Josh Raynolds (November 2017)
Lisa Perrotti-Brown - 29/09/2017
About this WINE
Tablas Creek Vineyard
Tablas Creek is the realization of the combined efforts of two of the international wine community's leading families, the Perrin family, proprietors of Château de Beaucastel, and Robert Haas, founder of Vineyard Brands.
They had since the 1970s believed the California climate to be ideal for planting Rhône varietal grapes. In 1987, they began the lengthy process of creating a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style vineyard from scratch in the New World. The partners searched California from the foothills of the Sierras in the north to coastal Ventura County in the south, looking for a close match to the Mediterranean climate and high pH soils of Château de Beaucastel. In 1989, they purchased a 120-acre parcel twelve miles from the Pacific Ocean in west Paso Robles.
They named it Tablas Creek Vineyard, after the small creek running through the property. The property elevation averages 1,500 feet, and the shallow, rocky limestone soils are of the same geologic origin as those at Beaucastel. Summer days are hot and sunny, but the influence of the nearby Pacific cools the nights, and the remarkably Rhône-like Paso Robles climate allows the grapes to mature fully and yet retain crisp acidity.
To ensure that the vines at Tablas Creek were of the highest quality and same genetic source of those at Beaucastel, the partners imported vinifera from the French estate. Several clones each of Mourvédre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Counoise, Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc were imported. This diversity allows Tablas Creek to replicate the clonal selection of an established French vineyard. In January 1990, the first vine cuttings were imported from France.
Before arriving at Tablas Creek, they underwent a USDA-mandated three year indexing process that ensured that the vines were virus-free; the first imported vines were available for multiplication at Tablas Creek in 1993. New clones arrived at Tablas Creek each year between 1993 and 2000. Planting continues at the estate, with the goal of having 110 acres in vines by 2010. The Tablas Creek Vineyard label debuted with the construction of the estate winery for the 1997 vintage. Beginning with the 2001 whites and the 2000 reds, the wines were named Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc.
Southern Rhône Blend
The vast majority of wines from the Southern Rhône are blends. There are 5 main black varieties, although others are used and the most famous wine of the region, Châteauneuf du Pape, can be made from as many as 13 different varieties. Grenache is the most important grape in the southern Rhône - it contributes alcohol, warmth and gentle juicy fruit and is an ideal base wine in the blend. Plantings of Syrah in the southern Rhône have risen dramatically in the last decade and it is an increasingly important component in blends. It rarely attains the heights that it does in the North but adds colour, backbone, tannins and soft ripe fruit to the blend.
The much-maligned Carignan has been on the retreat recently but is still included in many blends - the best old vines can add colour, body and spicy fruits. Cinsault is also backtracking but, if yields are restricted, can produce moderately well-coloured wines adding pleasant-light fruit to red and rosé blends. Finally, Mourvèdre, a grape from Bandol on the Mediterranean coast, has recently become an increasingly significant component of Southern Rhône blends - it often struggles to ripen fully but can add acidity, ripe spicy berry fruits and hints of tobacco to blends.