Today is International Tempranillo Day. An entire day dedicated to the enjoyment of Tempranillo wine. If you’ve never enjoyed the variety, it’s a good time to do so. If you’re already a fan of the variety, it’s the perfect time to enjoy your favorite Tempranillo or maybe find a new favorite.
A variety of events have been organized in celebration of International Tempranillo Day. TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society), who organized the day in celebration of this Spanish wine grape, has a comprehensive list on their website.
Maybe there is a fun Tempranillo event happening near you.
In anticipation of International Tempranillo Day, LoCA (Lodi Winegrape Commission) organized an online tasting of Tempranillo produced in Lodi. We participated in the online tasting and received five sample wines to enjoy during the tasting.
Stuart Spencer, Program Manager at the Lodi Winegrape Commission, Owner and Winemaker of St. Amant Winery, and President of the Board of Directors for TAPAS, hosted the online tasting along with Rick Taylor owner and winemaker of Riaza Wines. We talked and tasted Tempranillo as Stuart and Rick told us all about Tempranillo in the Lodi AVA, and beyond.
Tempranillo is the 4th most widely planted wine grape variety in the world. It is indigenous to Spain where over 500,000 acres are planted to the variety.
Tempranillo has been planted in California for about 100 years where it was called Valdepenas. It was planted in the Central Valley and prized for its high yield. Mainly it was used as a blending grape. Only recently has Tempranillo in California been used to produce quality varietal wines.
Although Lodi is known mostly for Zinfandel any number of grape varieties thrive in the appellation; over 100 varieties are planted. Tempranillo represents just a fraction of the total acreage planted in Lodi. But Tempranillo, along with several other Iberian varieties, are thriving in the warm days and cool nights of Lodi’s growing season.
In Stuart’s experience Tempranillo is a mid to late budding and early ripening variety that produces reliably; “a grower’s grape.” That’s how it got its name, from the Spanish word temprano which means early. Tempranillo is known for producing wine with significant tannins that can be lower in acid, so it takes some management in the cellar.
With that background, let’s move on to the tasting.
2012 Riaza Wines Hunter’s Oak Vineyard Tempranillo — light ruby in the glass with smoky bacon aromas. Blueberry and raspberry flavors combine with leather and earthy back notes. Tannins are very smooth and the finish is moderate in length. ABV 14.6% $26. Only 97 cases produced.
This delicate Tempranillo has plenty of flavor and very smooth well integrated tannins. This wine is easy to like and a good food wine. We enjoyed it with lamb stew, but it would do well with pork or even turkey (think turkey cooked on the grill).
Riaza Wines focuses their winemaking entirely on Spanish varieties. This 100% Tempranillo is one of three they make every year and is the softest of the group. That, according to winery owner Rick Taylor, is a characteristic of the Hunter’s Oak Vineyard and one reason he likes this wine, and the vineyard, so much.
Hunter’s Oak Vineyard is located in the Clements Hills sub-AVA of the Lodi AVA. The 12 year old vineyard located on the east side of Lodi, “in the rolling hills before the rolling foothills”, according to Rick. It’s situated at a bit of an elevation, near a small riverbed. The vineyard is only 12 years old, Rick expects more good things to come from it.
2012 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo — medium ruby in the glass with delicate smoky aromas. Blueberry and raspberry flavors combine with a bit of leather, nice acidity and grippy tannins. The finish is medium to long with both fruit flavors and tannins. Complex and delicious. ABV13.5%. $23. Case production: 685.
This Tempranillo has similar flavors to the Riaza Tempranillo, but the Bokisch Tempranillo is like the big brother to the little sister. Basic flavors are similar, but tannins are much more substantial and it has a bit more body.
Bokisch Vineyards blends 10% Graciano with the Tempranillo. Grapes are sourced from the Liberty Oaks and Las Cerezas Vineyards in Lodi’s Jahant and Mokelumne River sub-AVAs. This wine carries the Lodi Rules Certified Green seal on the back label, indicating farming practices in the vineyards are compliant with the sustainable practices outlined by Lodi Rules.
