Tablas Creek (Paso Robles)

Tablas Creek is a winery linked with Chateau de Beaucastel in France. That French chateau has a mixed appellation of Cote du Rhone (CDR) and Châteauneuf du Pape (CDP). Our pourer told us that the Perrin family that owns that chateau searched out a place to make wine that had similar conditions in California, and settled in Paso Robles. The French wines are grown in an interesting, gravelly, rocky soil, all of which Paso doesn’t have. It does have a lot of limestone in the soil and the areas get very similar weather. One sentence can sum up Tablas Creek: They specialize in Rhone varietals. I don’t know if Tablas Creek started the Rhone Rangers in California, but they certainly lead the charge on making Rhone style wines in California. Tablas Creek is tucked away on Adelaida Road and has a newly expanded and very open tasting room.

Our pourer was phenomenal. He loved the wine, he loved the area, and he loved to talk about both. Towards the end of our visit we found out that this was his chosen retirement area with his wife. He was a pilot but retired in an area that is difficult to get to by plane, off the beaten path, but steeped in viniculture. Sounded like a pretty good way to live out retirement to us.

2009 Grenache Blanc, $27 To me this had a strong apple note and a long, lingering acidity. Anna thought it would be a good food wine and would match well with chicken. It was light with low alcohol. This was 100% Grenache Blanc, and an example of how you can get pure varietals such as Roussanne, Vermentino, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah at this winery, each treated with the classic Rhone winemaking hands.

2009 Roussanne, $30 This is a wine that our pourer said could age for 10 years. A straw/greenish color, it had notes of butter and nut with medium acidity to me. Anna pretty much agreed, saying it was nutty with a unique flavor, light but complex.

2009 Esprit de Baucastel Blanc, $40 (62% Roussanne, 26% Grenache Blanc, 12% Picpoul Blanc). Again a wine that ages well for 8-10 years. To me this was an extremely well balanced wine, but it seemed a little closed. Upon saying this, our pourer reached for a 2008 Esprit. This was a little more greenish in color, had butter on the nose, and a higher acidity. Anna felt the 2008 was more complex. The 2009 to her was complex and a very good blend. This was an excellent white CDP style.

2010 Rosé, $27 (59% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache Noir, 11% Counoise). I noticed one thing with Anna on our trip when she would come across a rosé. She usually takes one polite sip, and then says she’s not a big fan. It made me wonder what she would say with a truly blind tasting of rosé. She had strong mango and papaya on the nose and said she’s not as keen on this one. I got the tropical fruit as well, it had a light acidity and was pretty well balanced with some tannin.

2009 Côtes de Tablas, $30 (43% Grenache Noir, 24% Syrah, 18% Counoise, 15% Mourvèdre). This is a table wine that Tablas Creek puts into wide distribution. To me this had some tannin and structure, and the characteristic Grenache flavor. Anna said this had a lot of complexity, and our pourer said it gets better with age. Nevertheless, for Anna it was light and she’d rather get a Pinot. For the price ($24) she’d enjoy a $10 bottle of Pinot more.

2008 Esprit de Beaucastel, $50 (38% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache Noir, 26% Syrah, 6% Counoise). We were told this is a 20 year wine, unfortunately he didn’t break out a 20 year old bottle to prove it to us (!) but we certainly picked up on that ability. This was a purplish brick red. Strong acidity pops out of the wine, but the mid palette had a strong attack of tannins. To me it seemed a little unbalanced at this point, but I really felt that was a temporary condition, and that this should be tried in 15 years. Anna’s only comment was it was a 20 yr wine. I think it was a little closed for us to fully appreciate. This was where we started using one of our trip’s catch phrases: I would like to revisit that one later.

2010 Vermentino, $24.30 To me this was smooth and had a nice mouthfeel with light acidity. It had an almost socky nose, and there were definitely some aldehydes coming out. Anna felt this was a good summer wine, perhaps with shellfish. It was sweeter than the grenache, and would be a good crowd pleaser.

2009 Bergeron, $30 This was a pure roussanne that Anna felt wasn’t as nutty or as good as the roussanne.

2008 Tannat, $40 This was purple with a slight brick. I got forest with something unidentifiable after. (My brain couldn’t pick it out, and believe me I tried)! Anna felt this was phenomenal with a caveat that she tried a lot before and she might be blitzed at this point. I was giving her the rest of my pours since I was driving.

2007 Syrah, $40 We skipped the ’08 Syrah and headed for the ’07, partly on the pourer’s suggestion and a little back and forth on the characteristics of the years. Anna felt this was very good. It was a deep inky purple. It had some woody forest on the nose. Smooth tannins and it opened to forest floor on the palate. It had good complexity and a dark character.

All in all, we felt a ‘bad’ wine at Tablas Creek might equal an ‘exceptional’ wine at a lesser winery. They have so many varietals to choose from, and so many wines to choose from, that it can make a tasting somewhat dizzying. We definitely got our money’s worth, it’s a $10 tasting and you get to keep the glass, and with a wine purchase the tasting is free. Since you can’t walk out with a bad bottle, IMHO, it’s worth planning on picking up a bottle. We picked up a bottle of Vermentino. It had a stelvin cap (a great feature when travelling!) and since we hadn’t planned on dinner yet, we felt it was the most versatile of the wines. Of the wines we tried, only the Côtes de Tablas and the Esprit de Beaucastel reach wide distribution.

This is a winery that really needs to be on a short list to be a wine club member. There are so many unique pure Rhone varietals that don’t see wide distribution. Their wines score in the 90′s by Tanzer and Parker. For example, their Panoplie 2008, a wine we didn’t even get to see, scored 93-95 by Robert Parker and 94 by Steve Tanzer. That’s a wine you can only get in the wine club. What is remarkable to me in retrospect is that these are heavy hitting critics reviewing a wine you can only get in a wine club. I don’t think we saw that anywhere else in our travels. Finally, they offer heavy discounts and shipping offers that make it easy to come back to Tablas Creek wines without getting to Tablas Creek winery or trying to find it in a store. This place set me on a varietals kick but some of them were unavailable to even taste unless we joined up with the wine club. The 2008 Mourvèdre was on both our lists, but we couldn’t try that. Food for thought for later, but we had many wineries to go before we sleep.

Tablas Creek Vineyards

9339 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446
805-237-1231
FeaturesConnection to Chateau de Beaucastel in France. Amazing wines.
Tasting Room11 to 5 daily
Tasting Fee$10 with free glass, complimentary with wine purchase.
Overall Experience       Wine Tasting Setup     Wine Pourer(s)       Sales Pressure  
Yelp Reviews
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