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The Tasting Chronicles – Tempranillo

By David Donalson

Photo by Robert Bostick

While some people search for a big Napa cabernet sauvignon or an earthy Oregon pinot noir, I seek out tempranillo. Why tempranillo? Tempranillo is a varietal with loads of character and power but with a graceful edge about it and an even better price tag. Whether from Spain, Texas or anywhere in between, you are sure to find a combination of

fruit, earth and spice to please the palate.
Eating a big, Texas ribeye and not wanting to pay $60+ for that Napa cab? Try a Spanish tempranillo from Ribera del Duero like Tinto Pesquera from Alejandro Fernandez ($33). Tinto Pesquera carries aromas of scorched earth, mint, and leather with some notes of black cherry and blueberries in the background. The palate does not disappoint, showing more fruit but still balanced by mineral notes and leather.  I have seen more than one Bordeaux fan taste this wine, give me a funny look only to continue drinking and get another bottle on their next visit.
Some of you may be saying that Tinto Pesquera does not sound like your type of wine because you prefer pinot noir? Then you should try some of the more classic style of wines from Rioja. In the late 1800s, France’s vines were being pulled out due to a nasty little bug called phylloxera. France, in desperate need of wine, was looking for wine from the neighboring areas. This brought new technology and a French spin on Spanish winemaking that exists to this day. Need an example? Try looking for reserva wine from Rioja. These wines have spent at least 3 years at the winery, with at least one of those years in oak. I recently had a fine example of an aged Rioja when I tasted the 2001 Solar de Randez Reserva ($30). The aromas were of bright red cherry, tobacco and spice notes which carried into the palate. The tannins had mellowed enough during its time in bottle to give this wine a clean taste, comparing favorably to pinot noir from the Russian River Valley or Santa Lucia Valley.
Finally, I am in the process of searching for great Texas wine and one of the best I have discovered was here in Dallas behind the Hotel Anatole. Inwood Estates will only release its Cornelious in superb years and 2007 was one of those years. 100% tempranillo and grown in the panhandle of Texas, the Cornelius showed a deep garnet core with a developing bouquet of cocoa powder and black cherry with hints of leather, chewing tobacco and spice. When tasting this gorgeous wine, there were some tannins but they quickly dissipated, leaving flavors of dark cherry, cardamom, leather and a crushed stone minerality, finishing with a note of dark chocolate and spice. With a $40 price tag, this wine came with some lofty expectations but those who do drink this will truly understand that there can be some good wine coming from Texas.
Although the average costs of my examples run about $30, this is the higher end of tempranillo in most markets. A typical, high quality example of this varietal can easily be found under $25. Marques de Riscal reserva($19.99), Emilio Moro Resalso 2008 ($16.99) and Muga Reserva ($23.99) are just a couple of examples of high quality tempranillo.
Prices are quoted from Farpointe Cellar (Southlake), Central Market (various locations) and Goody Goody (various locations)


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