American Tempranillo: Strong Continuing Improvement

old vine Tempranillo in Rioja

old vine Tempranillo in Rioja


Tempranillo is one of the world’s most important and noble grapes. It is capable of making complex wines with tremendous aging capacity.

The grape is the basis for Spain’s greatest wines, especially from the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. I’m a huge fan of those wines, and know that when Tempranillo is treated right—grown in cooler climates, with reduced yields, and permitted extended barrel aging—it is capable of true magic.

As I wrote here last year, a number of American winemakers have the Tempranillo bug too. We are seeing increasing plantings in Arizona, California, Oregon, Texas and Washington State, and a growing number of bottlings from dozens of producers, even though total production levels for the Tempranillo wines being produced here are still relatively small.

I have tasted over 70 U.S. Tempranillos and Tempranillo blends since last year’s report. I also moderated a panel on “Defining American Tempranillo” for the annual event of the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society (TAPAS) held in San Francisco this past June. There I was joined by several winemakers—including Abacela’s Andrew Wenzl, Markus Bokisch, Six Sigma’s Matt Hughes and Louisa Sawyer-Lindquist of Verdad–who confirmed some of my speculations about where the improvements are coming from in the production of U.S. Tempranillo.

One of the problems with getting Tempranillo established in this country was that it was planted initially mainly in the hot, dry, flat Central Valley of California, where it was allowed to yield at high levels. The resulting quality was fit only for jug wine blends.

There is still a lot of the grape planted in warm regions, like Lodi and Livermore. Some good results are being obtained there by greatly limiting yields. In the last 20 years, true fans of the grape have also started growing it in cooler climates and places with dramatic diurnal temperature shifts, as well as on slopes and in higher altitudes, where the vine truly thrives.

Arizona’s first plantings came in the late 1980s, and there are now several producers there, including Caduceus, Callaghan, Cimarron and Dos Cabezas. These producers are hoping to bring an upcoming edition of the TAPAS tasting to their state to highlight the strong results they’re getting from the grape there.

Earl and Hilda Jones of Abacela

Earl and Hilda Jones of Abacela


Earl Jones pioneered in planting Tempranillo in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley in 1995 after searching the country for a climate and terrain similar to Spain’s Rioja region. The resulting wines under his Abacela label continue to be among the country’s best representations of the grape.

Up until the last decade, there was very little clonal material available for planting in this country. While it is estimated there are over 500 clones of Tempranillo in Spain, only three were approved and available in the U.S. until the early 2000s.

Spanish wine enthusiast Markus Bokisch planted Tempranillo in Lodi in 1999, experimenting with clonal material—what’s now known as the “Duero clone”— he brought in from Spain. That same year, Pierce Ranch introduced the grape to its vineyards in San Antonio Valley in California’s Central Coast. Those grapes have been responsible for some of California’s best Tempranillo bottlings, both under the Pierce Ranch label and Santa Cruz Mountains Vineyard’s Quinta Cruz label.

Liz and Markus Bokisch

Liz and Markus Bokisch


Other exciting new plantings over the past decade have been at Six Sigma Ranch in Lake County (Duero clone), Yorba’s Shake Ridge Vineyards in Amador County (Duero clone) and Verdad’s Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in Edna Valley. At the latter vineyard, planted in 2005 and certified biodynamic, the clone planted was based on cuttings taken from great Ribera del Duero producer Pesquera and originally propagated for Parador in Napa Valley.

Additional promising developments are on the winemaking side. Some are blending Tempranillo with other Spanish grapes that help add acidity and complexity, like Grenache and Graciano, the blending grapes most used in Rioja.

Perhaps most important of all is the effort to give Tempranillo additional time in barrel—vital to providing it with the slow oxygenation and time needed to soften the grape’s naturally high tannins.

