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TAPAS Spanish Varietals Tasting 2011: 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 planted in California

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 fourth 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. Snacks will be available from various food purveyors.

Tempranillo Advocates, Producers, and Amigos Tasting 2011
Saturday, June 5th
2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Fort Mason Conference Center
Herbst Pavilion
San Francisco, CA 94123

Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online in advance. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door for $60.

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 (3)

Duane wrote:
05.23.11 at 9:49 AM

Ampelographers have identified over 7,000 grape varieties from around the world giving wine writers and those seeking the odd or novel wines a lifetime's worth of grist for their mills. Some are worthy of drinking and others - well, you get the point.

I wouldn't chastise California wineries for not growing odd grapes, as I often tell those within earshot - "there's a location for every grape, but every grape isn't for this location." I think the wine fan is best served by concentrating on making the best wines from the grapes that match the California (or for me this S. Oregon) location and leave those oddities to another place.

If someone is interested in wine headhunting (playing the one upsmanship game of I'm smarter about wines than you are because I've tried more obscure ones and they were all wonderful) that's their privilege.

Oh, PS - I consider Tempranillo a "mainstream" grape not one of those oddities. It makes a wonderful wine (tempranillo viejo) or an average drinking wine (tempranillo joven). I happen to like it and often refer to it as Zinfandel Lite in its taste profile. This world class winegrape is worthy of attention - and won't make you a "wine headhunter" to give it a shot.

Jim Costello wrote:
05.23.11 at 11:15 AM

Sounds like a wonderful event. Your readers might also be interested to know that the first-ever Barbera Festival will be held on June 12th at the Cooper Winery in Amador County.

Rob wrote:
05.23.11 at 4:49 PM

That event does sound like fun. Tempranillo may be a mainstream varietal these days, but not in California. I do love a good California (insert usual varietal here), but it is fun to taste something different. There's an element of risk to it - the winemaker had to take a risk with an odd varietal and the drinker has to venture into the unfamiliar.

I don't think experimenting with odd varietals is just about headhunting - maybe that next weird wine region or varietal will become one of your favorites! Similarly, I think it's great when winemakers experiment with unusual varietals, because sometimes it can lead to great things -- like a relatively minor French varietal creating world-class wines in Argentina.

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