Given the similarities between the climates in Northern California and some parts of Spain and Portugal, one has to wonder why there aren't more Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties planted in California. The same might be said about Italian grape varieties, but they dwarf the plantings of Spanish grapes in California. There are almost three times as many acres of Sangiovese planted in California than there are Tempranillo. And let's not even talk about Pinot Grigio, shall we?
Instead I'd rather talk about Touriga Nacional or Mencia or Graciano or Verdelho. Despite minuscule plantings throughout the state, these grape varieties have great potential and great advocates. A dedicated group of wineries throughout many of California wine regions remain focused on exploring the potential of these and many more grape varieties within the state. Together, these little wineries unite under the banner of TAPAS: Tempranillo Advocates and Producers Society.
The average wine consumer has probably heard the name of only a handful of Iberian grape varieties, if at all. Yet they make some incredibly interesting wines, whose obscurity ensures that while sometimes difficult to find, they are often excellent values.
So if you are the kind of curious wine lover that is always interested in broadening your horizons and educating your palate (hint: you SHOULD be) then I highly suggest that you purchase a ticket to the TAPAS tasting that will be held in a couple of weeks in San Francisco's presidio.
The grand tasting provides an unparalleled opportunity to explore and learn about these grapes without the scary commitment of buying a bottle off the shelf just because it offers a taste of an unknown grape. Nearly 40 wineries from all over the state will be pouring their wines for the tasting.
For anyone with a serious mind to educating yourself on the grapes and what they're all about, the event also kicks off with two seminars, the first focused on Arizona as an upcoming growing region for these varieties, the second focused on Tempranillo specifically. Of minor note, the first seminar will feature panelist Maynard James Keenan, the front man for the metal band Tool, whose vineyard in Arizona was the subject of the documentary Blood Into Wine (in which I appeared).
No matter how you choose to participate, it's likely to be a great time. There will be some small nibbles on hand as well.
2013 TAPAS Tasting
Sunday, June 23rd
2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
The Golden Gate Club at the Presidio
135 Fisher Loop
San Francisco, CA 94129 (map)
Tickets are $60 for the grand tasting, or $95 for a set of seminars and early admission to the grand tasting. They should be purchased online, and will probably sell out.
My usual tips for such public tastings apply: go with a full stomach and having gotten a good night's sleep; wear dark colors to avoid the occasional accident; drink lots of water; and spit if you want to learn anything!
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