Jörg Rupf is an Alsatian-born distiller who founded St. George Spirits in 1982. Rupf was raised in Freiburg and Lake Constance, Germany. After earning a PhD in law, he became a court system judge and later, worked for both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Culture. He moved to Berkeley, CA in the mid-1970s to pursue post-doctoral research on legal studies and the arts at the University of California, Berkeley. He left the legal field and began distilling eau de vie in the early 1980s (though he had been doing this already for most of his life). He became America?s first artisanal distiller when he opened St. George Spirits in 1982, paving the way for future generations like Lance Winters. In this interview, Rupf discusses his early life in Germany, his love for music and the violin, experience working in the legal field, decision to leave law and start distilling, agriculture in the Bay Area, early days of sourcing, production, distribution, and marketing, legal challenges, bringing on new staff, learning from others, the role the wine industry played in the 1980s and 90s, expanding operations, receiving accolades and recognition by the spirits industry, interest in agave-based spirits, handing over St. George Spirits to Lance Winters in 2010, and life after retirement.
This oral history is part of our West Coast Cocktails Oral History Project.