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.
"I did a canoe and kayaking trip a couple weeks ago, and with our deli sandwiches we had our nice box of rose," Peterson said. "I traveled to France early last year, and saw some smaller wineries doing it there, and said &‘Hey if they're doing it, why not small family wineries in California?'"
The trend has caught on with Santa Rosa moms who have discerning taste when it comes to wine, but often find themselves at pool parties or beach gatherings, where breakable glass containers are either prohibited or simply a bad idea.
"We call it &‘Mommy's juice box,'" said Zoe Miller, 40, a Santa Rosa mother of two young boys. "A lot of us use them, and they're getting more and more popular, and we like them because we can take them to the pool."
Miller's preferred choice in the non-glass category is a pinot grigio made by Bandit Wines, based in Lathrop, which comes in a 1 liter Tetra Pak. She also enjoys Peterson's rose, which is good for parties.
"If you've got kids, you don't want to bring a glass bottle of wine," she said.
Miller and her girlfriends jumped on the "mommy juice" trend a year ago, when the small-format, non-glass packaging was harder to find. Now, better quality wines are available, she said.