Bourboulenc. You may not have heard of this grape. It quite honestly doesn’t get out much. This is an ancient white grape found in Southern France in Provençe and the Southern Rhône. We find the first mention of this grape in literature from the early 16th century.
It is perhaps most well known in Languedoc where it is blended into white wines in La Clape. In this marine region, the grape is delicate with finesse and elegance, they note garrigue flowers and mineral notes on the nose.
Hmm…so different from the wine I tasted.
Tablas Creek Vineyard
Tablas Creek Vineyard is located in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles. Tucked in off in the North-Western corner of Paso Robles, this vineyard was a venture between Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands and the Perrin Family of Cháteau du Beaucastel in France’s Rhône Valley.
Together they found this property with limestone soils. It sits at an average of 1,500 feet and the soils are similar to those at Beaucastel. Jason Haas, son of Robert Haas is now the General Manager. If you have seen anything on Tablas Creek, you likely know his face. He is generous with his time and information, and with the Perrins leads Tablas Creek as it continues to move forward always improving their sustainability and continuing to make delicious wines many of which are VERY age-worthy.
Tablas Creek 2019 Bourboulenc
The bourboulenc we tasted was from the first vintage of this variety at Tablas Creek Vineyard. I was lucky to get my hands on a bottle of this (or 2, I can’t wait to see how it ages).
Tablas Creek has been working to import all of the Chateauneuf du Pape varieties. This variety is the 4th most planted white grape in CdP. They imported the cuttings of bourboulenc back in 2003.
It was not released to them until 2014, as field cuttings straight out of the vineyard can have viruses that have to be cleaned up before the cuttings can be released. So they start with 3 years in quarantine and then each clean up adds another 3 years. The team at UC Davis had their work cut out for them with the bourboulenc.
100% Bourboulenc 12.8% abv SRP $30
My tasting notes on the Tablas Creek 2019 Bourboulenc
This wine was medium gold in color with a pronounced nose of baked fruit, chalk, lime zest, nutmeg, nectarine, yellow apple, and pineapple.
Dry with good acid. In my mouth, I got Meyer lemon, so a little less sharp, nutmeg, and roasted pineapple. Jason had mentioned the texture and I got that. It weighed heavier in my mouth, reminding me of an aged Roussanne.
I spoke with Jason Haas earlier this year for a piece on Regenerative Agriculture and snuck in a question about the at that time, newly released Bourboulenc. Here is a bit of what he had to say.
“It’s really a wine that we are working without much of a roadmap because it’s not like at Beaucastel they ever bottled it on its own. Usually, they don’t even have enough to ferment it on its own.
I don’t believe that I’ve ever tasted a 100% Bourboulenc from France. So when we were picking it, we were like, what numbers should we pick it at? I don’t know? What should we do in the cellar? I don’t know, let’s try to do something fairly neutral so that we’re letting it show what it thinks it wants. We ended up with it coming in, and we don’t know if this is because it was the 3rd leaf, first harvest and there wasn’t a lot of canopy or whether it was something about the way that we trained it, but we’d obviously exposed the clusters to a lot of sun and it came in very golden, so when it came out of the press it was almost orange. We were like “oh, that’s weird”. Sometimes Roussanne is like that and we’re used to not being freaked out about it when it’s Roussanne, but bourboulenc, we hadn’t read in the literature anywhere, that this was potentially something that happened. So “well, let’s see happens as it ferments” and a lot of that color did drop out, but it’s still a deeper gold than we were expecting it to be. And there’s this textural component that feels to me almost like a skin-fermented white. It’s got a richer texture and almost an almondy character to it. But bright acids it’s like citrus and almonds and pretty rich texture. I think it’s really cool. But we don’t know if it’s representative of what’s it’s going to be like moving forward or whether it was a function of the vintage. “
Jason Haas, September 2020
Tablas Creek Vineyard planted the bourboulenc in 2016 and 2019 was the first year they were able to harvest it. They picked 2.15 tons and, as Jason said, the juice came out a very orange color. (click through to see their photo of the juice)
While much of this orange color dropped out during fermentation, this wine was still a rich golden color when I poured it. It reminded me of an aged Roussanne in color.
This was picked on a night pick and then fermented in Stainless Steel and went into neutral barrels to do its malolactic fermentation.
This wine was popular! They made just 145 cases and set 80 aside for the wine club. They sold the other 65 cases within 6 weeks.
Pairings for Bourboulenc
Baked Coquilles St. Jacques
I looked to the Tablas site for a recommendation for what to pair. I mean this is kind of a new animal. They suggested Baked Coquilles St. Jacques or Mussels Marinière. Hmmm…I went to look up what Coquilles were. They are scallops! Their recipe called for small bay scallops. I only had larger scallops, so we made do. I adjusted the recipe slightly as I just needed enough for Michael and me. Small ramekins each held 3 of my medium to large scallops, they were covered with bread crumbs mixed with parsley and drizzled with melted butter then baked until bubbly.
Pineapple, Cucumber, Avocado Salad
The Tablas Creek tasting notes mentioned pineapple notes with a little mintiness, so I put together a salad of pineapple, cucumber, avocado & mint salad. I thought this acid on the side would be great with the richness of the scallops and might tie in the pineapple, which it did.
Roasted Pineapple with honey and pistachios, pineapple curd filled meringue cups with toasted coconut
I went a little nuts with dessert. Too many cooking shows I guess. Today, I thought, is the day I will learn how to make Meringues! Hmmm… Then I will tackle a fancy plating! Hmmm… Well, it came out delicious if not photogenic.
We made meringue cups with our new silicone molds, then, oh yeah I made pineapple curd. (1st time making a curd too!). Spears of pineapple were roasted in a sauce of pineapple juice, dark brown sugar, and honey.
To plate it, the roasted pineapple got a drizzle of yogurt, a sprinkle of chopped pistachios, and a bit of fresh mint. The meringue cups sat tilted on a bed of toasted coconut and were filled with the pineapple curd spilling out.
This dessert pulled up all the Pineapple notes in the wine.
More from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Tablas Creek
- Regenenerative Agriculture at Tablas Creek – a meaningful way to farm
- A Grenache Vertical from Tablas Creek
- Tablas Creek Vineyard – The Rhones, the new Adelaida AVA, natural fermentation, and the use of foudres
- Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles, Biodynamics, and more
- A Conversation with Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles, the drought and Dry farming
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.