Markus and Liz Bokisch were among the first to bring Tempranillo to Lodi. In fact they’re champions of a number of Spanish varieties which they have planted in Lodi – Graciano, Albariño, Garnacha, Verdejo and Verdelho – to name just a few.
Both the Riaza Wines and Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo are produced from the Ribero del Duero clone. Both are relatively light bodied examples of Tempranillo. Both delicious.
2010 Harney Lane Winery Tempranillo — dark ruby in the glass with earthy, dark fruit aromas. Ripe blackberry and blueberry flavors combine with vanilla and cedar. Tannins are substantial and very grippy. The finish long and dominated by tannins, wood spice flavors and ripe fruit flavors. ABV 15%. $25. Case production: 719.
This wine is made in a riper, more wood-influence style. The underlying flavors are similar, but much riper. It provides an interesting comparison of winemaking styles.
2012 McCay Cellars Lot 13 Vineyard Tempranillo — medium ruby in the glass with savory aromas of crushed marjoram and thyme along with ripe berries. Earthy, dark fruit flavors and minerality combine with significant but well integrated tannins. The body is on the light side of medium with great acidity. A pleasing combination of lighter body and lots of flavor. ABV 14.3%. $28. Case production: 179
Winemaker and owner, Michael McCay, is a firm believer in native yeast fermentation which he uses to produce his Lot 13 Tempranillo.
Grapes are sourced from specific blocks of the Kirschenmann Vineyards which McCay now owns, having purchased it from the Kirschenman family. (The Kirschenmann Vineyard owned by Tegan Passalacqua of Turley Wines is a different vineyard, but located right next door.) The vineyard is located on the east side of Lodi in sandy loam along the Mokelumne River.
2012 m2 Wines [Tormenta] Kirschenmann Vineyards Tempranillo — dark ruby in the glass with aromas of blueberries and vanilla. Darker fruit flavors of plums and blackberries combine with leather, a bit of smoke and significant, grippy tannins. This wine is medium bodied with lots of flavor. ABV 14.5%. $22. Case production: 295.
This wine is rich, opulent and chewy. It has significant wood flavors adding to the complexity. The Tempranillo was sourced from the same vineyard as McCay’s Lot 13.
These last two wines, sourced from the same vineyard and harvested just days apart, provide two distinct interpretations of the same vineyard. One lighter bodied, more herbal the other richer, denser and more opulent. Choose your preferred style.
A bit about wood aging and Tempranillo. Stuart believes wood aging is essential to produce a smoother, more pulled together Tempranillo. Up to 18 months of aging in French and American oak is the usual with this group of Tempranillos. Many other red varieties are aged for only a year but, according to Stuart, the additional time in oak helps smooth tannins with this variety.
With regard to bottle aging, Stuart believes Tempranillo ages very well. In his opinion after about 5 years of bottle aging Tempranillo begins to really express itself. Rick agrees. He recently opened a bottle of his first vintage, 2008, and it was soft and luscious.
We enjoyed all of these Tempranillos with lamb stew and they paired very well. The Riaza and Bokisch wines were the lightest and would pair nicely with pork or even turkey cooked on the grill. The smokey flavors produced on the grill area a natural pairing with Tempranillo. Grilled lamb chops would be a divine pairing for any of these wines.
Thanks to LoCA for the presentation and discussion of these delicious wines. Stuart and Rick gave us a personal and detailed account of Tempranillo in the Lodi AVA.
Thank you to Riaza wines, Bokisch Vineyards, Harney Lane Winery, McCay Cellars and m2 Wines for providing the sample wines. The best way to learn about the character of a varietal wine is to taste several interpretations against each other. Very nice representation of Lodi Tempranillo by all wineries. All of these wines are available directly from the wineries.
And finally, thanks to Charles Communications Associates. Once again, a well organized and informative presentation.
Now all there is to do is open your favorite bottle of Tempranillo and enjoy a glass in celebration of Tempranillo Day!