Showing posts with label Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society. Show all posts

Monday, April 11, 2016

Grapes From Spain In L.A. Taster

Spanish wine is good no matter where it comes from. I should say, wine made with Spanish grape varieties is good all over, especially when the grapes are Tempranillo.

A recent Los Angeles tasting event for TAPAS – Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society – was a hit, hosted by the great L.A. wine educator Ian Blackburn of WineLA.

In case you are unaware, TAPAS is "a nonprofit trade association of wineries, growers, and amigos, whose mission is to promote Tempranillo and other varietal wine grapes native to the Iberian Peninsula, and wines produced from them in North America." The group has been around since 2006, doing their best to raise awareness of these food-friendly wines.

An invitation was kindly extended to me, and here are a few of the wineries that were poured for me at the event.  The trade session I attended was held at Republique, while the public session that evening was at La Brea Bakery.

Lake County
Six Sigma Ranch and Winery - Winemaker Matt Hughes said that despite his Lake County estate’s  "hot, dry, weather and volcanic soil, it’s hard to get fruit overripe." The reserve Tempranillo is dark and delicious, while the Cab/Tempranillo blend has bright red fruit.

Napa Valley
Irwin Family Vinetyards - These wines are made by Derek Irwin with grapes grown in the Sierra Foothills.  The '14 Verdejo has a huge green apple component in a wash of savory notes.  The Tempranillo and Tempranillo blends make great steak wines, with grips like an arm wrestler.

St. Amant Winery - Stuart Spencer's Amador County wines are delightful. The '14 Verdelho is all steely grapefruit, while the '13 Touriga is big and juicy.  The '13 Tempranillo has chewy tannins and a long finish, while his NV Tawny is viscous and Madeira-like.

Central Coast
Verdad Wines - Louisa Sawyer Lindquist poured her '15 Edna Valley Albariño, which is laden with the chalky limestone soil of the EV. It’s floral, it’s savory, it has wet rocks and citrus and it’s well worth checking out.

Monterey County
Pierce Ranch Vineyards - Showing off their newly-established AVA, the San Antonio Valley, it's more like Paso Robles than Monterey, where it is the southernmost property. Their oak/steel Albariño is vibrant, while the unoaked version shows dramatic salinity. Oak leaves a big vanilla mark on the '14 Verdelho while the Tempranillo, Touriga and Graciano deal out a nice mix of leather and flowers.

Santa Barbara County
Longoria Wines - Rick Longoria poured two excellent Tempranillo blends, one with Grenache and another with Merlot, a spot of Syrah in each.  The Santa Ynez Valley offerings put forth some beautiful floral tones and a wild savory kick that I just love.


Abacela Earl Jones’ Umpqua Valley wines included the '13 Albariño, with its beautifully floral nose and salinity on the palate.  Their '12 Port-style wine shows big fruit and is very sweet, using five Portuguese grape varieties.

RoxyAnn Winery - Kent Barthman’s Rogue Valley Tempranillo 2012 is masculine with big red fruit on the nose and a wonderful, savory finish.

Texas Fine Wines poured four wonderful Tempranillos that show just how far the Texas wine industry has come. From Brennan Vineyards’ rich and smoky finish to the juicy, ripeness of Pedernales Cellars, to the delicious oak expression of Bending Branch Winery’s High Plains Tempranillo to the Riojaesque savoriness of Spicewoods Vineyards, Texas winemakers have found a grape they can call their own.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Texas Tempranillo: Brennan Vineyards

Many in the great state of Texas would consider Tempranillo their signature red grape. Texan winegrowers have done a great job over the past decade or so of finding the right grapes for their various terroirs. Mediterranean and Iberian grape varieties are working well, and Tempranillo seems to be a popular favorite in Lone Star vineyards.

A virtual tasting from Texas Fine Wine, a group of four distinctive wineries committed to making quality wines from Texas appellation vineyards, included Tempranillos from Duchman Family Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Bending Branch Winery and Pedernales Cellars.

The Brennan vineyards in Comanche, Texas were purchased in 1997, while the winery opened for business in 2005. The McCrary House Tasting Room & Gift Shop, is one of the oldest remaining homesteads in Texas - built in 1879 - and is designated a landmark by the Texas Historical Commission. Located right at the meeting point of the Hill Country and Texas High Plains AVAs, it is probably the best thing about Highway 16.

The Brennan Tempranillo Reserve 2013 is made from 78% Tempranillo grapes and 22% Mourvedre. Winemaker Todd Webster made it dark and delightful. The nose shows black fruit, but it has to fight its way past the spiciness of the grape and the oak. Vanilla, tobacco and sage come through ahead of the fruit. The flavors also lean to the savory side, with blackberry cutting through the cedar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Great tannic structure calls for a big rib eye steak.

