Fall 2015

La Bohème suggest you pull tabs, not corks

Cans of Idaho wine may have arrived at a counter or cooler near you.

That’s right, a can. It is a 12.7-ounce lined aluminum vessel equivalent to 375 milliliters - which is exactly one half of a bottle of wine.

La Bohème White Wine, a Split Rail Winery venture out of Garden City, Idaho, launched in the spring thanks to a mobile canning operation that has set up at Sawtooth Vineyards, where the Riesling was sourced. La Bohème Riesling is another offering from Split Rail's sub-label, Strange Folk Wines, which is also sold in keg containers. La Bohème cans retail for $6.

Split Rail owner and winemaker Jed Glavin is excited about his venture into canned wines, even though things were up in the air for a while regarding its release date and distribution.

After the juice got into the can he wanted it to settle down a bit so he could taste it and make sure he was happy with it. Bottles sometimes can suffer from “bottle shock” - there’s even a classic wine movie by that name. Could there be can shock? Not likely, but he wasn't taking any chances.

Glavin’s target market for La Bohème is convenience wine drinkers and outdoor enthusiasts. He especially has his eye on campers, or anybody who packs a cooler but doesn't care much for dealing with bottles.

“It makes wine more mobile. It can bring wine to new places: backpacking and river rafting, for example,” says Glavin. “Plus, it is easier to recycle than glass.”

On-the-go wine drinkers will enjoy the convenience of popping open a can of La Bohème and joining in with beer drinkers who have the same option. As the La Bohème label says: “Pull Tabs, Not Corks.”

When they taste it, I think they are going to like it. But let's be honest, it is coming from a can. The off-dry Riesling inside was tasty and refreshing when I tasted a bottled sample. When I saw it for sale at Boise's Treefort music festival in March I popped one open and thought the sweetness stood out a bit more, but it still had the floral nose and the crispy, peachy and slightly mineral flavor notes that one would expect from a Riesling. And even though it is on the sweet side (if you prefer drier wines), the acid in this one balances it out a bit.

But be careful. This slightly larger-than-a-beer-can libation packs 13.3 percent alcohol, and is the equivalent of two glasses of wine. So don’t try to keep up with your Coors Light pals or you will quickly be in trouble.

Glavin is not the first winemaker to can his grape products, and that actually bodes well.

California producer Francis Ford Coppola (he of the movies and the resort-style Sonoma County tasting retreat with the pool) sells four-packs of Sofia Blanc de Blanc, a white sparkling wine for under $20 per four-pack. Those cans are only 187 milliliters - half the size of La Bohème’s cans. But they are pink, and dainty, meant to be sipped with a straw and, well, Sofia is FFC's daughter and, well ..

The Union Wine Company just south of Portland cans a line called Underwood and features Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris for $6 per 375-milliliter can - pretty much the same deal Glavin offers.

Like Underwood, Glavin hopes to add some red wines to the La Bohème line in due time. He's strongly considering some of the great Syrah that is produced in Idaho.

But first things first. Canning and distributing the 55,000 cans that should translate into 1,500 cases.

As for the name, La Bohème?

If Glavin knew about the classic Puccini opera by that name, he wasn't letting on. It is the story of a love affair between a poor poet and a struggling seamstress in 19th century Paris.

The story was made into a movie in 1965 and a Broadway Musical about 20 years ago that we have come to know as “Rent.”

When I pondered the fact that La Bohème is an Italian opera/French story set in Paris, I was wondering why Glavin would choose a white grape with German heritage for his operatic-sounding product.

But then I decided I was thinking too hard about that when I should just be thinking about the new, can-do way Idaho wine will be featured.

This story was originally published September 2, 2015 5:34 PM.

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