Give California Tempranillo a Try

Give California Tempranillo a Try

This little roundup consists of four Tempranillo samples tasted from several California AVAs that might surprise Tempranillo drinkers. This varietal is grown here in the United States in many areas with results that have made it worthwhile to check out—you never know what you will find. Keep an open mind and drink before you think.

2008 Longoria Clover Creek Vineyard Tempranillo, Santa Ynez Valley, CA

This is a very special wine but it will not be a style for the masses. Over the course of three hours, the wine went through some magical transformations that impressed and astonished me at the same time.

Upon opening it had a dark color and brooding aromatics that did not follow through on the palate.  In fact it was quite plush, luscious fruit expression and then twenty minutes later it had developed the flavor of a really fine cigar but not fresh tobacco, an actual lit smoking cigar with olives and a hint of fresh rosemary. That description might put some people off but it is a lot more appealing than it sounds especially if you like the flavors of a very fresh, very expensive cigar.  These trite fruit descriptors I have been trying to stay away from but a wine with this amount of personality deserves a proper description. So in the vein of trying to be accurate I will succumb to reluctantly using them in this review. The biggest smokiest flavors will not overshadow this wine so prepare your best dry-rub and fire up the smoker.

Rating: Excellent (92) | $36 | 15.0% ABV

2007 Dubost Ranch Central Coast Tempranillo, CA

This wine really blew my mind. It had wonderful fruit aromas, huge structure and yummy. It was not a bit hot from the high octane rating (ABV). The 33 months it spent in oak probably has a lot to do with that. The aromas belie the intensity of flavors—dutch cocoa, dark roast fresh coffee beans and a triumphant core of cherry goodness. This one will stand up for the long run.

Rating: Excellent (93) | $28 | 15.7% ABV

2005 Tejada Tempranillo Reserve, Lake County, CA

This was a very big red in a bottle that was way too heavy. Now that I have made my environmental statement maybe we should get on to reviewing this wine. Tempranillo seems to have found it’s home in the USA growing in places where the temps reach 100 degrees fahrenheit and stay there for a while each summer. Lake County California can make that claim year after year.  87% Tempranillo and 13% Grenache makes this a typical blend for Ribera Del Duero. Dark red fruit aromas accompanied by a heavy black tar do not carry over to the flavors, which are fruity, dense and meaty.

Rating: Excellent (90) | $38 | 14.5% ABV

2007 Just Joshin Stein Family Wines Tempranillo, Sierra Foothills, CA

This wine took me by surprise. The label was reminiscent of so many wines that were the last produced by a huge corporate winery who has a trickle down blending program resulting in an over manipulated product that might appeal to the masses but will only be purchased once by educated palates. This wine was so far from that I was astonished; a wonderful product that had integrity of fermentation and well cared for fruit from start to harvest. The wines characteristics start with aromatics of dark wildflowers and cigar box and leather. The flavors are vivid and pleasant with lots of red fruit balanced acidity and well integrated tannins.  A medium long lush finish hammers home what a class act this product is and how versatile it is with many culinary applications. Big bold smoky flavored cuisines will work best with this Tempranillo. Delicate seafood and citrusy sauces or desserts would be the only things I would declare as off limits to serve with this wine.

Rating: Very Good (89) | $15 | 14.2% ABV



About the Author:

Marc has held almost every position in the food & wine industry and is committed to Celebrating Hospitality with Pride. In addition to being the co-founder and editor-at-large for Enobytes, Marc is a wine blogger contributor to (Wine Bytes) and writes the Wine Knowledge column in the print magazine About Face. The Contra Costa County Times, San Jose Mercury News, Tacoma Times Tribune and Washington Post have either interviewed or quoted Marc on his viniferous and culinary opinions. Marc has also appeared on Portland's "Vine Time" on News Radio 750 KXL and on California's Central Coast "From the Growing of the Grape to the Glass" on KUHL-AM 1410. He is also the author of A History of Pacific Northwest Cuisine: Mastodons to Molecular Gastronomy. While continuing to tenaciously search for what he may finally proclaim as his favorite wine Marc is relentless in his quest for the ultimate food and wine experience.


  1. Joe October 29, 2011 at 6:32 PM - Reply

    I would hardily recommend Kris Curran’s, Curran Tempranillo. Really spectacular; the best of all the Temps I’ve tasted.

    • enobytes October 30, 2011 at 6:05 PM - Reply

      Good to know Joe, thanks for the reco!

  2. Jackson October 30, 2011 at 1:26 PM - Reply

    I really appreciate a good Tempranillo. I’m a wine steward and always recommend this grape when consumers are looking for something different!

    • enobytes October 30, 2011 at 6:56 PM - Reply

      If you keep promoting it, maybe it will become a next hot grape! :)

  3. Robert October 31, 2011 at 2:43 PM - Reply

    I love your site, great job and great reviews.

    • enobytes October 31, 2011 at 7:17 PM - Reply

      Cheers Robert, appreciate the kudos!

  4. Jerry October 31, 2011 at 6:23 PM - Reply

    Good writeup. I have a couple of recent tastings I also recommend, the 2008 Villa Creek Mas de Maha Paso Robles and Acha Tempranillo from California. Both run about $35 but both are really good juice.

    • enobytes October 31, 2011 at 7:17 PM - Reply

      Hey thanks for the recommendations Jerry!

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