We are sticking with Southern Oregon today, but we are heading into the Rhônes. No…I’m not giving you another Syrah. Today we focus on Grenache from Cowhorn in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley AVA (which is nested in the Rogue Valley AVA).
We’ve done a bit on Bill Steele and his wife Barbara recently
Feel free to dig into these, but I’ll give you the quick run down here.
Bill and Barbara Steele, were working in the corporate world and trying to live a homeopathic lifestyle. Finally it came time to make this life they wanted, full time, incorporating it into everything they did. They chose the Applegate Valley and settled on creating a vineyard and farm. After meeting some biodynamic vineyard owners, they knew this was the way forward for them. After having the soil analyzed they settled on Rhône varieties and planted their vineyard. They also grow asparagus and have a really wonderful lavender patch that is home to multiple varieties of bees, as well as some really beautiful decorative gardens.
When they decided to build their tasting room, they went for the Living Building Certification and became the 1st tasting room in the world to be built to these standards. The tasting room is beautiful as well as energy efficient and is made from sustainable products.
Cowhorn 2016 Grenache 6
Why is this wine called Grenache 6?
Well…it’s Grenache. The “6” comes from the number of mornings that Bill was raised before dawn in the coldest hours to turn on the frost protection for the vineyard. So as you can see, 2016 was not a bad year for frost!
Here are Bill’s notes on this wine from their site.
Vibrant and acid driven, the 2016 Grenache reaches a new level of boldness. Intense aromas of cherry, blackberry and licorice pour over the glass. Juicy ripe strawberry appears on the palate with a perfect balance of oak on the finish, making this fun red wine perfect for your favorite BBQ fare. Chill slightly for a refreshing zip in the summertime.
Cowhorn.com Tasting notes
James Suckling gave this wine 93 points. It sits at 14% abv and runs $45.00. Oh…and while I sort of mentioned this, it is important to note that this is biodynamic.
The first thing that hit my nose with this wine was stewed strawberries. You know like when you are cooking down some strawberries to make a sauce. Then the spice hit my nose followed by anise (licorice) and then cooked blackberries.
The tannins were lighter sticky tannins and the wine had a medium intensity. This is an elegant wine that evolves in the glass.
On our cheese plate with the above pictured berries, we included included manchego cheese which was heaven with this. A small bite of manchego, honey, black cherry and rosemary was heavenly with this wine.
Our dinner pairing was barbecued beef, which again was lovely with this.
This is a wine that I will look forward to tasting future vintages. For Bill, he is not looking to create the same wine over and over. He looks to create the best wine for that vintage, which will make each year different in it’s own unique way.
On to the 9th Day of Wine
Onward! 4 days left, 4 wines to go. Are you still with us!?
Even if you are not an expert on French Wine, you are sure to have heard of Gérard Bertrand. He produces that stunning bottle of rosé Côte des Roses. You know, the bottle with the rose embossed on the bottom. It’s hard to miss! And…it’s a lovely wine, that actually comes from the Côte des Roses, an area near Gruissan in Languedoc in the South of France. But Gérard Bertrand is much more than simply rosé….
Gérard Bertrand – the man
Gérard’s family had an estate vineyard. He learned alongside his father. Of course he went off on his own and found a passion for Rugby, which he played professionally for many years. But he always had a passion for wine. When his father passed in 1987 he returned to take over the family’s Villemajou Estate and later created the Gérard Bertrand wine company.
Even if you enjoy French wines, Languedoc is rarely one of the first regions you will encounter. This region is in the south of France to the West of the famous Provence. It is the region that wraps around the mediterranean sea from Nîmes to the border with Spain.
The red grape varieties here include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan, all of which can be beautifully blended. We will explore two of these blends below, as well as dipping our toes into a bit of Crémant from Limoux.
Gérard Bertrand – Expressing the Terroir
At Gérard Bertrand they are dedicated to biodiversity and to the area of Languedoc-Roussillon. They expanded from the original Villemajou vineyard to purchase Cigalus Estate, Château Laville Bertrou and the Aigle Estate. Beyond that they now include Château la Sauvageonne, Château la Soujeole, Clos d’Ora, Clos du Temple, Château les Karantes, Château Aigues-Vives, Cap Insula winery, Château des Deux Rocs, Château de Tarailhan and the Estagnère Estate, in their portfolio.
After becoming interested in homeopathic medicine in the early 2000’s, Gérard became interested in Biodynamics and in 2002 started farming the Cigalus Estate biodynamically. They have since converted all their estates to biodynamic practices.
Many of the pieces you will see below will focus on the Biodynamic Cigalus Blanc, the wine that Gérard Bertrand provided as samples to many of the French #Winophiles. With many people interested the list had to be limited. Late to the party we did not receive the samples, but we were able to find several other bottles of Gérard Bertrand wines that peaked our interest!
