A little background, courtesy of my very entertaining on-line tasting with the Commission. Tempranillo means "early" in Spanish, and thus this grape is known as "early ripener". You'll find that the wine is usually low in acid and high in tannins. That being said, you can roughly group Tempranillo into two taste groups: the savory and the more fruity. It is the 4th most planted grape in the world, which surprised me. I mean, it's not a varietal that leaps off the shelves at you - possibly because it's often blended with other wines. But in Lodi, California, 25 wineries produce a Tempranillo, and that's going to be my focus for International Tempranillo Day 2014. No bridesmaid today, this time Tempranillo is the bride and gets all the attention.
The wines I sipped fit somewhat into the above two taste groups, so I'm going to talk about them within those groups. (Please note, the wines are grouped according to my Winey taste buds. And with Tempranillo, fruitier does not mean "fruity". 'Nuff said.) Here we go:
My favorite of the group hails from Harney Lane Winery and falls into the more fruity category. It's a 2010 Tempranillo, 15% ABV. A bright red wine, the first aroma to hit your nose is plum that gives way to earth and leather. You'll taste that leather right away, along with some warm cherry compote and bitter chocolate. The tannins were strong, but not overwhelming in the finish. The Winey Hubby and I had this with a rack of lamb and it was wonderful.
Next up in the more fruity category is M2's Tempranillo (2012, 14.5%, Lodi, CA). This was my second tasting of M2's Tempranillo, as I had their 2010 vintage before. This very dark red wine has a nose of mocha and coffee, which normally wouldn't make me think it was fruitier. But the taste opened up with mocha and cherry and ended with lots of dark stone fruit. No leather or earth here. It had a wonderful mouth feel too - satiny smooth. For the record, less cherry but more mocha than 2 years ago.
Now let's move on to the more savory group with Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo (2012, 14.5%, Lodi, CA), which is actually 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano. This one is more of a purple color with a nose of blackberries and dark green spices. The flavors were strawberry and smoky pepper and sour greens with almost a mineral taste hanging above them all. It finished of new oak with lots of chewy tannins. There were tasters in our session that loved this wine! I am iffy on it, but that's me and chewy tannins.
McCay Cellars also offers up a Tempranillo "Lot 13 Vineyard" (2012, 14.2%, Lodi, CA), and the grapes actually come from the same vineyard as the M2 grapes. The nose has aromas of nutty oak and plum followed by flavors of blueberry, cherry and dark green spices like sage, thyme and oregano. The tannins were not as biting as Bokisch's were, but there was still that high mineral taste hanging above it all.
The last Tempranillo (and winner of the cool wine label award) hails from Riaza Wines (2102, 14.6%, Lodi, CA) and is harvested from some of the younger vines in Lodi (12 years old, which makes them pre-teens). The nose has lots of leather on it, with a ribbon of dark berry running through it. This is a savory Tempranillo, with flavors of leather and earth and a teeny bit of cherry. I think this one would be great with food, as opposed to solo sipping. Red meat comes to mind right away, especially with all that big red flavor going on.
So my take on Tempranillo is this: if you love a big red with lots of earthy, tannic tastes, this is a great varietal to try. You don't have to go to Spain for it either - you'll find some great ones from Lodi, right here in the good old USA. Taste a bunch and find out if you like them fruitier or more savory, with meat or cheese (or both!). But if you shy away from red, you might not appreciate this "early" grape.
In either case, enjoy the day....because any day devoted to wine is a good one, right?
I was provided with these wines for review purposes. The opinions are all my own.
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