Sterling Vineyards 375 ml Aluminum Bottles
Cost: $7-9
B ecause change comes so slowly to the wine industry, I love to see new ideas such as the aluminum bottles just released by Sterling Vineyards.
The lightweight bottles contain half a bottle of wine, making them perfect for those fall picnics and tailgate parties at your favorite school’s football games, or during a fall trip to the beach or mountains or sitting around the pool. Each will pour two good sized glasses of wine so you can share if you like.

For now the aluminum bottles are only for the 2017 chardonnay, rosé and cabernet sauvignon, Sterling’s three most popular varietals. I am a big fan of their merlot, so I hope they expand the aluminum offerings.
Sterling released these bottles for summer sipping, but they will be perfect all year long in the South. They will be great at our Thanksgiving Edisto Beach trip, our Magnificent 8 spring getaway and any boat ride I can sneak in at the lake.
I’m surprised someone hasn’t thought of this sooner. We have had box wines and wines in beer cans, but this is the first I’ve seen in this tall, slender aluminum can with a twist off cap. One of the good things about these containers is if you don’t finish the wine you just screw the cap back on and save it for later.
These wines are so tasty you might have trouble saving some for later. The design of the aluminum bottles is elegant. I am sure Sterling will sell some wine just on the design, but it is the outstanding wine that will keep customers coming back. At this price the wine is an incredible bargain.
The chardonnay is a beautiful pale yellow with green tints in the glass. The flavors are a perfect balance between creamy smoothness and crisp acidity. I picked up flavors of apricot, pear, peach and pineapple. The finish is long and smooth with rich viscosity that comes from malolactic fermentation and the combination of oak aging with lees stirring.

To preserve the fruit character Sterling used cool fermentation, 90 percent with a combination of French and American oak to support the fruit and add subtle notes of baking spices, and the remaining 10 percent fermented without oak.
The rosé is a pleasant blend of syrah, tempranillo and zinfandel. It is a beautiful pale pink in the glass with strawberry aromas. This wine has a rich mouthfeel with flavors of berries and pink citrus. The fruit is balanced with fresh acidity.
Most of the fruit came from the Central Coast region, especially from Edna Valley. Syrah and tempranillo comprise most of the grapes. As soon as fermentation was complete, the wine was racked and chilled to maintain the bright fruit characteristics.
The cab was a deep garnet in the glass with enticing berry aromas with a hint of spice. On the palate I got rich blackberry mixed with toffee and smooth tannins. It is a smooth wine with plenty of backbone but it doesn’t overpower you.
The winemaker used frequent pumpovers during fermentation to produce maximum flavor extraction. The wine was aged for about nine months in a combination of French and American oak to add some sweet, toasty vanilla notes.

Sterling Vineyards was founded in 1964 by Peter Newton, an Oxford scholar, paper tycoon and London Financial Times writer. He was impressed with the quality of Caifornia wines and inspired by the beauty of the Napa Valley so he decided to broaden the business interests of his company by buying a 50-acre vineyard bordering Calistoga in northern Napa.
As he acquired more land, he planted chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and the region’s first significant planting of merlot.
The iconic towers at the winery feature bells salvaged from St. Dunstan’s Church in East London. Today the bells ring every 15 minutes.
The winemakers at Sterling introduced vintage dated merlot to California in 1969. It also was the winery’s first vintage of cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc.
In 1971 the company began construction of a starkly beautiful Mediterranean style white stucco winery complex, inspired by the structures of the Greek island of Mykonos. where Newton once lived. The first harvest at the new winery was in 1972. They acquired more land in 1978, buying vineyards in Rutherford and the Diamond Mountain Ranch Vineyard.
The winery is one of the most visited in the Napa Valley, featuring an aerial tram ride to the top of the winery, where you can sip your wine among the tree tops. The winery has changed hands several times and the tasting rooms have been redone in a spectacular fashion. When I last visited a couple of years ago, it was still one of the most spectacular tasting rooms in Napa Valley.
Sterling wines appeared in the Wine Spectator Top 100 in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
They produce a wide variety of wines from zinfandel to pinot noir to sparkling, but I am still partial to their merlot, which I first started drinking in the early 1980s. They also offer a wine called Iridium, a cab produced in only the best vintages. It sells for $250 and comes in a gorgeous gift box.

Goes with: We tried all three varietals during an indoor picnic on Labor Day, when it was too hot to eat outdoors. My wife Teri and I both loved the containers, but we especially loved the wines.
I chilled the chardonnay and rosé in the refrigerator for about an hour and the cabernet sauvignon for about 15 minutes. (Red wines really do taste better slightly chilled.)
The chardonnay and the rosé were great before dinner drinks, which we sipped while I cooked hamburgers on the grill. The cab was perfect with the burgers, which were nice and juicy inside while charred on the outside.
Now, that’s a burger.

When I make hamburgers I always include chopped onions, Morton Nature’s Seasons and an egg to hold everything together. This time I tried another twist: bacon. I heated up some pre-cooked bacon, chopped it up and tossed it in the burger mix. The flavor was superb. I like bacon cheese burgers, but sometimes a couple of slices on top is just too much. With the bacon mixed in the flavor is much more subtle.
I topped the burgers with lettuce and tomato and added steak fries to complete the feast.
Sterling makes first-class wines, so it is encouraging to see the wine put in innovative packages such as this. The chardonnay will pair perfectly with light cheeses, steamed shrimp or fried chicken.
The rosé also would be great with fried chicken, light sandwiches, fruit and as a sipper by itself. The cab is great for anything on the grill, scallops, ribs, chicken, pork chops, burgers or barbecue.
You can take these bottles anywhere without worrying about breaking them. They hold a chill very well, and if you don’t want to bring along wine glasses you could even sip from the bottles. I’m going to keep several on hand for any recreational emergency that might come up.

If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at

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