Crafting a family business

Patio 29 Spirits Company will open for private events this month, with a grand opening to follow later in the year.
Photo by Rosemary Hemenway

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Why did the Boone family chose to open a craft distillery for a family business?

“Part of the reason is we’re crazy,” says Jeff Boone.

“We picked one of the most expensive and difficult businesses you can own,” his wife Anita Boone adds.

But they feel prepared for the challenge, and Jeff’s family has a history of an entrepreneurial spirit. He has fond memories of visiting his grandfather’s basement as a child, which was filled with equipment designed to make different types of candies.

Now Jeff and Anita are about to fully launch their new business, Patio 29 Spirits Company, along with their sons Eric and Adam Boone. The four family members plan to host a soft opening for their craft distillery later this month. Their location at 723 Railroad Ave. includes a room for ordering tastings and sipping distinct, naturally flavored spirits, as well as a large back room where the stills and other pieces of machinery will be working away.

These metal machines partially inspired the company’s name. Twenty nine is the atomic number for copper, an integral metal in distilling.

Not only is copper an excellent heat conductor, copper stills improve the flavor of the spirit inside through a chemical process. Yeast releases sulfur during the fermentation process. On a molecular level, the sulfur binds to the copper, becoming hydrogen-sulfide. The hydrogen-sulfide then forms copper sulfate, which sticks to the sides on the copper still after the spirit is removed.

And why is it “Patio” 29? The Boone family just really likes to enjoy a good patio. Whether at a restaurant or in a backyard, they feel like there is something special about spending time with friends and family on a pleasant patio.

The name came in 2016. Securing a location was another endeavor.

[caption id="attachment_775963" align="alignleft" width="300"] Rosemary Hemenway/Winters Express[/caption]

Distilleries can be difficult buildings to zone. A tasting room connected to a distillery is essentially a retail business that has industrial manufacturing, flammable alcohol vapors and the potential for explosive reactions on its premises. It’s not like a city would approve of one going into a historic wooden building in the middle of a busy downtown, Jeff says.

It took a year of searching to find the building. The Boone family looked to spaces in Woodland and Davis before finding the perfect location in Winters. They said that once they found the spot, it was obvious that Winters had been the best answer from the start.

“Winters is definitely the place we should have ended up anyway,” says Adam. “This is the perfect city for what we’re trying to do.”

The Boones had visited relatives in Winters for years before they leased 723 Railroad Ave. They  liked the downtown’s focus on entertainment, which is unique to the region. They watched as Winters became a popular food and alcohol destination as well.

Adam first had dreams of opening a brewery, but soon realized that there was already a large number of breweries operating in the region. The family decided to come into the market with something new.

Something new was also destined to be something difficult. The family describes the hoops they had to jump through and the regulations they had to meet to open a distillery as, “an order of magnitude greater” than what they would have opening a winery or a brewery.

For one thing, because spirits like whiskey and rum are tightly controlled, the Boones can only serve 1.5 fluid ounce of liquor per person per day. That could mean one cocktail, or a few very small tasters.

Then, if the customer likes the spirits, the Boones can only sell them a total of three bottles per day. After that, bottles cannot even be opened on the premise.

But the distillery will provide some services that are unlike any that can be found in downtown Winters. While customers can’t sit and sip several glasses as they might at a winery’s tasting room, they will be able to sign up for tours of the production side of the business.

The Boones will lead private tours through the distilling room, where customers will be able to witness the process of distilling rum, whiskey and occasionally a seasonal grappa.

Grappa is one of the spirits they are most excited about distilling. It’s a type of strong brandy distilled from grapes that have already been pressed for winemaking. The raw product won’t be difficult to find, as they plan to partner with local wineries for the grapes.

[caption id="attachment_775958" align="alignright" width="300"] Rosemary Hemenway/Winters Express[/caption]

The Boones describe grappa’s flavor as distinct and polarizing. As they put it, people either love grappa, or never want to taste it again. They haven’t yet found someone who stood on middle ground.

Their grappa is a bit different from the traditional “rocket fuel,” as some people refer to it. They say it has a lighter, more floral taste, and its reception has been positive. They’ve found that the people who love grappa, love it, and those who hate grappa, don’t hate theirs quite so much. The Boones consider that a win.

Beyond the seasonal products, their primary products will be rums and whiskeys. They are setting out to make well done, naturally flavored whiskeys, which is a product they believe the market is missing. One of their first flavored whiskies will be an homage to Jeff’s grandfather’s most famous candy creation: Harmon’s Hot Cinnamon Fire-pix.

The Boones plan on using their passion for spirits and their creativity to try interesting flavors in small batches. Through all the challenges, business related or creative, Jeff says they are lucky to work together as a family.

Patio 29 will host private events during July, and the Boones plan for a grand opening later this year.

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