It’s not news to put wine in a can. It IS news to put quality single-vineyard varietal wine in a can – and charge $10 a can for it.
Sans Wine Co. founders Jake Stover and Gina Schober are a young Napa County couple who met on Tinder; they swiped right. That worked out because they’re getting married in December. So we have Tinder to thank for brambly, chillable cans of Zinfandel, rosé from dry-farmed 45-year-old Carignanvines, and single-vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.Now, what do you want to hear about first: the dry-farmed Zinfandel, or the Tinder date? Can I get a show of hands? Yeah, thought so.It’s jarring to think about a $10 can of wine, but these are 375 ml cans: they’re not expensive when you realize that’s the same size as a half bottle.
Schober was working as a sommelier (she now has a day job selling other people’s wine) and Stover has a vineyard management company, so even though both are wine lovers, it’s not an immediately obvious match. He’s a country boy from Kansas and she’s from the San Francisco Bay area. Both are the same age, now 32.
Schober: “It was right when Tinder came out. I had a few friends who met their spouses on Tinder.”
Stover: “I was on for one week. My first and only date on Tinder. I lived in a small town [Calistoga]. I was not going to get out and mingle. She had a photo from a trip she’d taken to France. One of her photos was in front of Dujac. I’ve had a bunch of friends who interned there.”
Schober: “His first question was, did you intern at Dujac? So he knew what Dujac was. But I had no clue what I was going to get.”
Stover: “I don’t take selfies so I had pictures spread out over a long time. Like, a long time.”
Schober: “We both had degrees in communications and Italian literature. We could be the advertisement for Tinder.”
We met in the morning outside at a café in San Francisco to talk about their wine. Two weeks earlier I had a $3000 breakfast; now, I was surreptitiously sipping wine from a can with my coffee, though I also tried their wines in a real wine glass they brought along. Wine journalism requires all types of breakfast.
Sans Wine Co. Poor Ranch Vineyards Mendocino County Rosé of Carignan 2016 (12.5 percent alcohol) is a nice burst of freshness out of both can and glass, with light berry fruit on the finish. You have to pour it into a glass to appreciate the pink color, but otherwise it’s just as good out of the can.
“The Poor Ranch has been in the Poor family for five generations,” Stover told Wine-Searcher. “These are totally dry-farmed, head-trained, 45-year-old Carignan vines. Until a few years ago, 100 percent of their fruit went to Fetzer. Now 20-some wineries produce wines from there.”
Sans Wine Co. Poor Ranch Vineyards Mendocino County Zinfandel 2016, which they brought chilled, was a reminder in how California Zinfandel used to taste. To be clear, it’s a red wine, and it’s just 14 percent alcohol: that keeps the berry fruit light and brambly and the body moderate. I liked it a little better out of the glass, which allowed the mouthfeel to round out. But this wine was fine out of the can.
“We both have pretty set ideas on how we like our wines,” Schober said. “We typically like wines that are lower alcohol.”
Stover said, “It can be difficult and frustrating to manage a vineyard all year and see it go to ripeness, and then see it hang there way past that point. And then the grapes have to be manipulated in the winery. We don’t want to add anything to these wines.”
For this first vintage, they did add some sulfur to stop malolactic fermentation in the Sauvignon Blanc, and they also added some sulfites just before canning as a preservative. But they might explore using no added sulfites because a can has some major advantages over a wine bottle. The biggest is that there is no head space containing air above the wine, as the can is filled completely. Cans also don’t admit any UV light. Nobody knows how long wine might age in a can because nobody has ever produced ageworthy wine in a can. That said, the point of this wine is not to age it, but to drink it on picnics, kayaking outings, etc.
Sans Wine Co. Finley Road Lake County Sauvignon Blanc 2016, I must report, I liked better from the glass, which is a shame because the idea of drinking a white wine from a can is appealing. The 13 percent alcohol wine needs aeration to allow its better aromatic elements to shine. The grapes are from organically farmed 25-year-old vines.
Sans only made 26,000 cans total of this first vintage: that’s the same amount of wine as about 1100 cases of regular bottles. Most of it is currently sold in retail shops in Napa Valley, though one San Francisco restaurant added it to the wine list.
“We’ve been doing really well with the gas station in Yountville,” Schober said. Which makes sense on a lot of levels. Yountville, in the center of Napa Valley, is where the couple lives, but more to the point, where else but Napa Valley would you buy a can of wine in a gas station and have it be not only good, but a single-vineyard wine from 45-year-old dry-farmed vines?
Author: W. Blake Gray