There’s a scene in the 2012 wine docu-movie “Somm” that has stuck with me all these years: A Court of Masters sommelier-to-be is breaking down a flight and notes one is like “a freshly opened can of tennis balls.” That thought crossed my mind as I opened up the long and slender tennis-ball-sized sleeve of wines from Erosion Winery: a vibrant box filled with three cans of wine produced up in Napa by a familiar face: O.C. native and master cicerone Patrick Rue.
For those that don’t know Rue, he started a north O.C. brewery in 2008, The Bruery, which has a national reach and now boasts two side-brands: Offshoot Brewing, which produces Hazy IPA, and Bruery Terreux, which focuses on wild and funky beers, mostly beers aged in wine barrels.
With so much happening this year, it was time I reached out for a quick chat:
What’s the story behind the name Erosion?
Rue: The goal of this endeavor is to change the way people think about wine, which requires eroding some pre-conceptions most people have about wine. A bit less romance, a bit more science, changing how a wine is described and categorized, and breaking a few rules here and there. If I can use a beer reference, wine is still in the “Rheinheitsgobot” stage, so any deviation from the norm is seen as bizarre. Erosion is also part of the natural cycle of how the earth has evolved, and many of the world’s greatest vineyards are a product of various soils merging that formed from the result of erosion.
Some of your wines use non-traditional ingredients alongside grapes, like cherry, vanilla, cacao, etc., is this something revolutionary in wine? What was your inspiration?
There aren’t many examples of the use of non-grape or non-oak additions to wine for the sake of significantly changing the flavor profile of a wine, particularly in the luxury wine market. The inspiration is certainly craft beer, particularly in the expansion of flavor profiles that we’ve seen over the last decade in craft beer. As a craft brewer, the sense of discovering a flavor profile I’ve never had before is extremely rewarding, and I’m bringing that sense of curiosity over to wine. I don’t want to try to make sub-par wine delicious with the use of foreign ingredients, I want to bring a new dimension to excellent wine.
Do you grow your own grapes or source them and process on site?
We don’t own any vineyards, we work with many growers all over Napa Valley that grow great fruit with distinctly different flavor profiles that allow us to make a wine range of wines. We process everything ourselves, from grapes to putting it in the can.
At the Bruery, you’ve collaborated with some of the nation’s best brewers, when and what will the next Bruery/Erosion beer/wine be like?
I’ve learned so much from collaborating with other breweries, wineries, and producers of great food products, and I look forward to bringing this to Erosion. Our next collaboration with The Bruery is from Cabernet Sauvignon we brought in last year from the Mt. Veeder appellation of Napa Valley. We were able to process the grapes at Erosion so that The Bruery was able to receive destemmed, sorted berries to utilize immediately in a beer fermentation. I look forward to many more!
The format is very unique: why cans?
I love wine, but opening a bottle of great wine tends to be a once in a while indulgence. Is it the right occasion? Do I want to commit to finishing the bottle tonight, or within a few days? Is it the right pairing for my meal? The enjoyment of most delicious beverages don’t require this amount of decision making. Our 250mL cans are a great size for a generous single serving of wine, or two small glasses of wine if you’re into sharing. It’s convenient, fun, and doesn’t require a lot of contemplation. There’s no chance of cork taint. While our pricing is at the very top for canned wine, it is a downright steal compared to wines of similar quality coming from Napa Valley.