Experiments with longer barrel aging that are having great results include Bokisch (18 months in barrel), Verdad (18 to 24 months), Six Sigma (24 months), Quinta Cruz (24 months or more), Abacela (up to 48 months) and Core (up to 52 months).

The very best American Tempranillos I’ve sampled over the past year, wines that I’ve rated 92 points or higher, have been from Abacela (2009 Reserve), Core (2007 C3 Reserve), Quinta Cruz (2009 Reserve Pierce Ranch) and Yorba (2009 Shake Ridge Vineyards).

I’ve also tried very promising Tempranillos and Tempranillo blends, all rating 90 points or higher, from Bokisch, Bodega Del Sur, Fields Family, Jeremy Wine Company, Kenneth Volk, Longoria, Pierce Ranch, Turkovich Family, Twisted Oak and Verdad in California; Callaghan in Arizona; and Oregon’s Folin Cellars.

The best values for American Tempranillo—i.e., those with some distribution and priced below $30—are Bokisch (averaging $18 at U.S. retailers), Quinta Cruz ($20), Fields Family ($21), Abacela ($24), Kenneth Volk ($24), Core ($25), and Verdad ($27).

For my complete tasting notes on 71 Tempranillos and Tempranillo blends from 46 American producers, see below.

Abacela

Abacela winemaker Andrew Wenzl

Abacela winemaker Andrew Wenzl

  • 2007 Abacela Tempranillo Reserve – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley)
    Lightly bricking very dark red violet color; tart plum, black fruit, light licorice nose; tight yet, brooding, tart black fruit, plum, tart berry palate with a sense of salinity; needs 3 years yet; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2009 Abacela Tempranillo Estate Grown – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, ripe berry, baked cherry nose; tasty, rich, ripe berry, baked cherry palate; appealing now; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2009 Abacela Tempranillo Reserve – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley
    Pre-release: saturated ruby color; appealing, aromatic, licorice, dried berry, baked berry nose; tight, tasty, licorice, dried berry, baked berry, tart raspberry palate with good balance; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (13.9% alcohol) 92 points

  • 2010 Abacela Tempranillo – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley
    Saturated medium ruby color; aromatic, baked berry, black fruit nose; silky textured, tight, tart red berry, tart red fruit palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points

Berryessa Gap

  • 2009 Berryessa Gap Tempranillo Rocky Ridge Collection – USA, California, Central Valley, Yolo County
    Very dark ruby color; dried berry, tar, licorice, reduction nose; reduction, tar, tart black fruit palate; medium finish (12.5% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 84 points

Bokisch

  • 2010 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, aromatic, ripe cherry, ripe berry, baked cherry nose; silky textured, juicy, tart cherry, red berry palate with balance; could use 1-2 years; reminiscent of a Rioja Joven Tempranillo; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Caduceus

  • 2010 Caduceus Cellars Sancha – USA, Arizona, Cochise County
    Very dark red violet color; ripe berry, black fruit nose; tart black fruit, tart berry, tar, dried berry palate with firm tannins; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (92% Tempranillo, 8% Garnacha; 14.8% alcohol) 88+ points

Callaghan

  • 2007 Callaghan Padres – USA, Arizona, Sonoita
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, VA, tart red plum, tart cherry, baked red berry nose; tart red plum, tart cherry, baked red berry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (58% Tempranillo, 25% Petit Verdot, 17% Cabernet Franc) 90 points

  • 2011 Callaghan Padres – USA, Arizona, Sonoita
    Dark red violet color; rich, ripe berry, black fruit nose; tart berry, very tart black fruit palate with medium acidity and firm tannins; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (very low yields this vintage-1/3 ton per acre; 30% Tempranillo, 30% Graciano, 30% Tannat, 10% Petit Verdot) 87+ points

Cimarron

  • 2010 Cimarron Rojo del Sol – USA, Arizona, Cochise County
    Dark red violet color; ripe berry, black fruit nose; ripe berry, ripe blue fruit, black fruit palate; medium finish (50% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, 25% Mourvedre; 15.5% alcohol) 87 points

