It’s International Tempranillo Day! And while Tempranillo is the signature grape of Spain, with its finest expression in Rioja, Spain, I recently did a tasting of the grape variety from Lodi, California.

Lodi is one of California’s major wine growing region, located 100 miles east of San Francisco. It’s characterized by a rural atmosphere and farms run by 4th and 5th generation families working with new vintners who have brought fresh creative new things to the region. The region is known for it’s Zinfandel but over 75 varieties of grapes are grown in Lodi.

Lodi Vineyard. Photography by Goff Photography.

Over the past decade, intuitive Lodi vintners have begun to harness the exceptional quality and ideal conditions of Lodi’s terroir as they experiment with plantings of Spanish winegrape varieties. Netting over 900 tons in 2013, Tempranillo continues to be one of Lodi’s most popular and widely planted Spanish winegrape varieties. Other notable Spanish varieties grown in the Lodi region include Albariño, Garnacha Blanca, Verdejo, Graciano, Garnacha, and Monastrell.

Tempranillo’s name comes from the fact that it ripens early. The variety has more than 60 names for it around the world. It’s known as a growers grape because its usually consistent and produces a high tannin, fruit forward wine.

The Lodi wines we tasted were…

Lodi Tempranillo

  • 2012 Riaza Wines Hunter’s Oak Vineyard Tempranillo (SRP $26)
  • 2012 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo (SRP $23)
  • 2010 Harney Lane Winery Tempranillo (SRP $25)
  • 2012 McCay Cellars “Lot 13 Vineyard” Tempranillo (SRP $28)
  • 2012 m2 Wines Tormenta Tempranillo (SRP $22)

My two favorites from the tasting?

2012 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo

  • Variety: 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano
  • Aroma: Plum, cinnamon, smokey cedar
  • Taste: Juicy combination of blackberry, cranberry and cinnamon
  • Price: $23
  • My thoughts: Love the addition of the Graciano here for wonderful color and fruit! This is their flagship red wine…”is reminiscent of a Rioja Alavesa, the northernmost region of the Rioja which is noted for its cooler climate and higher altitude.”

2010 Harney Lane Winery Tempranillo

  • Variety: 100% Tempranillo, Estate Grown
  • Aroma: Dark fruit and tobacco
  • Taste: Blueberry explosion with notes of camp fire and burnt sugar
  • Price: $25
  • My thoughts: Love the elegance of this big wine and it’s complexity! I can imagine drinking it among their vines like the evening below.

Vineyard Dinner at Harney Lane Winery. Photography by Randy Caparoso.

And if you’re looking for the perfect food pairing for Tempranillo, the overwhelming suggestion…any meat off the grill!

Cheers to Tempranillo!