Tasting and Contemplation

RoxyAnn 2011 TempranilloPalate fatigue is a common experience in the tasting room. After several tastes, even when spitting, it becomes more difficult to define each wine clearly on its own merits. But, palate fatigue aside, there is something else missing when tasting wines by the dozens. A brief few minutes with one wine among 30 or more can’t do most wines the justice they deserve.

RoxyAnn’s 2011 Rogue Valley Tempranillo in the tasting room had aromas of leather and oak with undertones of cherry and blueberry. It felt full-bodied and rich. At home, over the course of the evening with a plate of chorizo and tomatoes, and later, on its own, the Tempranillo presented aromas of leather, mineral, and dark cherries with a coffee aftertaste. The wine felt deep and rich with soft smooth tannins and a crisp acidity. But something I noticed while spending time with this wine that wasn’t as clear to me in the tasting room was how well integrated the wine is. The elements of the wine, the alcohol, acidity and tannins are all well balanced. But beyond that, the flavors of the wine are in perfect harmony with each other, as if leather, mineral, dark cherry and coffee were all holding hands and leaning backwards with equal amounts of tension, each flavor offering perfect balance to the others.

Many things in our environment can effect how we taste and experience wine; music, mood, the people we are with, the weather. But many wines demand and deserve more than a quick sip. Some wines’ complexity can’t be appreciated in the fleeting minutes we give them in a tasting room. There are some wines that deserve and are worth an evening of contemplation.


Roxyann Winery is located at 3285 Hillcrest Road in Medford Oregon.  Their website is http://www.roxyann.com


Honor in Southern Oregon

Southern OregonWhile Oregon is known for its Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, southern Oregon excels in Bordeaux and Rhone Valley varieties as well as in Spain’s Tempranillo. Rogue Valley’s warmer temperatures are the key factor to the success of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Viognier and Tempranillo.

RoxyAnn Winery was founded in 2002 in Medford, Oregon on 20 acres of limestone and clay soil terroir. Formerly Hillcrest Orchard, tastings are held in the Honor Barn, a 1917 remnant of that orchard.  The structure was given its name while the property was still operating as an orchard.  Customers would take their fresh fruit and leave payment in an honor box.  During my visit the tasting room was fully staffed.RoxyAnn Tasting Room

RoxyAnn is a small production winery with about 15,000 cases per year. But that small production garners some high point ratings including a 90 point from Wine Spectator Tempranillo.

The 2012 Viognier has tropical fruit aromas with soft acidity and a musky heat. The tropical fruit flavors of pineapple and banana linger on the finish of this full, round white wine.

RoxyAnn 2011 TempranilloThe award winning 2011 Tempranillo has leather and oak aromas with undertones of cherry and blueberry. Full bodied and well balanced, it is a rich and satisfying wine.

The 2010 Syrah as deep, dark cherry and mocha aromas with a hint of pepper and iron. It is smooth, dark and juicy.

Roxyann is located at 3285 Hillcrest Road in Medford, Oregon.  Their web address is www.roxyann.com    The Honor Barn is open daily for tastings from 11 am to 6 pm.

The Great Pacific Northwest and Tempranillo

Tahoe, 2009“Nueve Messes de Invierno, Tres Messes de Inferno,” is how Javier Alfonso describes the climate of both his home of origin, Ribera del Duero, Spain and his adopted home, Woodinville, Washington. Javier is the owner of Pomum Winery in Woodinville. He serves on TAPAS, which stands for Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society. Their mission is to cultivate Spain’s famous grape, Tempranillo in the Great Pacific Northwest of the United States, and to educate as they go.

What do the Great Pacific Northwest of the United States and North Central Spain have in common? A lot, according to the members of TAPAS. As Javier Alfonso points out in the above Spanish saying that he brought with him from home, both regions have a climate that can be described as ‘Nine Months of Winter, Three Months of Hell.’ That is the climate that Tempanillo needs; a continental climate with hot summers, big diurnal swings and a short growing season.

Tim Harless of Hat Ranch Winery agrees and has found that same climate in Idaho, yes, ‘Let’s dispense with the potato wine jokes right up front’ Idaho. Along the Snake River, the climate is hot in the summer and the elevation is high, in some places as high as 2500 feet, much as it is in central Spain.

Dwight Sick, the winemaker at Stag’s Hollow Winery has found the Tempranillo grape to be right at home in OKanagan Valley, British Columbia. He has found the soils of this region, a combination of sandy, gravel, glacial and clay to be a good match to the grape.

