The Future is Canned Wine

Maker Wine, a San Francisco based canned wine company, focuses on small batches and independent winemakers.

This year was always going to be big for canned wine. Back before the pandemic started in the United States, we spoke with a wine expert about emerging industry trends. Susan Kostrzewa, editor-in-chief of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, singled out canned and boxed wine as a no-brainer. The alternative packaging was cute, convenient, and much more sustainable than its heavy glass-and-cork counterparts.

Now, nearly a year later, canned wine has gained newfound popularity in an era of social distancing. It’s perfect for situations when uncorking an entire bottle by yourself would be unnecessary: solo picnics at Dolores Park, Zoom happy hours, or any other time you just need a pour for one. 

“Some of these features of cans — like that portability, a single serving of wine delivered to you — really intensified overnight with the pandemic,” Sarah Hoffman, co-founder of Maker Wine, says. “We definitely also see this desire for connection to other people and to the product that you’re getting.”

Maker Wine, a San Francisco-based canned wine company that launched in September 2019, works with independent winemakers around Northern California with a fundamental belief: That you can put great wine in cans. The founders, Hoffman and Kendra Kawala, focus on working with winemakers who you wouldn’t otherwise see on a grocery store shelf — winemakers who work in small batches at small wineries with “unconventional style.” 

That’s why the company is called “Maker.” Each can has a brief bio of the crafter responsible for the drink. Printed on the bottom are little easter eggs — quirky phrases like “Viognier all day” or poignant homages. On the Handley Cellars pinot noir: “Mom would like it.” It’s a tribute to the trailblazer Milla Handley, who was the first woman to start a namesake winery in the United States. Handley passed away from COVID-19 at 68, and now her daughter, Lulu, carries on her legacy at Handley Cellars.

Founder Sarah Hoffman and Kendra Kawala. Photo courtesy of Maker Wine

“It’s been really special for us to be able to highlight local winemakers in the Bay Area,” Hoffman says. “And then also connect with people who are now remote, and are really craving that camaraderie and connection.” 

That aspect of community is a priority for Hoffman and Kawala, who visit vineyards to produce and package the wines themselves. “We make the wine elbow to elbow with our producers at the winery, and we send shipments directly to our consumers’ doors,” Kawala says. So far, they’ve worked with local winemakers like Chris Christensen, named a “Winemaker to Watch” by the San Francisco Chronicle, for their unique style: Christensen in particular is known for blending rosé-making techniques to make a drink that’s “rule-breaking” and fruit-forward. It all goes along with Maker Wine’s ethos: to embrace wine “sans the snobbery” while amplifying the work of independent winemakers instead of mass producers. 

It’s a message that resonates with wine-lovers or newbies to the industry. Maker Wine has been busy in 2020, delivering their products for their subscription service, Can Club, virtual tastings, and online bachelorette parties. Trends may be fleeting sometimes, but hopefully, canned wine has given us enough reasons to stick around.

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