The story behind the garage begins with Eddie Bratton, a young fella from Fargo, North Dakota. He bought his first motorcycle bike in 1926 at the age of 15 and eventually rode out from Fargo to California, surviving solely on onion sandwiches and potatoes he'd dig up from rural farms. Eddie started at Hap Jones' Indian Motorcycle dealership in San Francisco, tuning bikes and manufacturing custom "Bratton Cams," his rendition for the nation’s top riders looking for an extra boost.
When he wasn’t working, he was riding. He competed annually in the Catalina Grand Prix, one of the biggest races in the country at the time. According to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, it was a 100-mile event held on Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles and the course was a mixture of road, dirt fire trails, singletrack, and even went through a golf course. Many big riders skipped the Grand Prix to avoid embarrassment when riders who typically dominated the race came out on top.
One of his favorite tricks while riding was with his wife. He would stand on one foot peg and raise his body off the seat on that side. His wife would scoot under him and he would slide back, swapping him as the driver. Consider it the motorcycle version of the Chinese fire drill except while the bike was moving. Then, they’d catch up with their group and surprise their fellow riders with her in charge.
He was known for his devotion to Indian motorcycles, considering them tried and true. He opened up his shop where Tank sits today, racing and repairing classic bikes until retiring in the early 80s. His custom 1947 Indian Chief still sits in our brick hallway with his trophies line on the wall behind it. Some tasting room staff may say that Eddie still hangs out in the back hallways of the garage. True legends never die but don’t worry, he’s not the hell-raiser he used to be.
The inspiration behind Tank comes from a visit our owner, James Harder, took earlier in his career to a gas station winery in Walla Walla, Washington. A wine bottle shop, a pet shop, and a few other miscellaneous ventures along the way, our very own Harder then discovered our little garage in 2014 and saw something different. With an extensive marketing background, he had no idea he possessed all the tools to create the best tasting room in Calistoga. A little dreamin’ later, Tank Garage Winery was born.
When you step into Tank Garage Winery today, you can feel the presence of a story. There’s something different about walking into a location that has taken on many different hats over the years. Strolling through the big restored rolling garage door and pouring wines under a giant lubrication sign, we think Eddie would be proud. The preservation of the history of the garage combined with a love for cool, new wines has created your new favorite place to hang.