A Love Letter to Tempranillo

Posted on February 20, 2013


My Beloved Tempranillo,

I write this love letter as I sit here and reminisce on our previous encounters.  The first day we met,  I was in college and on a budget.  You too were in your youth, young and fruity, just a “Joven” from Rioja.  Our first encounter was love at first sight.  I can still smell your intoxicating strawberry aromas.

I later came across you again, I had started working at a Nuevo Latino restaurant and my sommelier added you by the glass.  I knew then that you were a one guy kind of grape.  You were still in Rioja, but this time you were a little better dressed and the bottle I served you from said “Reserva”.  This encounter was a little different from our first.  Your aromas were still of strawberry fruits but there was this toasty coconut and vanilla undertone that made my heart leap.

Oh how they loved you in la Rioja!  Maybe it has to do with your name, Tempranillo.  Were you named after the word “temprano” (early in Spanish)?  Your ability to ripen early led you to be the heart throbe of the cooler region, Rioja.  They so loved you that they tried to keep you in barrels for long periods of time.  They then re-classified you as “Gran Reserva”.  My beautiful Tempranillo, you became so complex in barrels.  Did I not have enough to offer you?

As I matured and started to become more experimental I realized that you too were looking for something new.  You decided to change your name to Tinto de Pais and live in the hotter climate of Ribera del Duero.  I almost did not recognize you.  You were darker and had built up more muscle.  Your aromas took on prune, leather and chocolate.  However, that hint of strawberry blew your cover.  I am not sure why you were running away from me, was I too possessive?

Then one day you were gone again, only to be found atop a mesa in La Mancha.  You changed your name once again, this time to Cencibel.  Really Tempranillo, why do you do this to me?  I get it! Your skins are thick and they were able to protect you from the hot sun.  You also must have loved the diurnal shift of the continental climate when those hot days turned into cold nights.  But why keep running?

Each time I found you I found a new affinity for you and your Sagitarius spirit.  You love traveling, you adapt to the local culture and express yourself in new ways.  When I came across you in Portugal where you went by the name Tinto Roriz in the Douro and Aragona in Alentejo.  My blood pressure skyrocketed when I heard that they were using you as a blending grape for Port.  But then I tasted the pruned fruit, dried herbs and leathery flavors those Portugese wine makers divulged when they fermented you dry.

I spoke to your mom and dad, Albillo Mayor and Benedicto.  They have not seen you since you left the house back in the 13th century.  Like everyone else you touch they miss you dearly.


Over the past several years I have been on your trail.  I followed you to Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South America.  Although you have run away from me for so many years, your search for love is bringing you back to me.  You are a lover of Calcareous soils with black clay.  I hope you don’t think it is coincidence that I live only hours away from Paso Robles, where the hills are calling your name.  Please don’t change your name.  Find a home, stay close to me and let me suffocate in your aromas of strawberry, plums, chocolate and flowers.

Roses are red, violets are blue; Tempranillo come to bed, Tempranillo I love you!

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