January 17, 2018
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Tempranillo and Lamb Shank Stew

By: Jeff James
October 20, 2017
The Perfect Pairing

The shorter days and colder nights which are typical at this time of year, present the perfect atmosphere for enjoying warm, full flavors in both your food and your drink. This month’s Lamb Shank Stew recipe and a well-crafted Tempranillo are a perfect combination for crisp fall weather.

I was moved to highlight Tempranillo while recently hosting a group of nine sommeliers at our home. They had travelled to Sonoma County from all over the country to participate in an educational “Sommelier Camp,” which was cut short by the tragic and deadly wildfires that have just ravaged our area. We were asked to house the group until they could get their travel plans rearranged to deal with the emergency evacuation from their hotel. Of course, the sommeliers were very interested in our Stony Point Vineyard and the wines produced from it. I gladly gave them a vineyard tour and had them taste our wines, which they raved about. As we dined they opened some of their favorite wines which they had brought on the trip to share with their peers. One of those wines was a 14 year old Tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain. The wine was absolutely lovely and inspired us to imagine which foods would best highlight and enhance the wine… this month’s recipe would have been a phenomenal pairing.

Tempranillo is a medium-bodied red wine which shows nice fruit flavors and aromas that are balanced by a full complement of tannins and spicy notes. The varietal also often exhibits restrained and very intriguing notes of leather, tobacco and dried fruit. The spice and structure of the wine make it very well suited for the fatty richness and deep herbal and root-vegetable layers in the stew. 

While Tempranillo is not widely grown in California it has been steadily gaining in popularity as more and more producers are successfully coaxing complexity and elegance out of the wines they are crafting. The adaptability of Tempranillo is making it a favorite amongst food lovers and domestically produced versions are increasingly being represented on the wine lists of fine restaurants, just as the Spanish versions have been for many years. 

Grab a bottle of fine locally grown and produced Tempranillo, slow cook this stew with shanks from lambs raised right here, then lift a glass to celebrate and to remember. Remember those that we have recently lost and celebrate the strength of a community coming together. Cheers.


Jeff James is the founder and co-owner, with his wife Judy, of Stony Point Vineyard and James Family Cellars. Their Cotati vineyard and winery have consistently produced award-winning wines. Jeff can be reached at or