Layne’s Wine Time



The great wine writer Mike Veseth said in the early 1990’s that bottles were “traditional, accepted, inefficient and doomed”. Pretty rough stuff. He was referring to the then emerging phenomenon of the bag in the box. Canned wines were not yet over the horizon. Today they are the future --- right now.


I sat down with Chris Gamble in his local Portland, no frills, just barrels, tanks and canning equipment, (with a couple of tables and chairs) urban winery on Anderson Street to taste and ask. Why cans? What about that tinny taste we expect?

We both got eyeball-to-eyeball peering into the innards of a fresh out of the carton, ready to be ifiled can. This was not what I expected. There was a lining inside that was very different in look and feel from the aluminum casing outside. Ah, glorious technology. It is a liner with a nitrogen seal. The goal here is freshness and pure taste, without the tininess we associate in our minds with cans.

Chris is the ideal urban winery guy. A jack of all trades, he worked at a winery and saw what was happening in places like San Francisco and Oakland, California. Urban wineries lack the Liberace Candelabra ambiance but choose to provide an unpretentious tasting environment as fresh as the wines themselves.

The concept is simple: source the best wines, taste and continually think about what you are making and where your audience may be headed. And offer value. The present lineup of cans is 375 ml (half a bottle), priced at $5.99 each; the equivalent of a $12 bottle of wine.

Chardonnay (Yakima sourced) --- This is the definition of light, fresh, crisp, dry, green apple-inspired chardonnay in a can. He had no interest in going the oak aged route. “If you want Kendall Jackson, head on out and buy some K.J. (in a bottle)”.

Rose (Paso Robles sourced) --- 100% Grenache. A dry, tasty, fruity rose at 13.4% alcohol. Many roses have some sweetness; his do not. This is ideal picnic with cheese and salami wine. Chilled, sure.

Bayside Blend, (Lodi) --- A new release of zinfandel, merlot and, the always compatible white, viognier. 14.2% alcohol. A sit on the deck red with freshness of flavour. Or, throw them into a bag and tow them behind your kayak.

Zinfandel (Lodi) --- Old vine zin in a can! Fire up the grill for this serious 15.5% alcohol, intense, full bodied zin. Not for the faint of heart.

“For the millennials cans are a no brainer. Some of the boomers who come in are a bit taken aback with the idea. Once they taste them, they come around”. These are wines that are jocular in look and pure of taste.

Layne V. Witherell

Up Portland Wine Critic

Chris Gamble