The Beerification of Wine
Credit: Courtesy Union Wine Company

Ryan Harms relocated to Oregon from Upstate New York in 2001 and quickly found locals' oenophilia contagious. "I worked for some great Oregon wineries including Bergstrom Wines, Torii Mor Winery, Rex Hill Vineyards, and A to Z Wineworks," says Harms, who founded Union Wine Company in 2005 to challenge the convention that Oregon wines have to be expensive. Union makes simple wines for people who like wine. They put those wines in cans.

"By being efficient about everything, from how I set up the winery to how I make wine, I knew I could successfully create a marriage of craft and small-scale manufacturing," says Harms. "We think we can shift some of our focus back to something more fun, rooted in craft, but less stuffy."

Union’s three wine series, Underwood, Kings Ridge and Alchemist are all crafted to showcase the spirit and sense of adventure of Oregon. Union Wine Co. wines are currently distributed in more than 40 national markets and seven export markets. "Canned wine costs approximately 40 percent less to package compared to the equivalent nine liter case of wine in glass bottles," explains Harms. "Overall, we believe that Union is at the forefront of this 'beerification'’ of wine trend, a movement which aims to break down the pretense and formality often associated with wine drinking."

Fans of craft beer have seen a rise in canned beer, but until recently, wine was sold exclusively in bottles and the occasional box. Union's cans were first released in a limited edition at the Feast Portland Food & Wine event. "In addition to the cans, we introduced the Union Wine Co. Tasting Truck, a re-purposed vintage French Citroën H Van where we served the wine in a can from," says Harms. "It kind of all came together at that moment and we knew we had something that all kinds of people were responding to." Union created the Twitter hashtag #PinkiesDown to communicate a big idea in simple terms.

Putting wine in a can not only saves on packaging costs, but makes it easier to drink wine in hard to reach places. Bringing a bottle of wine camping would be ridiculous. Bringing a can of wine sounds like a great idea. Union's Underwood Wine will be available for purchase in Oregon, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic region in early June. [$24; unionwinecompany.com]