“Bigsby’s Folly’s cottle” sounds like a tongue-twister. In fact, the cottle, a can-bottle hybrid, is a neat twist on the wine industry trend toward alternative packaging, one that Marla Yetka—who owns Bigsby’s Folly with her husband Chad—initially approached with some reluctance.
Since its opening in 2017, the Yetka’s RiNo winery has done booming on-premise business, selling its wine—produced mainly from California varietals with oversight by Napa-based winemaker Brian Graham, though the team works with Colorado-grown fruit as well—in standard 750-milliliter glass bottles for $30–$80. And though customers kept asking about canned products, Marla recalls, “I just couldn’t see it. I’m more traditional.”
However, the more she read about alternative packaging in major wine publications which touted it as one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry, the more intrigued she grew. But she remained resistant to the “cans and pouches and boxes” on the market: “None of that worked for me, and I was getting frustrated.” Then, about a year ago, she came upon a display of Budweiser’s slim aluminum bottles and thought, “Oh, these are pretty. Why isn’t there something like this out there [for wine]?”
Determining that there should be—and that Bigsby’s was the one to introduce it—the Yetkas quickly made up for lost time, ordering 5,000 units of an aluminum-bottle prototype from China a few months ago. That model failed, leading them to realize, in Marla’s words, that “it’s the lining that’s the critical piece,” preserving the integrity of the product inside.
Turning to a company out of Pittsburgh that freely acknowledged it had “never done this for wine before,” they finally arrived at a working model that combined the elegance of a traditional bottle with the practicality of alternative packaging—fully lined aluminum shell, screwcap, 500-milliliter capacity (about three glasses), and all.
The next hurdle was “trying to find a bottling line in Napa that would do this,” says Marla, not least because the Yetkas had an 800-pound gorilla of a rival in getting to market: E. & J. Gallo, whose Apothic brand is also being released in smaller aluminum bottles.
But as she explains, “They were scheduled to bottle two weeks before us, and [their model] failed. So we were the first successful attempt” at a compact, recyclable design that’s easier to transport and stands less chance of breakage or other messes than six-packs or full-size glass bottles. Bonus: “Everything we do supports animal rescue,” says Marla, with a percentage of profits going to the Morris Animal Foundation, whose logo appears on the cottle along with the image of Bigsby himself, the Yetkas’ late golden retriever.
The inaugural cottle lineup includes Sauvignon Blanc ($15), rosé of Grenache ($15), and Cabernet Sauvignon ($17). All are currently available at Argonaut Wine & Liquor, and the line will soon expand to other local retail outlets. The Yetkas are also inking deals to supply major event venues around town. That said, their lips remain as well-sealed on the details as their cottles—for now.