TAPAS – 2009
2nd Annual Grand Tasting
Report on the 2nd Annual Grand Tasting presented by TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates, Producers, and Amigos Society), on Sunday, June 14th, 2009, at the Fort Mason Conference Center in San Francisco, California. The event features the most extensive annual tasting of US-produced wines made from Iberian grape varieties. The event this year featured a morning seminar with tastings, and an afternoon Grand Tasting. The notes below are from both the seminar and Grand Tasting.
TAPAS is a non-profit trade association formed in January 2006. The group’s stated mission is “promoting New World production of wine grapes and wine styles native to the Iberian Peninsula.” There are currently 70 winery and vineyard members of the association, located in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Texas, and Ontario, Canada.
As with last year’s inaugural TAPAS tasting event, this tasting offered a wonderful opportunity to sample domestically-produced wines made from Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties in one setting. And like last year, the tasting itself was preceded by a very educational seminar.
The theme of this year’s seminar was "The New and Exciting Iberian Varieties of America.” Current TAPAS President Jeff Stai of Twisted Oak Winery introduced Earl Jones of Abecela, who gave us a quick overview of the history of Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties in the US. Early plantings dating from the 19th century were used mostly for bulk wine and brandy, and it was not until the 1990s that varietally-labeled Iberian varieties from US vineyards appeared. Over 30 of these varieties are now grown in the US, with Albariño being the most widely-planted white, and Tempranillo the most widely-planted red.
Bokisch ’08 Terra Alta Albariño
Curran ’07 Grenache Blanc
Fenestra ’08 Verdelho
St. Amant ’08 Verdelho
Verdad ’08 Albariño
Bokisch ’07 Garnacha
Hovey ’07 “Rolleri Cuvée” Tempranillo
Quinta Cruz ’06 “Concertina”
Red Lily ’05 Tempranillo
Truchard ’05 Tempranillo
Valley View ’05 Tempranillo
Quinta Cruz ’05 “Rabelo”
St. Amant NV Tawny Port
The seminar continued with very interesting and informative talks by Markus Bokisch of Bokisch Vineyards, discussing Albariño, and by Penny Gadd-Coster of Coral Mustang Wines, who spoke about Tempranillo. Tasting flights of five wines of the respective varieties followed each speaker.
The seminar concluded with a short talk by Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard, who spoke of Tempranillo’s “potential for elegance,” and urged wineries to strive for distinctive, original wines from Iberian varietals, and encouraged sustainable farming practices as well. He also made a point that seemed to strike a chord in a couple of other vintners I spoke with during the afternoon tasting – that many US Tempranillos are being bottled and pushed into the market before they’re really ready. Grahm acknowledged that cash flow is always an issue, but he felt that additional barrel age would benefit many of these wines.
There were 36 wineries pouring at this year’s Grand Tasting – and the size of the crowd was good sign of public interest in Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties, especially given the economy this year. The participating wineries were from all over California, plus several from Oregon and one from Arizona. The tasting was well-organized although the space at Fort Mason’s Golden Gate Room was somewhat cramped for the large crowd. A huge and delicious-looking paella was provided by Marco Paella of Rancho Cordova – I was wrapped up in tasting wines and missed out on it, though. A big improvement over last year was that more time was allotted to the Grand Tasting, so I was able to get to many more of the winery tables than I did last year.
Overall, I thought the quality level of the wines I tasted was up over the wines I tried last year. There were quite a few very good wines, both red and white. While these wines on the whole are not yet on a comparable level of quality as more established varieties in the western US, the potential for improvement seems clear, and I would expect the wines to get better year by year. One observation that I had is that of all the varietals I tasted, there seemed to be a bigger divergence of styles among the Tempranillos than any other variety. I’m not sure whether that’s due to that grape being adaptable to many styles or whether vintners are still in search of a particular style or styles to suit Tempranillo.
