Between the Vines is a biweekly column on wine and wine making in the Livermore Valley region. This column was contributed by members of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.

Each month, a grape varietal grown in the Livermore Valley wine country will be highlighted. January's featured varietal is Tempranillo (tem-prah-nee-yoh), a black grape variety widely grown to create full-bodied red wines. A native to Spain, Tempranillo enjoyed a renaissance toward the end of the 20th century and is known around the world as a fine wine grape.

Livermore Valley vintners craft Tempranillo into wines with delightful layers of flavor. Try pairing it with dill-poached salmon, pork tenderloin with cilantro pesto or steamed mussels.

"Tempranillo is my favorite wine to make, said Meredith Miles, assistant winemaker at Fenestra Winery. "It has a unique flavor -- big on cherry and fig but also spices like cumin and allspice. It picks up the smoky, toasty characters of the oak barrels as well. These flavors and aromas combine to create a very interesting wine experience that is enjoyed by experts and novices alike."

"I like Tempranillo because of its history as an everyday wine in Spain," said Hal Liske, owner/winemaker of el Sol Winery. "It is an earthy wine and quite different from other common varietals. Richness and ruby red/purple color make Tempranillo a great pairing partner with food."

Phil Long, owner and winemaker at Longevity Wines says Tempranillo seems to grow particularly well in the Livermore Valley.

"We decided to make Tempranillo after tasting wine made from a local vineyard. The wine had tremendous depth and flavor and was the closest in flavor to wines we have tasted from Spain," he said.

"I have Spanish and Portuguese ancestry, so growing up I was exposed mostly to wines from Spain, said Dr. Ricardo Aguirre, Bodegas Aguirre Winery's owner and winemaker. "In those days, they were not very good, but when I tasted the superb contemporary wines of Spain, I took a great interest in them and decided to plant and produce Tempranillo. It is so easy on the palate that before you know it you are on the second glass."

According to Bill Webster, owner of Little Valley Winery, "One must have at least two sips to understand Tempranillo. On the first sip, it's a light red wine similar to pinot noir. The second sip exhibits back-of-the-palate silky sensations from the great tannic structure."

Find Tempranillo at these Livermore Valley wineries: Big White House & John Evan Cellars, Bodegas Aguirre Winery, Concannon Vineyard, el Sol Winery, En Garde Winery, Fenestra Winery, Garre' Vineyard & Winery, Las Positas Vineyards, Little Valley Winery, Longevitiy Wines, Murrieta's Well, Occasio Winery and The Singing Winemaker. To learn more, visit LVwine.org or discovercaliforniawines.com.

wine country events

  • Soup & Wine Weekend -- 12 to 5 p.m. Jan. 26 and Jan. 27 at Fenestra Winery, 83 Vallecitos Road, Livermore, CA, 94550; www.fenestrawinery.com. The cost is $15. Join Fenestra for the 21st Annual SOUP-er Bowl! Enjoy some warm and tasty soups and breads paired with award-winning wines. Soups will be prepared by Handles, Incontru, El Sacromonte, Blue Sage and other guest chefs. $15 gets you a logo glass, buffet plate, unlimited soup and bread samples and recipes. Club members, non-drinkers and children pay $5.

  • Valentine's Dinner & Wine Pairing -- 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 9 at Garre Vineyard & Winery, 7986 Tesla Rd, Livermore, CA, 94550; www.garrewinery.com. The cost is $65. Share a romantic evening with your valentine at Cafe Garre. Enjoy a romantic four-course dinner paired with award-winning wines set to a performance by "Elegant Touch of Strings."