Clayhouse

  • 2010 Clayhouse Vineyard Tempranillo Casa de Arcilla – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark ruby color; lifted, ripe red fruit, cranberry sauce nose; simple, tart cherry, tart red fruit palate, ready nose; medium finish 86 points

Core

Core proprietors Becky & Dave Corey

Core proprietors Becky & Dave Corey

  • 2005 Core Crazy Eights – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Cloudy very dark red violet color; aromatic, tart cherry, cranberry, red berry nose; tart cherry, cranberry, red berry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2007 Core Tempranillo C³ – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Dark red violet color; tart black fruit, tart berry, violets nose; complex, tart black fruit, tart berry, violets palate with medium acidity and a sense of salinity; medium-plus finish (clones 2 & 3; 14.9% alcohol) 91 points

  • 2007 Core Tempranillo C3 Reserve – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, ripe berry, baked berry, baked black fruit, anise, light chocolate, ginger cake nose; tight, dense, complex, tart berry, anise, tart plum, tart currant, light milk chocolate palate; needs 2 years; long finish (14.9% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 92 points

  • 2008 Core Tempranillo C3 Reserve – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Dark red violet color; baked plum, fig, dried fig nose; earthy, baked black fruit, dried fig palate; medium-plus finish (14.9% alcohol) 90 points

Dancing Coyote

  • 2010 Dancing Coyote Tempranillo El Dorado – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado
    Very dark ruby color; tar, licorice, black currant nose; tart black fruit, baked black fruit, licorice, black currant palate; medium-plus finish (15% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 88 points

Bodega Del Sur

  • 2008 Bodega Del Sur Tempranillo Reserve – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County
    Medium dark red violet color; redolent, dried berry nose; dried berry, baked orange palate; could use 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (14.8% alcohol) 90 points

  • 2009 Bodega Del Sur Carmesi – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; ripe berry, red berry, tart cherry nose; ripe cherry, berry palate, ready nose; medium finish (blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha; 13.9% alcohol) 87+ points

Derby

  • 2010 Derby Wine Estates Project España – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark cherry red color; ripe red berry, cherry, cranberry nose; tasty, light-medium bodied, ripe cherry, red berry palate with good acidity; medium finish (63% Tempranillo, 15% Grenache, 14% Carignane, 8% Graciano; 32 months in neutral oak) 89 points

Domaine Le Mieux

  • 2009 Domaine Le Mieux Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark cherry red color; ripe berry, oak nose; oak, ripe berry, black fruit palate; medium finish 84 points

Dos Cabezas

  • 2009 Dos Cabezas Wine Works Aguileon – USA, Arizona, Cochise County
    Medium dark red violet color; tart red berry, dried berry, tart red fruit nose; tart red berry, dried berry, tart red fruit palate with medium acidity; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (95% Tempranillo, with Petit Verdot, Souzao & Tinta Co; 10-15% American oak) 88+ points

Dubost

  • 2009 Dubost Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red violet color; charcoal, baked red berry, dried red fruit nose; tart red berry, tart red fruit palate; medium finish (13.16% alcohol) 87 points

Egan Cellars

  • 2011 Egan Cellars Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Medium ruby color; lifted, cinnamon, pomegranate nose; light-medium bodied, tart pomegranate, tart red berry palate; medium finish (13.9% alcohol) 85+ points

Fenestra

  • 2009 Fenestra Tempranillo – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
    Dark red violet color; lifted, sweet smoke, cranberry sauce, ripe red berry, oak spice nose; light-medium bodied, cranberry sauce, ripe red berry, tart cherry, chocolate palate; medium-plus finish (14.2% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 87+ points

  • 2009 Fenestra Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Dark ruby color; tart berry, baked berry, charcoal, licorice nose; light-medium bodied, baked berry, tart plum, licorice palate; medium finish (14.1% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 88 points

