Tempting Tempranillos at Lone Buffalo, Vina Castellano

TEMPRANILLO, SPAIN’S “NOBLE” GRAPE, is making a noble showing in Placer County.

Two Auburn wineries, Lone Buffalo and Viña Castellano, won Silver medals at the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for their vintages of this full-bodied red wine.

Tempranillo, pronounced “tem-rah-nee-yo,” is from the Rioja region of Spain. Its name is derived from “temprano,” Spanish for early. The grape ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes.

In the past century, Tempranillo has been planted from Mexico to South America to New Zealand. It has experienced a resurgence in the Sierra foothills, where the climate and soils are similar to Rioja in Spain.

“Tempranillo has real potential in the foothills,” says Lone Buffalo Vineyards’ owner and winemaker Phil Maddux. “It’s my favorite wine from this region, and I hope to see it take off as the varietal becomes better known locally.”

Tempranillo wines are ruby red in color, with aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herb. Often displaying a “rustic” character, Tempranillo tends to be higher in acid and lower in alcohol, ideal for food pairing.

Lone Buffalo’s 2008 Tatonka Tempranillo can be matched with grilled pork or Viña Castellano’s Mercedes Block 2006 can be paired with tapas or paella, favorite Spanish dishes.

Lone Buffalo grows its Tempranillo in South Auburn near the Newcastle border, while Viña Castellano’s Tempranillo vineyard is in North Auburn.

Both wines sell for less than $25 and can be sampled at the wineries on the Placer County Wine Trail or at the Vino Velo Gala on May 15, before the Amgen Tour of California comes to Auburn.

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