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Oregon’s Winemakers Spearhead A New Wave Of High-Quality Canned Wine Offerings

December 3, 2018

While Oregon has gained a well-deserved reputation for its fine wines, the state has also quietly become a leader in the movement toward high-quality wine in cans.

Dundee, Oregon-based Dobbes Family Estate has invested in cans with its Joe To Go line. “For me, the most exciting trend right now is canned wine,” says Dobbes Family Estate CEO Gretchen Boock. “It’s a huge category that’s growing incredibly fast, and there are new players coming in every day—especially from Oregon.” The canned Joe To Go range—sister brand of Wine By Joe, Dobbes Family Estate’s accessible, premium line—was launched in late 2017, and is now distributed in 31 states. The line includes Pinot Gris and Rosé expressions ($7 a 375-ml.), and will add a third varietal, Pinot Noir, in January.

Elsewhere, Stoller Wine Group, parent company of Stoller Family Estate and Chehalem Wines, launched its Canned Oregon line in July of this year, marking its first foray into alternative packaging. Canned Oregon features four labels: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, a sparkling white, and a sparkling rosé (all $6 a 375-ml.). “We want Canned Oregon to be its own unique brand, not just a second label to Stoller Family Estate,” says Stoller’s director of communications Michelle Kaufmann. After just a few months on the market, the brand is already in 15-20 states. Volume is at 15,000 cases, with the rosé sparkler leading the charge. Securing on-premise placements while turning Canned Oregon into a national brand is the goal for 2019, the company says.

At the pinnacle of Oregon’s canned wine industry is Union Wine Co. In 2014, the company launched its Underwood label in 375-ml. cans, and inadvertently ignited the canned wine craze. “We’ve remained very bullish on cans,” says Union founder and owner Ryan Harms. “This year, we boosted production by 95%, and put 55% of our wine into cans, totaling 244,000 cases.” The production increase came thanks to the opening of a new winemaking facility in March, which has more than doubled total capacity.

Though Union Wine Co.’s initial canned lineup was limited to Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, today it also includes rosé, white and rosé sparklers, a white blend, and wine coolers (all $6-$7 a 375-ml. can). Harms is indeed bullish on wine coolers, and is to release a tropical-tasting wine cooler made in collaboration with Top Chef winner Mei Lin. He also points to the success of his Underwood Riesling Radler, which launched in 2017 and is made with Oregon Riesling, hops, and grapefruit.

Ryan Sharp, founder and owner urban winery Enso in Portland, has also found success in wine cooler-style offerings with his Portland Sangria brand. The label originally launched in 2010 as an exclusive draft offering at Enso’s tasting room, and is made of leftover wine and berry juice. Demand was strong, and Sharp began packaging and selling the wine under the Portland Sangria name nearly five years ago. Today, Enso has three offerings in the portfolio: Raspberry Loganberry Cardamom, Lemon Ginger Rosemary, and Blueberry Basil (all $20 a 4-pack of 12-ounce cans).

Sharp sees innovations like Portland Sangria as critical to Oregon’s future winemaking success. “When you get locked to a particular grape, as Oregon is with Pinot Noir, there’s a lot of momentum to be built around it—you can galvanize around that single varietal,” he says. “But in order to stay interesting and entice consumers in the long run, innovation needs to stay strong.” Sharp plans to roll out a kegging program for Portland Sangria next year, and introduce another flavor to the lineup.—Julia Higgins

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