In praise of Tempranillo

Last night a few friends and I got together to try some Spanish wines, a genre that I haven’t paid much attention to.

There were 3 Riojas, one was an '05 Riserva from Lon (sp?), another an excellent '98 from a producer I had never seen before (and naturally didn’t write down!), and a '90 CVNE Imperial Gran Riserva. I was struck not only by how excellent each was, but how the unique and classy flavor of Tempranillo was clearly expressed by each wine. It really is a fine wine grape, capable of creating wines with excellent balance and unique flavor definition. I will have to seek out more Riojas!

Not to continue to play the role of droning California shill, but Cris Cherry at Villa Creek does great things with this grape.

Probably LAN.
Rioja rules! The better Riservas & Grand Riservas can age and age. Generally speaking, 40-50 yrs seems a sweet spot.

Besides Lopez de Heredia (which I admire and have had many times), what are some other traditional long-aging and not heavily oaked Rioja I should look into? With an emphasis on ones that are somewhat available in the US and that are probably under $60 or so.


Very well, then, Mike…I’ll shill. There’s a lot of very good Temps being made these days in Calif (and WashState). My fave is Louisa Sawyer-Lindquist’s
from EdnaVlly under the Verdad label. It has a brightness and perfume and fragrance that epitomizes all that I like about that grape. And her
Albarino is nothing to snivel at, either.
They do a big FtMason tasting of Spanish varietals every year that I really should attend some time.

There are bound to be others, but the only one I’ve had that I’d put on par with Lopez is Muga’s Prado Enea. And only their Prado Enea.

My gut tells me that California needs at least another century to start getting a good grip on what its terroir/varietal pairings really ought to be.

And when they finally get it right, they’ll likely have come to realize that most California terroirs should have been planted in hot-climate grapes, like Tempranillo* [or the various [u]Touriga/Tinta grapes of Port[/u]], rather than in cold-climate grapes, like Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo.

On the other hand, if they really want to do Pinot right, then they’ll need to make a big push into the colder terroirs, to the north, and up into the mountainsides.

But it took Europe about 2000 years to figure out the correct terroir/varietal pairings, so I don’t expect that California is going to get it right any time soon.

*Tinta Roriz in Portugal.

'99 faustino gran reserva, for $32.99 nothing can touch it in this price range, crazy good and complex…widely available

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva. The 904 bottling is easily under $60 and shows good complexity.

One word: CVNE

The 2001 Imperial Gran Reserva is, or should be less than $40. Great vintage too. I think CVNEs are less Oaky than the 904 and even the LdH.

The 2004 Ondarre Rioja Reserva is an excellent wine, in its prime drinking window right now, and there’s still a little bit of it around (check Wine-Searcher). It’s not expensive either. I highly recommend it.

The 2000 Montecillo Rioja Gran Reserva was one of the best wines I ever drank. Really superb…and I bought a lot of it for $10/bottle. I don’t think any of it is available now though.

As does Hilary and Simon Graves, of Graves Winegrowers. Hilary and Simon farm the Ohana Vineyard, from which Cris sources his Tempranillo.

I’d recommend Marques y Murrieta’s Ygay Gran Reserva; the '01 is/will be something special, and should be sourceable for less than $60. The '78 is phenomenal, but way outside your stated price range.

A couple of notes here. First, Cris told me when I visited him at Villa Creek early this year that he’s no longer working with Tempranillo. The current 2010 vintage will be the last “Mas de Maha” bottling. Also, Simon & Hilary are selling Ohana Vineyard - more info here:

I really like Faustino’s. Crazy QPR but they are, in my opinion, more happy with the oak than some of the others mentioned here.