Wine Done Differently

By Trevor Stewart 

Gina Schober ’07 has pleasant memories of spending her summers swimming and boating with family and friends. Many enjoyed a refreshing beverage during play and relaxation, but options were limited for the wine-drinkers in the group. While bringing along a bottle of wine with some cups and a corkscrew was an option, Gina thought there had to be a more convenient way. Then, while driving past the Russian River, an idea came to her: Wine in a can.

In 2015, that idea became reality when she and husband Jake Stover launched Sans Wine Co., featuring their canned wine in order to increase wine accessibility without sacrificing quality.

The couple searches for organic, old vines from small local growers and don’t add anything to the wine, which is a key pillar in their company motto of “sans additives, sans chemicals, sans pretense.”

“It was important to us to vintage date our wines, noting the harvest year of the grapes we used,” Gina said. “It’s not as commonplace to do that with canned wine, but we felt if we’re going to go all the way with single-vine, and single-varietal, we wanted the vintage expression to show through. There’s just so much variation every year between the weather and climate, among other factors.”

Neither Gina nor Jake anticipated having careers in the wine industry. While studying communications at UC Davis, Gina took an introductory wine course. She later began her career in restaurant management as a sommelier, while Jake attended the University of Kansas and was planning to attend law school. Unexpectedly, his plans changed when his brother invited him to work for a summer in the Napa area, where he developed an interest in wine. Read more about their story

When the couple decided to launch their own wine label, they chose the wines in honor of Gina’s grandfather who owned a vineyard in Lake County, selecting a Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Rosé of Carignan.

Don’t judge a wine by its container

The biggest challenge for Sans Wine is simply breaking the stigma that wine in a can is not quality wine. But Jake explained the aluminum can is actually a very stable environment for wine. Since the container is not made of glass, there is no ultraviolet penetration through the glass and no oxygen is exchanged through a cork. The smaller size of the cans also reduces waste, eliminating the issue of opened wine bottles oxidizing and affecting the taste.

“Our wines go through primary fermentation naturally, and our reds go through malolactic fermentation naturally from gentle pump overs – the process of pumping the wine up from the bottom of the tank and splashing it over the top of the fermenting must (or juice),” Jake said. “We won’t add preservatives in order to make it stable because the aluminum can helps us do that naturally.”

Sans Wine was a 2018 Picnic Day partner. Gina and Jake were excited to participate in a kickoff event on the eve before Picnic Day. During that event, their wine was sampled in a blind taste test with renowned wine expert Hoby Wedler ’11, Ph.D. ’16. Jake believed the blind taste test will “even the playing field” and showcase the quality of their wine.

“People see the can and have preconceived notions of what it should taste like, so for us to have this opportunity for people to taste our wine is awesome,” Jake said.

Gina said partnering with UC Davis and CAAA is a perfect fit.

“UC Davis helped shape who I am, and it’s an amazing feeling to be able to give back,” said Gina. “UC Davis taught me that with hands-on learning and hard work you can succeed in anything — and it’s true!”

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