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Whole Foods Market goes old school with a new way to take home wine on tap

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Whole Foods Markets "Old Schooler" wine 64 ounce growlers. Photo by Matt McGinnis
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Master Sommelier, Devon Broglie, ceremoniously pours the first "Old Schooler" Photo by Matt McGinnis
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Master Sommelier, Devon Broglie, with the first "Old Schooler" wine. Photo by Matt McGinnis
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    Charles Bieler and Devon Broglie celebrate the launch of the "Old Schooler" wine to go program.   Photo by Matt McGinnis
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Devon Broglie, congratulates Charles Bieler on the "Old Schooler" wine to go program. Photo by Matt McGinnis
Austin Photo Set: News_Matt_wholefoods_bar lamar_june 2012_1
Austin Photo Set: News_Matt_wholefoods_bar lamar_june 2012_2
Austin Photo Set: News_Matt_wholefoods_bar lamar_june 2012_4
Austin Photo Set: News_Matt_wholefoods_bar lamar_june 2012_5
Austin Photo Set: News_Matt_wholefoods_bar lamar_june 2012_3

Now there is no need to get wasted, err, be wasteful, when drinking wine, thanks to Whole Foods Market being the first grocery retailer in U.S. to sell wine on tap in reusable “Old Schooler” containers.

“Now you have a way to maintain your wine consumption, get better value and reduce your impact,” explains Charles Bieler of The Gotham Project, whose kegged wine is featured on tap at Bar Lamar, in the flagship Whole Foods Market in Austin.

Bar Lamar has had wine on tap since it opened. That’s pretty cool in itself if you think about how much packaging waste that eliminates in bottles, labels, corks and foil neck wrappers. According to Bieler, 70 percent of all glass heads straight to the landfill, accounting for 10 percent of the total weight of the trash.

Not only are the containers wasteful, but the majority are made overseas meaning the bottles have to travel thousands of miles before they are even filled. Then bottles make up 50 percent of the weight of shipping wine before we get to drink it.   

Whole Foods Market has taken the next step in helping us drink responsibly with the to go wine containers they are affectionately calling “Old Schoolers.” The name refers to the way people in places like Spain, Italy, Argentina and Croatia take their own jugs to the neighborhood winery to fill ‘em up and take ‘em home to drink.

“Reusing is a whole lot better than recycling. We live in a world of finite resources,” says Bieler.

The whole idea of creating the “Old Schoolers” program came about around two years ago over beers at the Mean Eyed Cat. Devon Broglie, Whole Foods Market’s Master Sommelier, wanted to sell Bieler’s wine at Bar Lamar in the new keg and tap system. Bieler, a staunch advocate of alternative and eco-friendly wine packaging, was initially reluctant to keg his wine.

But Broglie challenged Bieler’s manhood with some choice words and eventually convinced him to change his mind. It turns out Bieler isn't a &*$$%.

That personal commitment led to Gotham Project wines being the only wines on tap for the inaugural run of the “Old Schoolers” pouring. They will be there for the indefinite future — while supplies last. Six wines on tap are available by the glass or to go in three sizes of glass containers at pretty damned good prices:

  • 12 ounce Mason jars for $5.99 and $1.99 for the jar (two glasses of wine)
  • 32 ounce bottle for $12.99 and $2.99 for the bottle (a little more than a traditional bottle of wine, which is about 25 ounces)
  • 64 ounce growler for $19.99 and $4.99 for the container (roughly equivalent to 2.5 bottles of wine)

As cool as it is to be environmentally conscious and take home wine in a nifty package, it’s really all about the wine. Hell, you can’t drink an empty bottle. The Gotham Project has a portfolio of more than 25 wines sourced from around the world. The wines currently on tap are:

  • 2011 Central Standard White, High Plains of Texas, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Rousanne and Chenin Blanc
  • 2010 Charles & Charles Riesling, from the Columbia Valley, WA
  • 2011 Charles & Charles Rose, Columbia Valley, WA
  • 2010 Pacific Standard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley and Santa Ridge Hills, CA
  • 2010 Charles & Charles Red Blend,  Columbia Valley, WA, a blend of 50 percent Merlot, 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 percent Syrah
  • 2010 Pacific Standard “Old Vine” Zinfandel, Lodi, Amador, Napa and Sonoma, CA

Broglie ceremoniously poured the first "Old Schooler" — the Central Standard White, a Texas wine made by Kim McPherson, winemaker at McPherson Cellars. Being a patriotic Texan, I grabbed a bottle of the blend to take home.

This is a delightful summer sipper with honeysuckle scent, ripe Fredericksburg peach and lemon zest flavors and perky acidity. The bright citrus and lush stone fruit make it a charming wine to serve with grilled fish tacos. I’m going to take my bottle back and work my way through the lineup.

Head over to Bar Lamar and try out one of the wines by the glass before you commit to a full growler. If you aren’t going straight home after purchasing your wine, head over to the fish counter and ask for a bag of ice to keep your wine from cooking in your car (extra points if you spit out the phrase “bag of issse” like Adrock in the song “High Plains Drifter”).

The "Old Schooler" packaging is only available at the Whole Foods Market location at 6th and Lamar for now. They hope to expand the program to other stores in the future.

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