Steve Anderson hopes Eola Hills Wine Cellar’s latest product moves out of the novelty category and into the mainstream for oenophiles – canned wine.
The head winemaker for Eola Hills has been with the Rickreall based business since 1993. As far as Anderson knows, not many have yet followed Union Wine Maker as the state’s first canners.
“I have resisted doing cans for a while just because it was a novelty and I didn’t want to get too invested in it,” Anderson admitted. “Now we have retailers ask us, ‘hey, we like your products. Can you come up with a canned product?’”
On April 7, Eola Hills ran its first assembly line of cans filled with four varieties of their popular wines – a blended white, pinot gris, pinot noir and rosé. They filled 500 gallons of each into 13,874 cans.
Founder Tom Huggins said he found the canning process “kind of fascinating.”
“It’s a new deal, like when corks were the only option, then came screw cap. Then it went from bottled to kegs and now to can,” Huggins said of the evolution of the process of transferring the finished product to a holding container. “It’ll be really good for places like golf courses, athletic club. The smaller container will stay fresher, especially for wine festivals, hiking events, jamborees.”
Anderson said the cans they use are specially designed to hold wine as the interior comes lined.
“There was this big hullabaloo about 10 years ago where canned vegetables and beans, had BPA (chemical Bisphenol A), effects fetal development, they had to come up with new ways line cans,” Anderson explained. “If can isn’t lined, acid (from the wine) will eat the can. Not so much that it pops a hole and wine leaks out, rather a chemical reaction and will make the wine taste metallic.”
Because of supply chain issues within the United States, Anderson said Eola Hills had to order from a Canadian company, which had a shipment ready to go in a warehouse.
“Everybody’s scrambling for aluminum. It would have been five-month wait otherwise,” he said.
The cans are loaded at one end of the line, get filled in the middle and get weighed and boxed at the other end.
Anderson said the canning process is actually topped off with a squirt of nitrogen.
“That’s because there’s quite a bit of head space and we don’t won’t oxygen to pick up and don’t want it to oxidize in the can,” he explained. “So, we squirt it with liquid nitrogen before put lid on, then it just rolls the seam shut.”
He added the final serving will have a heavy spritz, but not quite as much as a soda pop.
“They’re force carbonated. By federal regulations, anything over 3,300 milligrams per liter, or one atmosphere of pressure, is considered sparkling wine and the tax is 3.20 a gallon. Less than 3,300 is semi sparkling, and that’s taxed the same as still wine, 17 cents a gallon,” Anderson explained.
The canned wine has been preauthorized for sale at Albertsons and Safeway. Anderson outlined the other destinations for the new product.
“Our outside sales team is targeting golf courses, sporting events, baseball stadiums. It’s a little more than a single serve. And not in a glass. So, if you’re at a stadium, just pop the top and drink the wine. Put the can in the recycle,” Anderson said.
On the golf course, the refreshment cart can drive right up to you as you play and “you can say hey I’ll have some of your bubbly white.”
Huggins added the new canned wine will pair well with their concert series – Summer Uncorked – next to Legacy Lake at their Rickreall location.
“Cans will be a hit out there, it’s easier to serve a can than glasses,” he said.