In the politically correct field of winemaking, it’s not often that a brand owner admits that he was (hopefully it is in the past tense) a pyromaniac as a kid. But that’s John Giguiere’s story — that his fascination for starting fires in his father’s wheat fields was his inspiration in naming the Matchbook brand — and he is sticking to it.
Tempranillo, the primary grape of Rioja in Spain, is not too often or too successfully grown in California, but Giguiere likes the grape and has planted it in his Dunnigan Hills vineyards north of Sacramento.
The 2009 Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Tempranillo ($17) in some way reminds me more of a sangiovese-based wine from Italy than a tempranillo from Spain — a certain leanness to the dark cherry and somewhat plummy favors, the hint of bacon fat, a pleasing citrus-peel finish with mild tannins. It has 5 percent cabernet sauvignon and 5 percent graciano, a grape Rioja producers use to "fatten" their wines, so perhaps Matchbook will use more of it in the future. As is, this is a good, if not complex, food wine that will go well with pizza, red pasta and a lunchtime BLT sandwich out by the pool.
The pink counterpart is the 2011 Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Rosé of Tempranillo ($10), and with touches of syrah and malbec, it is about as light and ethereal as you can get in a wine even though it has 13.5 percent alcohol. The flavors are a very-light, pastel, tart peach with a little woods strawberry. It’s OK to sip, but the tastes are lost when drinking with food, except, perhaps, for white-breaded tea sandwiches, as long as the crusts are removed.