Spencer_tempBefore opening Spencer Roloson’s 2002 Tempranillo last night, Nena and I had tasted both their Palaterra blend and their Viognier…with mixed results.

We really liked the blend a lot, especially for $16…but  the Viognier a bit unbalanced and "hot" at the end.

Tempranillo is another varietal (like Viognier) that I’d like to learn a lot more about. Sure, I’ve had some Riojas (which are mad with this grape) and I even had a couple Tempranillos while at dinner with Pam and Randy in Pittsburgh (at SiBA Cucina), but I really didn’t (and still don’t) know a ton about them.

The Madder Lake Vineyard is located directly north of Mount St. Helena in the Mayacamas Range. It’s a very steep and rocky vineyard (good drainage) and it’s proximity to Clear Lake only improves the site. The Tempranillo planted there is a selection from Ribera del Duero (in Spain).

Harvest brix was 26.2 and after cold soaking, fermentation took place in small open-top tanks that were irrigated two or three times a day. Aging took place in 30% new French Oak.

Eyes: Dark and inky, this wine is a deep crimson with a purple cast. Looks "big" and rich.

Nose: The nose is an intense blend of chocolate, spices like allspice and clove, and rich earth. One whiff was all it took to get me very excited to taste…

Tongue: Delicious at first with expertly treated tannins and layers of chocolate, vanilla and more earthiness. The fruitiness was there, but nicely forced to the side so that the other flavors could dominate. The finish, much like the Viognier, was a little disappointing and even a little "hot." I’m wondering at this moment if my "east coast" (where brix is usually topping out at 22) just isn’t used to the size of these California wines and their higher alcohol.

Price: $25

Overall: Delicious…but could have been more. What started as a supremely impressive palate did fade a bit too quickly. Worth keeping an eye out for future vintages, as these are still young vines.