Wineries that were new to me that I found particularly impressive included Irish Family Vineyards, Quinta Cruz, Red Lily, and Valley View, and there were several others that were nearly as good. And producers such as Bokisch, Verdad, and Villa Creek continue to make very fine wines too. Choosing the favorites listed here was tough, as there were a handful of other wines, from Dancing Coyote, Irish Family Vineyards, Twisted Oak, and Villa Creek that could easily have made the list as well. As with last year, an added incentive for wine buyers to try the wines poured during the tasting is how affordable most of them are given their quality. This was a very enjoyable event, featuring many wines that deserve wider notice, and I’m looking forward to next year’s TAPAS tasting.
Selected Tasting Notes
2008 Albariño, Southern Oregon. Light color, with lemon and mild floral notes and a slightly briny character, crisp acidity and clean finish.
2006 Tempranillo “Umqua Cuvée,” Southern Oregon. Medium color, very ripe black cherry/plum aromas, and a smooth mouthfeel. This wine is meant for early drinking.
2006 Tempranillo, Estate, Southern Oregon. Medium-dark color, this shows bright raspberry and plum, with a nice texture on the palate, and more tannins on the finish.
2005 Tempranillo, Reserve, “South East, Angle, & Knoll Blocks,” Southern Oregon. Medium-dark color, plum and earth aromas with a vanilla/oak overlay. A denser mouthfeel than the other Abecela wines, and it finishes with very grippy tannins.
2007 Verdehlo, Lodi. Light color, floral and stone fruit aromas, smooth mouthfeel and finish, a good quaffer.
2005 “Regal de la Vinya,” Santa Ynez Valley. Grenache/Carignane co-ferment. Medium-light color, displaying red fruits with herb and tobacco notes. This has a fairly light mouthfeel and moderate tannins.
2005 Tempranillo, Paso Robles. Medium-dark color, with boysenberry, smoke, and a touch of oak. It’s smooth at first but some firm tannins sneak in on the finish.
2005 Vinho Tinto, California. 39% Tempranillo, 30% Touriga Nacional, 28% Tannat, 3% Touriga Francesa. Medium color, aromas of smoky dark fruits, a big and mouthfilling texture, and a very tannic finish.
Bodega del Sur Winery
2008 Verdehlo, Alta Mesa. Light color, with ripe nectarine and peach on the nose, fairly light-bodied and quite tasty, though a bit short on the finish.
2007 Tempranillo, Calaveras County. Medium color, this shows plum, smoke, and dried herb aromas, medium-bodied in the mouth, with some youthful tannins.
2006 Tempranillo “Lot #4,” El Dorado County. 75% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Carignane. Medium-light color, plum and lots of vanilla and dill oak aromas, medium-light bodied, and not too tannic.
2004 “Milagro,” El Dorado County. 60% Tempranillo, 36% Graciano, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium color, this has plenty of plum, vanilla, and pepper, with a richer mouthfeel and bigger tannins on the finish than the “Lot #4.”
2005 “Milagro,” El Dorado County. 61% Tempranillo, 34% Graciano, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium color with more earthy plum and darker berry fruit, weightier on the palate with grippy tannins.
2008 Albariño, Terra Alta Vineyard, Clements Hills-Lodi. Light color, floral aromas with tangerine and stone fruit, plus some mineral notes, nice viscosity in the mouth with a lingering finish, very nice.
2008 Garnacha Blanca, Vista Luna Vineyard, Borden Ranch-Lodi. Light straw color, this has bright apple and spice on the nose, very crisp acidity, with a clean, refreshing finish.
2007 Garnacha, Clements Hills-Lodi. Light color, very intense fresh strawberry aromatics with a slight floral note, medium-bodied with mild tannins on the finish, great purity of fruit and very flavorful.
2006 Graciano, Mokelumne River-Lodi. Medium-light color, this has ripe plummy fruit with earth and smoke undertones. Fairly smooth on the palate, it finishes with fine tannins.
2006 Tempranillo, Jahant-Lodi. Medium color, ripe plum and tobacco, a more dense texture on the palate but with good acidity, and a moderately tannic finish.
Comments: Bokisch coaxes some amazing aromatics from their Garnacha. We tasted some of the same reds last year and in comparing my notes, I think the oak component of these wines (not very intrusive to begin with) has integrated nicely.
