On June 23, 2013, from the parking at the Golden Gate Club, at the Presidio in San Francisco, I made haste slowly, according to that familiar saying, because the air was thick with large, cold mist droplets and covering my clothing. Slowly, as I said, because the descending outdoor steps were steep, slippery, and many. I knew that once inside something awaited, also wet, but that would warm the soul and energize the palate.
If anyone is longing for wines with aroma and flavor profiles that they have not discovered, they should look no further than TAPAS, an acronym for Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society. These people, a nonprofit trade association of over one hundred wineries, growers, and friends promote wine grape varietals native to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), and wines produced from these grapes in North America. Wineries at this tasting came from Arizona, Oregon, and California.
Should it seem that these wines are just more bottles seeking shelf space, think again. These wines are exciting! Their characteristics include elegant, delicate, and just plain different, all in good ways. Just a sampling of these exotic grapes are Verdejo, Verdelho, Godello, Albariño, Graciano, Garnacha, Monastrell, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, and Souzão.
During the course of the tasting a seminar took place, called the Exotic Iberians. I attended the Exotic Iberians seminar to take the pulse of these exciting grapes on US soil. The person conducting the seminar was Ellen Landis, wine writer/educator, and Sommelier. She did a really good job of describing the attributes of each wine, and expressing them to us.
My Tasting Notes
89, Mourvèdre, Arizona Stronghold, “Site Archive”, Cochise County, 2010
Ruby-purple. Intense and flavorful with notes of leather, red cherries and chocolate. Medium-full bodied with tears running down the glass. A good structure supports the fruit. Finishes well with a pleasant, slight bitter note.
90, Graciano, Bokisch Vineyards, Lodi, 2010, $20
Deep black-purple in color. A rush of sweet, ripe, black fruit rushes out of the glass and greets the palate with notes of plum jam, blackberry pie, and a hint of tar. The lush, opulent fruit is counterbalanced by the level of acidity. A heavyweight, muscular wine with a thickly-textured finish and the framework of ripe, well-mannered tannins for aging.
90, Albariño, Bokisch Vineyards, Las Cerezas Vineyard, 2012, $17
Light-straw in color, this is a fruit-forward, spirited style of Albariño that rushes out of the glass to grab your attention. Intense notes of lemon, mandarin, tangerine, and a touch of lime. A vein of vibrant, crisp acidity counterbalances the ripe fruit.
90, Albariño, Turkovich Family Wines, Yolo County, 2012, $15
Savory and spicy fruit with lime, flowers, and a mineral touch. This delicious mid-light weight white has good balance of components, shows plenty of fresh acidity, and is focused and intense in all of its attributes.
91, Souzão, Quinta Cruz, Silvaspoons Vineyard, Alta Mesa AVA, Lodi, 2009, $24
Impenetrable obsidian-purple in color, the depth probably being assisted by this grape’s infrequently found pigmented pulp. Souzão is not often seen in 100% varietal, dry table wine form, but is used in Portugal for blending Port wine. Expansive aromas of mint leaf, flowers, and black fruit are followed on the palate by an uncommon flavor profile of savory and delicious sweet black fruit, with red and black brambleberries. Intense with extract and concentrated ripe fruit, this is a medium-heavy weight. Round in character, a vein of acid provides balance and lift. The alcohol clocks in at a pleasingly low 12.5% in this 111-case effort.
90, Pmenteiro, Bodegas Paso Robles, Siletto Family & Santa Ana Valley Vineyards, 2007, $32
This is a red blend of 67% Pmenteiro known as Bastardo in Portugal and as Trousseau in the USA, and 33% Tempranillo. Probably only 20 acres or less of Pmenteiro exist in the USA. Aromas include a mix of various peppers, with savory flavors of red berry fruit, dark plums, and spicebox.
89, Trincaderia, St. Jorge Winery, Silvaspoons Vineyard, Lodi, 2010, $26
Light ruby in color. A light-weight red with a bright level of acidity. Cohesive and uncommon flavor profile centered on red fruit and spice. Unique.
90, The Spaniard (Red Blend), Twisted Oak Winery, Calaveras County, 2009, $36
Light-ruby color, this blend of 73% Tempranillo, 15% Graciano, and 12% Garnacha received an ageing treatment of 30% new French, American, and Hungarian oak, with 70% of it neutral. Sweet red-berry fruit with spicy, savory overtones on a mineral background. An atypical style, this mid-light weight delivers notably intensity with good purity of fruit. Its lift and fine focus is assisted by the elevated acid level.
90, Zilch, Tempranillo, Twisted Oak Winery, Calaveras County, 2009, $25
Deep black-purple, this 240-case, mid-weight area-blend is from three different vineyards of Tempranillo in Calaveras County. Delivers considerable precession and grip with quality fruit. Notes of plum, leather, and tobacco on a mineral and stone landscape. Mild-structuring tannins on a persistent finish.
90, Graciano, Verdad, Ibarra-Young Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, 2011, $23
Purple with ruby tinges. This 100-case, artisanal offering showcases aromatics and delicious flavors of red berries, spice-box, brown sugar, and mineral. The wine achieves precision and complexity in its delivery. Possesses ripe, sweet fruit with fine purity. The heightened acid level gives freshness, all parts are well balanced, and the wine finishes long.
91, Alvarelhão, Fenestra, Silvaspoons Vineyard, 2008, $21
Deep red-purple color. Savory aromas of dark fruit, forest floor, and herbal notes. Delicious and unique flavor profile of fresh berry fruit, bakery pie, and brown sugar, with a mineral note. Everything is in good balance, and the level of acidity provides brightness and lift.