Twisted Oak 2005 Tempranillo – Yum!

2005_tempTwisted Oak’s 2005 Tempranillo is one of those wines that just seems to fit in anywhere.  It’s rich, but not overpowering – the subtle kind of wine that stands out just enough to be memorable without taking over.

Tempranillo is one of those up and coming grapes.  We’ve seen it here and there for a number of years.  In fact, tempranillo seems to be about where syrah was almost 10 years ago.  People had heard of it, but you rarely saw it on the shelf at the supermarket.  Of late, in places like California, tempranillo is getting the treatment previously reserved for cabernets and pinot noir and in the right hands and in the right soils, it is a glorious thing.

The grape, itself, is a blue/black grape most commonly used in blends in Spain. It’s chief flavor characteristics are blueberry and other berries, grassy or herbal qualities, hints of earth and/or leather.  Leather may sound a little odd, but that’s what the books say.  Your mileage may vary.  Because the grape has a thick skin, it can have some powerful tannins, which is why it’s often blended with grapes with less color and/or tannins.

The Twisted Oak Tempranillo has a deep ruby color and a nose full of the characteristic blueberries and cherries.  But don’t let that fool you.  This is no fruit bomb. Winemaker Scott Klann used some French oak (which you can taste) but not enough to drown out the fruit. There are some nice acids in the center of the palate which make for a clean, easy drinking mouthfeel.

This is a great food wine – an Oddball Grape hallmark – and should go well with grilled meats like tri-tip, or grilled chicken or anything Spanish-style. Mike was amazed at how well it worked with some seared scallops in a caper sauce. You might also try it with a cioppino or even a good surf and turf.  We do not recommend it with rubber chicken.

Up and Running With Twisted Wine

The crush pad.  The tasting room looks better.
The crush pad. The tasting room looks better.

Drat the folks at Sunset Magazine.  According to Twisted Oak Winery Owner Jeff Stai, the magazine’s article on the winery had the money quote: “If Monty Python started a winery, this would be it.”

wine-trip-april-09-113Pirates, rubber chickens, and symbols for language not suitable for sensitive ears.  It’s all part of the Twisted zeitgeist and fun at Stai’s winery in Vallecito, California.  It’s not a winery for the uber serious or for people who do the “nice” thing.  But if you don’t mind the silliness, you can get some lovely, food-friendly wines.  And if you do like the silliness, you can have a grand old time

Now, keep in mind, Anne has known Jeff for years via the FoodWine email list – an electronic world-wide kitchen table.  But we first met Jeff – or El Jefe, as he is known – last year when we decided to check out the joint after hearing good things from fellow FoodWinos Tina Vierra and Penny Gadd-Coster.  Mike liked the wine so much he immediately joined the Twisted Few wine club, and then earlier this year won the Write the Label contest for this year’s bottling of Ruben, the white wine blend that’s named after Ruben the Rubber Chicken mascot.  So, we are getting a case of it as our prize, but that was before we decided to start the blog.

El Jefe at work on the bottling line - yeah, he really does work!
El Jefe at work on the bottling line - yeah, he really does work!

Schtick aside, it’s all about the wines, first.  The production is relatively small (although we keep having so durned much fun there, we keep forgetting to ask), and the focus is on locally grown, Calaveras County grapes.  Scott Klann (aka El Fermento) has the responsibility of turning it all into wine, using such methods as co-fermenting some viognier with their syrah.  Sadly, the result of this traditional technique from the Rhone won’t be available until next year.

Making wine in the dark, when the grapes are cool
Making wine in the dark, when the grapes are cool

You can check back with us on Wednesday for the first of Mike’s tasting notes.  In the meantime, you can find out more about the winery on their website,, the blog, El Bloggo Torcido.  There is a Twisted Oak page on Facebook and you can follow Jeff on Twitter.

Anne Louise Bannon and Michael Holland

Odd Ball Grape