Our next Chef-Maker Dinner is scheduled for Saturday, January 19th at Abacela's Vine & Wine Center. Keep up to date with Abacela on our Events page.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Sunday, October 14, 2012
October 14th is National Dessert Day. Yes, we know it's a Hallmark holiday, but hey, it's a great reason to have a sale on our dessert wines don't you think?
Enjoy 15% off bottles, or pick up 6+ bottles and receive 20% off along with free shipping. Mix or match 2010 Blanco Dulce, 2011 Muscat, & 2009 Port.
Sunday only! http://www.abacela.com/
Friday, October 12, 2012
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Monday, October 1, 2012
By Jon Bonné
"Opened" is not totally accurate. The bottle had been uncorked two days prior in hopes of taming a bit of a growler. It was still brooding, appealing in the way the thickest-armed Rioja Riservas can be. Good thing we were having beef.
Curiously, for a grape considered a benchmark of European greatness and one suited to our Western climate, Tempranillo (Tinta Roriz in Portugal) has a recent history here. Examples have cropped up in ones and twos, but only in the past three years has there been something approaching traction.
Occasionally promising reports would come from the field. Gundlach Bundschu had one that collected its posse of fans over the years. In Lodi, Markus Bokisch made - and makes - a serious effort, in a style more crianza (younger, fresher, with at least six months in oak) than riserva (longer-aged), a wise choice in an emerging niche.
I would encounter other occasional stars, like a version made for Celia Tejada, a senior executive at Pottery Barn, from her Lake County property. But these were random, fleeting data points.
|Earl & Hilda Jones of Abacela Winery, Roseburg, OR.|
While it remains something of a blip - 929 total acres in California - it's always worth remembering that yesterday's blip (Pinot Gris) is tomorrow's rock star. And, especially with its early start in Oregon's Umpqua Valley, it has found a home throughout the West, and in unexpected spots: in Washington, Idaho, Arizona and Texas, all of which were represented in a rundown of more than 35 wines. Most were Tempranillo, but some brought in like-minded grapes, from Monastrell to Tinta Cao.
I'm considering all this because I keep thinking about California's sustained love with Italy. Credit our semi-Mediterranean diet, our climate, the strong Italian influence on our wine ways. We've loved other nearby parts of Europe as well - southern France, for instance. Our tastes move freely around the Mediterranean.
New wine darling
Spain has enjoyed a stint as America's new wine darling. And Rioja - Tempranillo's motherland - has been a staple here since several decades before I began knocking it back in the cheap Spanish-themed restaurants of my youth.
Indeed, many wine directors will tell you that Rioja is king, in no danger of trumped, not for all the Bobal and Prieto Picudo in the world. So why wouldn't an American version find favor? Why wouldn't we embrace a Tempranillo grown closer to home?
The answer, I think, is that it doesn't translate as well. Compare, if you will, the quick boom in Albarino, arguably the runaway hit of the Am-Iberian movement. Tempranillo seems much earlier on the curve.
Is that because Albarino, as an easy-drinking white, is innately easier to embrace? Is it because the grape's home turf of Rias Baixas was so willing to use the grape's name, making it as easy to request as Pinot Grigio? Is it because Rioja and Ribera del Duero don't make that obvious connection?
Or is it because homegrown versions of Tempranillo just aren't that good yet?
The truth lies in some combination. I invited Dennis Lapuyade, who as an owner of Cesar in Berkeley witnessed Tempranillo's trajectory through the past 15 years, to help me consider the possibilities.
Our results were mixed. The best versions brought a healthy dose of fruit to the table along with the grape's spicy tannins without making too much fuss. And it came as no surprise that some of the pioneers, including Abacela and Bokisch, rallied from the ranks.
Then the earthbound thud - misinterpretations of style, problems in the cellar, all that.
Let's be fair: Spain's range of styles and flaws is enormous, too. And of course both continents indulge in the potentially fatal blow of over-ripening, to the point of losing any identity. As Lapuyade put it, "It's got to have some freshness to me for it to be interesting."
|Abacela planted the first successful Tempranillo vineyard in Oregon|
Their Reserve is an excellent proof of what can be. The next step is for like-minded counterparts to keep up with the Joneses.
The Chronicle Recommends: American Tempranillo
2009 Dos Cabezas El Campo Pronghorn Vineyard Sonoita Red ($30, 14.5% alcohol): First to Arizona. Founded in 1995, Dos Cabezas was one of the state's early standouts; now it's owned by Todd Bostock and based in the high desert grassland of Sonoita, at 4,800 feet elevation 50 miles southeast of Tucson. Bostock uses both the Cimarron vineyard planted in Cochise County by Oregon pioneer Dick Erath, source for a zesty, stylish 2009 Aguileon Cimarron Vineyard Red ($30, 14.5%) and his own 15-acre Pronghorn site. El Campo is a single blend of all Pronghorn's plantings: Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Grenache and more, and it shows serious complexity and grip. Coriander seed, fennel, lemon zest and lilac all add to robust, sweet red fruit and deep tannins.
2007 Abacela Reserve Umpqua Valley Tempranillo ($45, 14.6%): The Joneses endeavor a proper reserve effort, with nearly two years in (mostly older) French oak to tame this beast. Brooding and big, with a deep chestnut nose, inky plum and a saline presence on the palate. But a stylish side and menthol accent offset its tannic ways. Decant, age - or both.
2010 Bokisch Lodi Tempranillo ($21, 14.5%): Markus and Liz Bokisch have hit a decade of making this variety in Lodi, and their pioneering efforts are paying off. This bottle from the Liberty Oaks and Las Cerezas plantings, blended with a touch of Graciano (Bokisch adores this lesser-known Rioja variety) is a bit oak-inflected - a slight nod to Ribera, maybe? - and serious-minded. Leads off with the grape's quintessential bite; India ink and black licorice provide extra depth to the dark, ripe fruit.
2010 Clayhouse Casa de Arcilla Paso Robles Tempranillo ($14, 14.2%): A proper crianza-style effort from a Paso name truly focused on delivering value. Paso is just the sort of spot to work with the grape and Clayhouse used estate fruit from its Red Cedar vineyard. Just the right approach to exploring Tempranillo's possibilities here: A mild peppery aspect, with refreshing blackberry fruit and a pleasant root-like grip.
2010 Quinta Cruz Pierce Ranch San Antonio Valley Tempranillo ($18, 13.2%): The latest in the lineup from the Spanish-minded other label of Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard. Emery taps the San Antonio Valley in Monterey County for this wine. San Antonio is a little-known sweet spot for Iberian varieties and Grenache; keep an eye on it. This deft basic bottle is fruity and soft-edged, with bright blueberry, birch bark and a subtle spiciness.
2009 Verdad Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Edna Valley Tempranillo ($35, 13.5%): Louisa and Bob Lindquist (Qupé) planted their Edna Valley site to varieties that would suit Louisa's Spanish-minded label. I'm not sure there's enough stuffing here to justify the price, but it's polished and friendly, with a ruby-fruit composition and a pleasing, savory spice to the finish - like good sweet paprika.
Panelists: Jon Bonné, San Francisco Chronicle wine editor; Dennis Lapuyade, co-owner, Cesar, Berkeley.
Jon Bonné is The San Francisco Chronicle's wine editor. Read more of his coverage at sfgate.com/wine. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @jbonne