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Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011

Abacela unveils Gran Reserva-style Temp

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Abacela founder Earl Jones said proudly, "This is the wine we came to Oregon to make."

Saturday night, the famed Umpqua Valley winemaker lifted the veil on his secret project — Paramour — a proprietary red blend from the 2005 vintage with the robust Spanish grape Tempranillo as the base.

"American Tempranillo will change forever" is how the Roseburg winery promoted the invitation-only evening to its wine club.

Jones repeatedly, albeit playfully, declined to list the components of the blend. He said it was built in the Spanish tradition of Gran Reserva wines from the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions of the Iberian Peninsula, which specifies such wines as being aged five years and the product of an excellent growing season.

Indeed, the 2005 vintage is viewed as one of the Northwest's best of the young century.

The production was 170 cases, and the 2005 Paramour ($90) ranks as one of Oregon's most expensive wines not made of Pinot Noir.

"I hadn't even thought about that," Jones said. "I know the economy is down, but I think it’s priced fairly."

This year, Abacela released about 2,500 cases of robust Tempranillo among its three tiers — regular ($20), estate ($35) and reserve ($45).

The 2005 Paramour spans winemakers past and present, Kiley Evans and Andrew Wenzl, respectively. And yet Jones, director of the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society (TAPAS), takes full credit for this unique Temp.

"This was my project," he said. "I've kept it close to my chest. It was tough keeping those six barrels a secret, though."

Ironically, the public got its first glimpse of Paramour two years ago when Jones donated three large-format bottles of it to the 25th annual Classic Wine Auction in Portland. The gift of the 2005 Paramour came as he celebrated being named the 2009 Oregon Vintner of the Year.

"The 2005 vintage was a great one here at Abacela, and my read on the wine is that it hasn't peaked," Jones said. "I'm estimating that will be around 2017, and it probably will set on that plateau for 10 years."

It has been a particularly memorable year for Jones and his wife, Hilda, as they opened their stylish new tasting facility this spring. And the proprietary name goes a long way in describing his latest adventure at his 77-acre Fault Line Vineyards.

Jones views Paramour as the culmination of efforts that began in 1995 when he became the first in the Northwest to plant Tempranillo. He uprooted his family from the Florida Panhandle and transitioned from a decorated career in clinical dermatology to create world-class Tempranillo in the United States.

"Paramour translates as 'other love' or 'mistress,' " he said. "We've dedicated so much time and attention to this, it's a good way to describe it."

Those who miss out on this debutante Paramour must wait a while for her younger sister. Jones doesn't expect to release the next one -- the 2009 Paramour -- until 2015.