Shannon Ridge is a Lake County winery that is best known for its Petite Sirah blends. Its Morine Ranch vineyard grows Cabernet Sauvignon, but they also cultivate an interesting collection of French, Italian, and Spanish grapes; This includes Primitivo, Roussanne, Viognier, and a single block of Tempranillo.
Tempranillo is not a grape winemaker outside of Spain typically excels at. If you have ever drunk a Ribera del Duero or a Rioja, think back to how powerful and intense that wine was. The crazy thing is that the grape itself is rather low on tannin and acidity, which means a less skillful winemaker will end up with a rather boring wine.
Shannon Ridge’s first vintage of Tempranillo was in 2008. It wasn’t a stellar bottle; it wasn’t even a decent bottle. It was flabby and more reminiscent of a downmarket merlot than I care to remember. But it did show promise. There was a glimmer of good quality fruit, and the oak treatment was spot on (half the barrels they used were older American ones rather than all-new French ones).
I waited for four vintages to retry this wine, and I am thrilled I did. This is the finest example of American Tempranillo I have had to date. The nose offers a fistful of violets and smoking anise. The flesh on this body is impressive, with deep black fruit and astringent tannins pushed up with a dose of fresh acidity in the background. The finish rolls toward leather and spice.