Outward appearances mean a lot in the wine world. How often have you picked a bottle for its attractive label, or deemed boxed vino inferior to anything in glass? Old Westminster Winery is hoping to change such perceptions—and misperceptions—with Maryland’s first-ever canned wines, made naturally without additives or filtration.
“Wine is funny in that there are very few consumer products with a more diverse selection,” says Drew Baker, who co-founded the family winery eight years ago. “But consumers perceive alternative packaging as a lesser product, whether that’s a screw cap or box. We’re looking to reframe that conversation.”
Coming from Maryland, Baker is familiar with changing people’s notions about wine. It may be generous to say the Free State is an up-and-coming region, but but there are a handful of wineries like Old Westminster that have oenophiles talking. Baker manages the estate’s 10,000 vines with a sustainable approach, while winemaker Lisa Hinton specializes in European-style varietals and blends that are unfiltered and naturally fermented with wild yeast.
Nothing about the winemaking philosophy is different for the three, estate-grown canned wines Old Westminster will release in DC this week: Farmers Fizz, a sparkling Chardonnay; Carbonic, a juicy, Beaujolais-style Cabernet Franc that’s best slightly chilled; and Seeds & Skins, an orange-tinged pinot gris that Baker describes as “rosé for fall.” The latter gets its hue from brief contact between the grape’s skins and juice during the fermentation process, which also lends the wine a little more structure than your average white—though not the tart funkiness of certain orange wines where the contact is extensive. All cans are sold in the equivalent of half-bottle (375 mL) portions for $10.99 and designed to be easy-drinking and easy-carrying for a hike or picnic.
While still a novelty, canned wine isn’t exactly new. What’s different about Old Westminster’s line are the styles and small-batch approach. Only 100 cases of each were packaged last week for distribution in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, with more locations to come. By comparison, most of the canned wines currently available on the market such as Union Wine Co.’s Underwood line and Sofia Blanc de Blancs—sold juicebox-style with a straw—are produced on a massive scale, and in certain cases, with additives (here’s looking at you, Barefoot spritzers). Still, Baker says none of his canned wines are meant to be taken too seriously.
“Haters gonna hate,” says Baker. “You can waste a lot of energy trying to change someone’s mind, but in wine, everyone’s a critic. For us, it was like ‘let’s make the best product we can and let it speak for itself.”
Old Westminster is launching the canned line at Dio Wine Bar on Wednesday, November 8. See a full schedule of the week’s free tastings below. Individual cans will also be available for sale.
Dio Wine Bar launch party (Ninth and H St, NE), Wednesday 11/8 from 5 PM to close
Glen’s Garden Market Shaw, Friday 11/10 from noon to 2 PM
Glen’s Garden Market Dupont, Friday 11/10 from 4 PM to 7 PM
Wagshal’s Deli Mass Ave. (Spring Valley near American Univ), Friday 11/17 from 5 PM to 7 PM