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Tempranillo Advocates and Producers Tasting: June 5, San Francisco

Sometimes I feel like California vintners don't experiment enough. While they may be trying a wide range of rootstocks, clonal material, yeast strains, trellising methods, barrel regimes, and the various other minor, yet important variables that can make for higher quality wine, far too few wineries are trying to grow different grape varieties from around the world.

That's a generalization, of course, and there are plenty of exceptions, but by and large most California winemakers stick to the tried and true: white and red Bordeaux varieties, Syrah, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, with occasional branching out into tapas_logo.jpgGrenache, Viognier, or Petit Sirah. With the exception of Zinfandel, most of these grapes are traditional French varieties.

What about the rest of the world? If you ask me, there's far too little Barbera, Nebbiolo, Malvasia, Ribolla, Montepulciano, Albariño, Touriga Nacional, or any of the thousands of other grape varieties in the world.

All of which is why I'm a big fan of the Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society. These pioneering vintners have been growing Tempranillo and other Iberian grape varieties for varying amounts of time, but all with the goal of making interesting and compelling wines from grapes that are off the beaten path.

This is the third annual tasting that this group will hold. The main event is a walk-around tasting where more than thirty wineries from Arizona, California, Oregon,and Washington will be pouring wines made from grapes such as Tempranillo, Albariño, Grenache, Graciano, Mourvedre, Touriga, Verdejo, Bastardo and more. A big batch of paella will be on offer, along with snacks from various food purveyors.

Tempranillo Advocates, Producers, and Amigos Tasting 2010
Saturday, June 5th
2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Fort Mason Conference Center
Herbst Pavillion
San Francisco, CA94123

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online in advance. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door for $50.

My usual tips for such public tastings apply: get a good night's sleep; come with food in your stomach; drink lots of water; wear dark clothing; and if you want to learn anything, SPIT!

Comments (11)

El Jefe wrote:
05.14.10 at 11:47 AM

hi Alder, thanks for the very nice mention, hope to see you this year! - jeff

Doug Wilder wrote:
05.14.10 at 2:36 PM

Thanks alder, groan... This is the day after attending the Napa Valley Auction Marketplace and Barrel Tasting (will you get up for that?) - very evil to do these back to back! But must do TAPAS!

Brett wrote:
05.14.10 at 8:24 PM

Is it hard to make a good Tempranillo, what climates does it do well in?

Denise wrote:
05.15.10 at 8:03 AM

I look forward to reading about your findings re:Spanish grape varietals in the New World. Esp. tempranillo as the ones I've had from CA were not that appetizing. And I'd love to know who's growing and where touriga nacional and bastardo are being grown in the States.

El Jefe wrote:
05.15.10 at 5:46 PM

@Doug - We appreciate you toughing it out for us, see you on the 5th!

@Brett - Tempranillo wants a warm Mediterranean-type climate, pretty much like most parts of California though we're also finding it thrives in the warmer parts of Oregon and even Arizona. Tempranillo can have a high pH so some blending is often needed to dial in the balance.

@Denise - I suspect that the better Tempranillos are not yet being exported since they tend to be smaller lots. I'm not remembering any Bastardo producers as I sit here, but there are several producing Touriga Nacional, including my winery, Chatom, and Irish here in the Sierra Foothills, St Amant in the Lodi area, and Barreto in the Central Coast.

Heidi Stine wrote:
05.15.10 at 11:15 PM

Hi Alder,

Thank you for the nice mention of TAPAS and hopefully we will get to see you this year.

All the best,


05.16.10 at 9:24 AM

Tempranillo, as the name tells, is an early ripening variety that thrives in semi-desertic, continental climates, with shorter growing seasons, and lighter soils. Just like in Central Spain (Castilla-Leon, Aragon, Navarra and Castilla-La Mancha). It also flourishes, though to a less extent, in milder continental climates with a tendency to oceanic, like in Rioja. Mediterranean Spain grows predominantly Grenache and Mourvedre.
Mediterranean climates with long growing seasons, like in California, tend to produce flabby (Tempranillo) wines with little structure and too much alcohol. Therefore, IMHO, it would be a safer bet for Washington State, Arizona and New Mexico.
But if I had to insist in California, I would look for high-altitude vineyards (3,200-4,500 ft.) in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties.

Carl wrote:
05.16.10 at 3:59 PM

Interesting! Just tried my first Tempranillo recently. I know....what took me so long! Found it to be delicious! I think I'll be in San Francisco on June 5th!

Corey wrote:
05.17.10 at 2:57 PM

Have to chime in here. Alder, thanks so much for mentioning TAPAS and talking Tempranillo.

As far as growing conditions go, it sort of goes without saying that we've yet to discover what the grape can really do here (California) and exactly what kinds of sites produce the best wines. My own stance is that (and this is certainly debatable) Tempranillo really shines when it gets some hang time. It's late to bud which makes it great for sites with a lot of frost potential (and explains why you can grow it at 2000'+ in Ribera and Rioja Alta) and, as mentioned by Peter, it's also an early ripener. When I think about this profile I think Pinot - which is where some would suggest Temp is descended from.

We've learned that Pinot demands cool, cool, cool. I personally think we're going to learn the same lesson with Temp, except with some elevation and continental character thrown in. Many a Rioja Alta winery is still bringing Temp in through October. That's not the 'Mediterranean climate' that most people think of when they think Spain. That's chance of snow on the ground in winter...

05.18.10 at 6:07 AM

Corey, I agree with most you said, but for one detail: Pinot is a thin-skinned grape that demands mild to cool average high temperatures, throughout the season, to preserve aroma and fruit. Tempranillo, on the other hand, is a thick-skinned grape that can stand very hot environments (high-altitude, low RH, with extremely high solar radiation levels and sandy/light soils) with very high max temps; as the 100 plus (F) sometimes found in Toro, Cigales, Ribera del Duero and Rioja Baja; but, as you mentioned, it needs cold nights and convexity/continentality (risk of early frosts) to retain acidity.

jim wrote:
05.27.10 at 10:47 PM

Arizona will be well represented at Tapas with the likes of Kent Callaghan of Callaghan Vineyards and Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas, amongst others. The Arizona wine industry has made significant progress up the quality ladder over the last several years, with a large emphasis on Mediterranean grapes. Supporting the Arizona industry's future is Oregon Pinot Noir icon Dick Erath, who is working with Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas, to produce his second vintage of wines............think Dick, with 40+ years of vintner experience, might be on to something??

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