Food & Drink

Here’s a perfect drink for your backyard cookout

Looking for beverage alternative for the Fourth? This wine cooler might do

A wine cooler called Ramona and offering up non-traditional flavors is being touted as an appropriate beverage for Fourth of July revelry.
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A wine cooler called Ramona and offering up non-traditional flavors is being touted as an appropriate beverage for Fourth of July revelry.

Looking for a cool summer drink for your summer cookout? The new generation of wine coolers may be the answer.

Ramona wine coolers, one of the standout brands of the new trend for artisanal coolers and spritzers, became available at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op on Mother’s Day. The canned drink, made with white wine and ruby red grapefruit, has been selling well for a new “oddball” product, according to Julie Edelstein, the co-op’s wine broker.

“I think people tend to have kind of a sweet tooth,” Edelstein said. “Most people were raised on sodas and things like that. I think it’s just kind of a fun, easy type of summer thing. It’s not real heavy; it’s got a little bit of a spritz to it, (and) it has a little bit of grapefruit in the background.”

Edelstein said the bright pink packaging made her want to stock the product, and she quickly recognized it as a perfect summer drink with its slightly effervescent, citrusy flavor. Ramona, launched in New York in 2016 and in California this spring by New York City sommelier and Momofuku beverage director Jordan Salcito, it also has a sophistication that wasn’t associated with earlier incarnations of coolers.

What goes into Ramona is simple: It’s an organic Sicilian white wine made from Zibibbo grapes along with natural ruby red grapefruit flavors and cane sugar. The taste is light and fizzy, with an interesting bitter edge from the grapefruit to round out the classic cooler sweetness.

Ramona’s price ($19.99 for a case of four 250 milliliter cans) is in line with a quality bottle of wine and other canned wine products.

Despite the cost compared to wine coolers of the past, Tyler Stacy, a sales manager for Grandes Places Selections, the company that distributes Ramona, said he thinks Ramona will catch on as the perfect beverage for a day at the lake or a backyard cookout because it’s light in taste, low in alcohol and extremely portable.

On top of the convenience of the drink’s aluminum can and its classic summery taste, Stacy said one of the big draws is the feeling of “cleanliness” that comes with something organic and simple like Ramona.

“It’s sort of like if you were at home and wanted to make yourself sort of a little spritzer,” Stacy said. “There’s no malt beverage in it, there’s no extra stuff, which a lot of people I think are very grateful for because you are saving yourself from a pretty nasty hangover if you’re on the beach and you have maybe four or five of them.”

For Edelstein, part of the appeal of adding Ramona is to pay tribute to the wine coolers popular in the 1980s, when brands such as Seagram’s Escapes and Gallo’s Bartles & James dominated the beverage market.

“I come from a winemaking background and when I got into winemaking, coolers were a big deal at the start and then they kind of tapered off,” Edelstein said. “But there’s some charm to them, too.”

While nostalgia may be the fuel for Salcito’s cooler revival, UC Davis marketing professor Ashwin Aravindakshan said producers have to take care to avoid the stigma that wine coolers had in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Aravindakshan said marketing for wine coolers is much more focused around the experiences people should have while drinking them, a lesson he said many learned from the effect Yellowtail has had on the wine industry.

“Wine coolers became more like a mom drink in the ’90s,” Aravindakshan said. “Producers now are taking care to make sure that doesn’t happen, to make it more about the experience like Yellowtail has done. It can catch on with millennials if it makes it about having a good time.”

Stacy predicts that Ramona will become more popular as the hot summer continues. For those seeking something between a cold beer and a glass of wine, Stacy said Ramona is the ideal summer drink.

“I think there’s a lot of momentum gaining with it, especially in Sacramento where we’re getting into these warm months,” Stacy said. “I think we’ll see a big influx of interest in this product in particular once we get into those really sweltering days.”

Emily Zentner: 530-470-3072, @_emilymzentner