Bonny Doon Vineyard
2008 Albariño, Ca' del Solo Estate Vineyard, Monterey County. 75% Albariño, 21% Loureiro, 4% Treixadura. Medium-light color, subdued aromas of lemon and crushed stone, with a briny note, fairly rich mouthfeel with good balancing acidity and smooth finish, nice.
2008 Verdehlo, Shenandoah Valley. Light straw color, with ripe banana and tropical fruit aroma, it’s a bit heavy on the palate with not much acidity.
2006 “Vinho Tinto,” Shenandoah Valley. Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao, Souzao, Tinta Roriz, Alvarelhão. Medium-light color, showing ripe red fruits and spice, fairly rich mouthfeel with chewy tannins on the finish.
2006 Tempranillo, California. Medium color, this has earthy, spicy black cherry and plum on the nose, medium-bodied in the mouth with big grippy tannins.
2007 “Padres,” Sonoita, Arizona. 58% Tempranillo, 25% Petit Verdot, 17% Cabernet Franc. Medium color, very ripe high-toned plum/prune aromas with earthy overtones, medium-light texture on the palate with fairly big tannins.
2005 “Padres,” Sonoita, Arizona. 39% Tempranillo, 31% Petit Verdot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc. Medium color, with ripe black cherry and plum on the nose, though not as ripe as the ’07. Bigger mouthfeel than the ’07, and finishing with chewy tannins.
Coral Mustang Wines
2006 Tempranillo Rosé, Vista Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles. Pretty light pink color, subtle watermelon and strawberry on the nose, good acidity with some mild tannins on the finish. A bit shy on the aromatics but pleasant.
2004 Tempranillo, Vista Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles. Medium color, with high-toned ripe plum and earth along with some spice notes. This has a fairly light mouthfeel and it finishes with moderate tannins.
2005 Tempranillo, Vista Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles. Medium color, very leathery/barnyardy with dark fruits underneath, medium body and finish. I liked this wine better when I’d tasted it last year.
2007 Grenache Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley. Light pink color, with strawberry and mild floral notes plus a touch of spice. Fresh acidity in the mouth and a clean finish with just a touch of tannin, nice.
2007 Grenache Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley. Light straw color, this shows bright apple and pear aromas, a brisk acidity on the palate, and a long clean finish, very tasty.
2005 Tempranillo, Santa Ynez Valley. Medium color, ripe plum and smoky oak on the nose, medium-bodied and not too tannic.
Comments: The “Grenache Rosé” is actually Grenache Gris, but this variety has not yet been approved for use on wine labels by the TTB. Curran’s Grenache Blanc continues to be the benchmark for that variety in California.
Dancing Coyote Wines
2007 Albariño, Clarksburg. Made entirely stainless with no malolactic fermentation. Light straw color, bright green apple, citrus, and spice, lighter-bodied with crisp acidity and fresh, lively finish, nice.
2006 Verdehlo, Clarksburg. 6.5% Chardonnay. Light color, with pear and stone fruit aromas, and a richer, creamier mouthfeel than the Albariño, finishes smooth and easy.
2008 Torrontés, Silvaspoons Vineyard, Lodi. Torrontés has genetic links to Muscat of Alexandria, and this was very much like a dry Muscat – light color, very floral, perfumed aroma with some stone fruit and spice notes, light-bodied and smooth.
2008 Verdelho, Silvaspoons Vineyard, Lodi. Light straw color, opening with nectarine and pear on the nose, this is a bit bigger on the palate but with livelier acidity than the Torrontés, very pleasant.
2006 Alvarelhão, Silvaspoons Vineyard, Lodi. Medium-light color, with plum and darker berry fruit and a strong overlay of vanilla/oak, medium weight in the mouth and not too tannic.
2007 Tempranillo, Silvaspoons Vineyard, Lodi. Medium-light color, this has earthy plum/berry aromas, a fairly lively mouthfeel, and medium tannins on the finish.
2006 Touriga, Silvaspoons Vineyard, Lodi. Medium color, ripe dark berry fruit, earth, and smoke, with vanilla/oak undertones. This is big and mouthfilling, with a more tannic bite on the finish.