Fields Family

  • 2010 Fields Family Wines Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Dark ruby color; tart berry, tart black fruit, licorice nose; tart berry, tart black fruit, licorice palate; medium-plus finish (14.2% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 90 points

Folin

  • 2007 Folin Cellars Tempranillo Reserve – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Rogue Valley
    Dark cherry red color; aromatic, sour cherry, red berry nose; sour cherry, red berry palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (36 months in 100% new French oak) 90 points

  • 2009 Folin Cellars Tempranillo – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Rogue Valley
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, ripe berry, baked cherry nose; ripe berry, baked cherry palate with medium acidity; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (24 months in oak, 25% new) 89 points

Harney Lane

  • 2009 Harney Lane Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Dark ruby color; redolent, ripe berry, baked berry,licorice nose; baked berry, violets, licorice palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points

  • 2010 Harney Lane Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Medium ruby color; tart red berry nose; tart red berry, ripe cranberry palate; medium-plus finish (15.5% alcohol) 87 points

Heritage Oak

  • 2010 Heritage Oak Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Medium dark cherry red color; bell pepper, green olive nose; tart red currant, green olive palate; medium finish 84 points

Idle Hour

  • 2009 Idle Hour Tempranillo Heringer Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Central Valley, Clarksburg
    Dark red violet color; tart red berry, smoke nose; tart red berry, smoke palate; medium-plus finish 87+ points

Imagery Estate

  • 2008 Imagery Estate Winery Tempranillo – USA, California, North Coast, High Valley
    Very dark red violet color; oak, smoke, tar, creosote nose; tight, smoke, tar, tart black fruit, creosote, salty dried plum palate; medium-plus finish (I’m suspecting ’08 smoke tainted fruit) 86+ points

Inner Sanctum

  • 2011 Inner Sanctum Cellars Tempranillo Torro Tuolumne County – USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    Very dark ruby color; tart red fruit, cinnamon nose; light-medium bodied, ripe red fruit, cherry palate; medium finish (90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano; 13.9% alcohol) 84 points

Javelina Leap

  • 2012 Javelina Leap Tempranillo – USA, Arizona
    Dark ruby color; cinnamon, roasted red fruit, baked cherry nose; simple, baked cherry, black cherry palate; medium finish (13% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 87 points

Jeremy

  • 2010 Jeremy Wine Company Tempranillo – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Very dark ruby color; intriguing, roasted plum, roasted currant nose; tart currant, roasted plum, pepper palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 Jeremy Wine Company Tempranillo – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Very dark ruby color; baked black fruit, dried berry nose; tight, tar, tart black fruit, dried black fruit palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (15% alcohol) 88 points

JL Giguiere

  • 2009 JL Giguiere Tempranillo Matchbook Dunnigan Hills – USA, California, Central Valley, Dunnigan Hills
    Very dark ruby color; baked black fruit, dark chocolate, tar, dried berry nose; silky textured, baked black fruit, chocolate, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish (13.9% alcohol; 88% Tempranillo, 8% Graciano, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon; sample provided by winery) 89 points

Kenneth Volk

  • 2008 Kenneth Volk Tempranillo Starr Ranch – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Medium dark red violet color; tart red fruit, tart plum nose; oak, tart red fruit palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 87 points

  • 2008 Kenneth Volk Tempranillo John Smith Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, San Benito County
    Dark red violet color; tar, dried berry nose; tar, dried berry, licorice palate; medium-plus finish (13.6% alcohol) 90 points

Longoria

Richard and Diana Longoria at TAPAS tasting

Richard and Diana Longoria at TAPAS tasting

  • 2010 Longoria Tempranillo Santa Ynez Valley – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Dark ruby color; baked berry, ripe red berry nose; youthful, plush, juicy, ripe red berry, cherry, vanilla palate reminiscent of a Rioja Crianza from a ripe year; medium-plus finish (13.6% alcohol; 22 mos. in 33% new American oak; with 6-7% Merlot) 90+ points