One of the pioneers of bringing Tempranillo to the Great Pacific Northwest is Earl Jones of Abacela Winery in Oregon. He realized back in 1992 that the Iberian grapes would be a natural to the region, not just because of the similar climate, soils, and altitudes, but also, because of the same latitude as some of Spain’s great Tempranillo growing regions.

The word ‘Tempranillo’ sounds similar to the English word ‘temperamental,’ but all representatives from TAPAS agreed that it is not a difficult grape to grow. As they have all shown in their wines, Tempranillo can do quite well outside of its place of origin. The Tempranillos that we tasted from Stag’s Hollow, Pomum, HAT Ranch, and Abacela all had aromas of mineral and dark fruit. The Okanagan wine from Stag’s Hollow had undertones of leather and spice. Washington’s Pomum Cellars presented coffee and raspberry. HAT Ranch of Idaho offered cranberry and rose, and the Abacela of Oregon Tempranillo gave off smoked meat and chocolate aromas. But they all had a similar flavor profile and structure to the Tempranillos of Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

In Spanish ‘temprano’ means ‘early.’ That is what this grape needs. It is early ripening and thrives in a short growing season. In the Great Pacific Northwest, Tempranillo has founds its second home.

Tempranillo Friends

This is my entry for the MWWC#11 The topic this month is Friend

I came to the class early to get a seat up front. Scheduled monthly, I like to take advantage of the wine classes that Total Wine offers, not so much for the grape and region information. Although I always learn something, generally, the information is pretty basic. Mainly, I go to the classes for the opportunity to taste through the wines.

As I sat down, a woman about my age sat next to me and introduced herself. We spoke a bit before the class began. She had just recently moved here from San Francisco. I offered my condolences and let her know that I, also had just moved here, er, gosh, has it been 13 years, already?! Our conversation continued easily and jovially for the few minutes before class began.

Then it was time to head to Spain and Portugal. The wines were the familiar offerings of the Iberian Peninsula. The Vinho Verde was produced by Nobilis and was crisp and pétillant, with tropical fruit aromas.

For the Albarino from Spain we tasted Val do Sosego out of Rias Baixas. It had a bit more body than the Vinho with aromas of peach and grapefruit peel.

After the whites we delved into the Tempranillos, first in the form of rosé by Bodegas Eguren. With flavors of rose water, cherry lollipop, watermelon and a sloe gin finish, this was indeed a refreshing rosé.

And then came the beautiful stars of the evening, four red Tempranillos, one after another. Two were from Rioja, one from Toro and one from Ribera del Duero.

Cincuenta Ugarte is 100% Tempranillo and oak aged for 10 months. It is a beautiful ruby-red color with flavors of tobacco, blackberry, licorice and spice. At $14.99 this gorgeous wine was definitely the best value of the evening.Cincuenta, 2009

Our second Rioja was by Valserrano. It was 95% Tempranillo with just a smidgeon of Graciano and Garnacha making up the difference. With dark fruit aromas, vanilla, cassis and chocolate this full-bodied red had a nice, long finish.

From Ribera del Duero we had a wine produced by Ninin that had aromas of dark cherry, vanilla and spice with a nice acidity. The tidbit of information that I learned about this region is that as in the Maremma region of Italy, the wine makers of Ribera del Duero would rather make wines their way than follow the rules of a DOCa rating. Our teacher called them the ‘Hipsters’ of Spain. The results, as with the Super Tuscans are high-quality, elegant wines without the DOCa pricing.

From Toro we had a 100% Tinta de Toro (aka Tempranillo) made by Liberalia. This wine had an intense dark fruit aroma with notes of violets and Chinese five spice.

We, also had a Monastrell (aka Mouvedre) made by Tesoro de Bullas. With medium acidity and ripe tannins, this wine presented aromas of lavender, blueberry, blackberry and dusty oak.

We ended the night with a Douro red made with the classic grapes of a fortified Port. Produced by Quinta do Vale Maeo Meandro, it had softer tannins than the Tempranillos with some sour cherry and raisin fruits flavors and a whiff of chocolate.

When the class was over, Mary and I spoke at length about the wines, some local politics, our previous jobs, and I don’t know what else. It was when the teacher left the room that Mary gave me her card and suggested that we get together for lunch.

I loved spending so much time with a few Iberian wines, especially the Tempranillo. Drinking several side by side really gave me a chance to get to know the grape a little better.

It isn’t often that I immediately hit it off with someone I’ve just met. I’m looking forward to getting to know my new friend a little better.