The Brennan Tempranillo 2013 tries to sneak in without being noticed. The muted nose is a little hard to get, but worth it once you do. Black fruit and coffee lead the blunted aromas. The palate offers more strength - tons more - and blows plenty of fruit-forward blackberry and plum your way. A nice dollop of spice augments the full fruital attack, but not as much as the Reserve shows. There are some manly tannins here, so grill a big steak or two for this wine.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lodi Tempranillo: Harney Lane Winery

Lovers of the grape gathered for another fun social media get-together 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 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 virtual tasting event spotlighted Tempranillo wines from five Lodi producers, Bokisch, Riaza, McCay, m2 and Harney Lane.

Like most Lodi farming families, the dirt is not just on the Mettler family jeans, but in their genes.  Head grower  Kyle Lerner says that "farming is legalized gambling with more variables."  He rolled the dice and married into the Mettler family, though, and he considers that a good bet.  You'll find him in the vineyards, even though he would probably like more time in the tasting room.

The Harney Lane 2010 Tempranillo is fashioned by winemaker Chad Joseph exclusively from Tempranillo grapes grown on the estate.  Nineteen months of European oak aging lend its hand to the 719 cases produced.  A 15% abv number is certainly more Lodi-like than Rioja.  The wine retails for $25.

On Twitter, @Lodi_Wine chirped that "the Tempranillo is Kyle Lerner's favorite varietal wine they produce."  @cliffordbrown3 noted the "well worn leather, plums, blackberries, crushed stone minerals, wood smoke, white pepper, tobacco, dried flowers and a touch of dark chocolate."  Tasting notes chimed in from @dvinewinetime, as well: "full of dark fruit, crisp acid and leather."  @GrapeOccasions broke it down to basics: "Mmm! Big dark fruit/tobacco all around, getting a blueberry explosion!"  @myvinespot loved the "rich, textured profile, ripe purple stone fruit and cedar underpinned by rustic qualities framed in dusty tannins," while @JamesTheWineGuy went for the "suede, game, crushed dried red roses, Marjoram, hint of chocolate."  Something for everybody.

Harney Lane's 2010 Tempranillo is very dark and quite aromatic.  It smells of dark fruit and spice until I think I can't bear it.  There is oak, cedar, vanilla, anise, allspice and a touch of brambly sage to tie it all together.  The flavors are dark and spicy, too.  Blackberry, blueberry and leathery mocha meet a strong streak of minerals over a bed of firm tannins and juicy acidity.  This is a wine that will fit well with anything that comes off your grill.  Structured enough for beef, the flavors will also lift a simple ham and cheese sandwich to new levels.

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Texas Tempranillo: Brennan Vineyards

Tempranillo is one of Spain’s many gifts to the world.  It takes an honored place alongside such wonders as Salvador Dali, Manchego cheese and sherry - we’ll just overlook that whole Spanish inquisition thing for now.

The Tempranillo grape is planted worldwide, of course - about 575,000 acres' worth - and it is the world’s fourth most-planted variety, with some of the oldest Tempranillo vineyards located in Spain’s Ribera del Duero and Rioja regions.  Tempranillo is known by other names in other places: "Ull de Llebre or Ojo de Llebre in Catalonia, Cencibel in La Mancha or Valdepeñas, Tinto Fino in the Ribera del Duero, Tinto Madrid in Arganda, Tinto de la Rioja in the Rioja, Tinto del Toro in the Toro, Grenache de Logrono, Tinto del Pais or Jacivera in other parts of Spain, Aragonez or Tinto Roriz in Portugal, and it may actually be the grape variety Valdepeñas in California."  Thanks to the awesome blog post on Under The Grape Tree for that information.

There are about 400 acres of Tempranillo planted in Texas, where it stands, arguably, as the Lone Star state's signature grape.  The climate and soil in Texas mimic those qualities of Tempranillo's Spanish roots.

During the virtual tasting event for Texas Tempranillo on that grape’s international day back in November, the Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society - @TAPASociety - tweeted, "Texas is now the 5th largest grape growing region in the US and Tempranillo takes center stage."  @TXViognier admitted, "I'm biased, but the #txwine kinda kicks the ass of the 2 Spanish #tempranilloDaywines."  On the subject of the grape’s many aliases, @shoozmagooz let us know why: "it mutated to adapt to the various Iberian microclimates, got new names each place."

The four wineries of Texas Fine Wine invited everyone to pick up a Texas wine for Tempranillo Day. They invited me, too, and this wine was provided for that purpose.

