Tablas Creek Vineyard has been on “my list” for quite some time, but I’ve only recently experienced it. I know, I know. It defies logic, but listen, a girl can only drink so much wine, even with steadfast commitment. But when I spied a 2009 Espirit de Beaucasteel at my local Total Wine, I knew the time had finally come.
Tablas Creek Vineyard is located in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles, just 11 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The location did not occur by happenstance. It was a dedicated effort between an esteemed Chateauneuf du Pape producer, Jacque Perrin, and the American importer, Robert Haas. The Perrin family have been at the helm of the famed Chateau de Beaucastel since 1909. Robert Haas had been their exclusive importer for decades.
The two decided on finding an American property to grow Rhône varietals, and in 1989, they settled on the Tablas Creek property, named for the creek that runs through it. The climate, the pH of the soil, even the geologic origin, matched that of the soil at Chateau de Beaucastel. The following year they had cuttings from vines at Chateau de Beaucastel imported, where they began a 3 year quarantine required by the USDA. In 1994, the first vines were finally planted. To date, there are 115 acres under vine.
An integral part of the Tablas Creek story is the property’s nursery. It is where those cuttings from Chateau de Beaucastel were propagated, eventually supplying approximately 5 million cuttings to over 600 vineyards, in California, Washington, Texas, and Virginia.
The passion, expertise, and generosity of Tablas Creek inspired many winemakers to produce wines from the Rhône varietals. They became known, collectively, as the Rhône Rangers, forever expanding United States wine offerings.
So what grapes are we talking about here? In addition to the list below, Tablas Creek also grows Tannat, and Vermentino, the only California winery to do so.
|Red Varietals||White Varietals|
Organic certification came in 2003, Demeter certification in 2017, and in 2020, the winery gained Regenerative Organic Certification – the first vineyard in the U.S. to receive the designation – it focuses on soil health. Home to a herd of sheep, alpacas, and even 2 donkeys, it’s hard not to fall in love with everything about Tablas Creek, not just their wines. Speaking of which, let’s get to it.
There are three labels produced at Tablas Creek, the Espirit de Tablas, the flagship label, the one that started it all. In fact, prior to 2011, it was called Espirit de Beaucastel, as can be seen on the bottle I opened. This is a Chateauneuf du Pape blend, offered in both white and red. There is a Cote de Tablas label, and the Patelin de Tablas. Patelin means neighborhood, and the grapes for these wines are representation of the Paso Robles neighborhood with grapes coming from other Paso vineyards, that grow and produce Rhone varietals, all of which were planted with cuttings from the Tablas Creek greenhouse.
If it isn’t clear that Tablas Creek is a pretty amazing place, run by amazing people, when I posted my 2009 find on Instagram, Tablas Creek commented and let me know that if the wine had suffered from floating around the distribution system for nearly 10 years, to let them know and they would replace it. Wow. That is the kind of customer interaction that results in a lifetime of devotion. I’m just sayin.
But guess what? The wine was freaking beautiful. In fact, it still tasted youthful and I would have never guessed the vintage on this bottle in blind tasting. Well, ok, to be fair, I’ve never correctly guessed the vintage on any wine in a blind tasting , but it was clear to me that this bottle has many more years of life left.
Tablas Creek|Espirit de Beaucastel 2009|14.5% ABV|$65.99
Given all of the love and attention that Tablas Creek devotes to the land and viticulture, it comes as no surprise that the goal is to have the wines reflect origin and place, opting for minimal intervention, the wines are fermented with native yeasts. The blend on this wine is 40% Mouvedre, 28% Syrah, 27% Granache, and 5% Counoise.
The grapes are hand picked and sorted, before they go into a 1,600 gallon upright wood tank where fermentation with all native yeasts begins. In this case, that is 4 different wines, in 4 different tanks. They spend about 10 days here, with twice daily punch downs. Following this, they go to neutral oak barrels to finish fermentation. In the spring, they are finally blended, and then put in 1,200 gallon French oak foudres for about a year prior to bottling.
Intensely aromatic – oh how I love that – with notes of anise, toasted nuts, chocolate, pepper, and minerality. It is my experience that with great quality wines, it is not really the notes, but the feel of the wine that is exquisite. Not to mention with a truly complex wine, the notes keep changing from beginning to end. I got black and red fruit, mocha (coffee? chocolate?), the minerality came shining through, with a hint of salted caramel. So one of the things I love about a nice Chateauneuf du Pape is the minerality that comes across and this wine definitely had that quality. As delicious as it was, it was the silky texture, with fine, dusty tannins, balanced by a still bright acidity, that had me swooning. Just wow.
So, here’s hoping you come across a 2009 Tablas Creek on a retail shelf near you. I’m guessing that is not likely to happen, but you can always order directly from the winery. I am very grinchy when it comes to wine clubs – I like to say I used up all of my commitment on my husband of nearly 30 years – but Tablas Creek might join the ranks of the very few wine clubs I join. You can purchase wine, join the club, or just check out the incredible story and history of Tablas Creek here.