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How We Pick Our Wines

A behind-the-scenes look at how we go about choosing which wines to can at Maker (spoiler: it’s not just countless hours of wine tasting).

By Sarah Hoffman

February 14, 2021

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At Maker, our North Star is supporting and uplifting small, independent winemakers. But with 11,000 wineries (and counting!) in the U.S. – and California being home to about a third of those – finding the right ones to partner with requires some sorting. We get samples from winemakers every week at Maker (tough job, we know), and a small fraction of them make it into a Maker can. Here’s the secret sauce of how we pick our wines.

The discovery

Like making wine itself, selecting wines for Maker is an art and a science. Sometimes we start with a grape that our customers have been clamoring for, other times we start with a region that wine lovers have been buzzing about, and sometimes the stars just align when we meet a winemaker with amazing wine and an incredible story to share. 

The criteria

We feature premium wines from best-in-class small producers. Here’s what else we look for:

Minimal Intervention, terroir-driven – Our canned wines are vintage, varietal, and often vineyard specific: wines that represent a time and place that the winemaker is proud to put their name on, not white-labeled bulk juice hidden by a fancy label. Our wines are fermented to dry and vegan-friendly, with no residual sugar and minimal sulfur additions.

Sustainable and organic farming practices – Our winemaker partners know that great wine starts in the vineyard, and we prioritize wine producers that use organic and sustainable farming practices. Any certifications will always be listed on our product pages and digital tech sheets.

Nicole Walsh uses biodynamic and organic farming practices at her winery, Ser

Diverse makers, fascinating stories –  In addition to having a high bar for quality, we want to elevate underrepresented voices in the wine industry and highlight unique stories and backgrounds. Like the biracial vintner breaking rules and innovating on bubbly or the studio artist turned cult cab producer.

Unique varietals and regions – We love finding lesser known regions and grapes that geeky wine people adore, but that your average rosé sipper may not be familiar with. We’re not playing it safe with a white blend and calling it a day — recent releases include a Cabernet Pfeffer from Santa Cruz Mountains, a Chenin Blanc from Clarksburg, and a Merlot from St. Helena.

And the proof is in the pudding, baby. Maker is the highest rated canned wine ever, racking up Golds with the best of the bottles from renowned wine competitions like Sunset Mag Int’l Wine competition, NY Int’l Wine Competition, and the North Coast Wine Challenge.

The vetting process

When our team gets excited by a wine and the maker behind it, we put the wine samples through two panels: a Can Club customer panel made up of regular wine drinkers like us, and our industry panel of wine experts with palates we trust. We want to find wines that our Can Clubbers will love, and that critics, Somms, and wine buyers know are up to snuff. 

We send out samples all over the country to folks on our panels to rate the wines blind before finding out more about the wine and backstory. And we have an outrageous amount of fun in the process – check out the Can Club if you’d like to have an opportunity to join a panel.

Sipping on our Can Club vetted wine outside our office.

Story time

Once we’ve selected a wine and a Maker, the real fun begins. Over the course of several months we get to know them and their story with a series of interviews and visits from our team. We work together to design a label with the talented Olivia Herrick that represents the winemaker and their background. We also write a bit about what makes them special on our blog and on the back of every can. 

When it’s finally canning day, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our winemakers on the line to produce each and every can before it’s moved to our wine warehouse. By the end of this process, we’ve become family, and the Maker team is pumped to share the producer’s story with the world. 

The Maker team at Cab Pfeffer canning day.

Many wines have come from referrals from other winemakers or customers. If you know (or are) someone that we should speak with, reach out to us at [email protected]

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