By Wine News Service
A Walla Walla winemaker who is relocating part of his business to the Tri-Cities also is doing everything he can to reduce his carbon footprint.
[blockquote quote="I’ve seen first-hand how much waste can be generated with traditional bottlings." source="Victor Palencia, owner of Palencia Wine Co." align="right" max_width="300px"]
He is starting by putting some of Palencia Wine Co.’s wines in a package that will reduce its environmental impact while also helping the wines stay fresh and delicious for consumers.
Victor Palencia, owner and winemaker, has begun packaging some of his Vino La Monarcha wines in the AstroPaq. It’s a fully recyclable, food-grade plastic that dispenses the wine through an easy-to-use spigot.
“I’ve been in the industry long enough to realize the impact we have on various resources, even with my own boutique winery,” Palencia said. “I’ve seen first-hand how much waste can be generated with traditional bottlings.”
Palencia said that most of the wines under his La Monarcha label are consumed quickly – often within hours – after purchase.
“It’s really a waste to see all that glass go out,” he said. “So this new packaging is going to allow me to feel better about what I’m doing to our planet in general but also without reducing the enjoyment of the wines.”
In traditional bottles, a wine’s flavor can be affected by oxygen within three to four days after a bottle being opened. But the wine tote that Palencia is using can easily keep wine fresh for a month after it is first opened. The wine in a tote also could be aged for two years before being initially opened.
“The bag is filled with argon first, then filled with the wine,” Palencia said. “So there’s an inert environment with low oxygen levels.”
The totes hold the same as a bottle of wine – 750 milliliters – but weighs half as much because there’s no glass.
“I can now pick up two cases of wine with one hand,” Palencia said with a chuckle.
The wine now costs less to ship, and the package can be recycled when it’s empty.
Palencia said the new packaging will undoubtedly appeal to younger wine drinkers, especially the all-important millennial generation.
“It’s a great way to provide wine for adventurous people,” he said.
And Palencia is going all in right way. He’s already committed to putting 500 cases of his wines into the wine totes this year, starting with his Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.
“It’s ramping up quickly,” he said. “It doesn’t change the flavor of the wine. It’s the exact same wine that goes into the bottle.”
Palencia Wine Co., which now is in its fourth year of operation, produces about 8,500 cases of wine annually. Palencia also is the head winemaker for Jones of Washington in Quincy and director of winemaking for J&S Crushing in Mattawa.
April Reddout, wine program director for the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser, said the center regularly carries the La Monarcha wines, and she thinks it will be a big hit. She’s carried a similar product in the past, and it was a wild success, particularly with consumers who realized its environmental benefits.
“People from Seattle and Portland love it,” she said. “They get all excited about the eco-friendliness of it. They really respond to the value, the recyclability and the convenience. They can take this on a boat or on a hike. There’s no need for a bottle opener. They just love it.”
Consider this: Half the households in America don’t have a corkscrew in them, and Palencia just made it easier for all of them to enjoy a great glass of wine.
Carol Sanford, wine steward of Yoke’s Fresh Market in Richland, noted it is one of the first stores to carry the new La Monarcha packaging. She began carrying it in early February – all four Yoke’s groceries in the Tri-Cities are selling the totes – and said she became a true believer in quick order.
Sanford said Palencia challenged her to open the tote, pour a glass of wine, then stick it away for a few weeks and try it again. She opened her tote on Dec. 23, then didn’t touch it again until Jan. 9.
“It was amazing and fresh,” she said.
She believes it will be great for people who go camping. But she said sales have been tepid so far, primarily because the package is so unusual and nontraditional.
“It will pick up as people understand the benefits, no doubt,” she said. “I think white wines will fly off the shelves when the weather gets warmer. I wish all the wines were packaged this way.”
Reddout said she noticed the same thing the first time she carried wine totes.
“It takes a little coaching,” she said. “The consumer needs to be assured. There’s a generation that thinks it’s just a cheap wine. We’re still overcoming the perception of screw caps. They just need encouragement.”
Palencia said that in addition to groceries, he’s also receiving inquiries from restaurants that want to use the totes for more convenient by-the-glass pours. They can be particularly troublesome because if a bottle is opened to serve a glass, that wine will need to be discarded within three days if it isn’t empty. With the tote, there’s no waste.
In addition to the four Yoke’s stores, Palencia also has shipped the wine to markets in Oregon and Idaho and is getting ready to deliver it to Seattle merchants.
Palencia noted the same wines also are available in bottles for consumers who prefer the traditional packaging.
As early as this fall, Palencia will be relocating his Vino La Monarcha brand to the wine village in downtown Kennewick on Columbia Drive. He originally thought it would be in July, but this winter’s snow set back construction, so he now is targeting August for an opening.
La Monarcha is the second label for Palencia Wine Co. He took the name from the monarch butterfly, which migrates from Michoacan, Mexico, where Palencia was born.
At the Kennewick location, he plans to showcase the alternative packaging, which he thinks has the opportunity to grow even bigger.
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