Tablas Creek, a California vineyard, is delivering Rhône-inspired excellence with its delicious wines.
Getting into business with friends may make some people nervous, but for two men who were first industry colleagues, their evolution into friendship only made their business stronger.
It all started centuries ago across the Atlantic Ocean in France. Château de Beaucastel was founded by a noble, Pierre de Beaucastel, in the 1500s and has been a part of the Perrin family's history for five generations. The family patriarch, Jacques, elevated the Chateauneuf-du-Pape vineyard with his vision of organic farming and his interest in Mourvèdre.
On the other side of the world, another man, Robert Haas, started his wine journey when he began to visit international vineyards to establish relationships with producers and purchase wine for his family's store in New York. In the 60s, when he started to import wines from several of France's wine regions, including Burgundy, Bordeaux, and the Rhône Valley, he met Perrin, and their business relationship began to flourish.
A Little Bit of History
Napa Valley began creating its American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) in the 1980s, whereas Paso Robles, its neighbor to the south, more recently established its 11 sub-AVAs in 2014. Next time you pick up a Paso bottle check out the designation on the label, which could include any of a list of these sub-AVAs: Adelaida, Creston, El Pomar, Paso Robles Estrella, Paso Robles Geneseo, Paso Robles Highlands, Paso Robles Willow Creek, San Juan Creek, San Miguel, Santa Margarita Ranch, and Templeton Gap.
While Napa Valley is nationally and internationally sought after and visited, Paso Robles takes more effort to reach, tucked into the state's central coast. The location and journey are part of what makes this area whimsical and enchanting. Whether you fly, train, or drive here, once you arrive, you'll encounter a sprawling wine country with more than 200 wineries on 40,000 vineyard acres.
With a variety of climates (rainfall ranges from 10-30 inches per year in different areas), Paso Robles has a variety of soils and elevations (700-2,400 feet), which in turn produces an exciting collection of wines.
The leading wines the area produces are Zinfandel (and blends), Cabernet Sauvignon (and Bordeaux-style blends), Rhône (Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, and Viognier), Italian (Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Barbera) and unique single varietals (Albariño and Tempranillo). For the most part, Paso wines are fruit-forward and high in alcohol.
Now Back to the Friendship
After two decades of doing business, a friendship blossomed between the two families, and so they decided to look into establishing an American vineyard in California. In 1989 they landed in Paso Robles, a region they felt similarly mirrored the climate and soils at Château de Beaucastel – more specifically the area that's now within the Adelaida AVA.
In 1990, the families imported Mourvédre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Counoise, Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, and Picpoul Blanc so that their U.S. vines came from the same genetic source as their vines in France. In 1997 their debut vintage was released, and the rest is history.
Today, Tablas Creek continues to follow the traditional Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine-making techniques to produce deliciously balanced blends. The vineyard's production splits 50-35-15: 50% red, 35% white, and 15% rosé with a total of 30,000 yearly cases.
Every year the vineyard produces wines that fall into four categories. Esprit de Tablas are the flagship red and white blends selected from the top estate-grown lots. Cotes de Tablas are red and white Rhône estate-grown classics. Patelin de Tablas red, white, and rosé wines are made from neighboring Paso Robles Rhône-style vineyards with the red wines aged in French oak and the whites in stainless steel. And finally, the Limited Release small batch wines are available only to wine club members.
Like most Rhône varieties, Grenache tends to be a centerpiece, and Tablas Creek is no exception. Its Grenache tends to be light, easy to drink with a slightly tannic but not overly dry finish. The wine is not too fruit-forward but certainly has hints of dark berry and dried fruit. Finally and not to be missed, its rare 100% expression of the Counoise grape, which tends to be a blending grape, is lightly aromatic and very unique--certainly worth a try.
Next time you find yourself in Paso Robles (or online) and buying some Tablas Creek from the winery or your favorite wine shop, make sure you've signed up for Grand Reserve Rewards—you'll earn rewards points on every purchase.