Three 2011 Tempranillos from Shake Ridge Ranch

Shake Ridge Ranch

Shake Ridge Ranch

visiting Shake Ridge Ranch, May 2013

In 2011 three different young winemakers began working with Tempranillo from Shake Ridge Ranch for the first time, producing three distinctive styles of wine– John Lockwood of Enfield Wine Co., Evan Frazier of Ferdinand Wines, and Jessica Tarpy of Gather Wines. In each case, the winemakers bring to their project an already impressive range of winemaking experience.

Shake Ridge Ranch hosts more than 46 acres under vine in a range of varieties and styles that celebrate the high elevation, warm days and cool nights of the region. The area receives ample, clear sun exposure giving good flavor and tannin development for warmer climate grapes, as well as a cooling breeze and evening temperature drops that keep acids in balance.

Shake Ridge Ranch also hosts a variety of soil types, solar aspects, and drainages allowing for differing expressions of fruit depending on planting location. Taking advantage of such conditions, viticulturist and vineyard manager, Ann Kraemer, has planted Zinfandel, as well as both Iberian and Rhone varieties via multiple training methods. One such example is Tempranillo planted in both head-trained, and VSP methods in multiple spots on the property.

Tempranillo from Shake Ridge Ranch

Characteristics of Tempranilloclick on image to enlarge

Shake Ridge Ranch proves an opportune locale for Tempranillo. The elevation, soils, and climate bring healthy structure to the fruit’s flavor and juiciness balance.

Viticulture for Tempranillo proves tricky as the vine is both pest and disease susceptible, and the fruit suffers under humidity. Many of the newer clones (though Tempranillo is not so clone resplendent as many other grape types) have tight clusters that mildew easily in wetter conditions. The variety also readily absorbs potassium from soils, thus quickly gaining high pH levels that give a fat belly-no spine feel to its wines. Many New World examples have not yet found prime growing conditions thus losing structural focus and the pleasing rustic backbone available in Old World exemplars.

In Rioja, Tempranillo can be blended with Garnacha, Graciano, and Carignan with Tempranillo serving as the main component and structural backbone to Garnacha’s fruit, Graciano’s juiciness, and Carignan’s color and heft (there the variety is called Mazuelo). Old World Tempranillo, then, is more often found in blend. Still, examples of younger single varietal Tempranillo can also be found made in a clean fruit, no oak style. In the New World, when blended, Tempranillo is more often brought together with French varieties such as Merlot or Mourvedre to suit the fruit focused palate. As a result, finding stand-out New World single varietal examples can be trickier.

Shake Ridge Ranch: The Tempranillo Project The Tempranillo Project: Shake Ridge Ranch

tasting The Tempranillo Project with the winemakers, February 2014

The Tempranillo project John Lockwood, Evan Frazier, and Jessica Tarpy began in 2011 offers interesting insight into the potential for varietal expressions of the fruit in a New World context.

Tasting them side-by-side-by-side also brings into focus the coupling of winemaking and site. The three wines each carry the mountain-rock crunch and mineral length offered by Shake Ridge Ranch, for example. Each wine also offers a purity of aromatics. Yet, the three wines also beautifully differ in style and fruit expression.

For me, part of the interest in the wines also comes from the way the three labels’ winemaking backgrounds so clearly carry forward in not only the wines themselves but the winemaking choices brought to bear. Where Lockwood utilizes some whole cluster fermentation, Frazier and Tarpy de-stem all their fruit, for example. All three winemakers here use ambient yeast.

Picking times and vineyard block choices also reflect their own particular views of winemaking. Shake Ridge Ranch includes three distinct blocks of Tempranillo. Beautifully, each winemaker approached Kraemer about the fruit separately, each selecting the block he or she wanted without conflict with the other winemakers’ preferences. Though the choices had not been discussed together in advance, they each got to work with their first choice fruit.

Following are notes on the three wines in alphabetical order by label (which happens to also coincide with picking times from earliest to latest).

Enfield Wine Co. and John Lockwood

John Lockwood

walking Heron Lake Vineyard in Wild Horse AVA with John Lockwood (the vineyard Lockwood uses for Enfield Chardonnay), May 2013

“One of the things about making Tempranillo is there are no rules, but then there is the challenge of making all these decisions.” — John Lockwood

John Lockwood heralds from experience working with Ted Lemon at Littorai, and Ehren Jordan of Failla bringing with him, as a result, rootedness in the vineyard, and interest in whole cluster fermentation.

