By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor

Photo courtesy of Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards

Mini-riesling Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards has just released a new mini-format riesling and they believe it will provide more options for consumers and restaurants. As shown at right, the wine will be sold in packs of four, with each bottle containing 187 milliliters of wine (or exactly 1/4 a standard bottle of wine). 

"People want a single-serving bottle," Hazlitt's Director of Marketing, Brad Phillips, told me. "There are a lot of customers who don't want to have to get rid of a whole bottle of wine. So this format not only gives them the wine in the size they're looking for, but it also discourages over-consumption."

This is Hazlitt's second mini-bottle release, with their 2008 semi-dry Riesling following the popular Red Cat. Soon the Seneca Lake producer will offer White Cat in this size format, with Schooner Red (a vinifera blend) and Brambleberry to follow later this year.

The concept was born last summer when customers at Watkins Glen raceway wanted Hazlitt wine but weren't permitted to take glass bottles near the track. Hazlitt decided to offer wine mini-bottles made of plastic, closed with a screw cap. The Riesling will likely sell for $9.99 per 4-pack. 

"We're confident that our customers want vinifera wines in this format," Phillips said. "We'll use this year as a measuring stick for demand. And while this isn't exactly a format that promotes aging wine, we've packaged the wine in UV-protected bottles so sunlight can't damage the product."

The Riesling 4-packs have already arrived in some stores, including Peppers Discount Liquor in Auburn, and Hazlitt is marketing the idea to restaurants. "We think restaurants will have the opportunity to sell wine to customers who might not be able to drink an entire bottle," Phillips said. "This is how they can offer a single serving." La Cocina Restaurant in Penn Yan has already placed on order.

If the Riesling Minis prove to be a success, Hazlitt expects the format to extend the Finger Lakes brand to new markets.

"The challenge is getting Finger Lakes Riesling in more people's glass," Phillips said. "The more options there are, the more opportunities this region has to reach more customers." The easy bet is that this format will be a hit at the race track. The more interesting experiment is whether customers will seek out vinifera in plastic mini-bottles in their liquor stores. Hazlitt's betting they will, and if they're right, it wouldn't be surprising to see other producers offer wine in this smaller format.