During a summer of upended routines, local producers are staying the course with lighthearted wines conveniently packaged in aluminum cans. But don’t let the easy-breezy format fool you. Beneath every stay-tab is a story of determination, grit, and an ability to roll with the punches.
California winemaker James Davids and Massachusetts native Marissa Stashenko are the couple behind Anchor & Hope, a Rhode Island-based négociant. After their son was born in 2018, the pair left the Bay Area to embrace a more relaxed pace of life in Providence, setting up their business in a former copper wire mill in Rumford. “We launched with just kegs, but then COVID changed our focus,” explains Davids, who planned to supply restaurants with wines on tap. “Cans were on our horizon,” adds Stashenko, explaining that they were already talking with Iron Heart Canning, a New Hampshire-headquartered mobile canning company. “But COVID was the push.”
Today, in the midst of the pandemic, you’ll see four-packs called Nico & Laura on shop shelves. “I met Nico playing mini-golf at a wine festival,” recalls Davids, who in the mid-2000s was working as a winemaker in Germany, nearby Nico Espenschied’s village. This led to a cross-Atlantic friendship for the two winemakers and their families. (Laura is Nico’s wife.) Wines are a true collaboration. Espenschied ships his Rheinhessen-grown, single-vineyard pours in light, reusable 1,000-liter containers to the Ocean State; Davids and Stashenko age and package the wine in East Providence. The whole arrangement is gentler on the environment, given the easy recyclability of aluminum cans, and the lower carbon footprint associated with transporting wine in food-grade polyethylene versus heavy glass bottles.
Real people are also behind another delicious canned pour. The Russell family, of Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery in Westport, Mass., has been crafting wine from Vitis vinifera since the late 1980s, not long after Bob and Carol Russell established their South Coast farm.
The Russells show their playful side with Farmer’s Fizz. A Prosecco-style white in the lineup was recently joined by a red, made by winemaker Marco Montez, formerly of Travessia Urban Winery in New Bedford. These wines are canned at the winery, also by Iron Heart Canning. The juicy red is crafted from Marquette, a cold-hardy, University of Minnesota-bred grape. Rob Russell, in charge of vine growing, decided to replant one plot with the complex American hybrid after a blizzard damaged vinifera vines in February 2016. (That year, unusually warm winter temperatures were followed by an abrupt cold snap.) Marquette has shown it can weather the vagaries of New England’s climate and yield good-tasting red wine.
The fizzy Marquette, along with a German-by-way-of-Little Rhody pinot noir, are entirely appealing. Both are just right for late summer adventures close to home.
Anchor & Hope “Nico & Laura” Pinot Noir 2018 Cherries, berries, and crushed petals on the nose lead to a dry, lip-smacking palate with a hint of saline, violets, and a whisper of tannins. 13 percent ABV. Around $26 (four 250-ml cans). Distributed by Craft Collective. At Social Wines, Cambridge, 617-225-0040; Essex Wine Exchange, Essex, 978-768-7500.
Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery “Farmer’s Fizz Red” Balsamic scents lead to a frothy mouthful of ripe-yet-dry black cherry and cured meats. Serve well-chilled, as pressurized fizz tends to runneth over, so to speak. 13 percent ABV. Around $21 (four 250-ml cans). At City Feed and Supply, Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, 617-553-4822; Westport Rivers, order online at westportrivers.com
Ellen Bhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org