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Upper Five Vineyards & Wines

Upper Five Vineyards & Wines 2017 Tempranillo

A unicorn in a bottle

At 1920 feet of elevation, the Upper Five vineyard just outside of Talent, Oregon is situated on the site of an historic pear orchard. The first organic certified vineyard in Southern Oregon, it was planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Tempranillo in 2003.

Confession time: The Upper Five wines had been like a mythical unicorn for me. I’d tasted them on multiple occasions in the Rogue Valley (even begging the business card off of a server at a wine bar!), but each time I tried to meet with the winemaker, they’d sold out of their wines. Nice problem for them, but frustrating for me!

But at long last, I connected with owner and grape grower Terry Sullivan. And wow, was the wait worth it!

At Upper Five, the approach is to let the time and place shine through the fruit in bottle; avoiding excessive winemaking techniques that can overshadow the natural flavor and texture of the wine. The focus is on the fruit, not on the wood or any of the winemaking techniques that can sometimes overshadow the fruit in the bottle.

With just 650 cases of wine made annually, it’s easy to understand why they’re constantly sold out!

Upper Five Vineyards & Wines

Cellar 503 Tasting Notes

Upper Five Vineyards & Wines, Talent, Oregon
2017 Tempranillo

Take a look at a map, and you’ll notice that the latitude for southern Oregon is almost exactly the same as that of Spain’s Rioja region, about 42-43°. And the climate, hot days and cool nights, is exactly what Rioja’s native grape, Tempranillo, needs to thrive. So, it’s no surprise that Southern Oregon’s reputation for phenomenal Tempranillo grows every year.

There are a growing number of wineries making the Spanish-style wine but each of them has a different take on it. At a recent meeting of the Oregon Tempranillo Alliance — yes, there is such a thing! — winemakers and grape growers in attendance compared dozens of wines from all over the state and each one had a different take on the grape.

The 2017 Upper Five Tempranillo is a more old-world style than previous years. The oak, while present, isn’t overpowering the gorgeous dark fruit. With firm tannins and bracing acidity, this wine begs for food. It would be especially fabulous with paella, chorizo, or slow roasted pork. Or maybe just a home-made thin crust pizza loaded with mozzarella and spicy pepperoni, right out of the oven!

A Cellar 503 selection in December 2021, Wines for the Holidays Rogue Valley | Tempranillo