Artist Spotlight: The Ellaphant in the Room

The Man Behind the Cans 

Jeremy Alan of The Ellaphant in the Room is the mural artist and illustrator behind three of our wine can designs—Riesling Radler, Strawberry Cooler and our most recent undertaking, Nouveau Pinot Noir. The first time we reached out to Alan was for a postcard project. After that experience we thought he might be a perfect designer to create a new can design for us.  

That first design was for our Riesling Radler can. As different and beautiful as the wine it holds, this can is a huge hit with everyone who sees it. Since then we’ve continued to work with The Ellaphant in the Room on two more can designs and another postcard. 

We asked Jeremy if he would answer a few questions for us about his work and the process of designing wine cans.  

  • How did Union Wine Co. start working with you? 
    Union Wine reached out to me in 2016 with a project to illustrate a promotional postcard. The idea was to draw the family of Underwood wine cans…crushed. I loved the idea and the visual possibilities of representing the crushed and folded can. 

Underwood Pinot Noir Illustration

  • Would you please tell us a little bit about you and your work?  
    My company is called The Ellaphant in the Room and is based in Brooklyn. I make hand-painted wall murals and print illustrations. I specialize in designing and painting murals by working with concepts and colors that complement existing interiors. My illustrations are small-scale artworks that are commissioned for both commercial magazines and privately sold for home décor. 

Riesling Radler (Released Summer 2017)

  • How did this project start? 
    Ryan Harms and the designer working on this project reached out by email. This was my first time doing product design and I loved the idea of making an illustration that would wrap around a can. Ryan instantly established an open and collaborative approach to working together. He was open to ideas and made it easy to say yes to partnering for this seasonal wine project.  
  • How did this design come to be?
    We started off with several different ideas. Again, the openness to creative possibilities gave me liberty to pursue a number of possibilities beyond the typical industry wine can design. The illustration was meant to reflect the wine flavor which has notes of citrus, hops, and summertime. We settled on tropical floral patterns as the direction. From there I began drawing tropical flora and fauna. I focused on individual leaves and began to work them into a pattern. Additional elements included tropical birds like toucans and flamingos. One thing I knew right away was that I wanted to have the green leaves be on a dark background. 

Strawberry Cooler (Released Summer of 2019) 

  • Please tell us about the design process for the Strawberry Cooler.
    When Union Wine reached out to me about doing another can design the answer was obviously, yes! We immediately hopped on the phone and started talking.We talked about how the illustration should represent the specific wine flavor and reflect the experience of drinking the wine. With this can we came up with a number of different design directions including a surfboard pattern, a sun setting into the ocean and strawberry dreams with floating strawberries on clouds. These options were sketched out and mocked-up on the cans.  

After numerous directions and ideas were explored, it was time to choose one. Since the wine cooler is strawberry flavored, the chosen theme was a field of strawberry flowers. The flowers were intended to look loosely sketched, as though they were made by someone relaxing in a park—drawing and taking in the summer day. 

The most technical part was positioning the flowers on a diagonal so that when it wrapped around the can, it would connect and appear seamless. 

Underwood Strawberry Cooler Illustration

Another central compositional element is the bumblebee. The bee was intended to look like it was on the label, as though it had landed on the can, attracted to the strawberry flowers. The bumblebee was a perfect addition and echoed the focal point of the toucan on the Radler can. 

Strawberry Cooler Bumblebee

 

Nouveau (Released November of 2019)

  • The Nouveau can is a design you just completed recently. Was there anything different about creating the design for this one?
    Ryan and Joan called to discuss this project in February—9 months prior to a firm product release date of Nov. 21. This would be a limited release for Nouveau Day, the traditional day that Nouveau wines are released and tasted. That meant I only had about 5 weeks to complete the design.The brief for this project asked that I keep in mind the Underwood logo block on the front of the can as I thought about a few possible esthetic options: Art Nouveau, Bold Colors, Organic Elements, Architectural Elements, and the brief said I could be a little bit more “out there” for this style of wine compared to more typical Nouveau wine labels. After my conversation with Ryan and Joan, the first thing I did was to research Art Nouveau. It had been a while since studying the movement and I wanted to re-establish an understanding of the motivations and visual languages of the time.  
  • What were some of the other directions you were thinking about before we landed on the peacock design?
    Some very cool directions emerged. I explored Architectural linework from the period as framing the label. One version had a fairy holding the ingredients of the wine and sitting atop the label. Peacocks were instantly intriguing along with dragonfly patterns and moths. In the end we chose the peacock with the tail feathers draping all the way around the can. The feathers evoke the sinuous lines of Art Nouveau architecture and the white peacock has graphic contrasts against the dark green can. A further thought on the white peacock is it almost subverts the expectations of the image since peacocks are usually vibrant, full-spectrum color…in a sense it made him more unique. The whimsy and freedom of illustration allows you to interpret the real world instead of relying on it. Hopefully, within that interpretation, I can direct the viewer towards the unique experience of the wine. 
  • Does anything stand out from when you designed any of the cans—something unique you remember?
    The opportunity to dive into art history as the inspiration point for the Nouveau can was particularly exciting for me. Beginning with such an iconic style from history and to make it our own take was the challenge. 
  • You’ve designed three cans now, and although they are quite different from one another, they look great side-by-side. What is similar and what is different about the three designs, and why do they work so well together? 
    Each of the Union wine cans have different concepts driving the image, style and color decisions. One difference is how finished and complete the images are for the Radler and Nouveau, the Radler and Nouveau are both fully colored-in set against a dark background. The Strawberry can is intended to look like a sketch, open and loose with pencil lines and soft hits of water-colored pigments. As for similarities, their differences complement each other, they hopefully balance each other out. Additionally, each is based on patterns and images from nature and are all from my hand, unified by my mark and line. 