2006 “Tourvanillo,” Silvaspoons Vineyard, Lodi. Blend of Touriga, Alvarelhão, and Tempranillo, just bottled. Medium color, ripe plum and blueberry, some clove/spice notes, and good acidity in the mouth lead to some grippy young tannins. Should be very nice with some bottle age.
Comments: As was the case last year, Fenestra was pouring wines all made with fruit from Lodi's Silvaspoons Vineyard, a prime source of Iberian grape varieties for many California wineries. A nice overall line-up of wines.
Forlorn Hope Wines
2008 Torrontés, “La Gitana,” Silvaspoons Vineyard, Alta Mesa-Lodi. Made entirely stainless with no malolactic fermentation. Very light color and slightly cloudy, this has a floral Muscat-like aroma with ripe stone fruit notes, lighter-bodied and lively on the palate, nice.
2007 Verdehlo, “Que Saudade,” DeWitt Vineyard, Amador County. Medium-light yellow, some waxy, leesy character on the nose along with stone fruit and a touch of butter, richer mouthfeel and smooth finish.
2008 Alvarelhão, “Suspiro del Moro,” Silvaspoons Vineyard, Alta Mesa-Lodi. Medium color, floral plum aroma with some earthy notes, nice acidity on the palate and moderate tannins.
2008 “Mil Amores,” DeWitt Vineyard, Amador County. 60% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tempranillo, 10% Tinta Cao & Tinta Amarela. Medium-dark color, dark berry fruit and herbal/tobacco undertones, big and mouthfilling texture with grippy tannins.
Comments: A new winery to me, with a good group of wines.
2007 Tempranillo, “Rolleri Cuvée,” Calaveras County. Medium color, herbal, earthy plum and darker fruit aromas, this has a lively texture in the mouth and a long, flavorful finish, very pleasant.
Comments: A first-time experience with this winery, they poured just one wine but it was a good one.
Irish Family Vineyards
2007 Touriga Nacional, Lodi (barrel sample). Medium-dark color, with a floral, perfumed aroma featuring bright raspberry fruit, it’s medium-bodied and smooth with some moderate tannins. Fairly primary right now but quite promising.
2006 Grenache, Calaveras County. Medium color, showing red fruits with a vanilla/oak overlay, a lighter mouthfeel, and tannins that sneak in on the finish.
2006 Tempranillo, Calaveras County. Medium color, opening with ripe plum fruit plus earth and tobacco notes, this is smooth and fairly rich on the palate with nice structure and a tasty finish.
Comments: Yet another producer that was new to me, this was a solid line-up of wines. Their ’07 Touriga is still in barrel but will be one to watch for when it’s released.
James Judd & Son Vineyards
2006 Tempranillo, Paso Robles. Medium color, ripe plum aromas with vanilla/oak with some subtle earth and mineral notes, a big, dense texture and some aggressive tannins on the finish.
2006 Barbera, Paso Robles. Medium-dark color, showing very ripe cherry fruit with some oaky notes, medium weight in the mouth, and not a lot of acidity or tannin.
Pierce Ranch Vineyards
2008 Albariño, San Antonio Valley. Light color, with subdued pear, stone fruit, and spice on the nose, fairly light-bodied mouthfeel with a smooth finish.
2008 Verdelho, Lodi. Light straw color, ripe pineapple/tropical fruit aromas, has a smooth finish but could use more acidity.
2006 “Cosechiero,” San Antonio Valley. 48% Tempranillo, 42% Touriga, 10% Tinta Cao. Medium color, nose of earthy dark fruits, medium-bodied with moderate tannins.
2005 Tempranillo, San Antonio Valley. Medium color, this has nice smoke, plum, and dried herb components in the aroma, with moderate weight on the palate and chewy tannins on the finish.
2006 Tempranillo, San Antonio Valley. 94% Tempranillo, 6% Syrah & Grenache. Medium-dark color, plum and boysenberry, hints of tobacco and smoke with overlay of vanilla/oak. This has a richer mouthfeel than the ’05 and is also more tannic.
