Mercer Estates winemaker Jeremy Santo and general manager Will Mercer launched their ICAN project this spring with a chardonnay and a rose, produced with fruit from Mercer family plantings in the Horse Heaven Hills. (Richard Duval Images)

Mercer Estates winemaker Jeremy Santo and general manager Will Mercer launched their ICAN project this spring with a chardonnay and a rose, produced with fruit from Mercer family plantings in the Horse Heaven Hills. (Richard Duval Images)

Northwest Wine: Wineries embrace the concept of canned wines

Seven good-quality wines in a can from some of the region’s biggest wineries.

There was a time when the idea of wine in an aluminum can was horrifying for us. Something as noble as wine coming in a can was akin to fingernails on a chalkboard.

While this might project a bit of traditional bias or, perhaps, some good old-fashioned wine snobbishness is difficult to say.

It’s a moot point these days. Wine in a can has become commonplace, so much so that Washington’s largest wineries now embrace the concept.

There are many good reasons to appreciate wine from a can. Perhaps the best is that we may view it as the democratization of wine. It’s now a beverage in a container anyone can open. The consumer doesn’t require a tool — the corkscrew — that not every household has and not everyone knows how to use.

It also makes it easier to toss a can into a cooler, making wine seem more approachable. It means wine can compete with beer in grocery stores, as well as come along on camping trips, barbecues and tailgate parties.

Still, canned wines are best enjoyed by pouring them into a vessel that will allow you to more easily gather up the aromas. An unbreakable wine glass such as the Govino is a great option.

The Pacific Northwest has reached a tipping point with wine in a can. Industry-leading brands in Washington state such as 14 Hands (owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates), Precept’s House Wine, family-owned Barnard Griffin and Mercer Estates, and Cascadia Outfitters (owned by the Monson family at Goose Ridge) have joined some of the top producers in Oregon and Idaho.

Below are several delicious examples of wine in a can. Ask for them at grocery stores or contact the producers directly. Canned wines also have been spotted in drug stores.

ICAN Wines by Mercer Estates 2018 Rosé, Washington State $7: The family behind Mercer Estates in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills rightly promotes its new ICAN line as a unique entry in the canned wine scene because this vessel is resealable and the plastic ring around the pour spout means there’s no contact with metal. That makes this slender and sturdy yet lightweight aluminum canister ideal for the beach, the pool, a backpack or golf bag. Rose-friendly varieties are brought into play, too, a Rhone-based blend of grenache (68%), cinsault (12%), syrah (10%) and counoise (5%) with a splash of bright sangiovese, too. Light strawberry and lime zest notes show in its nose, with strawberry and watermelon in the mouth. There’s a bit of pear skin bite in the finish. The Mercers’ winemaker Jeremy Santo proved that this is a serious pink wine by winning a gold medal in the rose category at 2019 Cascadia International Wine Competition.

Canned Oregon NV White Pinot Gris, Oregon, $7: Branded as “Oregon wine beyond the bottle,” the Stoller Wine Group continues to roll out its Canned Oregon program from its vast estate plantings along the Dundee Hills. The pinot gris is built to be refreshing and food-friendly as aromas of lemon, spearmint and marzipan lead to flavors of cantaloupe, dried pineapple, butterscotch and a freshly baked biscuit.

Barnard Griffin Winery 2018 C’est le Vin Rosé, Washington, $7: Rob Griffin, the dean of Washington winemakers, practically wrote the book on how to transform sangiovese in the Columbia Valley and turn it into a gold-medal-winning rose. The 2018 vintage is no exception. It earned its first gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January. Three months later, the family chose to enter its canned version of that same rose into the Cascadia, where it also went gold. While the branding on the can is youthfully edgy, it’s the same pink sangiovese that gets bottled. Even from a can, it displays light red fruit behind the pale pink color with strawberry, watermelon and a hint of orange in the nose and on the palate. There’s a touch of minerality to go with its concluding spritely acidity.

14 Hands Winery NV Hot to Trot Smooth Red Blend, $5: The Pacific Northwest’s hottest brand recently entered the canned wine space with its wildly popular Hot to Trot. Leading with merlot and syrah, this blend by winemaker Keith Kenison shows off aromas of oak, vanilla, black cherry and plum, backed by mild tannins and a long, smooth finish that’s built for immediate enjoyment. Suggested pairings include barbecued pork, grilled portabella mushrooms and lasagna Florentine.

Cascadian Outfitters NV Estate Red Blend, Columbia Valley, $5: The Monson family at Goose Ridge touts their young brand as the first estate-produced canned wine from Washington state, and the lineup features an outline of a sasquatch strolling through a Cascade forest toting a bottle and wine glass. This “adventure in a can” is a blend of merlot and syrah that offers black pepper, cocoa powder, black cherry and ground cumin.

Joe to Go NV Rosé, Oregon, $7: The company Joe Dobbes inspired — Wine by Joe — continues to grow into the canned space with its Joe to Go brand. Pinot noir and pinot gris both play roles in this brisk and refreshing rose that is surprisingly bone-dry in its approach and Provence in its appearance. Aromas of strawberry shortcake, white peach and tangerine lead to mouthwatering flavors of pink raspberry and strawberry-rhubarb compote. Joe to Go is available in more than 30 states.

House Wine NV Original Red Blend, Chile, $6: Precept Wine in Seattle imports cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah from South America and ships it to Walla Walla, where some of the wine goes into a massive canned program. Precept works closely each year with the same family in Chile to produce a quaffable red redolent of black cherry and milk chocolate that’s backed by ample acidity, baking spices and just enough tannin. Last year, House Wine produced 4.8 million cans.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

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