Our Newest Adventure: Underwood Nouveau

Underwood Nouveau

At Union, we often joke that we work hard and play harder, but the truth is our work is fun, so it’s more of a play hard, play harder situation. We get to pioneer new ideas, celebrate our successes, laugh at the mishaps, and be among friends while we do it all. Which brings us to our newest adventure: Underwood Nouveau.  

Our Underwood Nouveau is a riff on a Beaujolais Nouveau, which is traditionally made from Gamay grapes (also called, Gamay noir à Jus blanc grape) in the Beaujolais region of France. Always looking for an Oregon angle, we decided to use our Pinot Noir grapes in the Underwood Nouveau for a fresh take on our traditional Pinot noir. The Gamay grape is actually a cousin of the Pinot Noir grape and flourishes in very similar climates.  

Normally, it takes us a year to make our Underwood Pinot Noir, while our Nouveau takes just over a month — from pick to sip. We created it to celebrate our first grape harvest of the year and introduce the true expression of our 2019 vintage. It’s fruit-forward, light, and fun, meaning we had a lot of fun making it, and you’ll have a lot of fun drinking it. Nouveau is known for being a fresh, fruity wine that celebrates the first pour of the season. 

(image credit Blue Heron Vineyards)

Underwood Pinot Noir Nouveau grapes

The first step to creating our new wine was to pick the grapes. We started hand-picking the grapes for this year’s Nouveau batch on the early morning of September 24th and the fruit arrived at our winery and was unloaded by sunset. It was an all-hands on deck situation here to get it done in one day, but we prevailed. We picked the grapes in whole clusters. No crushers or de-stemmers were used.  

Underwood Pinot Noir Nouveau

Underwood Nouveau Pinot Noir

Underwood Nouveau Dig Out

Union Wine Company

To ferment the grapes, we used a process called “carbonic maceration,” a fancy name for a straightforward, natural process that can produce vibrant, lively, fresh, and also some very serious wines. Here’s how it works: the full bunches of grapes are placed into stainless-steel, temperature-controlled vats, which are then sealed and filled with CO2 to remove the oxygen. This triggers a process within the grapes known as intracellular fermentation. Once alcohol levels reach around 2% abv, the grape skins split and release their juice. This takes about 10 days.  

During this time, the grapes at the bottom are gently crushed under the weight of the others and begin to ferment, releasing more CO2. This gentle, yet speedy, process releases the berry flavor without releasing the bitter tannins from the grape skins. The carbonic maceration process is stopped when the fruit is removed from the tank and pressed.  

Underwood Nouveau

The process was a success! In the end, our Nouveau tastes bright and fruit-forward with notes of cherry, plum, and currents. 

Underwood Nouveau Canning

To introduce our Nouveau with the proper fanfare, we worked with a designer to create a can that would speak to the beauty of art nouveau. He nailed it. We love the design.   

A can made perfect sense for this project because a Nouveau is meant to be sipped right away, not stored. Our Nouveau should be popped open anytime, anywhere during the fall season it honors.   

We’re excited to have the opportunity to introduce a wine that embraces the spirit of Union — don’t take yourself too seriously, have fun, and enjoy the moment. Just remember to do it with your pinkies down.  

Union Wine Company Nouveau

Order Underwood Nouveau

Tips For The Season: Pinot Pomegranate Punch

Union Wine Co Underwood Pinot PunchOnce again the season to entertain is upon us. From Halloween straight through the New Year, it’s just a part of life that you will have more guests, throw more parties and have more responsibilities to entertain. But, there is no need to get stressed! One thing we all know about entertaining is that the more you can do ahead of time, the easier—and more fun—it all becomes.