M2 Vintners

  • 2010 M2 Vintners Tempranillo Tormento Kirschenman Vineyards – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Very dark red violet color; licorice, ripe black fruit, baked black fruit nose with heat; ripe blackberry puree, ripe black fruit, licorice palate with low acidity; short-medium finish (14.5% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 83 points

Mt. Konocti

  • 2009 Mt. Konocti Growers Tempranillo – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
    Dark red violet color; redolent, baked plum, ripe currant, anise nose; baked black fruit, apricot palate; medium-plus finish 84 points

Pasoport

  • 2008 Pasoport Wine Co. Vinho Tinto – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Saturated very dark red violet color; roasted black fruit, licorice, tar nose; tight, ripe berry, black fruit, licorice palate; medium-plus finish (30% Tempranillo, 25% Touriga, 23% Tinto Cao, 22% Souzao; 14.5% alcohol) 88+ points

Bodegas Paso Robles

  • 2009 Bodegas Paso Robles Vaca Roja Vista Creek Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Medium dark red violet color; tart cherry, tart red berry nose with a little VA; tart cherry, tart red berry palate with near medium acidity; medium finish (50/50 Tempranillo & Mourvedre) 87+ points

Peirano

  • 2008 Peirano Vineyards Tempranillo Heritage Collection Lodi – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Very dark red violet color; odd, herbs, tobacco, tart black fruit nose; odd, murky, herbs, tobacco, tart black fruit palate; medium finish 82 points

Pierce Ranch

  • 2009 Pierce Ranch Cosecheiro – USA, California, Central Coast, San Antonio Valley
    Very dark red violet color; aromatic, baked berry, dried berry, licorice nose; baked berry, dried berry, licorice, charcoal palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2010 Pierce Ranch Tempranillo Reserve – USA, California, Central Coast, San Antonio Valley
    Medium dark ruby color; aromatic, baked berry, baked black fruit nose; rich, ripe berry, violets, ripe black fruit palate with firm tannins; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Quinta Cruz

  • 2009 Quinta Cruz Tempranillo Reserve Pierce Ranch – USA, California, Central Coast, San Antonio Valley
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, baked black fruit, baked berry, ginger cake, licorice, orange spice nose; tasty, rich, medium-bodied, complex, baked black fruit, licorice, ginger cake, tart plum, dried berry, orange spice palate; ready now but could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (reminiscent of a good Châteauneuf-du-Pape; 14.1% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 92+ points

  • 2010 Quinta Cruz Tempranillo Pierce Ranch – USA, California, Central Coast, San Antonio Valley
    Dark ruby color; appealing, aromatic, baked berry, baked black fruit, licorice, dried berry, chocolate cherry nose; plush, baked black fruit, tart plum, baked berry, sandalwood palate; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (13.2% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 90+ points

Riaza

  • NV Riaza Wines Viña Select Terra Alta – USA, California, Central Valley, Clements Hills
    Medium dark red violet color; smoky, roasted red fruit, dried red berry nose; smoky, roasted red fruit, dried red berry, charcoal palate; medium-plus finish (80% Tempranillo with Garnacha and other grapes; 14.9% alcohol) 88+ points

  • 2008 Riaza Wines Tempranillo Bray Vineyard – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Dark cherry red color; baked berry, dried fig, tar, smoke nose; tart black fruit, smoke, dried fig palate; medium-plus finish 85+ points

  • 2010 Riaza Wines Tempranillo – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Medium dark red violet color; dried berry, licorice, milk chocolate nose; tasty, ripe raspberry, tart berry, tart cherry palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (14.1% alcohol) 89+ points

  • 2010 Riaza Wines Tempranillo Hunter’s Oak – USA, California, Central Valley, Clements Hills
    Light medium cherry red color; floral, baked red berry, licorice nose; tasty, rich, licorice, honey, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 86+ points

