By Chuck Hill
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Tempranillo is Spain’s answer to Cabernet Sauvignon, producing a medium- to full-bodied red wine of character. In Spain, production of quality Tempranillo wines is limited to the Rioja region of the northeast and the high-elevation Ribera del Duero, further south. Tempranillo prefers modest temperatures for cultivation, and cooler coastal or higher elevation sites in the United States are proving to be the most successful. Pure Tempranillo wines display berry fruit with herbaceous character and leathery/earthy nuances. It is a superb blending grape often paired with Grenache (Garnacha) and other varietals.
Chef Ted prepared a selection of tasty Tapas dishes – small plates in Spain – to accompany our Tempranillo tasting.
This is why Earl and Hilda Jones came to Oregon – the pursuit of a climate where they could grow their favorite Spanish varietal, Tempranillo. Since the first Tempranillo plantings in 1995, Abacela winery has won many awards for their Spanish-style varietal wines that showcase the grape’s character and not heavy oak. Aromas of red cherry and raspberry mingle with light spice and floral character, leading to a cherry/berry palate with hints of cedar and vanilla.
With another year of age, this Tempranillo from Valley View Vineyards shows additional complex character. The wine was crafted from grapes grown in Valley View’s estate vineyard in the Applegate Valley. Look for aromas of berry and plum with notes of earthy mineral and light oak. The palate offers mature flavors of raspberry and dusty plum with a finish of barrel spice and earthy vanilla.
Jim and Terri Delfino began planting their vineyard in 2001 on a west-facing slope west of Roseburg, Oregon. There are now 18 acres under cultivation, representing seven grape varieties including Tempranillo. Much of their harvest is sold to other wineries but they craft a fine Tempranillo from estate grapes in most years. The aroma of the 2010 wine is fresh with cherry and red currant notes mingling with earthy mineral and hints of oak. The palate is on the light side with flavors of cherry fruit and cedar. A lighter alcohol content gives this wine an impression of its European counterpart.
Now entering his 35th year in the Washington wine industry, Wade Wolfe and his wife Becky Yeaman are enjoying owning and operating their own winery in Prosser and receiving accolades for their wines and contributions to the state’s wine culture and progress. The Spaniard is Wade’s blend of Grenache, Tempranillo and Syrah crafted with a framework of ripe plum and berry fruit, corralled with toasty American oak. The palate offers juicy fruit flavors and ample tannins with smoky notes to pair with your finest efforts from the grill.
The Miller family has been farming in the Yakima Valley for four generations with Marcus Miller at the winemaking helm of the family’s Airfield Estates winery. Grapes for their 2010 Tempranillo include 96% of the named varietal and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, all grown at Airfield’s Runway Vineyard. Ripe aromas of black cherry and boysenberry mingle with notes of orchard blossom, citrus and toasty oak. The palate is firm with tannins and offers flavors of black fruits and cedar – very complementary to meats and vegetables from the grill.
Another toasty companion for your efforts at the grill, Desert Wind 2010 Tempranillo was aged in American oak for 17 months giving it notes of smoke and spice that wrap around a core of dark fruits, earthy herbs and vanilla.
Tempranillos from other areas:
This Spanish Tempranillo from the Rioja was the top-ranked wine in the category, showing bright cherry and plum aromas with notes of earthy spice and floral perfume. The palate offers flavors of dark fruits, light cedar and toasty vanilla with smooth tannins. It is a great value and a fine accompaniment to grilled meats.
Here is another value-priced import that really delivers drink-me-now Tempranillo character. It is intentionally crafted with less oak aging and softer tannins in a fruit-forward style similar to many new world bottlings. Cherry, plum and pomegranate are dominant on the nose with flavors following the olfactory lead.
This is a big Tempranillo crafted in a style that is desired by many 21st century wine lovers. Harvest brix of the grapes was a more-than-ample 26 degrees, and the wine was aged in oak for 18 months. That said, it was a favorite with the tasting panel for rich fruit aromas and flavors balanced with firm tannins and a framework of toasty oak. Look for aromas and flavors of black cherry, cassis, anise and vanilla. Great with grilled meats and other savory fare – age for up to five years.
This wine presents the more youthful, approachable style of Tempranillo from the Red Cedar Vineyard. My tasters found bright raspberry and red cherry fruit with notes of baking spice and barrel toast. The palate is juicy with raspberry flavors and a moderate finish of simple toasty spice. It is a good value for quality Tempranillo to drink in the short term.
Tempranillo and Graciano grapes for this wine were sourced from the Dunnigan Hills AVA in the northwestern part of Yolo County 30 miles north of Sacramento, CA. This vineyard was established with cuttings imported from the Pesquera region of Spain. Light up the grill to prepare some flank steak and grilled vegetables to pair with Matchbook’s aromas and flavors of blueberry, plum, baking spice, toasty oak and vanilla.
Seven of Hearts Winery near McMinnville, Oregon crafted this juicy Grenache from grapes grown at Avery Vineyard near Goldendale, Washington. It expresses the rich, fruity charm of Grenache with complex notes of earthy spice, blackberry, plum and mineral. It is a lip-smacking wine that will put a smile on the face of your guests at a late summer al fresco dinner.
This supple Grenache produced from grapes grown at the Agate Ridge Vineyard estate was gently handled during production and aged in neutral oak barrels to preserve the character of the Grenache fruit. Delicate aromas of strawberry, plum, violets and garden herbs lead to a palate of red cherry and currant with notes of earthy mineral. Tannins are smooth and complement pairing with a variety of savory fare.
While we are talking about putting a smile on your face, consider attending the Huey Lewis and the News concert at Maryhill Amphitheatre on September 15 – great tunes, great venue and great wine! The Proprietor’s Reserve Grenache is bursting with ripe flavors of plum, raspberry and cherry with notes of anise, tobacco, vanilla and toasty oak.
As summer heat finally builds up in the Northwest, wine lovers go looking for a cool alternative to room temperature red wine – an alternative that still offers complexity and a little grip on the palate. Abacela offers their Grenache Rosť to fill this niche. Bright pink in the glass with shimmering violet hues at the edge, the wine offers aromas and flavors of watermelon, strawberry and cherry with a nice mini-bite of tannin, citrus and mineral on the finish.
This wine is a tribute to one of the members of the founding Kinderman family of Agate Ridge Vineyard. Made as a saignťe (Pronounced ‘sonyay’) of Grenache (bleeding off of lightly tinted free-run juice after crushing), the wine’s bright rose color hints at the floral notes to come in the aroma and the flavors of red fruits on the palate like strawberry and cherry. Crisp acidity and light touch of tannin make this a food-friendly wine for a summer party or casual picnic.
© 2012 Chuck Hill
© 2012 Chuck Hill