In selecting to work with Kraemer to make Tempranillo from Shake Ridge Ranch, Lockwood explains her continual attention in the vineyard proved crucial alongside the quality of the site itself. As Lockwood describes, he has found that as much as various viticulture choices like going organic, for example, matter, it is actually the amount of time and attention the vineyard manager gives to the site that shows most in the final quality of the fruit. His vineyard sites, then, are chosen based on his trust in the farmer’s loyalty to their land.

In making Tempranillo, Lockwood has experimented with levels of whole cluster fermentation varying each year not only proportions for stem inclusion but also length of macerated ferment. The idea has been that in having such an open field for Tempranillo, by trying different approaches he can discover which he prefers. Whole cluster fermentation, for John, offers textural interest and another level of sophistication for the final blend. In 2013 he bottled portions of the 100% whole cluster Tempranillo on its own both because of its appeal, and out of curiosity for how it will age compared to his blend with de-stemmed fruit.

John and I have been able to taste the individual whole cluster versus de-stemmed lots side-by-side and then blended at different points through multiple vintages. The whole cluster element brings a fresh floral lift to the wine without over doing the tannin structure.

The block:
John’s block at Shake Ridge offered a light crop of first fruit in 2011, having been established in 2009. The spot grows on a sloped North facing aspect, with slight Western exposure, in the Quartz Mountain area of Shake Ridge which shows both chunky quartz and blue schist through mixed loam. The vines are head-trained.

The wine:
Enfield Wine Co. 2011 Tempranillo, Shake Ridge Ranch, Amador
Enfield‘s 2011 Tempranillo brings a lithe fitness to fruit and fresh-herbs spice, cocoa, and long-lined mountain crunch. The wine opens into light strawberry blossom (without sweetness) on the nose and rose cream with winter violet accents through the mid-palate. There is a pleasing red fruit aspect coupled with stoniness throughout this wine that together give a pleasing earthy prettiness.

Ferdinand and Evan Frazier

Evan Frazier

tasting the full history of Ferdinand Wines w Evan Frazier, August 2013

“There is something especially useful about staying focused and trying to learn something by digging the 6 ft well, rather than 6 1-ft wells.”  — Evan Frazier

Having launched Ferdinand Wines in 2010 with Albarino, while working as well with Kongsgaard Wine, Evan Frazier was introduced to the Tempranillo of Shake Ridge Ranch in 2011, and choose to make it his label’s red wine focus.

In selecting the two Iberian varieties to circumscribe Ferdinand, Frazier describes the project as keeping focus in order to learn more deeply about his wines. He describes his desire to work with Kraemer in a similar fashion, while also focusing on her viticultural gravitas. “I try to work with people that are really great growers, that I can also learn from and try to pick things up. When I met Ann I thought, what can I learn from her?, and then I decided to steer Ferdinand to Albarino and Tempranillo, two noble Spanish varieties.”

What Frazier has learned includes looking to old Rioja to glean vinification insights. Though the wine of Rioja arises from blending, the model can still offer guidance in varietal expression. Borrowing from technique he’s learned with Kongsgaard, Frazier de-stems all fruit as it comes in. He then treats the wine like a Rioja Reserva, giving it at least two years in barrel unless the wine itself indicates a need otherwise.

In 2013, Frazier was able to start working with Tempranillo from the Sonoma side of Mt Veeder also growing at higher elevation. We were able to taste the two lots side-by-side. The two wines carried distinct fruit expressions, with the Shake Ridge wine offering a more powerful presence, and clear tannin expression. By comparison, the Sonoma fruit came in more delicate with lighter tannin.

The block:
Evan’s block at Shake Ridge comes from the Quartz Mountain section, having been established in 2009, and offering a light first crop in 2011. The section grows on a lightly sloped Southwest-facing aspect with a cool air drainage running over rocky soils. The vines are planted VSP.

The wine: Ferdinand 2011 Tempranillo, Shake Ridge Ranch, Amador
Ferdinand‘s 2011 Tempranillo offers a velvety nose that runs through the lean-bodied palate carrying alternating layers of rich flavor and fine-tuned focus. Savory herbal elements couple with red fruit, light forest musk, and smooth cocoa-espresso lines. This wine moves with a silky tannin grip, lots of length, verve, and a lightly drying finish.