Six Sigma Ranch

Six Sigma winemaker Matt Hughes

Six Sigma winemaker Matt Hughes

  • 2009 Six Sigma Ranch Tempranillo Reserve – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
    Dark ruby color; caramel, cherry, dulce de leche nose; tight, tart cherry, ripe cranberry, caramel palate with good acidity; needs 3-plus years; medium-plus finish (14.1% alcohol) 88 points

  • 2010 Six Sigma Ranch Tempranillo – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
    Barrel sample – slightly cloudy, dark purple red violet color; reduction, tart berry nose; tight, ripe berry, face powder, tart raspberry, mineral palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 89-90+ points

  • 2010 Six Sigma Ranch Tempranillo Reserve – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
    Very dark ruby color; tart red berry, cranberry nose; tasty, tart red fruit, ripe cranberry palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (14.1% alcohol) 88+ points

St. Amant

  • 2010 St. Amant Winery Tempranillo – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Saturated dark red violet color; charcoal, roasted fruit nose; tart cherry, charcoal, roasted red fruit palate; medium-plus finish 87 points

Starr Ranch

  • 2010 Starr Ranch Orion – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Medium red color; dried berry, oak nose; juicy, tart cherry, tart red berry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (61% Tempranillo, 18% Mourvedre, 21% Petit Verdot; 14.9% alcohol) 89 points

  • 2011 Starr Ranch Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark cherry red color; tart red berry baked red fruit nose; tart cherry, red berry tar palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol) 87+ points

St. Jorge

  • 2010 St. Jorge Winery Tempranillo Silvaspoons – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Medium dark red violet color; appealing, baked berry, tart black cherry, coffee nose; coffee, baked berry palate with near medium acidity; medium finish 87 points

Straight Line

  • 2010 Straight Line Tempranillo – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
    Very dark ruby color; berry, black cherry, smoke nose; juicy, tart berry, tart cherry, tar palate; short-medium finish 87 points

Turkovich Family

Chris and Luciana Turkovich

Chris and Luciana Turkovich

  • 2010 Turkovich Family Wines Tempranillo Barrel Select – USA, California, Central Valley, Yolo County
    Dark ruby color; appealing, dark chocolate, dried fig nose; tasty, tart black fruit, ripe berry, black fig palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 91 points

Twisted Oak

  • 2009 Twisted Oak The Spaniard – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, bright, tart cherry, baked cherry, raspberry, oak, plum nose; intense, flavorful, baked berry, black fruit, blueberry, spice, licorice palate; medium-plus finish (68% Tempranillo, 15% Graciano, 17% Garnacha; 14.3% alcohol; would be good with barbecue, and possibly Ethiopian or Persian food) 91+ points

  • 2009 Twisted Oak The Spaniard – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County
    Dark red violet color; tar, dark chocolate nose; tar, dark chocolate, tart black fruit palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (68% Tempranillo, 17% Garnacha, 15% Graciano; 14.3% alcohol) 88+ points

  • 2009 Twisted Oak Tempranillo Zilch – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County
    Medium red violet color; tart berry, dried berry, dark chocolate nose; dark chocolate, tart black fruit, tar palate with medium acidity; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol) 87 points

Verdad

  • 2009 Verdad Tempranillo Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Edna Valley – USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    Medium dark ruby color with clarity; charcoal, tar, tobacco, licorice nose; medium bodied, tart red berry, tart cherry, tobacco, tart currant palate with medium acidity; needs 1-plus year; medium finish (13.5% alcohol; 84% Tempranillo, 8% Grenache, 8% Syrah; sample provided by winery) 88+ points

  • 2010 Verdad Tempranillo Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Edna Valley – USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    Saturated very dark red violet color; tart berry, blackberry, black cherry nose; tasty, rich, tart berry, tart blackberry, black cherry palate with firm, sweet tannins; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Woodbridge