Brennan Vineyards Tempranillo 2012

Brennan Vineyards puts their motto in all capital letters, as if they are screaming on the internet: “100% TEXAS GRAPES, 100% TEXAS WINE.”  Maybe they feel nobody thinks to look first in Comanche, Texas for great grapes and wine.  However, that’s where the Texas Hill Country meets the High Plains, so a proper inspection should be made.  I spent a night once at a motel in Comanche, and awoke to find it was across the road from the Comanche Livestock Exchange.  The aromas were quite ripe, as I recall.  Brennan’s winery is located a bit further to the southwest, but you might still pray for a prevailing wind that will blow the other way when you visit.

The land was bought in 1997 and vineyards were planted a few years later.  In 2005, the sale of "Sophisticated Wines with Texas Roots" began.  They grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Viognier and a TexItalia grape that we know as Nero d'Avola, owing to its Italian hometown.  Who knows, though?  Maybe someday, Nero di Comanche.  Winemaker Todd Webster will be able to turn such a grape into a Texas-sized hit.

Webster says the Tempranillo grapes for their 2012 vintage - the winery's second effort with the grape - "are from our Newburg Vineyard and from the vineyards of Bob Ossowski and Adrian Allen in Cross Plains."  The 2011 version won awards all over the place - gold awards, mind you - and I would not be surprised to see the 2012 follow suit.  It clocks in with alcohol at 14.3% abv and retails for $26.

It’s a very dark wine, with a nose that shows plenty of darkness - blackberry, juicy tar, spices and some good ol' Texas dirt.  The palate strikes a dark chord, too, with black fruit leading the way for black pepper, smoke and a pleasant dash of cinnamon.  It finishes earthy, and takes its dear, sweet time doing it.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bokisch Wines

When you get a chance to sample wine with the winemaker, jump on it. Markus and Liz Bokisch were pouring their offerings recently at a couple of places in Los Angeles, and I caught up with them at 3Twenty South Wine Lounge on La Brea - 320 South La Brea, in fact.

Bokisch Vineyards specializes in Spanish grape varieties grown in their vineyards in Lodi, California.  Markus explains that while he was born and raised in California, he visited family in Spain quite often as a child, and formed a love of Spanish wines there.  "As kids, we were given wine with water added at meals. As we got older, there was less and less water included.  By the time we were grown, it was all wine."

"After Liz and I were married, we moved to Spain and worked in the wine industry there for a while.  We came back to California and searched for vineyard land, stopping in Lodi because it reminded us of Spain.  Also, the Spanish varieties grow well there."

Liz and Markus are an easy-going and friendly pair, and they were both happy to talk to those of us who came for the tasting.  Liz told an interesting story about the evolution of their Garnacha Blanca.  "The first vintage was way over the top," she said, "with over 15% alcohol content and a full body like a Viognier.  It wasn't a bad wine, if that's what you want, but it wasn't varietally correct.  We were taking the grapes based on how they tasted off the vine.  It took several vintages for us to learn to trust the brix and take the fruit at the right time, so we'd have it like we wanted it."  

Markus spoke of his attempts at blending his Garnacha and Graciano wines.  "That didn't work out," he explained, "because both of those grapes like to fight for territory.  They just don't match up when you try and blend them together, so we kept them apart, which is how they like it."

Bokisch Vineyard is a very small production winery, making less than 2000 cases per year in total.  The groundwork for expansion is being laid, though.  Recent new hire Kenny Stetson is now the cellarmaster, freeing Liz and Markus to focus on the winemaking responsibilities.

The couple is looking forward to pouring their wines at the annual tasting event of the Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society, in San Francisco on June 9, 2012.  TAPAS is a non-profit organization devoted to Iberian varieties.  If you plan on attending, I heartily recommend you make sure to stop at the Bokisch table.

Here are the Bokisch wines I tried at this tasting event:

2011 Albariño, Terra Alta Vineyard - A very lively nose of citrus, especially grapefruit, leaps forward.  The palate shows great acidity, lovely zest and lemon lime notes with a touch of grapefruit

2011 Garnacha Blanca, Vista Luna Vineyard - The wine was served a bit too cold, and as a result the nose tight.  Again, there's a great acidity and a zesty, tropical fruit finish.

2009 Tempranillo, Liberty Oaks Vineyard - Super ripe cherries on the nose with a big palate of cherry, blackberry and plum with an amazing tannic structure and yet again - fabulous acidity.  3Twenty owner and sommelier Edgar Poureshagh told me he had decanted the Tempranillo for a couple of hours because "the tannins were rippin'."

2009 Garnacha, Terra Alta Vineyard - Blackberry, cherry, smoke and earth.

2007 Graciano Terra Alta Vineyard - A low yielding, late ripening grape, this Lodi Graciano has a nose that's dense and rich, and very earthy.  Big tannins can't hide the dark, earthy chocolate and black cherry notes on the palate.

