Tempranillo

Tempranillo is the primary red wine grape for much of Spain, especially wines from the Ribera del Duero and the Rioja Alta. Tempranillo needs only a short growing season, and this early ripening tendency is the source of its name, which translates to "little early one." Despite its grandiose name, Tempranillo, in fact, is usually a fairly refined red wine. When young, it bursts with cherries; after being aged (commonly for two years or more, usually in old American oak), Tempranillo takes on an earthy sweet vanillin flavor. 

Tempranillo grapes tend to be both low in overall acidity and sugar, but often high in pH and nearly always high in tannin from their thick skins. While its varietal character is distinctive, Tempranillo is frequently used as the base varietal in blends, often combined with Grenache (aka garnacha in Spain), Carignane (aka Mazuelo in Spain's Rioja region) and, more recently, Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Tempranillo aromas and flavors often combine elements of berry-like fruit, herbaceousness, an earthy-leathery character and good minerality. 

Limited amounts of Tempranillo are grown in California where it was probably first introduced in the late 1890s. Amador, Calaveras and El Dorado counties, Alexander Valley, Lodi, Sonoma and Paso Robles are producing and bottling Tempranillo. 

Tempranillo pairs well with more savory and herbed dishes, such as game, duck, lamb, both savory and spiced sausages, smoked ham, grilled and roasted meats (especially with herbs), paella, cheese-based pasta, root vegetables and beans. 

Cheeses that go well with Tempranillo include Brie and Camembert (without rinds), Cheddar (mild), Colby, Fontina, Gouda, Mahon, Manchego, Monterey Jack, Serena, Triple Creme, St. Andre, Tomme de Savoie and Zamarano (Spanish sheep-milk cheese).