I am a self-proclaimed Hispanophile. I am also a self-proclaimed Spanish wine snob. I take great pride in both. So, when the opportunity arose to join in the celebration of the first annual International Tempranillo Day on September 1, 2011, I quickly offered my support. Organized by Tempranillo Advocates, Producers, and Amigos Society (TAPAS), this day was designed to celebrate Spain’s “noble grape” and its incarnations around the USA and the world.
Tempranillo is a black grape variety native to Spain and known for the full-bodied wines it produces and is planted in approximately 500,000 acres of the world’s vineyards. The varietal derives its name from the diminutive of temprano (“early”) as it ripens several weeks before most other Spanish grapes. Wines produced from Tempranillo are quite versatile with the ability to be consumed young as well as aged for an extended period of time. Typical characteristics of the grape include a ruby-red color with aromas and flavors of berries, tobacco, vanilla, leather, and herb.
The world has sat up and taken notice of how versatile Tempranillo can be and, as a result, it is being grown in various countries around the globe. Outside of Spain the varietal has found a fairly significant home in Portugal, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico. Other countries growing Tempranillo include Australia, France, Turkey, China, Canada, and (of course) the United States. International Tempranillo Day aims to provide a stage for these countries (and more) producing wines from Spain’s signature grape.
In honor of the day, I tried three US-produced Tempranillo wines. All three were firsts for me as well – my first Tempranillo from Paso Robles (California), my first Tempranillo from Oregon, and my first wine from Texas (yes, Texas!). What followed was a pleasantly surprising and very interesting tasting.
2008 Clayhouse Estate Tempranillo (Paso Robles, CA) – The grapes for the estate’s Tempranillo are hand-picked in the cool early morning, then field-sorted to remove defective fruit and leaves. The wine is aged for 22 months in American and Romanian oak. Upon tasting it was very difficult to believe that this bottling is the estates first attempt at Tempranillo. Keep up the great work!
2006 Anna Maria Tempranillo (Applegate Valley, OR) – Produced during a warm 2006, this Oregon Tempranillo was aged for 18 months in America oak. It is a soft, drinkable wine with aromas and flavors of red plums, cherries, herbs, and oak. Not overly tannic, this wine was a very enjoyable one to consume.
2009 Pedernales Texas Reserve Tempranillo (Texas) – This was my biggest surprise of the tasting. I expect to find well-produced wines from California and Oregon. I was impressed with this effort from Texas. This wine represents the winery’s exclusive selection of top qualify Tempranillo fruit. Hand-sorted and aged in American oak for 14 months, this wine offered aromas and tastes of red fruits, leather, and vanilla with a slight minerality.
All three wines presented a very unique Tempranillo experience, and I would gladly drink any of them again. Might I suggest stepping out of your comfort zone and seeking (and others) out? Even a Spanish wine snob deviates from his “norm” on occasion. ¡Beber feliz! (Happy drinking!)