In preparation for another epic Uber ride across Los Angeles, Emma Toshack poured wine into an old Pellegrino can. “There wasn’t a lot of single-serve wine available that was what I wanted to drink, either small production or super high quality,” she explains. As she enjoyed her adult beverage in the backseat during her commute, “I was like, ‘This is actually really cool. I wish this existed. And so I just decided that it should.”
The Aussie had already zig-zagged through several career paths including law school, restaurant work, dressage, and Harvard Business School. It was a job at Snapchat that brought her to Los Angeles, and subsequently, to that fateful Uber ride that inspired the idea for Nomadica, a canned wine company.
Nomadica (originally Nomad Wine Co) was created with active people in mind, people who want their wine to be more portable and less pretentious. The convenience of a can means you can throw a six-pack in a bag and hit the beach, a music festival, an outdoor cinema, or the slopes. You can take it on a hike in the hills. Says Toshack of the company’s target market: “Anyone who likes good wine and cares about design and wants to experiment and try new things.”
The first thing you’ll notice about Nomadica is that the branding is anything but ordinary. The cans of the brand’s first small-batch release, a Santa Barbara Pinot Noir Rose, are adorned with whimsical designs by Australian artist Kareena Zerefos. “I had this picture in my head of what this would look like and from the beginning and there was always art on the labels,” Toshack explains. “There’s something really interesting about packaging in that most of the time, it’s really cool to look at for the first ten minutes. Then after a while it gets boring. You’ve seen a Coke can a million times before. You know what it looks like. It makes it easy to recognize on the shelf, but it also makes it so you’re not really looking at it every time you pick one up. I wanted to make this something that really changed every time you picked one up.”
The first series of images included a bird, a hummingbird, a deer, an owl, a parachute, and a young woman. “Why not put all six on different labels and you can choose which one you like?” Toshack says. “The thing that was delightfully surprising is people really engaged with which one they wanted. There was an active decision. People would say, ‘I love hummingbirds’ or ‘I love deer’ or ‘That girl looks like me’ or ‘I love brunettes.’ It was a really active process and people were actually engaging with it and thinking about what they’re picking up. And then, because they’ve made an active decision and they’re engaged with it, they turn it around and they look on the back of the label and they read about the artist and they go to the Instagram profile and they’ll dig deeper because they’re kind of invested in it already.”
The cans are indeed Instagrammable, and have been photographed at hot gatherings like the Voices release party in Los Angeles, at the Life is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas, at Instagram’s headquarters, on rooftops in New York, and at Slow Culture’s Playboy launch in DTLA.
As for the contents of that eye-catching can, Toshack partnered up with Californian winemaker Josh Klapper for the first release. Next up is a Chenin Blanc, with a “super clean, really light, very crisp” flavor profile that falls between a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Grigio.
“What we’re doing is finding really great winemakers and then partnering with them to create a series of wines,” Toshack says. “We’re working with a winemaker in Oregon right now. I’m looking at some winemakers in Australia because I have a lot of love for wine in that region and I think it’s underrepresented here in the U.S. I’m talking to some winemakers in France. What we want to do is start to curate wines from all over the world, so you can go on this global journey, get a different taste of stuff, understand what’s out there, experience different wines, but do it within the comfort of a curated selection by us. The wines will change, the regions will change. The quality of the wine is the one thing that has to stay consistent.”
The art on the cans will also change to better reflect the flavor profile. “The other thing I’m playing with right now is: What does this wine sound like? What’s the soundtrack to this Californian Pinot Noir with a dark label that’s kind of abstract?” Toshack says. “That’ll make wine more than just this hoity-toity experience with white tablecloths and a bottle and glasses but really take it and embed it into a whole bunch of things that are relevant in our culture today that speak to you and brings it to life.”
Expect up to four new releases this year, spaced about three months apart. Releases will be anywhere from 40 to 1,000 cases. “We’ll keep it super interesting,” Toshack promises. “It has to be interesting to keep us interested as well. I think a lot of the time, companies launch something and it becomes kind of stale and a little bit boring after a while, but this is certainly a way of keeping things dynamic and a lot of fun.”