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What Happens when you put a Rubber Chicken, a handful of Iberian Grapes and some Crazy Californians Together? TAPAS, of course!

If you weren’t already in the know, TAPAS are more than delicious little treats you savor with a glass of Iberian wine.  TAPAS is also the name of the Tempranillo, Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society, co-founded in 2006 by no one other than Jeff Stai, owner of Twisted Oak Winery, author of El Bloggo Torcido, and now acting Vice President of TAPAS.

How did we find out about TAPAS? A few years back, Ryan conducted a podcast interview with Jeff not only about Twisted Oak winery, but also about his, at the time, brand new venture. Being enormous fans of the preservation of native Iberian grapes, we love the idea of TAPAS, and even more so, the joining of like-minded folks who are passionate about working together as a team.

So imagine our excitement a few weeks ago when we received an invitation through the Open Wine Consortium for “the most extensive tasting of domestically produced Iberian varietal wines ever offered in America”. On August 8th and 9th, TAPAS is hosting a two day tasting at COPIA (American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts) in Napa Valley featuring wines made from Tempranillo, Albariño, Garnacha, Graciano, Mourvedre, the Tourigas, Verdejo and Bastardo; and produced not in Iberia, but in Arizona, California, Oregon, Texas and Washington. It is an incredible opportunity for anyone who is a Spanish or Portuguese wine lover, which I hope is all of you, to taste a wide range of Iberian grapes expressing a very unique terroir.

But rather than just give you the skinny directly from the invitation, I thought it might be fun to pin down the big guy himself to ask him a few questions about both his organization and the event.

What motivated the foundation of TAPAS?

Really, just a bunch of wineries and growers who got together a few years ago at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium (UWGS) in Sacramento, that decided that it would be a good idea to band together and make some noise about what we are doing. “Varietal specific” organizations like Rhone Rangers and ZAP have done a great job for creating markets and demand for their members’ products. So, why not?

What has been the greatest benefit of its creation?

Honestly, not a lot yet because we are so young as an organization. But just the fact that we exist has gotten us some interest from the media for many of our members and their wines. And we’re aiming to do better!

What was the motivation behind the creation two day TAPAS Iberian wine trade tasting?

Well, we’ve been collecting dues for a couple years and we decided we had better spend it on something or we’d be lynched!

Seriously, we needed to do something to gain and sustain momentum. Last January at the UWGS we put on a technical panel and tasting called “Tempranillo!” which was a resounding success, attended by literally hundreds of our industry colleagues. Those other organizations I mentioned had to have their first tasting event at some point and now it’s our turn.

We considered a San Francisco location, but the logistics were pretty daunting. The nice thing about having it at COPIA in Napa is that it’s still close enough to the Bay Area to attract a decent audience, and that we are able to leverage the COPIA staff to help us with the logistics.

We chose two days because it gives us the chance to reach both the trade and media (Friday) as well as the curious consumer (Saturday)

What do you personally hope that the participants take away from the tasting?

Simply that Iberian varietals have arrived in North America, that the wines we are producing with them are delicious, and that they are worthy of selection to be put on your wine list, sold in your store, and paired with your dinner tonight!

Where do you see the future of Iberian grape growing in California?

I like to think that the reason the Spanish explorers came to
California and stayed (at least, more of a reason than that funny
yellow metal!) is that California is a lot like home. And I think for many areas of California these varietals make sense – perhaps more sense than French varietals.

This also goes for areas in the Northwest and Southwest that are doing great things with Iberian varietals!

Although Portugal has formed a few strong organizations like TAPAS, such as the Douro Boys and the G7, do you feel that Iberia could benefit in creating more organizations like these?

Sure! Banding together in a common interest multiplies everyone’s efforts – if you do it right!

We couldn’t agree more with Jeff, and hope that there are few Iberian wineries out there listening, open minded to the idea of teamwork and cooperation. The rising tide raises all ships, and by banding together, I think Iberia could do some pretty incredible things – well, beyond making ridiculously fantastic wine, of course 🙂

If you want more information about both Jeff and TAPAS, you can also listen to his interview on Biz Radio.

Thanks Jeff for your time and we wish we could be there to support you, but sadly, fuel costs are a bitch when traveling 3,000 miles 🙂 That said, we are sending a covert operative in our place. Andy Booth, who was interviewed last year and is co-founder of the The Spanish Table, will be attending the tasting and reporting back to Catavino on its raving success – as if it would go any other way.

Gabriella Opaz

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