Crafting Spirits with Spirit
Most people who visit Healdsburg—and all of Sonoma County, for that matter—come for the wine. In recent years, however, several breweries and micro-distilleries have stolen some of the spotlight and generated interest of their own. One such brand is Young & Yonder, an artisan spirit producer with a distillery and tasting room just behind Healdsburg’s City Hall. The brand was founded in 2017 by local husband-and-wife duo Josh and Sarah Opatz.
Each partner plays a critical role in the distillery’s success; Josh manages finance and compliance, while Sarah does all the marketing. (Shane, Josh’s brother, handles production; while a fourth person, a woman named Darrian, runs the tasting room.) Sarah also happens to be one of six local women we’re featuring in a series of forthcoming short films—our way of celebrating Women’s History Month.
“To be recognized like that in a town like this, where there are so many women doing great things, is a real honor,” said Sarah. “Healdsburg breeds women entrepreneurs.” For 37-year-old Sarah, Young & Yonder is the latest in a series of professional challenges. Her recent past started as a graphic designer for Old Navy in San Francisco. Josh was living and working there too before the two of them moved near Josh’s hometown of Healdsburg to start a business and a family here. Once they got situated, they followed a passion and started crafting artisan spirits out of a warehouse space in Cloverdale. Then they upgraded and moved to Healdsburg.
The duo opened the current space in 2018 and have expanded their program since then. Today the space doubles as a distillery and tasting room, with a bar and couches creating a comfy vibe. At the time that they founded the company, “Young & Yonder” represented two main parts of their life experience: Sarah and Josh were young, and they moved from San Francisco to up yonder. Now, Sarah joked, things are different. “Today, we like to say we’re old and local,” the Denver native said with a chuckle.
Visiting “Y&Y” is quite an experience. The standard tasting includes sampling all or any of the brand’s products including gin, whiskey, a new amaro and an absinthe. Sarah, Josh, Shane, and Darrian are skilled at fixing cocktails with the spirits, giving guests a multitude of different options for enjoying the libations. One of Sarah’s favorites: amaro and grapefruit soda. Young & Yonder also accepts groups, and Sarah said it has become a popular spot for rehearsal dinners.
What’s next from this local distillery? More product. Sarah said Shane and Josh are putting the finishing touches on a barrel-aged agave spirit (just don’t call it tequila), and that more cocktail pantry products such as syrups, juices, and cocktail kits will be coming later this year. She added that Young & Yonder will add more speakeasy nights to the schedule; these nights are great fun for locals and visitors alike.
“We have such a vibrant community here, and it’s exciting to see the community—and the city itself—continue to grow,” said Sarah. “The fact that our little company gets to be a part of that, the fact that we get to keep people happy while they’re making Healdsburg their home, that’s one of the best things about this job.”