Tablas Creek has recently been hailed as one of California
Cult Winery Alternatives by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. The
2000 Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge has been honored with a score of
93 points from critic Robert Parker. The winery, a partnership between
Vineyard Brands Robert Haas and the Perrin Family, is the American
offspring of the famed Château de Beaucastel in France. The
very vines which produce the award-winning wines would, if vines
could speak, tell a few stories of their long trip to America.
All this to accomplish the kind of wine that in Robert Haas' words
makes the wine lover say, Oh, yeah! Give me another glass! The idea for Tablas Creek started in the 1960s. After getting a
B.A. in History and Politics from Yale, Robert began working for
his fathers wine importing business. As the company's wine
buyer, he began making frequent trips to France where he ignited
his passion for French-style wines and began to build a wonderful
friendship with Chateau de Beaucastel owners, The Perrin family.
In 1970, he started Vineyard Brands to import fine estate wines
from Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Loire, the Rhône, and Alsace.
The company also represented some well known and newly emerging
California brands like Chappellet, Freemark Abbey, Clos de Val,
Joseph Phelps, Rutherford Hill, Hanzell, Kistler, and Sonoma-Cutrer.
Finally in 1985, Robert, Francoise and Pierre Perrin began looking
for land that would emulate the great Rhone region of France. They
found the perfect PH balance and clay soil in a little known area
called Paso Robles, California. Then came the warnings, Everybody
told us 'Dont go to Paso Robles!', but we were stubborn,
said Robert. Then they looked around to see who else had the same
idea about this land as they did, There was Justin... gosh,
maybe 8 wineries in total. Today there are 64.
Paso Robles is a coastal area located halfway between San Francisco
and Los Angeles. It is nearly three times the size of Napa Valley
and almost all of the vineyard land is no farther than 25 miles
from the Pacific Ocean Coast. Like Napa, weather can be hot during
the day and drop dramatically by 30-50 degrees at night. Ideal for
wine grapes? You bet! Ideal terroir for Rhone grapes in particular
- Yes! This is something that Robert and the Perrins knew upon arrival.
The next step would be what vines to plant. After many trials, Robert
and the Perrins again looked to France to provide them with not
only the inspiration for Tablas Creek, but also the raw materials.
They didnt want to skimp on the most important aspect of winemaking,
the grapes, by planting what they considered inferior vines for
the kinds of wines they had in mind. So, they had to go about it
the hard way.
Over the period of ten years, from 1990 to 1999, they imported 12
vine cuttings of each clone of each variety from the Chateau de
Beaucastel in France. The initial imported cuttings underwent the
careful scrutiny of the USDA to see if they were susceptible to
potentially harmful viruses. After the vines arrived in America,
they had to wait and wait and wait.
Tablas Creek finally debuted its first vintage in 1997, and it has
been a love affair with wine critics ever since.
Robert wanted to share his views on his hard-earned wine with you,
The Rouge is California in its fruit forwardness. The grapes
are ripe. The wines are quite big, not over the top, but without
a lot of new oak... California wine with a French education.
I would add that Tablas Creek is made with an authenticity that
can only come from someone who could be described as a perfectionist,
but should more accurately be described as a genuine wine enthusiast
whose own ideas about what a wine should be truly yield to terroir
for the ultimate expression of what the wine is.
The Tablas Creek estate has 80 acres of vineyards, divided between
red and white varietals. The reds are Counoise, Grenache, Mourvèdre
and Syrah. The whites are Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and
Viognier. The Tablas Creek estate also includes a vine nursery and
according to the folks at Tablas Creek winery, Other growers
in Paso Robles evidently share Roberts opinion on the French
clones, because Tablas had to start a nursery to satisfy demand.
Neil Collins winemaker adds, "We never intended to have a nursery
business, but the phone was ringing off the hook.
Robert and the Perrins have a full tasting room if you ever get
a chance to visit their winery in Paso Robles, or as they affectionately
refer to it, Paso. If you do think you can make it their
way, you will enjoy some of the best wine the region has to offer
amongst a beautiful setting. Dont forget to bring your boots
because you will probably be invited out into the dirt for a look
at the organically grown vines and a peek into the now famous nursery.