Sandlily in the News – SOURCE WEEKLY, February 2023

Sand Lily Sparkling Wines Are For Beer Lovers

After more than 30 years making wine and beer for other companies, it’s Phil Brey’s time to sparkle

A couple weeks (issues) ago, Source writer Donna Britt introduced us to the players leading the winification of Bend, transforming an idyllic beer town into a wine hamlet. Phil Brey has straddled that fence his entire career, spanning more than 30 years. His occupational trajectory has taken him from Fresno State University where he studied winemaking to a few Northern California wineries before landing a job at Deschutes Brewery in 1994. It’s not uncommon for home fermentation hobbyists to dabble in making grape wine and barley wine.

Truth be told, it’s not that he moved to Bend to pursue brewing; he was pursuing his now-wife, Debra Worthen-Brey. Today, the three of them including their daughter, Kindra Harms, are the winemakers, distributors and salespeople behind Sand Lily Sparkling Wines. This summer will mark the first anniversary of having bubbly in the market.

At present Brey makes two wines: one made from Willamette Valley Chardonnay grapes called Willamette Valley Brut and the other, which is the same base but incorporates Pinot Noir grapes, is the Willamette Valley Brut Rosé. Both are 12% alcohol, as refreshing as they are tasty (thanks to being carbonated), and make a great base for mimosas, as a few accounts between Bend and Redmond are discovering. While the sparkling wines are made over in the Valley near Philomath, thus far the wines are exclusively available in Central Oregon. And perhaps the key feature is that they’re exclusively available on tap.

One of the places Sand Lily wine can be found is Van Henion Brewing. It’s actually Brey’s day job. Brey was far from the only brewer at Deschutes back in those early days. It’s where he met Mark Henion, whose footsteps Brey followed in from Deschutes to Cascade Lakes Brewing to Boneyard. Of course, Boneyard’s former production facility is now Van Henion’s. Oh yes, Sand Lily is also on tap at the Boneyard pub.

When Brey poured me a sample of the Brut and Brut Rosé, I noticed that Sand Lily’s branded “stemless flutes” resemble one of the darlings of the beer glass world, the 8-ounce cylindrical stange specifically used for Kölsches from Cologne. Indeed it is the same objet d’art. That’s what happens when the German-lager-centric Van Henion orders your glassware.

The beauty of these draft wines is that they’re made an awful lot like beer, except with grapes instead of malts and hops. Brey discovered that draft sparkling wine works best when served at the same temperature and carbon dioxide pressure as beer, making it easy to put on tap at beer bars looking to reserve a handle for non-beer-drinking patrons (or, of course, beer-drinking patrons who like to shake things up).

For Brey’s part, he’s targeting both audiences. “If you’re a new brewery you get attention. Bend is a growing wine town, but there’s very different attitudes.” There’s decent reason for those attitudes on behalf of buyers for multi-tap bars. Adds Brey, “People blow through a half-barrel keg of beer in days but for a sixth (barrel keg) of wine, a ‘fast pull’ is two weeks.”

Sand Lily’s long-term success hinges on either expediting those sales or, more simply, finding more bars and restaurants who find the lower price-point appealing considering the savings from kegging rather than bottling get passed on to both retailer and consumer.

Once the sparkling winery catches on, Brey aspires to open his own production facility and tasting room on this side of the Cascades. “I’d love to be more hands-on during secondary fermentation,” says Brey. In the beer world, a “session beer” is a beer deemed worthy of drinking multiple glasses, and therefore typically lower in alcohol. While Sand Lily’s wines are 12%, they feel a lot lighter than, say, a 12% ABV imperial IPA or stout. And compared to those 15% jammy bruisers, they are more like session wines.

“I love fancy wines,” cops Brey, noting that the perception of sparkling wine is that it’s Champagne not from the Champagne region in France. But, he notes, he makes it “more approachable” in a way that gibes with his “working class roots,” synonymous with the beer industry. It doesn’t hurt that “brewers love the concept.”

De facto tasting room: Van Henion Brewing
63067 Plateau Dr., Bend
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