Wine Reviews: American Tempranillo

I recently tasted through a half-case of American Tempranillo, and found myself thinking: I wish I saw more of this stuff. The wines came from TAPAS (the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society — clever, huh?), a group of winemakers spreading the word about American interpretations of the classic grape of Rioja.

Four of the wines hail from California, two from Oregon. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported 190 acres of Tempranillo in Oregon in 2011 (the most recent figures I could find). Umpqua Valley seems to be leading the pack, and I’ve been floored by Abacecla’s Tempranillo in the past. I agree with Nancy Rodriguez, who pointed out in Oregon Wine Press that Umpqua Valley Tempranillo wines stand out and demand attention.

In California, Tempranillo is peppered (generally in small amounts) all over the state, totaling a little less than 1,000 acres as of 2014, according to a USDA report.

So, while there aren’t massive amounts of American Tempranillo, some producers have found a nice niche for these wines. They’re worth checking out.

These wines were tasted single-blind.

Review: 2011 Coquerel Tempranillo - California, Napa Valley, Calistoga
Light purple color. Smoky and earthy on the nose, like loam and campfire, along with black pepper and sweet pipe tobacco, on top of tart red and black currants and juicy dark plums. Full-bodied with moderate structure to the tannins, some fresh acid keeps it moving forward. The black currant and blueberry fruit is rich but pure and tart around the edges. Complex notes of mint, tobacco, pepper and dusty soil, along with some coffee and vanilla accents. Bold but pieced together well, this is quite nice now but will improve with a few years in the cellar. Aged 20 months in used French oak. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Castoro Cellars Tempranillo Reserve Whale Rock Vineyard – California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $30
Bright purple color. Smells of raspberry jam, juicy summer plums, some blackberries as well, backed up by cola, violets and pepper glaze. Full-bodied, a juicy texture with velvety tannins, medium-low acid. Jammy black and red fruit, I also get flavors of loamy soil, tobacco and sweet coffee. Not as deep or complex as some of the others in this tasting, but well done, especially if you like a jammier style. Aged 13 months in French and American oak. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Lee Family Farm (Morgan Winery) Tempranillo - California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Smells of black and red currants and tart red berries, sweet cocoa powder, vanilla, along with notes of eucalyptus and tobacco. The palate shows a full-bodied approach with velvety tannins and a refreshing tartness. Black cherries, red and black currants, the fruit is rich but crunchy. Leafy, earthy, dusty elements mix with vanilla and cedar. Open, juicy, ready for business but showing a lot of complexity. Aged in ¼ new French oak. What a solid value. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2013 St. Amant Winery Tempranillo The Road Less Travelled – California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
SRP: $18
Light purple color. Aromas of juicy raspberries and black cherries, along with a hefty dose of pepper, tobacco and clove. Full-bodied, mouth-filling, chewy tannins and low acid. The black cherry and dark plum fruit is jammy and topped in fig cookies, coffee, chocolate, cedar and toasted oak. A more bombastic style for sure, but plenty of fun. (85 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Abacela Tempranillo Barrel Select Estate - Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley
SRP: $32
Dark ruby color. Smooth and enticing on the nose, with juicy blackberries and black cherries, notes of sweet coffee, rich soil, eucalyptus and tobacco. Full-bodied with a chewy presence, velvety tannins and medium-low acid. The black cherries, blueberries and black currant fruit is really rich and jammy, but it tastes pure, not candied. The fruit is topped with notes of sweet tobacco, eucalyptus, black olive and black pepper. A sense of loamy minerality lingers on the long finish. Rich, bold, chewy but maintains lots of intrigue and complexity. I’d love to retaste in three or four years. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Domaine Trouvére Tempranillo Riserva – Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley
SRP: $40
Deep ruby colored. Smells of red and black currants, along with coffee, vanilla and a spicy, earthy, peppery streak. Medium to full-bodied with velvety tannins and medium acid. Rich black currant and blackberries, the fruit is bold but shows a tart edge. Dark and saucy with flavors of mocha, vanilla, black pepper, bay leaf and tobacco. This could use a few years of aging, but an impressive wine for sure. (88 points IJB)