Lance Winters

Occupation: Co-owner of St. George Spirits, a craft distillery in Alameda, Calif., that makes small batches of high-quality vodka, eau de vie, grappa, and single-malt whiskey. Distiller Joerg Rupf founded the company in 1983 and hired Winters in 1995. Winters released his first batch of St. George whiskey in 1999 and became equal partner in 2001.

Age and home: 39, Oakland, Calif.

Annual revenue and employees: $6 million; 6.

Drinking it up: The firm was scraping by until 2001, when it released the Hangar One vodkas in fruit-distilled flavors. They were a smash, precipitating a move last May from the company's 5,000-square-foot airplane hangar to a 65,000-square-foot one stocked with 20,000 cases of vodka.

Strange brew: The 2004 St. George single-malt whiskey, $45, separates itself from Scottish and Irish favorites with its roast levels of barley, like the heavy chocolate malt roast.

Mash units: St. George sold 400 cases of single malt last year, and Winters hopes to double that in 2005. He'll be putting a face on the whiskey at taverns like the Slanted Door in San Francisco, where barkeeps know their firewater and hold sway with customers. Winters thinks St. George can make inroads with oenophiles, so he'll hit wine tastings, too. "I consider our single malt a gateway drug for the whiskey industry," he says.

Things I Can't Live Without


Manka's Inverness Lodge in Inverness, Calif. ($215 to $565 per night)
"I go monthly for every creature comfort you could want: giant bathtubs, huge beds with down you can sink into, and amazing food. It's quiet, foggy, and rainy."

Thermos Nissan NCI1000 French coffee press ($38)
"I bring this when I'm on the road because I drink only Royal Coffee. It's a Bay area speedball: whiskey tastings and cups of Royal Coffee."

Treo 600 ($349)
"This smart phone has helped me achieve the freedom and flexibility to juggle stuff inside and outside the distillery. If nothing else, I am no longer writing appointments on cocktail napkins."

...and What I Covet

A hundred acres of land in Mendocino or Sonoma county
"If I were to be totally honest, I'd say I covet a harem, but a hundred acres of land for a small vineyard where I can make batches of pinot noir and whiskey is a close second."