  • 2009 Woodbridge Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Dark ruby color; spicy berry, dried berry, licorice nose; spicy berry, dried berry, licorice palate; medium finish 87+ points

Yorba

  • 2007 Yorba Tempranillo Shake Ridge Vineyards – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Very dark ruby color; baked berry, tart black fruit, licorice nose; tasty, complex, tart berry, dried berry, licorice, chocolate palate; medium-plus finish (14.9% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 91 points

  • 2008 Yorba Tempranillo Shake Ridge Vineyards – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Very dark ruby color; baked berry, licorice, dried berry, ginger cake nose; plush, tasty, ginger cake, tart berry, baked berry, licorice, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish (14.9% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 91+ points

  • 2009 Yorba Tempranillo Shake Ridge Vineyards – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Pre-release – very dark red violet color; dried berry, tar, ginger cake, date nose; youthful, tart berry, dried berry, ginger cake, date palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (sample provided by winery) 92 points

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7 Responses to American Tempranillo: Strong Continuing Improvement

  1. Greg says:

    Hi

    Great review of the TAPAS Event, thanks for shedding light ona great group of wineries and varietals. So sorry we did not connect and that our wines were not part of your piece.

    Look forward to sharing more Tempranillo in the future

    Greg

  2. Pingback: Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: 200-Year Plan

  3. The TAPAS event always offers a great opportunity to sample domestically-produced wines made from Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties in one setting. This year’s event was held in a new and smaller venue than at Fort Mason where it was held the past couple of years – this seems to be part of a movement away from Fort Mason for wine events. The new Golden Gate Club venue worked well for the size and format of this year’s TAPAS event. The Grand Tasting took up the two larger rooms of the building, while seminars were held in one of the smaller rooms. Overall, it felt like a comfortable space for the event, and it offered a more intimate setting than at the vast Fort Mason pavilion.

  4. Staring at the dark orange muddy buildings heating up in the afternoon sun from my office chair, I am a little stunned by how ignorant I still am. I have lived in Spain for eight months and although I came a bit more prepared than the average ex-pat, I feel as if we have only scratched the surface of Spanish wine. The complexity of wine in Spain is vast and usually underestimated. Fully comprehending the various grape varietals, DOs and styles of winemaking is a daunting task and one that I hope to master before I turn 80, forgetting both my accumulated wine knowledge and the last place I saw put my dentures. However, in the meantime, I decided to jump the gun and do a little research about what made the Rioja region so internationally appealing to American wine distributors – the secret ingredient being, Tempranillo.

  5. Zoeldar says:

    RJ – great event and well-done notes. I (and others) had some different opinions:

    1). AZ – the majority of the Arizona wineries weren’t in the same league as the CA / OR brethren.

    2). Ken Volk’s and Six Sigma’s Temps were standouts and set a different pace than many others…

    3). WOTN – I think you really underestimated the Folio reserve Temp – I was stunned by the polish and fine tannins – and then by the terroir (OR). Absolutely blown away – but at $55 or so, pricey too. Still, to me , a 95+ pt wine…

    Again, fab notes – thanks for all your contributions

    • Richard Jennings says:

      Thank you Joel for your kind words and differing opinions.
      Actually, we do agree about the majority of the AZ wines. Perhaps the huge vintage variations the AZ winemakers referred to had something to do with that.
      And Ken and Six Sigma’s wines were among the best.
      I agree the Folin Reserve was strong, both in ’07 and ’08. I was fortunate this year in that a number of the Tempranillos poured at TAPAS had been sent to me in advance, or I had a chance to taste them on winery visits before the event. In the case of the samples I received, I had the opportunity to spend an evening with them (or longer in a few cases), which is important as young Tempranillo often takes awhile to open up. Unfortunately, the Folin Reserve was not one of the ones I was sent in advance. I’ll look forward to retrying it.

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