Parador Cellars (not to be confused with the El Parador wines from Spain) is run by Steve Ventrello (who we originally met with at his home); Steve is also the winemaker but it was clear from some of the musical instruments scattered around his home that he enjoys music – for fun he plays the accordion and guitar. And his wife Faith comes from the world of music, having previously been a music directory at a radio station in Seattle and as an executive working for Elektra in New York City and both Capitol and Virgin in Los Angeles.
The roots of Parador Cellars began with visits to Spain, primarily to Ribera del Duero where Steve enjoyed numerous tastings of various Tempranillo wines. He began thinking about how Tempranillo was such an under-rated variety in California.
But not only under-rated in California but also in the Napa Valley. In fact only 30 bearing acres were listed in the 2018 Napa County Crop Report – as compared to nearly 22,000 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley’s most planted variety. As of our latest update to this review, a rough guesstimate of the number of Napa Valley based producers making wine from Napa Valley grown Tempranillo is just a handful of wineries – and a 100% Napa Valley varietal, such as the Parador Tempranillo is even rarer.
Tempranillo is native to Spain and despite is minimal plantings in the Napa Valley is one of the most planted varieties worldwide and the number one most planted grape in Spain (the primary grape in the Rioja region). It is also an early ripening variety – hence the root name temprano which in Spanish means early.
During one trip to Spain Steve secured Tempranillo budwood from well-known vineyards in the Ribera del Duero and Rioja wine regions. He then had had it shipped to California. Family friend, Terry Wilson owner of the 1,000 acre Rancho Chimiles property and vineyard in Wooden Valley budded over a small section of his vineyard to Tempranillo specifically for Steve (using the budwood that Steve brought over from Spain). Later Steve gave Tempranillo cuttings to the founder of Stagecoach Vineyard, Jan Krupp who planted a small block to this variety which then provided the grapes for Steve’s Tempranillo.
Prior to the vines maturing in either of these vineyard sites, Steve sourced his Tempranillo for his first few vintages from Gundlach-Bundschu in neighboring Sonoma County (the site of California’s oldest continuously family-owned winery.
Parador is a Spanish word and represents castles that have been converted to lodging. It also means a place to stop, rest and enjoy life. Parador’s wines are all about enjoying life with good food as they are meant to be consumed with meals.
Steve has a long history of working within the wine business – his first wine gigs were working in several wines shops in Los Angeles. Later he founded Los Angeles based Angeles Wine Agency for about 10 years before selling it and moving to the Napa Valley. In 2002 along with Faith, he co-founded a successful wine distribution and marketing company, Vintage Wine Marketing. This company markets and sells wines wholesale from select boutique producers – primarily in the Napa/Sonoma region as well as select parts of Europe.
Parador Cellars released its first commercial vintage in 1998 – two wines, a red blend and the Reserva (a barrel selection). Steve uses only premium Bordeaux based oak barrels for aging as well as larger oak puncheons which allow the wine to age slower and longer. His Tempranillo typically is aged in neutral oak while his Cabernet Sauvignon sees some new oak. As a result, his wines see a minimum of 4 years of total aging from harvest to release. All their wines are unfiltered. And this is the only Napa Valley based producer that has made Tempranillo the focus of its production.
And in what is probably the only wine of its kind produced in the Napa Valley, Steve crafts a rosé from Tempranillo. This wine was created by saignèe (bleeding off the juice) and then fermented in two neutral French oak puncheons and then aged 6 months before bottling. The 2015 Parador Cellars Tempranillo rosé is fairly dark for a wine of this style showing orange/dark amber colors (perhaps longer contact with the skins before it was bled off). It is nice to try something ‘different’ for a change from the Napa Valley. Shows aromas of tangerine, orange marmalade, a sweetness of fig and hints of lemon grass. On the palate shows some weight flavors of jolly rancher candy, strawberry, watermelon (the part of the watermelon between the rind and where it becomes sweet). The finish is clean, with hints of darker spices and a lingering feel of fine but textured tannins.
The 2016 Parador Cellars Tempranillo is 100% varietal from a block in Stagecoach Vineyard on Atlas Peak. It was aged 30 months in several times used French barriques & Puncheons. Shows a dark ruby core and purplish tinges on the rim of the glass – meaty, savory and floral on the bouquet, shows aromas of bacon fat, violets and spicy ripe Santa Rosa plum. Also hints of anise and clove. Invites intrigue and begs a sip. Juicy on the palate with mouth watering acidity. Flavors of red cherry, blackberry and black pepper notes. Lingers with fine-grained dusty (but not overly drying) tannins.
The 2005 Parador Cellars Tempranillo saw no new oak during the aging of the wine and as a result the varietal characteristics show very well. There are not a lot of Tempranillo producers in the Napa area and this is an excellent example of how this fruit can really shine. The grapes were not harvested to ripe so its not an overly fruit driven wine high in alcohol, rather it has good acidity with structured smooth tannins on the long elegant finish. Plum and cherry flavors show on the palate along with a nice minerality.
The Parador Cellars Reserva is predominately a Tempranillo / Cabernet Sauvignon blend. We enjoyed the 2004 vintage. This has a pretty bouquet similar to the Parador Tempranillo; it is a full bodied wine with notes of plums on the palate and structured tannins on the finish. This wine blend typically varies in the percentages used each year.
Also of note is they make several Cabernet Sauvignons from fruit sourced from select regional vineyards including Hossfeld and Stagecoach (both located in the Atlas Peak sub appellation of the Napa Valley). Both vineyard properties have changed ownership over the years – Hossfeld was previously owned by the Vandendriessche family, owners of White Rock Vineyard – and Stagecoach was sold to its current owner, Gallo Family in 2017.
The Parador wines are well distributed in California (which is their main market), and may be represented locally at Gary’s in St. Helena. Additionally, while they are a small producer (as of our latest update, one of their wines is under 100 cases) they sometimes have older vintages available on their website priced very decently. For more information and or to join their mailing list, visit: www.paradorcellars.com