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Latitude 42: Southern Oregon’s Spanish connection

The Rogue Valley sits at 42.4401° N latitude. The Rioja region in Spain is at 42.2871° N. Ribera del Duero is slightly south at 41.7820° N.

What do these areas have in common along with their earthly latitude? Wine. Specifically, tempranillo and albariño, but with distinctive regional differences.

In Spain, as in much of Europe, many wines are referred to by the region, the appellation they come from, such as Rioja, not by the grape. All wines from there will be called Rioja, a protected place name.

“In Spain,” explains Oliver Fix of Ostras! Tapas & Wine Bar, “you drink the region.” In the U.S. there are no such regulations or specific appellations. A wine is called by its principle grape(s): We don’t drink Oregon or Napa, etc.

Tempranillo, as the dominant red wine of Rioja, has a long, deeply rooted history. Tempranillo is native to Spain, so it’s likely this old world grape developed from an even older, wild varietal transported from Lebanon a couple of millennia ago by the maritime Phoenicians. Most conversations about Spanish wine start with this classic varietal, the signature wine of Spain.

After years of study and searching for the best place to grow tempranillo in the U.S., Hilda and Earl Jones purchased land in Roseburg (43.2165° N) in 1992. Three years later, along with a small number of other Spanish varietals, they planted the first tempranillo grapes in Oregon. In another two years they had their first fruit, and Abacela’s new world tempranillo was born.

Since this first planting, several additional tempranillo styles have been produced. More Spanish varietals, including albariño and garnacha/grenache have been planted, wines have been crafted, and many awards have been won. If you are a Spanish varietal lover, a pilgrimage to the new world of Spanish wine is a short drive away.

“The wine that is being produced in Southern Oregon, in my opinion, it’s really, really good,” says Fix. “We’re getting some outstanding wines now, and they are more the result of the individual winemakers dedication.”

Ostras! offers a selection of both old world Spanish wines and new world Spanish varietals. “My theme in wine is Spain and Oregon,” Fix emphasizes.

Ostras! does provide Oregon wines that are not Spanish varietals, but there is a focus on Spain. “I like to explore varietals that we don’t find in the new world at all,” he says. And newly reopened, they have found a delicious way to do just that.

The Spanish influence of tapas with pairings is in the forefront. With the addition of a 16-tap cruvinet, they now offer a rotating selection of wines in 3- and 6-ounce pours, which is perfect for tastings and pairings. New tapas will finesse the menu.

Ostras! is working on a new special tasting package — a flight of taste. “The Spaniards co-evolved food and wine,” Fix explains. “We’ll have five to seven tastes paired with five to seven (3-ounce) pours, and you can taste and pair for a couple of hours. Food the way it’s meant to be — a shared experience.”

Latitude 42 in Spain is the perfect place for the old world growing season and creating classic wines. Here at the Southern Oregon Latitude 42, we are creating world-class vintages, from old world grape varietals, in our Rogue-style wines. Salud 42!

Ostras! Tapas & Wine Bar is n the Ashland Plaza, at 47 N. Main St. Reach them at 541-708-0528 or see OstrasAshland.com.

Reach Paula Bandy at pbthegrapevine@gmail.com and connect with her on Instagram at @pbthroughthegrapevine.