Rosé of Tempranillo isn’t something I see a lot. And it’s nothing that Illahe Vineyards’s Ford family ever originally planned on making. The initial one-acre planting was a bit of an experiment. “Let’s see what else we can grow,” seems to be one of Lawrence Ford’s pioneering attributes. But as Bethany pointed out during our conversation, Tempranillo can be a hard grape to grow and maybe the unique Illahe location isn’t the most suitable for the funky fruit. Brad’s remedy? Pick the fruit early and make a rosé. Sounds like a plan…

(Please see my first article about Illahe Vineyards to catch up on the family and vineyard history.)

About the Wine: Tempranillo is a thick-skinned, black grape that’s best grown at high altitude. It requires cool climates to bring out the natural acidity, but also heat to get the proper sugar levels and thick skins. Thus, it’s native Ribera Duero is the best place for Tempranillo — it benefits from a high elevations and a continental climate that can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during summer days, but diurnal temperature variation that can decrease the temperature as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night. The grape forms in compact bunches with large, overlapping leaves, and thus, despite its thick-skin, is susceptible to pests, diseases, and fungi (especially in humid conditions).

There has been some success with Oregon Tempranillo, predominantly in the Umpqua Valley AVA, which is significantly warmer than the Willamette Valley (where Illahe is located) and includes the basin of the Umpqua River. In fact, in 1995 Abacela winery planted the first Tempranillo grapes and created the first 100% varietal Tempranillo in the Pacific Northwest.

Basically, Bethany said it best: “Tempranillo is hard to get right.” So instead of worrying about it, babying the plants, and making sure it fully ripens to perfection, the Fords decided it’s best to pick it early and make a rosé.

The Illahe Vineyards 2013 Rosé of Tempranillo is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes harvested from Illahe estate vineyards. The grapes were hand-picked early (to ensure high acidity), immediately put into the press where they were whole cluster pressed with little to no skin contact. The wine was barrel fermented neutral french oak.

12% ABV

Flavor Profile: Upon opening the bottle of the Illahe Vineyards 2013 Rosé of Tempranillo, there’s an almost farm-funky scent — like freshly fertilized flower beds. It’s a dank, earthy beauty.

In the glass, you almost want to say this rosé is clear, but there is just the faintest bit of blush hue, a peach-meets-pink color.

The nose is both floral and fruity. Peaches, honeydew melon, fresh cut green grass, dragon fruit, and muted rose water.

Despite the visual lightness, this rosé is full bodied and textured. There’s a background essence of tropical fruits — peach, mango, lime and grapefruit zest. And yet the textural structure calls to mind something earthy — thick, green vegetative leaves like palm fronds. On the whole, this is quite a dry wine. The finish is clean, solid, and just wow.

Food Pairing: I actually chose this wine because I had tweeted out what I was making for dinner and received a suggestion that I pair it with a dry rosé. Thanks, MoMo, this pairing is perfect!

I enjoyed the Illahe Vineyards 2013 Rosé of Tempranillo with an eggplant wrap: cooked eggplant with a bit of wilted cabbage and a light garlic cream sauce wrapped in crispy flatbread. This crisp and dry rosé perfectly balanced out the otherwise “soggy” nature of the interior, cut through the creaminess of the sauce, and subdued the garlic’s intensity. I also had a simple side salad of tomatoes and spinach — while the spinach played up the textural nature of the wine, it was the tomatoes that brought forward a bit of acidity that, until then, was a bit muted in the wine.

More Info: You can learn more about Illahe Vineyards by reading my review of Illahe Vineyards 2014 Project 1899 Pinot Noir — it’s the wine that truly defines what Illahe is all about. Learn more about Oregon Wine History and the Willamette Valley AVA by reading my previous articles. And be sure to stay tuned next week for my conclusion of Oregon Wine studies and reviews of Illahe Vineyards wines.

I received the Illahe Vineyards 2016 Rosé of Tempranillo as a sample for review. (Cheers, Bethany!) Retail: $17; currently sold out online. For more information about their available wines and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Illahe Vineyards website.

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