I was headed to the harbor for a run when I got a text from Ron Penner-Ash.
I certainly know the Penner-Ash name as one of Willamette Valley’s premier vineyards, and Ron’s wife Lynn was the first female winemaker hired in Oregon. Ron noted he was in Laguna Beach and had heard I was interested in his canned wine, Free Public.
Um, no – not so much.
His publicist must’ve tweaked the angle a bit. I think canned wine is weird. But my manners took the lead and replied I wasn’t available to meet, but if he was so inclined he could drop some samples at my door. Ron did drop off the samples at my door, tucked away behind my sad and leggy petunias.
I owed it to Ron to give the wines a fair shake but didn’t pull the trigger until today. After my morning run, I fired up the barbecue to grill some salmon for lunch. Salad and salmon seemed a balanced fare to try the Free Public Wines. Ron had noted to chill the wines, which I did when I plunked the box in the wine fridge once pulled from behind the petunias.
I was feeling ehh as I opened the Free Public box, assuming the three cans of white would be less than tasty. My mood took a 180-degree turn when I pulled out a can of rose, then a can of white, and lastly, a can of red blend. OK! Let’s do this!!
I zipped to the laptop to check out the Free Public website, and my heart be still. I’m a sucker for a great brand, and they nabbed me hook, line, and sinker. Spectacular scenic photos, quotes from John Muir and Terry Tempest Williams, witty quips and the sarcasm lured me in before I had even cracked the can.
Typically, before I taste a wine, the publicist weighs me down with tech sheets and miles of minutiae about the growing season, barreling, varietal percentages, etc. In this case, I had a can in my hand and nothing else. So, I read the back label to learn the “notes” on the wine, “Sun, Earth & Grapes.” HA! Nice!
I tried the rose first, and while it seemed a touch fruity, I found myself refilling my glass as I ate my salmon with its spicy mango dressing.
Next, I tried the white with full trepidation. I was expecting the essence of can or icky, overly oaked wine shoved into a can. The white was nicely acidic, and it too paired perfectly with my grilled fish. It is a clean white truly of the “sun, earth, and grapes.”
Last, I poured the red blend and was instantly happy. I appreciated the spice notes that gave the lighter red structure and tons of personality.
I’ve refilled my glass three times. Yes, I said glass. I haven’t moved to drinking wine from the can just yet.
But I have tell you: I was wrong about canned wine. Just like all wine, some is good, and some isn’t so good. Free Public is amazing, and three cans in a box for about $15 is a steal. You can take these to the beach, the mountains, or to the back yard. They are light, efficient, portable, and delicious. I want more!
I just texted Ron, and my experience with Free Public is not a one off. In his few days in Orange County sharing Free Public with stores and restaurants, it is now available at select Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Santa Ana Country Club, and The Cannery. Find this wine.