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Thinking outside the bottle

  • Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa sells a variety of wines in tetra packs. (CRISTA JEREMIASON/Press Democrat)

With summer heating up, wine lovers are hitting the trails, kayaking on the Russian River and heading to music festivals. And increasingly, vintners are finding innovative ways to help consumers take their wines along.

Higher-end wineries are starting to sell wines in boxes, bags, cans and pouches designed for on-the-go consumers. They are finding the stigma of selling wine without a traditional bottle or a cork is receding as the Millennial generation comes of age and packaging technology improves.

Retailers, in turn, are devoting more shelf space to these new alternative containers, which are lighter, smaller and more sturdy than the glass bottles that have long dominated the wine aisle.

“We definitely see the sales go up this time of year,” said Ben Pearson, wine buyer for Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa. “For hiking and camping, it's definitely convenient.”

One local offering from a brand called Vintners Signatures is sold in a pink pouch nicknamed “la Purse du Vin,” or purse of wine. The durable pouch, resembling a dainty yet oversized Capri Sun bag, holds 1.5 liters of white wine made by Draxton Wines in Geyserville, which produces 2,500 cases per year, some of which won awards at the San Francisco Wine Competition this year. Also available in a pouch are a Sonoma Coast chardonnay and Dry Creek Valley merlot. They sell for about $19 at Bottle Barn.

“I've tried the wine twice myself, and I think the quality's very strong,” Pearson said. “It's good Sonoma County wine in cutting edge packaging, and I'm all for it.”

Peterson Winery, a family winery based in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley producing about 6,000 cases a year, recently began bagging and boxing some of its own wines by hand. The bag-in-a-box format is well suited for a beach party where glass might not be allowed. Or, the plastic bag can be taken out of the cardboard box, which is what winemaker Jamie Peterson did when he set out with friends on a recent afternoon on the Russian River.

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