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The principal red wine grape of Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and other regions of Spain, Tempranillo produces consistently structured and balanced wines of med-high tannin, acidity, and alcohol. Fruit character can range from strawberries to blackberries, and there is often tobacco, cocoa, herbal, and floral notes. It is a very versatile grape that can be produced in many different styles. Tempranillo is especially interesting in the way that it takes up and expresses its oak treatment, making it very much a winemaker's grape. For us, the spicier the better! Sierra Foothills versions are gaining in popularity and quality and are showing exciting potential for very high quality versions. 


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Brian and Jennifer Bumgarner have been making some of the best wine in the region for twenty-some-odd years. All of the Bumgarner wines have a distinctive intensely aromatic style, but none have it more than their Tempranillo. This is a perfect example of what this grape is capable of in the Foothills with an impeccably crafted interplay of dark fruit and spices supported by a solid and well-balanced structural backbone. Enjoy this one at their winery in Fair Play atop Slug Gulch ridge or at their tasting room in Camino. 


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The range of exceptional wines that come from this winery is astounding, from fruity sippers delicious in their youth to powerful, tannic dynamos that will age for decades. Somehow, this Tempranillo falls under both categories, and we can't get enough of it both for now and for the cellar. 

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One of the most exciting newcomers to the Sierra Foothills is Belledor Winery in Amador County. While the winery is new, the vineyards are not. Belledor purchased a commercial vineyard with well-established vines that had been previously outsourced around the region for high-end wines. Now this remarkable fruit is in the hands of winemaker Brenna Frazier. All of the wines are exceptional, but this Tempranillo is our favorite. Brenna ages this wine in a mix of American and French oak, giving it some extra complexity. There is also an extra spicy reserve version. 

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Casino Mine Ranch is a superstar newcomer that is taking Amador County by storm with its amazing new tasting room. Winemaker Jessica Tarpy Shaheen's wines are spectacular, too, and they get better every year as the relatively young estate vines mature. Her delicate touch with the Tempranillo is mesmerizing, and this is simply one of the best wines of any kind in the Foothills, if not the state. 

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Tempranillo and the way it can be a sponge for oak influencing makes it a perfect grape for flavor scientist Chaim Gur-Arieh to play with. Among Gur-Arieh's techniques is a submerged cap during fermentation and aging for two years in French oak and another year in neutral oak. The result is a flavor explosion, and it works!  

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While we love many of the wines at Shadow Ranch, the Tempranillo is a our personal favorite. Aged in 30% new French oak, this wines hits all the right notes with subtle complexity and perfect balance. Each sip brings a deeper appreciation of this stellar wine that many panelists consider the best on this list. 

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With Tempranillo's early ripening tendencies, Tom Sinton picked the coolest spot in his vineyard for his Tempranillo vines. This helps lengthen the ripening process, allowing more flavor development and riper tannins. He then ages the wine in a mix of French, American, and neutral oak. The result is a powerhouse that puts you in mind of a wine from Ribera del Duero. Like Riberas, this Starfield Tempranillo will age for decades.   

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If the Sierra Foothills classified vineyards, Ann Kraemer's Shake Ridge Ranch would be Grand Cru. And the Tempranillo that comes from this vineyard world class. Yorba makes a rich, brooding version of Tempranillo unlike any other, and they allow the wine to enjoy a lot of bottle aging before release which adds to the wine's complexity. This is a sensational wine with a long, slow finish that never stops.

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