Join us in a toast to Tempranillo today on #TempranilloDay!
I know, I know: Monday was #MerlotDay and next Wednesday is #ZinfandelDay and today is #TempranilloDay?
All I know is any day is a good day to open a bottle of wine!
We celebrated Tempranillo Day by comparing and contrasting two Tempranillo from Cantara Cellars made from two vineyards an hour or so apart from each other and located in two different AVAs: one from Lodi and one from Amador County.
Cantara Cellars is a small, family owned and run Ventura County winery with deep multi-generational roots in the Lodi region; most of their fruit is sourced from Lodi with some of it coming from family owned vineyards as well as nearby AVAs like their Amador Tempranillo.
It was really fun to taste the differences between these two gems made by the same wine maker (Mike Brown), from the same vintage (2010) and the same grape (Tempranillo), just two different vineyards at slightly different elevations: Lodi is in the Central Valley and much closer to sea level (around 200′) while Amador County is in the Sierra Foothills where most of the vineyards are between 1000-3000′ elevations and this one is in the 2000′ range.
This is such a fun comparison side by side: Two completely different profiles in wine even though they were the same grape! If you visit Cantara, ask if you can taste them together!
By tasting these Tempranillo side by side, we realized that they are both completely different animals. Because of their different terroir (including soil, elevation, and climate), they both have completely different characteristics.
As Tempranillo is a Spanish grape commonly found in wine from Rioja, Spain, we paired these two wines with tapas like Spanish cheeses, pepperoni, salami, olives; a salad of beet, persimmon, and apple on field greens with candied pecans and goat cheese with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar; and mini pizzas we cooked outside on the grill with ingredients like mushroom brie, pepperoni, sundried tomatoes, salami, olives, and tomatoes with bases of alfredo sauce, cheese, pizza marinara sauce, artichoke/spinach dip, and a salmon dip. We especially enjoyed the more salty, meaty and briny items on the pizzas with the Tempranillo.
The salad was colorful with nice crunch without being too sweet and the earthy flavors brought out the spice in the wines; thanks Melissa’s Produce for inspiring us to add persimmons and apple to our beet salad!
These Tempranillo can be as fun and easy going for a Taco Tuesday or as rich as a four course rack of lamb dinner and as sophisticated as a range of mini pizzas like we chose to do.
Both wines carried through to the dessert of an apple, brie, and candied pecan pizza with just a drizzle of honey and a organic boysenberry marscapone pizza. The wines have just enough sweetness but are not too sweet, offering cooking spices and fruit that complimented the cooking spices and fruit in the dessert. In particular, we found the apple pizza with the fruit nuts and honey went very well with the Lodi tempranillo over the Amador temp. The boysenberry marcapone pizza was also wonderful with the Lewis Temp. It brought out the minerality, almost a sulphur characteristic in the wine.
Tempranillo is not a wine that you would normally think of to have with dessert! Unless it is manchego cheese with apricots and walnuts… But we’re so glad we gave it a try! Don’t go too sweet and you’ll be good! The mini pizzas were an easy way to have a wonderful dessert that goes beautifully with these wines.
Tempranillo thrives in hot dry climates; both Lodi and Amador boast of hot dry climates. These wines have a heavier alcohol level, but they do not boast hot flavors. See for yourself!
2010 – Cantara Cellars – Lewis Vineyard – Clement Hills – Lodi – Tempranillo – $29 – 13.5% alc
Musky dusky rich fruit and lots of acidity! This one is softer and rounder than the Amador wine, with more present plummy fruit yet still reserved and elegant. I found a floral characteristic with this wine which made me think we could garnish a main course, salad or dessert with a lavender oil or flowers of some sort. Very food friendly wine but also delicious on its own. (Note: this wine was provided to us for our review consideration).
2010 – Cantara Cellars – Spencer Vineyard – Amador County – $29 – 14.6% alc
At first, what stood out was lots of minerals particularly iron coming from the red soils of the area, then bright cranberry notes, and lots of lively acidity and structured tannins to balance out this full bodied wine so it is not heavy but bright on the palate. This vineyard has been farmed by the Spencer family for nearly 30 years and is one of the older plantings in Amador County. Plum, blackberry, vanilla and plenty of spice and a little black pepper on the finish makes it really nice! (Note: this wine was provided to us for our review consideration).
I visited Amador County in August 2016 before the Wine Bloggers Conference and came away really impressed by the diversity of the landscape and soil types. Learn more about Amador County wine region here— and definitely add the region to your “to visit” list because the small former gold rush towns are thriving with trendy hotels and restaurants as well as plenty of tasting rooms for you to visit as you room the gorgeous pastoral countryside!
FOLKS: There is so more to Amador and Lodi than Zinfandel! And the wines can be complex and rich without being too jammy or fruit bombs. Check it out!
And speaking of zinfandel… next Wednesday on Zinfandel Day, Que Syrah Sue and I (and hopefully Ima Zinner too!) will be at Cantara Cellars where winemaker Mike Brown has put together a Lodi zin tasting with 15 different wines! Sorry, but this very special event was only open to members and guests and sold out almost immediately! I look forward to telling you all about it in time for you to find the right zinfandel for your Thanksgiving or other holiday dinner because in my book, there is no better wine that works with holiday ham or turkey and all the sides than ZINFANDEL!