It's almost 20 years since the first domestic Tempranillo was bottled. That was the 1997 vintage from Abacela in the Umpqua Valley in Oregon. This pioneering winery planted the first Tempranillo vines in the Pacific Northwest in 1995.
From that beginning, this Spanish grape varietal has spread all over the place, to Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California, from north to south.
These were the areas represented at a tasting presented by WineLA at République. LIke the Rhone Rangers, Tempranillo has its own fan club, the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society (TAPAS), which gathered 15 wineries for the tasting.
Here, from participating wineries, are Tempranillos that stood out, at least for my taste.
Abacela. Following the Spanish model, Abacela today has four tiers of Tempranillo--crianza (one year in oak and one in the bottle), two reservas (one year in oak and two in the bottle) and one gran reserva (two years in oak and three in the bottle). Above is a 2013 Tempranillo that will be released in a few months.
Longoria Wines: Clover Creek Vineyard, about five miles east of Solvang, provided the grapes for the two Tempranillos poured by Diana and Rick Longoria (above). The 2013 wine blends 15% Grenache and Syrah with 85% Tempranillo. The 2012 contains a little Merlot and Syrah. Both were wonderful. In business since 1982, Longoria has a winery and tasting room in Lompoc.
Croma Vera Wines of San Luis Obispo is new to the game. Its first Tempranillo vintage was last year, and so its 2015 Tempranillo is labeled joven, meaning young. It also has released a Tempranillo rosé (above). Pale, almost watery in appearance, the rosé has plenty of authority when you taste it. The grapes were whole cluster fermented in stainless steel, then aged five months in neutral oak, said consulting winemaker Jeremy Leffert.
St. Amant Winery is in Lodi, but the grapes for its 2013 Tempranillo came from Amador County, a vineyard owned before the winery was established. The wine is lovely and light, with a touch of sweetness. You could serve it chilled during hot weather.
Texas Fine Wine went all out with four Tempranillos from four Texas wineries, Brennan Vineyards, Pedernales Cellars, Bending Branch Winery and Spicewood Vineyards. Its table is at the right above, next to Abacela. The woman who poured said that the Tempranillo grape grows very well in the Texas climate--obviously.
Caduceus Cellars exhibited two rich and fruity Tempranillos from 2013. One was from Sancha, Arizona. The other was a Tempranillo-Primitivo blend from Merkin Vineyards in Tarzan, New Mexico.
Irwin Family Vineyards of Napa Valley poured The Bull, a 2013 blend of Tempranillo, Petite Sirah and Malbec from the Sierra Foothills (above). The name comes from the bulls that graze in the foothills. As for authenticity, winemaker Derek Irwin was born in Spain.
Cholame Vineyard in Monterey County offered another bullish wine, the Bull Pen Tempranillo 2012, a nice, dry, all purpose wine.
Pierce Ranch Vineyards in Monterey County exhibited a pleasing Tempranillo from 2013. The grapes came from a hot area in the southern part of the county. The wine was aged in French oak for 18 months.
Verdad Winery. There's something special about the 2012 and 2013 Tempranillos from this Central Coast winery (above). They're both sourced from a biodynamic vineyard, the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in Edna Valley. Only 30 to 40 cases of the 2012 are left so hurry if you want to taste it. However, the 2014 Tempranillo from the Santa Ynez Valley is also very good.
Verdad also brought its 2015 Albariño, from the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard. Bottled only two weeks before the tasting, it was just starting to settle down, said winemaker Louise Sawyer Lindquist. Verdad wines are made at the Clendenen Lindquist Winery in Santa Maria.
Six Sigma Ranch, Lake County, poured an inky dark Christian's Reserve Tempranillo and a Diamond Mine Cuvee, which blends in Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, both from 2013. The grapes were grown on the ranch, where soils, elevation and climate are similar to those of Ribera del Duero, the region in Spain renowned for Tempranillo, said winemaker Matt Hughes (above).
At a TAPAS event, it's appropriate to serve Spanish style style small tastes (tapas), and République obliged with a table of cheeses, olives, cured meats and bread to refresh palates between tastes of wine.