Jug Heads: An aficionado’s guide to refillable wine programs

Wines on draft or kegged wines have become increasingly popular over the past decade at restaurants and wine bars due to the myriad of positives attached to purchasing wine in larger quantities with less packaging, less wine waste and lower prices per glass. Despite this, the trend hasn’t yet extended to a similar spike in the number of wineries offering refillable wine-on-draft programs, even though offering refillable growlers is quite common at breweries and cideries.

When asked why more wineries don’t have refillable wine growler programs, a variety of reasons stated by wineries include professed legal or compliance issues to an inability to find a wine affordable enough to work for this type of program to plain disinterest in taking on something many wineries see as inconvenient. But a handful of local wineries don’t seem to mind any of these perceived issues and are embracing this unique, eco-friendly and more affordable way to offer, purchase and consume their wines.

Essentially, kegging wines and offering customers the option to fill up bottles that can be brought back and re-filled is not only a romantic idea that allows us to reminisce about that one trip to Italy where we witnessed all of the locals taking their bottles to the local corner shop or enoteca and getting them filled with local table wines—it’s also eco- and cost-friendly.

Think about the cardboard boxes, bottles, corks and labels saved for every 12-bottles worth—9 liters—of wine sold from a keg. Not to mention the complete reduction of wine waste thanks to the airtight nature of kegs, which eliminates the need for businesses to pour bottles that have been open too long down the drain.

So, is having to sterilize a bottle when a customer brings it back—or in batches, after exchanging it for a new one, like many are starting to do—really so much effort to go to? Especially when offering refillable wine programs can bring in local customers more often, leading to both a continuous stream of additional sales and increased customer loyalty due to the deeper relationships that businesses develop with customers they see on a more frequent basis?

After all, these programs are designed first and foremost for locals, for whom they make the most sense. And, in a place like Wine Country, where it sometimes feels as if everything around us is designed for tourists, it’s that much more special to find the stuff that really has been put in place with the “locals first” mentality.

The following local businesses offer wines on draft with the option to purchase refillable growlers or jugs.

Cochon (Sonoma)

Wines available on draft: Old Vine Grenache, Old Vine Rosé and Viognier.
Cost per 1-liter growler: Viognier $36, Old Vine Rosé $32, Old Vine Grenache $38

Address: 531 First St., East Sonoma

Phone: 707.934.8157

Business Hours: Daily, 11am to 6pm.

Pax Wines

Draft wines currently available: sparkling Vermentino and Rosé of Pinot Noir and Gamay. The winery normally has between three to six wines on draft. 

Pricing: $36 per one-liter bottle includes the bottle. Receive a 10% discount on refills.  All of Pax’s wines are 100% natural and organic.

Address: 6780 McKinley St., Suite 170, Sebastopol

Phone: 707.331.1393

Business Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11am to 6pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am to 8pm.

Preston Farm and Winery

Jug wine available: “Guadagni,” a red blend of zin, barbera, petite sirah and mourvedre. Available in 3-liter jugs. 

Pricing: $52 per 3-liter jug for first-time purchases, $48 for refills thereafter.  Preston is currently out of their 3-liter bottles, so they are temporarily only offering refills.

Address: 9282 W. Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg

Phone: 707.433.3372

Business Hours: Daily, 10am to 4pm.

Kivelstadt Cellars

Draft wines currently available: Family Secret Sauvignon Blanc, Twice Removed Rosé, Pinot Noir, KC Labs Zinfandel and Syrah. They always have 5–7 wines on tap. Available in 1-liter growlers.

Pricing: 1-liter growlers cost the same as the 750 ml. bottle price would be for these wines, with a $10 add-on bottle charge for first-time purchases. Bottle prices range from $22–$49.

Address: 22900 Broadway, Sonoma

Phone: 707.938.7001

Business Hours: Thursday and Friday, 11am to 5pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm. 

Horse and Plow Winery

Draft wine currently available: “Draft Horse Red,” a blend of carignane, syrah, petite sirah and grenache. Available in 1-liter growlers.

Pricing: 1-liter growlers cost the same as a 750 ml. bottle of wine—“Draft Horse Red” is $20/bottle—but have a $10 add-on charge for the bottle on first-time purchases.  

Address: 1272 Gravenstein Hwy N., Sebastopol

Phone:  707.827.3486

Business Hours: Friday through Monday, 12pm to 5pm. 

Mercury Wines 

Draft wine available: A red blend—currently it’s a syrah/zin blend with a splash of cabernet sauvignon. Available in 500 ml.- or 1-liter jugs.

Pricing: $17 per 500 ml jug for first-time purchases, $13.50 for refills. $29 per 1-liter jug for first-time purchases, $25 for refills.

Address: 21015 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville

Phone: 707.857.9870

Business Hours: Daily, 11am to 6pm.

Sonoma County Library