2006 Touriga, San Antonio Valley. 70% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Francesa. Medium-dark color, opening with a distinct floral aroma along with plums and darker fruits, with some vanilla/oak notes, big and dense on the palate with grippy tannins.
Comments: Most of the Pierce Ranch wines are from their vineyard in the San Antonio Valley in southern Monterey County. Overall, a pretty nice group of wines.
2006 Tempranillo, Pierce Ranch, San Antonio Valley. Medium-light color, with bright red fruits, earth, and spice on the nose, surprisingly light and lively in the mouth and not too tannic.
2006 “Concertina,” Pierce Ranch, San Antonio Valley. 43% Touriga Nacional, 35% Tinta Roriz, 12% Tinta Cao, 10% Touriga Francesa. Medium-light color, this displays bright cherry and cranberry fruit along with a touch of earth and a distinct floral character. Pleasant texture on the palate with a moderately tannic finish, very nice.
2006 Touriga, Pierce Ranch, San Antonio Valley. 78% Touriga Nacional, 22% Touriga Francesa. Medium color, showing pretty floral aromas along with red fruits and spice, this has nice acidity and structure, with grippy young tannins.
2006 Graciano, Bokisch Vineyard, Mokelumne River. Medium-light color, cherry and red fruits on the nose, more richness and weight on the palate with some chewy tannins on the finish.
2005 “Rabelo” Dessert Wine, Pierce Ranch, San Antonio Valley. Fortified with brandy made from the same grapes and same vineyard. Brown sugar, caramel, and spice, livelier in the mouth than most port-style wines, long smooth finish, delicious.
Comments: Santa Cruz Mountains Vineyard is Quinta Cruz’s sister winery, and winemaker Jeff Emery was pouring some very fine wines, most of which are also exceptional QPRs – one of the best wine line-ups at the event.
Red Lily Vineyards
2005 Tempranillo, Rogue Valley. Medium-dark color, with boysenberry and darker fruit aromas, along with earth, dried herb, and tobacco notes. This has very good balance and structure on the palate with moderate tannins, very nice.
Comments: This was my clear favorite among five Tempranillos poured during the morning seminar.St.
St. Amant Winery
2008 Verdelho, Amador County. Light straw color, this has subtle floral aromas along with apricot/nectarine fruit, while there’s lively acidity in the mouth and a tasty and refreshing finish, very nice.
2006 Touriga, Amador County. Medium-dark color, with high-toned black cherry with a touch of vanilla/oak, medium-bodied and not too tannic.
2006 Tempranillo, Amador County. Medium color, plum and darker berry aromas along with dried herb and tobacco, and an intriguing savory note, plus a dash of sweet oak, more full-bodied mouthfeel with youthful tannins on the finish.
2006 Vintage Port, Amador County. Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Souzao, Tinta Cao, Bastardo. Medium-dark color, spicy, brown sugar, plummy fruit, very lively acidity, and a smooth finish.
NV Tawny Port, Amador County. From 100% Bastardo grapes, fairly light brickish-red color, with intense caramel, pecan, and butterscotch aromas. Very rich and viscous, with a long tasty finish.
Comments: St. Amant’s Tawny Port is exceptional, and the Verdelho also stood out this year among some very good wines.
Silvaspoons Vineyard / Alta Mesa Cellars
2008 Verdelho, Lodi. Light color, with ripe tropical fruit and banana aromas, fairly rich mouthfeel and smooth finish.
2007 Tempranillo, Lodi. Medium color, showing ripe plum and tobacco, medium-bodied with a lively mouthfeel, and moderate tannins.
Comments: Silvaspoons Vineyard sources fruit to many of the wineries pouring at this event, and must grow more different Iberian grape varieties than anyone in the US. The vineyard is located in the Lodi's Alta Mesa sub-appellation.
Six Sigma Winery
2007 Tempranillo, Lake County. Medium-dark color, ripe raspberry/plum, with a big dose of vanilla and smoky oak, this is rich and dense on the palate with medium tannins.
2008 Albariño, Edna Valley. Light straw color, with ripe mango/tropical fruit aromas, a big, rich mouthfeel and smooth finish.
