Thomas J. Story
Say it like a Spaniard: Tem-prah-NEE-yoh
Why you should uncork one: With earthy, juicy dark fruit, tangy balsamic notes, and a spice rack of pepper and herbs, Tempranillo is a natural for backyard grilling.
Foods that bring out its best: Rosemary-rubbed leg of lamb over hardwood coals; skirt steak marinated in lots of herbs, on a bed of onions slow-cooked with balsamic vinegar; long-cured Spanish ham (jamón Ibérico); chicken and sausage paella (pour Albariño and Tempranillo).
Old World ways vs. New World taste: The centuries-old lean, earthy style of Spain’s signature red is giving way to richer, riper Tempranillos, thanks to a tradition-sacking new generation of winemakers.
Up-and-coming West Coast regions: California’s Lake County (north of Napa Valley), southern Oregon, and eastern Washington.
Top Tempranillo picks:
Curran 2006 Tempranillo (Santa Ynez Valley; $28). Leathery blackberries and plums spiced with anise and black pepper.
Hovey 2008 “Rolleri Cuvée” Tempranillo (Calaveras County; $16). Lush, tangy plums and blackberries with minty chocolate and dried tobacco leaf.
Longoria 2007 Clover Creek Vineyard Tempranillo (Santa Ynez Valley; $36). Earthy dark plum, berry, and cherry flavors touched with licorice, leather, and tobacco.
Quinta Cruz 2007 Pierce Ranch Tempranillo (San Antonio Valley; $18). An aromatic floral and vanilla wrap lends elegance to dusty berries spiced with anise and a touch of chocolate.
Six Sigma 2006 Tempranillo (Lake County; $42). Plush, briary dark fruit, mocha, black pepper, and violets balanced with muscular tannins.
Tejada 2005 Reserve Tempranillo (Lake County; $37.50). Smooth leather, vanilla, herbs, and coffee set off tangy berries and dark plums.
Truchard 2006 Tempranillo (Carneros, Napa Valley; $25). Wild mix of tobacco, soy sauce, violets, and warm spices (cinnamon, cloves) add layers to appealingly tart berries and plums.