Posts Categorized: News
We have been spending some time reflecting as a team, thinking about the issues facing our country and community, and we have put together the beginnings of a list of resources that we have found helpful. Our hope is to support efforts to bring awareness around the Black and LGBTQ communities throughout the year, every year. We will continue to work and to listen and to educate ourselves. We want to see a change and are open to conversations, collaborations and suggestions on any ways we can do more.
Please join in on our discussion. Leave comments about how you are feeling, what you have learned, any resources you have found helpful in the Comments Section below.
Here at Union Wine Company, we believe that good wine should be accessible. A while back we came up with an idea to put our wine in cans. Now, six years later, the canned wine industry is taking wine to places it has never been (literally).
We want to give you a behind the scenes peek into our packaging facility so you can see the process that goes into bringing our cans—and bottles—into your hands.
Our packaging facility which opened in 2018 is the largest canning and bottling facility in Oregon. When running at full speed, it can go head-to-head with a Coca-Cola bottling plant. The 115, which is what we call it because its’ address is on 115th Ave. in Tualatin, is capable of holding up to 40,000 gallons of wine at one time, and we can produce 4,300 cases of canned wine in a day.
Simply put, that’s a lot of wine.
This has been a huge upgrade from our early days as a company when we had to rent a mobile bottling truck for each round of production. As the demand for our wines increased, opening a packaging facility was a necessity. We have a total of nine full-time employees who are experts in the field and run our packaging plant year-round.
The packaging process.
Packaging begins when bulk pallets of empty wine bottles and recycled cans arrive at our facility.
Fun Fact: One of the greatest pros of using cans over bottles is that each can is made out of 70% recycled materials.
Cans and bottles are then moved by our staff onto a feeder where they will be rinsed, cleaned from the inside out, and marked with a tracking code.
Bottles are then sparged—or flushed out—with inert gas (Nitrogen) and cans are purged with compressed air after passing an ionizer, allowing any particulate to be blown out.
After being thoroughly cleaned, the can or bottle makes its way to the filler where it gets filled with the proper vintage of wine. The ends of cans are then sealed shut and screw caps are applied to the bottles. Before the cans of still wine (non-bubbles) are sealed, a drop of nitrogen is added at the top to prevent the wine from oxidizing.
Our can filler is capable of filling 200 cans per minute, and the bottle filler is able to fill 100 bottles per minute.
Fun Fact: The Vintage of each wine is printed on the bottom of every can.
After being filled and sealed, the product goes through another rinsing tunnel to get cleaned off. The cans are then put into 12-pack cases, and the bottles go to a drop-packer for cases of 12 as well.
The same wine goes into the cans as we put into bottles.
Still with me? While this entire process may sound complicated, it takes only half an hour from start to finish.
Cans have a lower environmental impact than bottles.
As a company, we have always been committed to the health of our planet and making sustainable choices for our future. Whether it is through our winemaking practices, or through promoting recyclable products, we always think about how we are impacting the environment.
Why are cans more eco-friendly than bottles?
While both cans and bottles are recyclable, bottles leave the larger carbon footprint of the two.
The transportation of bottled wine creates 20% more greenhouse gases than transporting the same amount of canned wine. This is because bottles require more cardboard to package and take up more space in trucks. Aluminum cans are simply easier to package and ship and the environment benefits from this choice.
From production to hands, and back again
Another benefit of aluminum cans is that they are 100% recyclable and the process of getting them back into production is faster than you might expect. From the time you toss a can into a recycling bin, it takes only 60 days for it to be fully reused and back on supermarket shelves.
We love our wine, but we love the global community we live in too, and we hope with our new packaging facility we can continue to move towards a greener future.
Today is April 22, 2020, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and the earth is going through some strange times. The air is clearer and cleaner now than it has been in years, the skies and oceans are quieter, and I’m sure all the creatures and plants are enjoying the respite from our typically busy lives. That should all be good news on this momentous Earth Day, and it is, but unfortunately, this has all come at a huge cost to humans. We at Union Wine Company hope that there is an end to social distancing soon and that everyone stays healthy until the public health experts and epidemiologists come up with a solution that allows us to go back to “normal.” However, we also hope that we—the collective we—come out of this smarter and more aware and in tune with the choices we make and how they affect Mother Earth. We have an awesome opportunity to make some changes and scale back some of our typically polluting ways.
During this time of remote work and fewer activities we may also have gotten into some better eating habits, and maybe are even growing more of our own food, or looking to local farmers markets for fresh, organic produce. Another great thing to do is to join a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.) CSA’s are a fantastic way to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.
As a company, we have always tried to be responsible in our winemaking and grape growing. We are LIVE Certified Sustainable at our winery and at Amity Vineyards. Dry farming has always been in practice at Amity, and we have a history of working to create a beautiful bio-diversity at the vineyard that benefits all of us.
Amity Vineyards was planted nearly 50 years ago with own rooted vines. At that time, and now, there is a passion for not only growing grapes, but also for keeping the natural biodiversity strong by growing flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables. There is a 30-year-old blueberry bush on the property, a giant fig tree, and a huge apple tree. Peonies and lilies have been favorite flowers at Amity from the beginning. And, today at the vineyard we have citrus in the greenhouse and olive trees beginning to grow along the driveway.
In 2017, to keep up the tradition of cultivating more richness and biodiversity at the vineyard, we brought in a full-time gardener and vegetable farmer extraordinaire, Mandy Caldcleugh. Mandy plants and maintains a beautiful vegetable garden high on the hill of the vineyard. Her efforts sustain the land and bring in beneficial insects and pollinators, creating a diverse ecosystem that keeps disease pressure down and facilitates a more holistic environment. Additionally, Mandy focuses on growing vegetables, flowers and plants that go to our families and friends at the winery and will eventually sustain our hospitality program and tasting room.
