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scaredy catSan Diego wines? Some people would be surprised there is a wine industry here. But there is, it is growing rapidly, and the quality is improving by leaps and bounds. Some of the best wines are made by talented winemakers working in their backyard on weekends. This Tempranillo from

Scaredy Cat Ranch/Cactus Star Vineyard is an example.

There are many dimensions of a wine that contribute to quality. But for most varietals, flavor intensity is the most important, a full expression of what the grape has to offer. This wine has loads of intensity.

Bold blueberry supported by leather undertones, and layers of vanilla that shade into pencil shavings with aeration, make up this powerful but focused, complex nose. The oak characteristics are prominent but blend seamlessly with the fruit. On the palate, the fruit is dark and plush, almost brooding, but medium- grain tannins enter the scene very quickly giving this wine a broad-shouldered aspect unusual for Tempranillo. The very drying, persistent tannins generate a long finish. It is still young and will show more elegance when the tannins calm down.

Tempranillo is the most prominent grape variety in Spain. In the Rioja region, it is smooth, refined, and elegant. In the warmer climate of Ribera del Duero, it is dense, muscular, and powerful. The Scaredy Cat version is much like the Ribero stlyle.

The total production of this winery is about 150 cases which, in addition to the Tempranillo includes a lovely Pinot Noir, a very fine Bordeaux-style blend, and an intriguing Aglianico. You are unlikely to find them in a supermarket outside of a few San Diego locations; you have to visit the winery to get your hands on it. But then you get to talk to winemaker/owner Joe Cullen and his wife Becky, two of the friendliest people you will meet in the wine business.

The tasting room on their patio doubles as the crush pad during harvest; the barrel room is a large closet, the vineyard is the front yard. But it would be misleading to call this a hobby for them; there is heart, soul, and talent that go into making this wine, all characteristics in abundance in Ramona.

Score: 90/100

Price: $24

Alcohol: 14.3%

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