Gather and Jessica Tarpy, and Andrew Shaheen

Gather Wines

Jessica Tarpy and Andrew Shaheen pouring at Shake Ridge, May 2014

“[Through wine] I have the opportunity to […] explore the realm of winemaking and viticultural practices with a notion to increasingly simplify the process, while continually making better and better wines.” — Jessica Tarpy

Bringing to Gather Wines (the label she and husband Andrew Shaheen just launched this month) experience in both viticulture and vinification with Favia Wines, Jessica Tarpy was among the first to work with fruit from Shake Ridge Ranch. Favia began purchasing fruit from Kraemer’s site as soon as it came online in 2005.

In considering the launch of their own label, Shaheen and Tarpy saw Tempranillo as the perfect fit. As Shaheen explains smiling, “I courted Jessica with Tempranillo, with old Rioja.” The fruit, then, carries personal significance for the pair.

Tarpy’s respect for Kraemer’s viticultural knowledge, however, also stood at the fore of their decision. Kraemer and Tarpy had hiked the ranch together, and worked multiple vintages through Favia to bring in fruit. Having such thoroughgoing knowledge of Shake Ridge and Kraemer’s talents in farming, Tarpy knew beginning Gather in partnership with Kraemer’s vineyard would be ideal.

Kraemer works with winemaker Ken Bernards to produce her own Tempranillo for her label, Yorba Wines. Tarpy and Shaheen already knew they consistently enjoyed Kraemer’s Yorba Tempranillo, so when fruit from the same block became available they jumped at the chance, and Gather was born.

Shake Ridge Tempranillo is co-planted at varying proportions in each of the blocks. Tarpy and Shaheen enjoy the extra juiciness offered by the Graciano and so choose to co-ferment the varieties together keeping the focus on lifted acidity for the final wine.

The block:
The original planting at Shake Ridge Ranch, Gather’s Tempranillo heralds from a block established in 2003, with a small first crop in 2005. Growing in deep but well-drained, very rocky soils of Josephine loam, the East-facing slope carries cool air drainage towards the bottom of the slope, and low vigor throughout. The vines are planted VSP.

The wine: Gather 2011 “Decimo” Tempranillo, Shake Ridge Ranch, Amador
Gather‘s 2011 Decimo Tempranillo offers rustic elegance — the soul of a wine raised properly that has decided to move to the mountains for life on the land. Lifting from the glass with both red and blue fruit aromatics, the palate is simultaneously giving and well-focused carrying dried brush edges of garrigue on well-integrated spice and mocha through tons of juiciness and a dark rock, ironstone mineral line. Light accents of raspberry petal lift the palate and accentuate what is otherwise only a lightly-present fruit focus.

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For more on the wines:

Enfield Wine Co.: http://enfieldwine.com

Ferdinand: http://ferdinandwines.com/

Gather: having only just launched, Gather does not yet have a website. However, the wine is available via Acme Fine Wine. Because the wine is so new, it is not yet showing on their website. Instead, call Acme directly to purchase, or for more information: http://www.acmefinewines.com/

POST EDIT: Gather Wines DOES have a website: Here’s the link: http://www.gatherwines.com/

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For more on Shake Ridge Ranch: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2014/05/13/shake-ridge-ranch-winemaker-tasting-2014/

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Thank you to Jessica Tarpy, Andrew Shaheen, Evan Frazier, John Lockwood, and Ann Kraemer.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. “Lifting from the glass with both red and blue fruit aromatics, the palate is simultaneously giving and well-focused carrying dried brush edges of garrigue on well-integrated spice and mocha through tons of juiciness and a dark rock, ironstone mineral line.”

    This description lifts off the page with the airy pretentiousness of a flying peacock, minus the pea. How is anyone supposed to understand what that means?

    • “a flying peacock, minus the pea” — sounds like prostate trouble!

      Avoid the reliance on vulgarity and I’d be inclined to agree with you on one point — the descriptor spinning a bit on itself. However, it’s less an issue of pretentiousness, and more a matter of having floated off into thinking about the wine. It happens to the best of us wine lovers.

      Cheers!

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