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Tempranillo gaining in popularity across Northwest
Tempranillo, the bold red classic grape of Spain’s Rioja region, is quickly becoming a favorite grape and wine across the Pacific Northwest.
Tempranillo landed in the Northwest, thanks in no small part to the vision of Earl Jones, owner of Abacela Winery near Roseburg, Ore., who planted the state’s first Tempranillo in 1995. Washington’s first Tempranillo went into the soil at famed Red Willow Vineyard. The Yakima Valley vineyard planted a few vines in 1993. Abacela works with nine clones of Tempranillo grown on 27 acres across the Jones family’s Fault Line Vineyards.
There are now more than 100 wineries in Oregon offering Tempranillo, and later this month, the third annual Oregon Tempranillo Celebration will be staged in Portland’s Lloyd District, a weekend highlighted by the public grand tasting on Sunday, Jan. 21 at the DoubleTree by Hilton. More than 20 Oregon producers will be pouring, and admission to the three-hour tasting is $75.
While not a dominant variety by any means, Tempranillo is slowly growing, with 35 acres planted in Walla Walla, 16 acres in the Horse Heaven Hills and a mere 4 acres on warm Red Mountain.
In the state of Oregon, the early-ripening variety covered 343 acres, according to the 2016 Oregon Vineyard and Winery Census Report. That’s nearly twice that of Cabernet Franc.
And it has become a growing force in Southern Oregon, a combined 260 acres in the Rogue Valley (164 acres) and Umpqua Valley (96 acres). There are 51 acres throughout the Columbia Gorge. In the Rogue Valley, it has surpassed Merlot (155) as the No. 4 most-planted red, behind Cabernet Sauvignon (178 acres) and Syrah (224). Pinot Noir is well ahead at 1,489 acres.
Another up-and-coming region with delicious Tempranillo is the Snake River Valley in southern Idaho, which is consistently producing top Tempranillos. It seems to thrive high-elevation vineyards, which helps the grapes ripen slowly while retaining all-important natural acidity.
Here are several examples of Northwest Tempranillos we’ve tasted recently, including four Idaho examples. Ask for these at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.