Lovers of the Spanish wine varietal called Tempranillo can take heart that this grape is taking root in the soils of Oregon.
In Southern Oregon, there’s a touch of Iberia.
Skeptical? What does Oregon have in common with the Iberian Peninsula (the geographic region of Europe home to Spain and Portugal)?
More than you might think, as I learned a couple of weekends ago at the 2016 Oregon Tempranillo Celebration down in Ashland.
There are about 57 wineries in Oregon now making Tempranillo, and there are about 400 acres of Tempranillo vineyards planted in Oregon, according to Greg Jones, a professor at the Southern Oregon University. Tempranillo is now the eighth largest varietal harvest in Oregon, with 839 tones of fruit harvested in 2014, according to statistics from the Oregon Wine Board.
According to Jones, Tempranillo is grown in about 80 percent of Spain, much of it in the Rioja region in northern Spain but also in the Ribera del Duero, just a little to the south of Rioja.
It turns out that many parts of Oregon have comparable climate during the growing season to regions in Spain, particularly the warmer parts of Oregon, according to Jones.
Jones is a research climatologist at SOU and has traveled extensively in Spain, studying the climate in the wine-growing regions there. He’s also the son of Earl Jones, founder of Abacela Winery, widely considered the best Tempranillo producer in Oregon.
|Abacela's Cobblestone Hill Vineyard|
“Although Oregon west of the Cascades gets more rain than most of Spain, in the Rogue and Umpqua AVA, rainfall is closer to Spain and Portugal,” Jones said.
“And growing season average temperatures in the Rogue, Umpqua and Applegate valleys are very close to Ribera del Duero in Spain,” he said.
The Columbia AVA on the Oregon side is close to Rioja and Toro in terms of temperature, Walla Walla Valley AVA on the Oregon side is close to Campo de Borja, and Rogue and Applegate are nearly identical to planted areas in Toro region of Spain, Jones said. “Vine growth timing and growth intervals are consistent between Oregon and Ibera,” he said.
What differs between winegrowing areas of Oregon and Spain is geology, according to Scott Burns, a geology professor at Portland State University who also has done a lot of research on the geology of winegrowing regions of Spain.
In Rioja, the soil is a combination of limestone and siltstone that’s chalky and also has old clay and iron-rich soils, he said.
“These were sedimentary rocks that were created when Iberia crashed into Europe and was lifted up from the ocean floor,” he said.
In Ribera del Duero, the vineyards are on the banks of the Duero river, where the soil is limestone with silt, clay and sand, Burns said.
The best Tempranillos in Spain are made in areas with a combination of limestone, sandstone, soils that are rocky and have a little clay, he said.
Burns said the Umpqua area, with the convergence of the Coast Range, Klamath Mountains and Cascade Range, has both the geology and climate that happens to be perfect for Tempranillo.
Participants at the Oregon Tempranillo Celebration tasted more than 30 Oregon Tempranillos during the event on Jan. 22. Although they were vastly different, depending on barrel treatment and the region that the grapes were grown in, they had the same underlying characteristics of Spanish Tempranillo: dark ruby color, leathery mouthfeel, with varying degrees of spicyness, and flavors of plum or dried strawberries and good acidity. Some were lighter bodied, more fruity or had higher acidity than others.
If you’re interested in trying Oregon Tempranillos, keep an eye out for Tempranillos made from the following wineries: 2Hawk Vineyard and Winery, Abacela Winery, Aguila Vineyard, Belle Fiore Winery, Castillo de Feliciana, Coventina Vineyards, Dana Campbell Vineyard, Delfino Vineyards, EdenVale Winery, Folin Cellars, Girardet Wine Cellars, Holloran Vineyard Wines, Jaxon Vineyards, Kriselle Cellars, Ledger David Cellars, Naked Wines, Paradox Vineyard, Paul O’Brien Winery, Pebblestone Cellars, Plaisance Rance, Platt Anderson Cellars, Purple Cow Vineyards, Quady North, Red Lily Vineyards, Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, Schultz Wines, Serra Vineyards, Silvan Ridge, South Stage Cellars, Stone River Vineyards, TeSoAria Vineyard and Winery, Upper Five Vineyard, Valley View Winery, Weisinger Family Winery and Zerba Cellars.
Victor Panichkul is wine, beer and food columnist. Reach him at (503) 399-6704, Vpanichkul@StatesmanJournal.com, Facebook.com/WillametteValleyFoodWine and on Twitter at Taste of Oregon.