Located in the northwest corner of Paso Robles, Tablas Creek Vineyard make some wonderful wines in the old world style. With a strong connection to French winemaking, this winery uses predominently Rhone region varietals to produce elegant and restrained wines.
When I was planning my trip to Paso Robles, I asked a friend who is a sommelier for winery recommendations. Tablas Creek was first on her list, and after visiting, I understand why. Restaurants, including sommeliers, love this style of wine because they enhance and bring out the best in many foods. I tasted the wines at the winery without any food though, and I would happily enjoy the wines again with or without a meal.
I fell in love with my favorite white wine of the trip at Tablas Creek. I enjoyed all of their whites, however, the 2010 Marsanne ($30) was something special; it was smooth and luscious, with hints of honeydew melon and nectarines. This was the first time that they made a 100% Marsanne and it was because 2010 was such a great year for this varietal in their vineyard. I bought two bottles and enjoyed the first with a meal of scallops and grilled shrimp. The two other whites that I tried were blends, one of which was mostly Marsanne (2010 Cotes de Table Blanc $27). I plan to seek out more of the white wines from this winery for the long and lingering summertime evenings ahead.
One thing that I found really appealing about the wines was the minimal influence of oak. The winemakers really let the grapes shine and did not mask their true flavors with the spices that can dominate when new, small oak barrels are used. The photo above shows the oak barrels that they use, and while it may be hard to tell in the picture, they are considerably larger than those commonly used in California. The larger barrels translate into less surface area per amount of wine which means the oak imparts less flavors than when smaller barrels are used.
The Rhone style red blends had something for every palate. The 2010 Patelin de Tablas ($20) and 2010 Cotes de Tablas ($30) were fresh, smooth and easy to drink, which was a surprise as both are young wines. On the other end of the spectrum, I tried two vintages of the Esprit de Beaucastel ($55), one from 09 and one from 04, to get a sense of how this rich and structured wine will evolve over time. It is remarkable how the various combinations of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise can yield such different wines.
The highlight of the tasting was the reserve 09 Panoplice which was not released yet and is only available to wine club members. The aromatics on this wine were amazing and I could have inhaled the nose on this wine for hours.
Tablas Creek Vineyards is mostly an estate winery meaning they grow their grapes in addition to making wine. They are focused on biodynamic farming techniques and do not use herbicides. The nice thing about this for the wine lover is that you can be confident that the wines are all grape juice and don’t include any unnatural chemicals.
The website for the winery has helpful food pairing recommendations for their wines.
Rating: 4 out of 4 – highly recommend
Downsides? It is a bit of a haul out to the northwest corner of town where the winery is located but I think it was well worth the trip.