<i>The Origin Story</i> — Our journey to putting serious wine in a can

The Origin Story — Our journey to putting serious wine in a can

By Kristin Olszewski

Part of what started me on my journey with wine was the sheer romance of it. Perhaps you can relate? Decanting bottles by candlelight. The kiss of a cork pulled softly from glass. The way a wine bottle fits just so into the crook of your hand. 

I was seduced by the movement of a graceful pour. The subtle swirl of the wrist wafting aromas up from the glass. Oh, and the process – the journey from seed to soil and from grape to bottle. How many hands went into making this living beverage? How much attention and how many countless hours? It’s beautiful. It had me from the first. 

I remember a few years ago, before Nomadica started, I was working at Osteria Mozza in LA. At the time, I was selling a ninety-page, all-Italian wine list. That list was legendary, and bore the fingerprints of countless wine directors, all paying homage to one of the greatest wine producing regions in the world. It was the kind of list every sommelier dreams of working with. 

This time for me was rich in learning and tasting. I found myself obsessed with the differences between the classic and modern Barolo, with trying all the best vintages of Brunello di Montalcino, and getting to know the saline and volcanic white wines of Southern Italy. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always loved French wines. But in Italy, it felt like I was constantly uncovering a new mystery. Each wine told a story I’d never heard before. 

During this time, a friend told me that a woman she knew named Emma was thinking of starting a wine company. Was I interested in knowing more? I told her I was.

I met Emma one night after a long work shift. I was still wearing my lady suit when I arrived at one of my favorite natural wine bars, Tabula Rasa, and sat myself across from Emma. We talked for a bit, and then she told me her idea. “I’ve been pouring wine into sparkling water cans and drinking it by the pool,” she said. “And I think there’s a business opportunity here.” 

“I’ve been pouring wine into sparkling water cans and drinking it by the pool,” she said. “And I think there’s a business opportunity here.” 

Now, you have to remember, this was before wine-in-a-can was a thing. So, coming fresh from my evening at Osteria Mozza, I looked across the table at Emma and said, “Ugh, canned wine is gross. I only deal with the serious stuff.”

And for me, that was that.

But for Emma, who is wonderfully stubborn, it was just the beginning. A few weeks later, she handed me a canned small batch of Josh Klapper’s Pinot Noir that she’d put together herself. “Just try it,'' she urged.” And I said, “Ok.”

Admittedly, I let it sit in my cabinet for months. Then one night, for no reason at all, I decided to bring it out. I pulled it from the cabinet, put it into a glass, and sat there. “Hmm,” I thought. “Maybe I’ll just dump it down the drain and make a cocktail.” Afterall, life is too short to drink bad wine.

But then the unexpected happened. I took a sip. And boom – I was blown away! The wine was great. First, there was a burst of fruit, and then that delightful interplay of dried and fresh berries that’s so distinctive in Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir. 

As I sat there in my kitchen imbibing this masterpiece, I saw for the first time that Emma was right: The romance and beauty of the wine experience didn’t only have to take place in the milieu of fine dining. It could happen in your kitchen at home, drinking wine from a can.

I began to do my research. And the deeper I looked into the advantages of cans, the more convinced I became. From the single serving to reduced shipping emissions to recyclability, cans started to look more and more like the way forward. Add to this the fact that by co-founding a wine company, I’d suddenly become a personal sommelier to far more people than I’d ever be able to reach in a restaurant setting, and I was all in. I reached out to Emma, and Nomadica was born.