it said ‘Ammunition,’ they would at least try,” said Wahl. “We would start with wine and would end up drinking bourbon together at the end of the night at the bars, so it was sort of a progression.”
Ammunition sells a straight bourbon and a straight rye whiskey, both of which are finished in barrels used for Ammunition wines. After switching from Pinot to the hard stuff without cleaning his glass one night, Wahl realized the potential to use this byproduct as an asset for whiskey production.
“I immediately noticed how it changed the color of the whiskey, and it was a bit more aromatic,” he said. According to Wahl, using these three-to-four-year-old barrels gives the whiskey a complementary berry flavor.
While Ammunition will likely keep expanding into the world of spirits, Wahl said that nothing quite compares to winemaking.
“From a making standpoint, there is no doubt wine is way more fun ... especially here in Napa and Sonoma,” he said. “There is this affinity of, ‘Oh, you’re a winemaker, what vineyards do you have?’ but when I make whiskey, you don’t ask about my cornfields.”
“There is nothing like that proximity to product.”
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