As with many wineries, it started with an idea which turned into a passion, then morphed into a dream which was turned into reality. Of course, all this took many years of hard work and sacrifice, but that’s what happens when you make your dreams come alive.
Earl Jones got an early…um, jones…for Spanish wines, especially the succulent red wines from Rioja and Ribera. At first he had little idea and even less concern for what the wines were: he simply enjoyed them, whether alone or with food…especially with food.
As his interest in the wines developed, and he learned about Tempranillo, Garnacha, Albariño and other Spanish varieties, he began to wonder why they weren’t represented in the American wine scene---did they not fit the climate or terroir; did they not have the capability to produce outstanding wines in other places; and why wouldn’t they? These questions led Earl to investigate even further, and eventually he decided to follow the idea/passion/dream of developing these varieties in the Pacific Northwest, finally settling on the beautiful but then far-off-the-beaten-wine-path of the Umpqua Valley in Oregon.
Fast forward twenty years and Earl, his wife Hilda, and their two daughters are celebrating the “overnight success” of an outstanding winery, Abacela Vineyards, and their championship, gold medal, tasty-as-hell wines, which are led by Tempranillo, those Rioja and Ribera reds that Earl enjoyed so much, the brick and mineral-driven Albariño white, and a Garnacha Rosé that are astonishingly good and entirely delectable. There are other varieties present in the vineyards and in the wines----Syrah, Malbec, Dolcetto, Viognier, even some Petite Verdot---but it is the Spanish varieties that are most compelling here.
There are now two Tempranillo wines, the Estate and the Fiesta offering. The Estate is the more conservatively robust and stately of the two, more akin to the idee fixé of Rioja and Ribera. The Fiesta Tempranillo is the more approachable of the two immediately upon release, grapy and gulpable and made so as to soften up the tannins and make the wine smoother and silkier, but more in a Spanish way than a traditional jam-centric California style. There’s still lively acidity, black fruits and spiciness here, and no hint of overconcentrated jamminess. It is compulsively drinkable: one sip and you want the whole glass, and a refill, and then another bottle. There’s no tannic bite or scratchiness either, due to the choice of the grape lots and the barrel regimen, with 17 months of a combination of old and new barrels, using a combination of French and American oak. (Interestingly enough for wine geek types, the Fiesta actually reminded me of the Mencia/Bierzo reds, even though that’s a different Spanish variety; it made the wine even more drinkable.)
How thoughtful of the folks at Abacela: when you go to the winery (and you should; it’s a great stop off Interstate 5 just southwest of Roseburg in the Umpqua) you can buy the Fiesta for popping and drinking right away while the Estate is sitting quietly for years getting more and more impressive.
Abacela has won a slew of gold and platinum medals and a whole wall of “best” awards. They deserve every one of them. It’s a lovely story of the idea/passion/dream-come-true saga of a couple of supremely nice and dedicated people making some great wines for us to enjoy.
You should have some Abacela in your wine rack. If you don’t, go get some. You can thank me later.