Let’s be honest: Most of us are suspicious of wine that comes in anything other than a bottle. I certainly am—it reminds me of that rancid box wine my parents used to serve at parties when I was a kid or the spectacularly bad stuff I drank when I was a little older because it was cheap and I had no other goal in mind than getting hammered.
But that was then, and this is now, and nowadays good wine doesn’t necessarily have to come from a bottle. There are a number of eateries in San Diego that have started reserving taps for wine kegs rather than beer, and like the brew that San Diego’s beer snobs have grown accustomed to, this is craft wine, the real deal, and the fact that it’s in a keg is a good sign rather than a red flag.
Take the taps at The Linkery, Jay Porter’s North Park eatery that focuses on local and sustainable foods. There are four keg wines currently on the menu, all of which are made by Chris Broomell, who plies his trade at Vesper Vineyards and Triple B Ranches, just up the road in Valley Center. These are interesting, tasty wines, and putting them in a keg is a whole lot cheaper than purchasing bottles, corks, seals, labels and boxes, and it reduces the environmental footprint, as well. Adding the tap, Porter says, makes it possible for him to serve it to his customers. “A brilliant local wine for $9.50 a glass?” he says. “There’s a market for that.”
The Vesper Carignan is similar to a Pinot Noir, mellow with a wealth of flavors, while the barrel-aged Merlot, which Broomell makes at Triple B, has a nice complexity. It’s dense without being too thick or jammy, the sort of full-bodied wine that complements food rather than overwhelming it. My favorite, however, was the Viognier, which isn’t particularly sweet (a bonus, as far as I’m concerned), and has standout floral and fruit tastes. That alone is worth bellying up to the bar and asking them to tap the keg.