Wine is bottled poetry.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
During our recent trip to the Paso Robles wine country, we scheduled a tour at Tablas Creek Vineyard. This happened to be the most instructive winery tour we ever had, thanks to Ryan Hebert our host, Assistant Winemaker at the winery.
View of the Tablas Creek vineyards and the nursery.
The winery and vineyards are situated on the westside of the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA), in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range, at an altitude between 1400 and 1600 feet and only 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The combined effects of the ocean cooling breezes, the sun, fog and altitude create in this area a long growing season and produce fruit of great complexity and depth.
View of the Tablas Creek vineyard with the winery logo painted on a limestone rock.
One of the winery owners, the Perrin family from Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape was looking for rugged soil containing limestone with a lot of difference between high and low temperatures, similar to the Beaucastel terroir in Southern Rhône Valley. They found what they were looking for in the Las Tablas district of west Paso Robles.
The vineyard is densely planted on steep terraced slopes and is organically farmed. Composting is extensively used and compost tea is sprayed on the plants to prevent foliar and berry diseases like mildew. Watering is reduced to a minimum. Cover crops regulate vine growth, attract beneficial insects, reduce erosion and provide nutrient like nitrogen to the vineyard.
Work in the vineyard is all done by hand: maintenance, pruning and harvesting.
Viognier budwood growing in the nursery.
The winery owners chose to import eigth main Rhône varietals (Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah, Counoise, Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc) directly from the Perrin's estate. They waited three years to get the cuttings tested for viruses through the USDA certification program, and these cuttings are now propagated and grafted at the winery's nursery. Picpoul Blanc was introduced recently and more (Clairette, Bourboulenc) should be coming later.
These clones are now available in California and can be purchased by other growers.
The 1200-gallon oak foudres braced on custom-designed reinforced steel bases to prevent any future earthquake damage.
No vines are harvested before they are five years old in order to get enough fruit concentration and complexity. Harvesting is done by hand and only when the grapes are completely ripe. There is little human intervention in the winemaking. The goal is to preserve the unique character and complexity provided by the soil, the grapes and the skillful blending of varietals. Each varietal is fermented separately using native yeast, in neutral aged oak barrels or stainless steal. After fermentation, red varietals are blended like in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and aged in 1200-gallon French foudres to avoid any heavy oaky aromas in the wine.
Assistant Winemaker and Assistant Vineyard Manager Ryan Hebert at the tasting room.
After the winery tour, we were curious to see the results of such hard efforts and we were not disappointed at all. All the nine different wines that we tasted were very well-crafted, full of flavors, very food friendly and simply fantastic!