International Tempranillo Day Today, Thursday, Sept. 1

Yes, there really is a day dedicated to loving wine from the tempranillo grape. It’s sponsored by TAPAS, Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society, which is a group mostly made up of winemakers who make tempranillo, but which is also open to those of us who love what they make. You can check out their website (linked above) for all the cool activities going on today.

Never had tempranillo? You have if you’ve enjoyed Marques de Caceres wines from Rioja, Spain. Or pretty much any other Rioja – because this is not a grape, but another European place name for wine. Tempranillo is the major grape in much of the wines being made in the Rioja region.

It blends very well with syrah, grenache and other red grapes and makes a terrific rosé.

However, tempranillo is sort of like the troubled teen of the wine world. It can be really tough to grow because the vines get really vigorous, which means unless you manage them carefully, you’ll get lots and lots of vine and too much fruit. Nor can the grapes be picked too early because they are known for having plenty of acid and tannins. Picked before the grapes are fully ripe, the acids and tannins kind of take over in the wine worse than they do when the grapes are ripe.

The typical flavors and smell of tempranillo can turn some people off. Leather, animal, herbaecous smells like thyme, plum or prune, sour cherries just don’t have the same appeal as roses, berries, jam and cola. Spanish winemaking rules keep tempranillo in oak barrels for up to two years before bottling and several more years in bottle before release. But California tempranillos don’t have to play by those rules although the best examples learn from the old country.

And in honor of International Tempranillo Day, we have some tasting notes for a tempranillo that we really liked. It’s made by Linda Sawyer Lindquist, who is not only the winemaker, but the owner of the Verdad label out of Santa Barbara County.

Verdad 2007 Tempranillo

Type: Dry red

What makes it special: Difficult grape, but make a great wine

Plays well with: Roasted meats and game, molé

The Verdad 2007 Tempranillo has the typical inky dark color and a slighty spicy nose – think asian spices and a bit of tobacco instead of green herbs. Red fruits, such as sour cherry and dry currants, are part of the taste. The acidity is good and the wine is missing any of that leather character that can put some folks off. There is some grenache and syrah blended in and the wine is a modest 13.5 percent alcohol.

You can find this wine at the website