Lucky for us, Mandy provides all employees a bin of vegetables on a weekly basis about 9 months of the year—a free Union benefit that we all enjoy and that helps to keep us healthy.
Right now, in the garden at Amity, you’ll find leeks, green garlic, spring onions, shallots, radicchio, frisée, fava greens, and purple sprouting broccoli, also borage and bees friend. And very soon we’ll be enjoying lots of potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, lettuce and kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards…I think you get the idea.
Oh, and the rhubarb is producing and all the strawberries are flowering.
We wish you a Happy and Healthy Earth Day!
Stay well and take good care of our earth.
“Truth is stranger than fishin’.” -Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America
There is no question that right now the world is a scary and confusing place. As we each do our part to stay safe and healthy—so everyone will stay safe and healthy—those once simple actions require much more discipline than ever before. A day off every so often to hide from the world and veg out on Netflix was once a welcome escape, but as it becomes more and more the norm, the novelty begins to fade. But, just because we need to practice social distancing doesn’t mean we have to stay locked away in our homes. We just have to think a little outside the box and a little outside the normal boundaries of our lives.
Besides being a well known Portland personality, and all-around great guy, my friend Bob Rhoads is a true outdoorsman. So, when I was thinking of things to do to get myself out of the house but still steer clear of people, he was the first person I called. I requested something that would be a close drive from Portland where I could meet him. He suggested we go fishing.
Now, to our north, Washington has temporarily outlawed recreational fishing, effective this week, and this may be the case in many places right now.
For most of Oregon however, fishing is currently still allowed as long as you’re careful of how you do it, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. They recommend you maintain a social distance of at least six feet from other people who don’t live in your household, including during travel to and from a fishing spot. Officials also stress that anglers should minimize traveling and stay as close to home as possible.
Rob and I followed these recommendations and traveled only a few miles to the Sandy River. As I sat on the banks of the river I couldn’t see another person in any direction (save for Bob, of course) and I was filled with peace and tranquility which I had not felt—nor realized I had not felt—in many weeks. For the first time in a while, I was at peace and the fears and uncertainty of life had momentarily faded.
But enough introspection. Let’s talk about Bob and fishing for Steelhead on the Sandy River. Some refer to fishing for Steelhead as ‘chasing the ghost’ because it can be a very elusive fish to catch (spoiler alert…we didn’t catch one that day) but fly fishing can be a very meditative and relaxing activity. I learned quite a bit from Bob that day.
Steelhead are actually trout but look much more like Salmon. That is because they are Anadromous, meaning that unlike the smaller trout that live their whole lives in the local rivers, Steelhead swim upstream in the freshwater to spawn but they reside in saltwater. Rainbow trout, on the other hand, stay in freshwater all their lives. When fishing for Steelhead you are only allowed to keep the ones raised in local hatcheries, which can be identified by a lack of an adipose fin (the small fin just in front of the tail.) All other Steelhead must be caught and released.
Bob practices a style of fly fishing called Spey casting (named after a style of fishing developed on the River Spey in Scotland). In short, this technique allows for longer casts without the overhead backcasting motion and presenting larger flies. As for equipment, Bob has a collection of flies, some he has bought but many he has made himself. His rod is a custom-made CF Burkheimer, (made for the specific technique just mentioned) a local company that Bob was an apprentice rod builder for. Once we found a suitable spot, we cracked a few cans of Underwood Pinot Noir, Bob chose his fly and got suited up.
I was more than content sitting on the bank, documenting the day and imbibing the tranquility (and the Pinot Noir). Plus, I’ve tried to fly fish and it is really freaking hard until you get the hang of it! Anyway, who would complain in such surroundings? As I mentioned, we didn’t catch any fish that day but just getting outside in the sunshine and fresh air made the whole adventure a complete success.
Even though we didn’t catch anything, I now had Steelhead on the brain and needed to cook some up ASAP. Luckily, Flying Fish Company just reopened about a mile from me and they have a wide selection of some of the freshest local fish around. I was in luck and they were stocked (no pun intended) with some gorgeous Steelhead fillets. As you can see, although it is a trout, Steelhead very much resemble Salmon.
I decided to cook the fish “En Papillote” or in paper. The technique, which makes for an incredibly easy and delicious meal simply requires putting all the ingredients into securely wrapped parchment paper and then baked for about 15 minutes—easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.
Steelhead and Vegetables En Papillote
1 Steelhead fillet, about 7 oz
Half a large zucchini
1 small pepper
3 slices of lemon
5 sprigs of fresh oregano (reserve 2 for presentation)
1/2 t coarse sea salt
1/4 C Kings Ridge Pinot Gris
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay a large piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.
Place the fish on the lower part of a large piece of parchment paper so you will be able to have enough paper to fold over everything and securely crimp.
Set the fish down, season with salt and place vegetables, lemon slices and oregano on and around the fish. Squeeze a little lemon juice on top and drizzle with white wine.
Tightly crimp the edges of the parchment paper, leaving a little space inside for the fish to steam.
Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Carefully cut through and peel back paper and Voila! You have a complete meal ready to eat.
The oregano will be pretty dark and wilted, so I recommend replacing it with a fresh sprig before serving.
Pour yourself a glass of Kings Ridge Pinot Gris and dig in. Bon Appétit.
My sincerest thanks again to Bob Rhoads, not only for his vast fishing knowledge but for taking me out of my funk and filling me with a renewed sense of hope and happiness.
You can follow Bob’s adventures on IG at @ptowndutch