2005 “Tejada,” Lake County. 58% Tempranillo, 42% Garnacha. Medium-dark color, cherry with spice and oak aromas, medium-bodied with moderate tannins.
2005 “Tejada Reserve,” Lake County. 87% Tempranillo, 13% Garnacha. Medium-dark color, more earthy and smoky fruit and more noticeable oak than the regular bottling, a richer mouthfeel and more grippy tannins.
2005 Tempranillo, Carneros. Medium-light color, pretty floral aroma along with plum and berries, mineral notes, and a touch of earth. Medium-bodied and lively on the palate with a long, flavorful finish, very nice.
2004 Tempranillo, Carneros. Medium color, with more earthy dark fruits on the nose than the ‘05, and a bigger mouthfeel with more substantial tannins on the finish.
2000 Tempranillo, Carneros. Medium-light color, showing more earth and tobacco notes with less upfront fruit, along with a nice spice component, nice texture in the mouth with well-resolved tannins.
Comments: It was fun to taste an older Tempranillo at the event, and Truchard’s ’00 was showing quite nicely.
Twisted Oak Winery
2008 Verdelho, Silvaspoons Vineyard, Alta Mesa. Light color, ripe stone fruit aromatics, a fairly rich mouthfeel with good balancing acidity, and just a little bite on the finish.
2007 “Torcido” Garnacha, Calaveras County. 8% Petite Sirah. Medium-light color, nose of ripe strawberry and raspberry with vanilla/oak, fairly light on the palate, with moderate tannins.
2005 Tempranillo, Calaveras County. Medium color, aromas of ripe plum and darker fruits, earth, and vanilla/oak notes, a bit bigger mouthfeel but not too tannic.
2006 Tempranillo, Calaveras County. 88% Tempranillo, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium-dark color, earthy, leathery tobacco and ripe plum on the nose, with oaky overtones, medium-light weight on the palate with moderate tannins.
2006 “The Spaniard,” Calaveras County. 66% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano, 14% Garnacha. Medium-dark color, brighter berry fruit aromas with some herbal notes, a touch of oak, livelier mouthfeel and good length on the grippy finish, a nice wine that needs some time in bottle.
Valley View Winery
2005 Tempranillo, Rogue Valley. Medium color, earthy plum on the nose, with dried herbs and tobacco in the background, lighter-bodied and not very tannic, flavorful finish.
2006 Tempranillo, Applegate Valley. Slightly darker color, showing blackberry and darker fruits, good texture and structure on the palate with lively acidity and medium tannins.
Comments: Yet another new producer to me with some very good wines being poured.
Verdad Wine Cellars
2008 Albariño, Santa Ynez Valley. Light straw color, displaying subtle floral, citrus, and mineral notes on the nose, bright acidity on the palate with a lively finish.
2007 Rosé, Edna Valley. 90% Grenache, 10% Tempranillo. Light pink color, bright strawberry and cranberry aromas with a touch of spice, clean mouthfeel with a mild tannic bite.
2006 Tempranillo, Santa Ynez Valley. 75% Tempranillo, 15% Syrah, 10% Grenache. Medium-light color, ripe plum and blueberry with earthy overtones, medium texture with well-integrated tannins.
Comments: Verdad was one of the first producers of Albariño in California, and still makes one of the best.
Villa Creek Cellars
2007 Garnacha, Denner Vineyard, Paso Robles. About 15-20% whole cluster. Medium-dark color, showing ripe red berries and plum, spice, and smoky oak, lively on the palate, with big, chewy tannins.
2007 “La Boda,” Paso Robles. 50% each Grenache and Mourvèdre. Medium-dark color, earthier than the Garnacha, with plum and smoke notes, a smooth mouthfeel with moderately tannic finish.
2007 “Mas de Maha,” Paso Robles. 60% Tempranillo, 30% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, 50% whole cluster. Medium-dark color, very spicy red fruits with touches of earth and sweet oak on the nose, big and well-structured on the palate, with a very grippy finish. This should be very good with some bottle age.