The Umpqua Valley in the San Francisco Bay

It is the day of the Seventh Annual Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society (TAPAS) Grand Tasting of Spanish and Portuguese varietals in the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio in San Francisco. Forty wineries have gathered to celebrate their wine and regions of the West Coast.
It is also Opening Day on the Bay to celebrate the return of sailing season. A tradition that dates back to 1917. The view from the Golden Gate Club is of the bay, the color of the water moving from shades of pale blue to soft emerald green under a sky of white clouds that drift across with a light, chill of a breeze, blowing softly. Like the clouds overhead, the white sails catch the wind and the sail boats gather silently, one by one until under the span of the Golden Gate Bridge, the parade of boats begins.
As the sail boats gather, so do the wineries begin to arrive and set up their place in the parade of wines. There is a low hum of voices that increases as the rooms begin to fill up with wine and people until they burst forth in celebration of Tempranillo. The day and wine glasses are filled with tastes of Spanish and Portuguese varietals. The wines ranging from Albarino to Verdejo and regions from the Santa Ynez Valley up to the Umpqua. All bringing Old World Iberian traditions to land on the shores of New World West Coast style.
One of the trifecta of wineries representing the Umpqua Valley and bringing their Tempranillo to the TAPAS Grand Tasting was the Triple Oak Vineyard. A micro-vineyard of a thousand vines, first planted in 2000 by Paul and Betty Tamm. They brought their vision of a vineyard from Oakland, California, to Oakland Oregon. Their first vintage of Pinot Noir was in 2005. In 2007 they met Earl Jones who would become their friend. He provided them with scions of Tempranillo vines from the Abacela Vineyard which they grafted onto to half of their one thousand vines. In 2009 Triple Oak Vineyard produced it’s first full harvest of Tempranillo leading to the two award winning vintages of 2010, which received a Gold Medal at the Greatest of the Grape in 2013 and the 2011 Tempranillo which received the Platinum Medal in 2014. Both of these wines including the 2012 Tempranillo were brought to the TAPAS Grand Tasting. This being the first year that Triple Oak Vineyard has participated in the TAPAS event, Betty noted the spirit of camaraderie she found with the wineries, that it had transcended regions and created community. In bringing together the wine community of the Umpqua, she has a tasting room, the Triple Oak Wine Vault in Historic Oakland, gateway to the region. Since the passing of Paul Tamm last year, Betty Tamm has been at the helm of Triple Oak Vineyard and as befitting her name, the meaning of which is ‘Oak’, she is a strong woman who carries on the legacy.
“In water one sees one’s own face; But in wine, one beholds the heart of another.” This is the introduction to Hillcrest Vineyard and Winery and the heart of Dyson DeMara, owner and winemaker is on his sleeve and in his wine. His passion for wine making is not contained by mere words, for they spill out in a continuous flow like a tipped over bottle of wine. He has brought three of his wines to this event, the 2008 Cadiz Umpqua Valley Tempranillo, the 2009 Umpqua Ribera, a Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon blend and the NV On the Lamb, a blend of Carignan/Pinot Noir. He describes how the wine speaks to what he calls the “cultural palette , the characteristics of Tempranillo and the wine making that brings forth the style. The grape is a canvas for the winemaker to create and bring together all the elements to make a rich, creamy wine of tender elegance. Sharing these wines at the TAPAS Grand Tasting helps to identify the Umpqua Valley and bring it into the bigger picture with the potential of Tempranillo. Earl Jones, owner and winemaker of Abacela is a founding member of TAPAS and pioneering winemaker with his vision of growing Tempranillo in the Umpqua. On a recent morning, I spoke with him about the genesis of his idea to grow the grapes of Rioja and the creation of TAPAS to promote Tempranillo. Looking out across the Abacela Vineyard, the rows of vines are in perfect order, seemingly endless, like ocean waves, climbing and descending, undulating under the sun, the new growth reaching up towards it. Mr. Jones speaks of his journey to find this place and his idea that climate was the common factor linking Rioja to Roseburg. In 1995 he planted twelve acres, four in Tempranillo and by 1998 had produced an award winning wine. The 1998 vintage of Tempranillo won a Double Gold award for the Best of Spanish Tempranillo at the San Francisco
International Wine Competition. This led to the collaboration with other growers of Tempranillo and winemakers to eventually establish TAPAS in 2006 as an organization to promote, educate and put the Old World with the New World together in a bottle to send the message out. In reflecting upon the concept of “when does anything begin, an idea, a vision”, Mr. Jones likens it to the voyage of Columbus. There had been others before him, most likely if not he, someone would have made the journey of discovery, but in history, it marks the beginning of finding the future. The Santa Maria was was the flagship for Columbus and TAPAS is the flagship for Tempranillo.
Tapas, the meaning of the word is lid, coming from the slices of bread used by the Andalusians to place over the wine glass to keep the flies out of the wine and eventually evolving into putting small bites of food on top of the bread. The beginning of a great idea.