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Wine A to Z: Tempranillo and Torrontes

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In the alphabetical world of grapes, the letter "T" is teeming with a variety of grapes - trebbiano, teroldego, tannat, and a slew of Portuguese tinta(o)-s and touriga-s, to name just a few. Today we will pick one white (torrontes) and one red (tempranillo).

Let's begin with the more obscure of these two up-and-coming varietals: torrontes. Torrontes is being touted as Argentina's native son in the grape kingdom. Although most think of malbec, a grape who's origins lie in the Bordeaux region of France but has gleaned major stardom from Argentina, when it comes to Argentinian wines, torrontes is grown most abundantly in this country.

It is still an under-appreciated and down-played grape, even in it's native land. The majority is grown in the Rioja, Salta, and San Juan regions of the country. The resulting wine is a floral, aromatic, slightly spicy white, similar to a gewürztraminer, meant to be enjoyed earlier than later. While Argentina gets the glory of introducing this grape and it's resulting wine to the world, it has found very mild success in the United States. Frog's Tooth Winery (www.frogstooth.com) in Murphy's has it, as does Wise Villa Winery (www.wisevillawinery.com) in Lincoln, and it has been done (although it is now libraried) by Rick and Erin Taylor at Riaza Wines (www.riazawines.com) in Lodi.

From an Argentinian native to the star of Spain. Tempranillo, whose name is derived from temprano, meaning early in Spanish, is an early ripening variety. The skin is thick and dark, and it's resistance to pest and disease is low. It is often blended with other grapes, most notably Grenache, syrah, and carignane, to balance it's acidity and aromas. It goes by a multitude of names, depending on where it is grown, so if your bottle says valdepenas, tinta roriz, or ull de llebre, among others, it's still a tempranillo.

As the star of Spain, tempranillo has found wide success in America. In the Lodi area alone, one has several options to consider for tempranillo wines in all it's glory, starting in Downtown Lodi. Riaza Wines has three different tempranillos to discover, each grown in a different region of California, showcasing it's ability to adapt to different soil types and climatic conditions, and all made from 100% tempranillo grapes. Jeremy Wine Co. (www.jeremywineco.com) features a tempranillo made with grapes grown in the lower elevations of Amador County, and Fields Family Wines (www.fieldsfamilywines.com) produces an award-winning tempranillo grown in Lodi. Bokisch Vineyards (www.bokischvineyards.com), whose wines are available at cellardoor on School Street, specializes in Spanish varietals, and offers an Estate tempranillo that is sourced from two of their vineyards and is blended with a small portion of graciano.

Whether the occasion calls for white or red, if you are in the "T" section of wines, you will plenty of stellar choices! With just a quick trip to Lodi and surrounding areas, you will find the stars of Spain and Argentina within easy reach, and with no need for a passport.

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