One way to do that is to prep as much food as possible, but another way is to make sure you have plenty of delicious drinks on hand for your guests. And, one of the best ways to check this box is to create a punch or batch cocktail that can be done a few days in advance and stored in the fridge. So, we decided to help out and suggest an Autumnal Sangria style Pinot Noir Punch that has a little bit of a kick but still stays on the fruity side. It can be made up days in advance, and in fact, doing so will only improve the flavors.

Union Wine Co Underwood Pinot Punch

Pinot Pomegranate Punch

2 bottles Underwood Pinot Noir
2 C Pomegranate Juice
1/2 C Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
1/2 C Cointreau
1 C Spiced Rum (such as Flor de Cana)
22oz bottle (2 3/4 C) of Hard Cider

Garnish:
Pomegranate seeds
Cranberries
Orange slices
Cinnamon Sticks

Union Wine Co Underwood Pinot Punch

Combine all ingredients. It’s that simple!

Feel free to add or subtract any amounts to best suit your palate. Refrigerate ahead of time and serve cold, over ice or room temperature. Since the orange and cranberries float, place those in the punch as a garnish. The pomegranate seeds, however, will sink, so we recommend putting them in a small bowl and having your guests help themselves.

(Looking for a funky punchbowl and cup set on the cheap? I highly recommend checking your local Goodwill or Salvation Army!)

Never dealt with a fresh pomegranate? Well here is a nifty technique to help get the most from your fruit.

***********

Kitchen tip:
How to deal with a Pomegranate.

Step one:

Gently run a serrated knife around the equator of the pomegranate. The skin is very tough but not very thick, so its best to just barely break the skin to preserve the most amount of seeds.

Underwood Pinot Punch

Step 2:

Gently tear the fruit into two halves. You can then go on to tear the halves into smaller segments.

Underwood Pinot Punch

Step 3:

In a shallow bowl of room temperature water, gently break apart each section. All of the seeds will sink to the bottom and all the white pith will float to the surface, assuring easy separation without mashing any of the seeds. Simply dispose of the rind and all pith and strain the seeds through a mesh colander.  Keep covered in the fridge until party time.

Underwood Pinot Punch

Cheers!

Underwood Pinot Punch

Photography, Text and Cocktail by David L. Reamer.  (@dlreamer)

Oregon Surf Adventure: Cold Water & Canned Wine 

At Union Wine Co. we try to play just as hard as we work. Maybe a little harder. With the winery located just south of Portland, OR, we have the advantage of being able to leave work, point in any direction and set a course for adventure. We’re incredibly grateful to be able to call this beautiful part of the state our home. Today’s journey will take us just 75 miles away from the winery. However, the setting is entirely otherworldly, the Oregon Coast.

Union Wine Co Surf Trip
Meet Marcus Mejia. Marcus is one of our Marketing Associates here at UWCo. When not in the office with the rest of the team, you can find Marcus on the road, trailering our beloved 1972 Citroën van (Celeste) to and from events. Outside of work, Marcus enjoys escaping to surf the crisp waters of the Oregon coast. We followed Marcus and a few friends to Cape Kiwanda for a day of off-roading, some small wave surf and a lesson in “tailgate gourmet” etiquette.
Union Wine Co Surf Trip
All great surf sessions usually involve a bit of a hunt. If you’re lucky enough for the weather to cooperate and the swell to be in your favor, you still have to find the right spot. Here in the Pacific Northwest that can be a little tricky. There are soft sands to get stuck in, river and creek crossings that “don’t look that deep?” to drive through. However, the chase is half the fun. We did a bit of off-roading and beach cruising to get to just the right location. Heavy emphasis on the fun.
Union Wine Co Surf Trip
Union Wine Co Surf Trip
Union Wine Co Surf Trip
Union Wine Co Marcus Surfing
After hunting a few spots up and down the coast we settled into a nice spot to suit up and get in the water. With small waves and water temperatures lingering around 54 degrees Fahrenheit, an enjoyable surf session in Oregon may be better described as self-inflicted punishment. But when the fun happens it is well earned. And for those that wish to search it out, it is absolutely out there.
Union Wine Co Marcus Surf
Union Wine Co Marcus Meija
Union Wine Co Surfing
Union Wine Co Surfing
Union Wine Co Surf Trip
With wetsuits full of sandy cold saltwater and smiles on our faces, we decided it was time to find a place to set up the kitchen for the evening. We packed the truck back up with a board, dogs, and gear and headed to spot we had scouted earlier to enjoy a well-deserved post-surf meal.
Union Wine Co Underwood Pinot Noir Surf Tacos
Union Wine Co Underwood Surf Tacos
Union Wine Co Surf Trip Marcus
Once we regained the feeling in our hands, we set up our “tailgate kitchenette.” One thing to keep in mind, when your kitchen is also the back panel of your vehicle, be sure and find level ground. No one likes working hard at slicing that avocado in half only to watch it roll off the bed to become the dog’s next snack. Also, a level tailgate provides the best home for a delicious can of Underwood Pinot Noir. With the rig nice and balanced we decided that the first, main, and only course of the evening was going to be “Surfers Paradise Tacos”. Now, there are many iterations of this decadent menu item. However, normally the dish involves some ingenuity in regard to whatever is in the cooler at the time. If you’d like to try our post-surf meal first hand here’s a quick recipe.
Surfers Paradise tacos:

1 pack Olympia Provisions Smoked Chorizo
Tillamook sharp white cheddar
Arugula
1 Avocado
1 tomato
Large tortillas
1 can Underwood Pinot Noir
Mixed spices

Slice sausage and cook until slightly browned. Pour Pinot Noir over sausages to make light demi-glace. Add spices to taste. Prepare tortillas with arugula, cheese, tomato, and avocado. When the wine has reduced add sausage over top of prepped tortillas. Wrap it up and find a nice spot to enjoy the sunset and your taco. 
After consuming a healthy portion of tacos, wine, and tortilla chips we decided to hike up the hill to catch the sun setting over the water. By the end of the day, we had played in the sand, rode some small (very cold) waves and enjoyed each other’s company over wine and food. As far as adventures go, there’s not much more you can really ask for. Oregon is an incredibly special place, and we are very lucky to call it home. Until next time, keep those pinkies down.
Union Wine Co Surf Trip
Cheers.
Photography by Brandon Haley. @bhaleyimage  www.bhaleyimage.com
Text and recipe by Marcus Mejia.

Autumn Bounty: Butternut Squash Risotto

Union Wine Company Risotto

There are few Autumnal culinary trifectas as ubiquitous and delicious as Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto, (and few better ways to enjoy one of the best vegetables of the season.) For the uninitiated, risotto is not actually the name of the grain, but rather a way of preparation and presentation, traditionally an Italian alternative to a first course of pasta. Arborio rice is used mainly for its starch content, since making risotto is much more of a technique than preparing other rice. There is no “cover it, set a timer and walk away” when making Risotto. You are in it from beginning to end!

Because of its starch content, cooking arborio rice slowly, adding warm liquid in batches and with more or less constant stirring, helps develop these starches and gives risotto its unmistakably creamy texture.

Union Wine Company Risotto

Once you master the technique of making risotto, you can substitute a myriad of herbs, cheeses and veggies into your variations.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, let’s collect our mise en place, (the french cooking term meaning ’all in place’ and the best habit to develop when following these recipes.)

Union Wine Company Risotto

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

1 C Arborio rice
32 oz chicken stock
1/2 small onion
1 medium butternut squash
1 bottle of Underwood Pinot Gris
salt/pepper
curry powder
olive oil

STEP ONE: The Butternut Squash

Peel and dice 2 cups of Butternut Squash into 1/4 inch cubes. Separate into two 1 Cup piles.

Squash Pile 1:
Place squash and 1 TBS salt into a small saucepan. Cover with water and simmer until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain, mash with a fork or potato masher, and set aside in a warm place.

Squash Pile 2:
Get a thick-bottomed pan very hot, add 2 TBS olive oil and just when it starts to smoke a little, add the second Cup of diced squash, seasoning liberally with salt, pepper and a few pinches of curry powder. Allow the pieces to pick up some color in the pan, but do not burn. Once cooked through—about 10 minutes, place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Set aside.

Union Wine Company Risotto

STEP TWO: The Risotto

Prep:
Peel and dice half of a small onion. Set aside.
Take 5 sage leaves, roll them into a tube and slice into very fine ribbons. Set aside.
Pour the chicken stock into a pot and warm, but do not boil.

Risotto:
In a heavy-bottomed pot, add 2 TBS of oil and sauté the onion on medium heat for 3-4 minutes to soften but not color. Add the cup of Arborio rice and sauté, stirring constantly for 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. When the rice is evenly translucent, pour in 1/2 Cup of Underwood Pinot Gris. Continue to stir and cook until all of the wine is absorbed by the rice. At this point, begin to add warm stock, one or two ladlefuls at a time, continuing to stir, and thus developing the starches in the rice. Continue adding stock until risotto reaches your desired texture.

Union Wine Company Risotto

FINISHING THE DISH:

At this point, adjust seasoning, stir in the mashed squash and fresh sage until evenly incorporated. Gently stir in half the roasted squash squares. Evenly distribute among the bowls and add the rest of the roasted squash. Garnish with some fresh or fried sage leaves.

Bon Appétit! and keep those #pinkiesdown

Union Wine Company Risotto

Photography, Text and Recipe by David L. Reamer.  (@dlreamer)