2009 Graciano, Las Crezas Vineyard - This one shows a huge chocolate nose, with big tannins and a lovely black cherry finish.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Bodegas Paso Robles

Before her life as owner and winemaker of Bodegas Paso Robles, Dorothy Schuler was in the word business. "I was a writer, journalist and editor, and I don't like it when people make mistakes," she warned. With that thinly veiled admonishment, I pulled a couple of extra pages of note paper out and switched from pen to pencil, just in case anything needed to be corrected on the fly.

With that out of the way, though, we settled into the kind of conversation I like - talking with someone about their big passion. Schuler's big passion is making wines from the grape varieties native to Spain and Portugal. She does this in Paso Robles, California, where it's much more common to find Rhone-style wines at the more than 200 wineries in the region. This came about because she happened to be the only one around to do it. It's called being in the right place at the right time.

Her wine story began in 2002, when she and her husband were living in Washington state. "My husband wanted to move to Gilroy, California, and I said 'No way, Jose.' Let's look at Paso Robles. We had family in the San Francisco Bay area and in Santa Monica, so Paso Robles was just about exactly halfway between the two. I found a house in three days, and we were here, just like that.

"My husband and his partner started a winery, and I did the paperwork. It was a real soap opera, but the short version is, my husband had to go to England for his other job and when I asked what was to become of the winery, he said 'It's yours. Run with it.' So I did."

With a love for Spanish and Portuguese wines already ingrown, she knew which way to run. "My passion is old heritage grapes nobody else deals with. In '02 there was some Tempranillo being grown in Paso Robles, but it had just been planted, and it wsn't ready to be picked yet. I managed to find some from other places, and some Graciano - there are maybe 10 acres of that grape planted in this country - from Tres Pinos vineyard in San Benito. That first year I put out a Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon blend and a Tempranillo/Graciano blend. The Graciano is fantastic blended, but it's lovely on its own, too."

Tres Pinos is still a major provider for Bodegas Paso Robles. Schuler says, "Ron Siletto, the grower, says 
Ken Volk and I are his two favorite winemakers." Volk is known for taking the same caretaker approach with Italian varieties that Schuler takes with those from Spain and Portugal. "Ron went to a vineyard in San Benito called El Gavalon," she explains, "where they were plowing under a lot old vines that were planted in 1890. He went in there, got some cuttings from the old vines before they were destroyed and planted them at Tres Pinos. There are a lot of reasons he's a great guy, but that's probably the biggest."

Schuler sources all her grapes from growers like Siletto, who nurture the heritage grapes. "Everybody has found out I'm interested in these odd grapes, and they've started tracking me down to sell them to me. It certainly makes finding these grapes a lot easier when they come to me! Bobal, a Spanish variety, has just found its way to me like that. It's not ready this year, but I'll get it next year. Jack Ranch Vineyard in Edna Valley has some of the best Albarino in the business. I'll probably make another Albarino in the near future.

"Iberia, a dry-farmed vineyard in Calistoga, has Touriga Nacional, Graciano, Tempranillo and Tintacao in a field blend. I may be getting a ton of Alicante Bouchet from Paso Robles that was planted in 1880!

"It's important to keep these varietals going, because each has its own characteristic." Schuler makes the most of her access to these special grapes. Her Graciano and ¡Viva Yo! are winning awards for excellence.

Schuler loves to talk about her varied background. As a writer she covered cycling events in Belgium. She edited six of Timothy Leary's books while living in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles among movie and rock stars. She's quite the art collector, too, which paid extra dividends when she needed a label for her wines. "I called my artist friend, 
Morse Clary, and told him I needed an image to go on the bottles. I sent him some barrel samples and he sent me the face I used on the '02 vintage. I've been using it since." The face - pictured above - is on all her wines, with different background colors for each wine.

The thing she loves to talk about the most, though, is wine. "You've heard of GSM? Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre? I'm doing a GTM - Garnacha, Tempranillo and Monastrell. I call it Vaca Negra, and it will be released soon. The '07 is done without the Grenache - it was terrible that year - but the full '08 blend is on the way.

Schuler is a member of 
TAPAS - Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society - which is an organization of wine producers and grape growers who specialize in the varieties of the Iberian peninsula. She also has a hand in Women Of The Vine Cellars, which is an East Coast label. Schuler produces the Tempranillo for that label.

She admits it's tough to get some visibility in a place like Paso Robles, where wineries are almost to the point of overcrowding. She's happy, though, with her boutique-level production. "We did 2,500 cases in 2008," she say, "but like everybody else, I'm backing off a bit. I'll do maybe 1,500 this year."

The Bodegas Paso Robles Tasting Room is located at 729 13th Street, Paso Robles, CA.  Reach the tasting room by phone at 805-237-3780.  I tasted several of the wines of Bodegas Paso Robles at the 
California Wine Festival in Santa Barbara.