Carbonic Carignan from Lioco, Kush, Mendocino, California 2012 at Coopers Hall, Portland, OR

Another burn out day in the trenches of wine sales sends me thirsty and hungry to Cooper’s Hall: Portland’s, maybe the US’s, largest conveyor of tapped wine. Yes. Bottles begone. Cooper’s features 44 keg wines: some imported, and some produced on site then self-distributed.

Instead of shipping and recycling endless bottles and producing more CO2, why not pop the wine into an oxygen deprived keg that you can ship, clean, and reuse?

Their converted warehouse, sleek and dark, echoes with rap and chatter. I land at the bar and order Carignan: a red grape usually blended with Syrah, Cinsault, and/or Mourvedre throughout the Mediterranean. But tonight’s tap features something different: carbonic macerated Carignan from Mendocino, California.

Typically, carbonic maceration is used to rush harvest wines like Beaujolais Nouveau to market. But Cotes du Rhone, Languedoc, and some Rioja also use it to avoid Carignan’s aggressive tannins. By putting grapes in an enclosed, oxygen free, CO2 blanketed environment, ambient yeasts will still ferment sugars, but within the whole berries themselves. This avoids extracting heavy tannins but develops fruit, banana, and clove notes.

So how does Mendocino Carignan fair?

Carignan, Lioco, Kush, Mendocino, California 2012

Coopers hall carignan

Coopers hall carignan

APPEARANCE: a bright, young, clear ruby core turns purple along the narrow rim. Spider legs.

AROMAS: clean, buoyant raspberry, rhubarb, tomato, light clove and vanilla powder.

PALATE: dry, crackling acidity, mild fine tannins, medium body.

FLAVORS: bright, brambly raspberries and orange peal toy with ripe tomato skin, slight plantain and clove framing from the carbonic maceration.

CONCLUSIONS: distracting and delightful yet deep and plump enough to withstand most food with flair. Well done, very good (4 of 5).

Cooper’s Hall pours and produces exciting wines. Their burger isn’t bad either.

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