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On May 24th Amphora will be hosting its annual “Taste of Spain” event and this year we are abuzz about the plans for the party. Join us for Paella in our vineyard picnic area beginning at 6:00 pm when Chef Fabiano Ramaci takes center stage and shares his preparation for delicious authentic Spanish Paella. Settle in with a glass of our delicious Tempranillo, Grenache, or Carignane and watch the sunset while listening to the masterful sounds of Flamenco guitarist Mark Taylor. This is an event not to be missed and we hope you can join us for the fun.
In light of this event, I thought I would share some brief information on the wines of Spain as well as some history on Paella; a remarkable meal made in an exquisitely crafted pot.
Paella is a Valencian-Catalan word which derives from the Old French word paelle for pan, which in turn comes from the Latin word patella for pan as well. Patella is also akin to the modern French poêle, the Italian padella and the Old Spanish padilla.
Valencians use the word paella for all pans, including the specialized shallow pan used for cooking paellas. However, in most other parts of Spain and throughout Latin America, the term paellera is more commonly used for this pan, though both terms are correct, as stated by the Royal Spanish Academy, the body responsible for regulating the Spanish language. Paelleras are traditionally round, shallow and made of polished steel with two handles.
A popular but inaccurate belief in Arabic-speaking countries is that the word paella derives from the Arabic word for leftovers, baqiyah, because it was customary among the servants of Moorish kings to combine the leftovers of a banquet for royal guests, purportedly leading to a paella-like creation in Moorish Spain.
Tempranillo (also known as Ull de Llebre, Cencibel, Tinto del Pais and several other synonyms) is a black grape variety widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain. Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano ("early"), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. Tempranillo has been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since the time of Phoenician settlements. It is the main grape used in Rioja, and is often referred to as Spain's noble grape. The grape has been planted throughout the globe in places such as Mexico, New Zealand, California, and Washington State.
Unlike more aromatic red wine varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, Tempranillo has a relatively neutral profile and is often blended with other varieties, such as Grenache and Carignan (known in Rioja as Mazuelo), or aged for extended periods in oak (traditionally American Oak) where barrel notes impart more layered flavors. Varietal examples of Tempranillo usually exhibit flavors of plum and strawberries.
Tempranillo is an early ripening variety that tends to thrive in chalky vineyard soils such as those of the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. In Portugal, where the grape is known as Tinto Roriz and Aragonez, it is blended with others to produce Port wine.
In 1905, Frederic Bioletti brought Tempranillo to California where it received a cool reception not only due to the encroaching era of Prohibition, but also because of the grape's dislike of hot, dry climates. It was much later, during the 1980s that Californian Tempranillo wine production began to flourish, following the establishment of suitably mountainous sites. Production in this area has more than doubled since 1993.
During the 1990s, Tempranillo started experiencing a renaissance in wine production worldwide and Amphora has added its name to the list of fine California producers who make this historic and delicious wine.
I walked to the car this morning in the pouring rain and could barely hear myself think for the cacophony of bird song that filled the air. Oh right, it’s spring. That time of year when everything and well, everybody, fluffs up and shows off their colors. In the vineyards this is happening too. Tightly compacted buds formed the previous summer find the perfect ratio of temperature and daylight (called degree days) and before you know it, they’re bursting forth in a mighty push of leaves and flower clusters destined to be our next vintage. The process is much like a telescoping wand and it never fails to amaze me how quickly it all happens. A few points of interest regarding grapevines: first of all propagation needs neither bee nor birdsong as the vines are self- pollinating and secondly, the flowers on a vine are so miniscule as to go virtually unnoticed by even careful observer. The showy peach blossoms down the road at Dry Creek Peach and Produce will provide the best flower you can find in the valley but the lowly grapevine blooms, well, they're a yawn. Soon after the flowering cycle, small bb-sized grapes appear all in green, no matter that vine produces red or green grapes they all start this way. The transition of color for red grapes, called veraison, occurs around mid-July.
The spring season in the vineyard requires many activities. That beautiful crop of mustard and legumes that grew between the rows during the winter must be disked into the soil to create a vital nutrient package which encourages the greening of leaves and lightening of soil. The vines must also be trained on their cordons and require the studied hand of the vineyard worker to maintain the fruiting line of the vine. There are many types of trellising to be found in the vineyard and it’s fun while driving down Dry Creek Road to name the different styles you see. Overall, the vineyard is a dynamic growing place and vineyard managers and growers alike look to keep all things in balance so that fruit and canopy are proportionate to root systems and particularly this year, to irrigation strategies. If all goes well, the harvest will produce a vintage unique to all others, created by the conditions of the particular year, the craft of farmer, and the art of the winemaker. Each element will be reflected in that amazing bottle you’ll drink to toast the awakening of a future Spring.
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