All the taste without the waste

Standing Stone Brewing Co. adopts wine kegs as part of its agenda on sustainability

By Nick Morgan
Ashland Daily Tidings
Posted: 12:55 PM June 18, 2009

Ashland wine consumers have a greener way to enjoy a glass of three Wooldridge Creek Winery varieties, and they’ll find it at a brewery.

Standing Stone Brewing Co.’s new corkless wine dispensing system holds wine in a stainless steel keg. The system uses pure nitrogen gas to propel the wine from keg to the tap, instead of the carbon dioxide used for beer.

Each keg holds the equivalent of 234 bottles of wine, sans the glass and cardboard used for packaging. According to Wooldridge Creek Winery winemaker Greg Paneitz, 234 bottles require about 40 deliveries. In a keg, it can be delivered in one trip.

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“It’s dramatic,” Paneitz said.

Finding more sustainable ways to run a restaurant and support local businesses are key values for Standing Stone, which recently placed No. 28 on Oregon Business Magazine’s list of the “100 Best Green Companies in Oregon,” a ranking based on confidential employee surveys.

“That ranking was the highest in Southern Oregon,” said Standing Stone Co-Owner and Operator Alex Amarotico.

“I’m very proud to work for a business that practices sustainability,” said Standing Stone Head Chef Eric Bell, who added that he is exploring ways to use the tapped wine in recipes.

Amarotico said the restaurant spent two years finding a local winery willing to sell wine in kegs.

“It’s so easy to get stuck in the old ways of doing things,” said Amarotico.

Standing Stone provided Wooldridge the coupler necessary to put wine in kegs, and ordered three 15.5-gallon kegs of wine, a supply that can last months.

“Alex made an enormous commitment,” said Paneitz, “that took guts.”

“Mechanically, it seemed like a viable thing,” said Amarotico.

In addition to being greener, Paneitz believes that this system delivers a superior product.

The wine is sealed from oxygen from the first drop to the last, which maintains consistency.

“It is the best possible environment,” Paneitz said about the stainless steel kegs, “there is nothing there to spoil it.”

“These three wines taste better in those taps than they do in bottles,” said Paneitz.

“This is delicious,” said Standing Stone patron Ann Seltzer over a glass of Tempranillo on tap, “I wish I could take this home.”

Whereas Paneitz crafts bottled wines to be best enjoyed three to five years later, he takes measures to ensure the wine will be enjoyed much sooner.

Paneitz emphasized that the tap system replaces the bottle, not the box.

“These are the highest quality wines that we have,” Paneitz said. He noted that at the winery, their Tempranillo, costs $36 per bottle.

According to Amarotico, the majority of the wine they sell is by the glass. Wine purchased by the glass can be inconsistent in quality depending on how long the bottle was opened.

“When you open the bottle, the clock starts ticking.” Paneitz said, “I need these wines to taste the way I meant them to be.”

In less than two weeks since the keg wine system was unveiled, Paneitz said Wooldridge Creek Winery is already looking at expanding to other Southern Oregon businesses. Medford restaurants Kaleidoscope Pizza and 4 Daughters Irish Pub have signed up to sell wine on tap. Other Southern Oregon bars and restaurants are considering moving to the tap.

“I haven’t even started trying yet,” said Paneitz.

Although Wooldridge Creek is the first Oregon winery to put wine in kegs, Paneitz sees other wineries as allies, not competitors.

“It is better for me if we’re not the only ones doing this,” said Paneitz.

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