Monday, December 22, 2014

Lodi Tempranillo: Riaza Wines

Another one of those fun social media get-togethers occurred recently, featuring hosts Stuart Spencer - who wears many hats as the Program Manager at the Lodi Winegrape Commission, Owner and Winemaker of St.Amant Winery, and President of the Board of Directors for TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society) - and Rick Taylor, Owner and Winemaker of Riaza Wines and Director on the Board of Directors for TAPAS.  As you may have already guessed, the topic was Tempranillo.

The gaggle of wine tasters who gathered on Twitter - and the video feed - were ready for some Lodi Tempranillo, and they were not disappointed.   Comments were tweeted from @Lodi_Wine, who told us that "Nearly 25 different Lodi wineries produce a Tempranillo."  They also volunteered that "Nearly 900 tons of Tempranillo came out of Lodi in 2013."  The publicists for the event, @CharlesComm, laid a little history on us: "When it first arrived to CA, #Tempranillo had the name Valdepenas."  I did not know that.  We all learned a bit during the hour.

The virtual tasting event spotlighted Tempranillo wines from four Lodi producers, Bokisch, Riaza, Harney Lane, McCay and m2.  Bokisch appeared earlier.  Today, Riaza.


Riaza Wines Tempranillo 2012  $26

The social media stream was abuzz with good notes on the Riaza Wines Hunter's Oak Vineyard Tempranillo.  @myvinespot tweeted about the "Inviting nose w/ dried cherries, cranberry, warm spice, soft and round in the mouth."  @dvinewinetime liked the "dry, tart cherry w/ hints of tobacco and soft tannins."  @GrapeOccasions commented on the "red fruit & tobacco on the nose, and wow, floral cigar to taste!"  @norcalwine called it "an approachable, tasty wine: cigar box, red cherry, sweet spice, tangerine peel," while @MsPullThatCork asked, "Can you cellar Tempranillo?"  The answer shot right back from @riazawines: "yes, it will get softer, better."  


Riaza Wines is owned and run by Rick and Erin Taylor, a couple who just happen to have a passion for wine and access to lots of grapes.  That nearly always means "Winery," and so, they have held true to the course in Lodi.

Who does what in that partnership? Erin handles the business side of things, while the website says of Rick, "Though the business card says winemaker, Rick’s only real job is not to screw anything up!"  I have a similar arrangement with my wife, and I can attest to how hard that simple sounding task can be.

Tempranillo Day, back in November, resulted in the Riaza Tempranillio 2012 arriving on my doorstep for the purpose of review.  As is my custom, I will just give some information about the wine and let you know how it struck me.

The Taylors love wine made from Spanish grape varieties, and they realized that Lodi's Mediterranean-like climate is perfect for growing them.  They give a nod and a tip of the hat to Liz and Markus Bokisch, who also have an Iberian love affair going on.

Like Bokisch, the Riaza winery focuses on Spanish varieties - Tempranillo, of course - as well as Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo, Monastrell and Verdejo.

Explaining Tempranillo, the Taylors say, "Though a staple in Spain, Tempranillo is only now starting to become recognized as a significant player in California.  Interestingly enough, the grape has been grown here for hundreds of years…coming to the new world with the Spanish missionaries in the late 1700s.  What was once churned out for jug wine up and down the valley, Tempranillo is finally being viewed as something other than the “red-headed step child” of the vineyard."

If this is what jug wine tasted like, bring it back.  Made from 100% Tempranillo grapes grown in the sandy loam of Hunter's Oak Vineyard in Lodi's Clements Hills AVA, this wine was aged for 19 months in American and French oak.  Alcohol hits 14.6% abv, and only 97 cases were produced.

The Riaza Tempranillo colors up medium ruby in the glass, while showing off a delicious nose of blueberry, coffee, cinnamon and clove with a hint of cigar and leather.  In the mouth, a nice acidity and firm tannins are a natural match to the savory dark fruit.  Spices abound - nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon.  There's a sense of black tea, reminiscent of a California Pinot Noir.  The wine comes on rustic, but finishes elegantly.  It's a knockout with spicy pork roast.

The winemaker feels that Tempranillo pairs exceptionally well with anything off the grill, anything with a little char on it.