The Grand Terroir range of wines they produce allow you discover each unique region. In addition they produce a Crémant de Limoux, claimed to be the region where sparkling wine originated. I mean how could we pass that up?!
So we have all probably heard the story of the famous monk Benedictine Dom Pérignon who lived in Hautvillers in the Champagne region of France, discovering bubbles and tasting the stars! Dom has, in legend, often been credited with inventing Champagne. He lived from 1638 to 1715. Well… in Limoux they say that in 1531, the monks of Saint Hilaire were the first to discover the bubbles and begin using the “traditional methode” to produce sparkling wines. I’ll let them duke it out, you can pour me a glass of either and I will be happy to watch them debate while I simply enjoy the delicious wine.
Limoux sits in the cool foothills of the Pyranees, an area perfect for growing grapes for sparkling wine. For more on this area, I highly recommend visiting the Limoux AOC page on Languedoc Wine site!
Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016
Crémant de Limoux is said to be the only sparkling wine that Thomas Jefferson kept in his cellar. I like to picture him receiving the sparkling bottles from the chilly basement through his wine elevator…leave it to Thom to invent this stuff. (We visited Monticello a few years ago, hence the photos).
This particular wine is a blend of 70% Chardonnay, 15% Chenin, and 15% Pinot Noir.
The Grapes are harvested when their acid-sugar balance reach their best. The fruit is transferred to the winery and immediately pressed in a pneumatic pressing machine. In addition to reinforce the perception of freshness and balance, the dosage is very precise. The Pinot Noir grapes are not macerated, in order to preserve their colour. The must is transferred to the vats for alcoholic fermentation using the same process used for still wine. After malolactic fermentation in the vats, the wine is blended together and then transferred to the barrels to mature for 8 months.
During the Roman era, this area was actually an island. No longer an island, La Clape is bordered to the east by the sea, to the west by the low-lying alluvial plains of the Aude and to the south by the lagoons. The soils here are loose limestone.
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015
The wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 35% Carignan and 15% Mourvèdre. It sits at 13.5% abv
A slow ripening process and a late harvest (end of September to mid-October) are the key ingredients for producing grapes that are ripe, healthy and concentrated and also aids the extraction of colour and aromas during fermentation and maceration. The grapes are harvested by hand when they have reached peak ripeness and transported to the winery in special bins. They are then de-stemmed before being transferred to the stainless steel vats for maceration, lasting 20 to 25 days. The wine is then decanted into barrels for 8 months of ageing.
Tautavel is a village in the Roussillon region, located between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. This region lays claim to some of the oldest hominid remains in Europe. In 1971, the remains of Tautavel Man were discovered. These remains date to 450,000 years ago, and the area is thought to be one of the cradles of civilization.
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2015
This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah & Carignan and sits a 15% abv
Work in the vineyard starts by selecting the most suitable plots of land for each variety. The grapes are harvested once they have reached peak maturity, determined by regular tasting, and are sorted twice: once in the vineyard and again in the winery. The fruit is vinified in the traditional manner, the grapes are de-stemmed and then undergo maceration for 3 to 4 weeks. The must is then pressed before malolactic fermentation begins. 33% of the wine is transferred to barrels and matured for 9 months, while the rest matures in the vats.
I sat with the tech sheets for each of these wines and prepared a menu, which began and ended with the Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose.
The salmon crostini was simple, just crostini, (sliced baguette, brushed with olive oil and baked 8-10 minutes) topped with smoked salmon, a dot of creme fraiche and then either a dab of raspberry jam or a dab of caviar.
The Crémant was beautiful in the glass, clear with fine bubbles and a light salmon color, that looked gorgeous next to our salmon crostini. The nose hit you first with tart fruit followed by whiffs of toast.
This was beautiful with the salmon, the acid and bubbles cutting through the fat. The creme fraiche mirrored the tartness in the wine and the crostini brought in those toasty elements. It was interesting to see how the difference of salt or sweet on the top affected the experience. I enjoyed the jam matching the fruit in the wine and balancing it with that hint of sweetness, but the crostini with the caviar was my favorite. The caviar contrasted beautifully, pulling forward the fruit notes in the wine. This was a delicious bite and pairing.
Cheese & charcuterie
We opened the two red wines and put together a cheese & charcuterie platter, which included gouda, manchego and a St. Angel triple creme cheese. I added some sopresso, honey & walnuts, as well as an assortment of berries; strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.
I found that the triple creme cheese went beautifully with both wines, with the wine pulling forth some beautiful floral notes in the cheese. The Tautavel was surprisingly nice with the salmon crostini with caviar, brightening and highlighting the food.
As expected the sopresso was wonderful with the La Clape with the mouvedre in the blend. The La Clape was also very nice with the crostini with the jam. Together both the jam and the wine felt brighter in my mouth.
Sous vide pork in caramel sauce & Roasted fennel & Peppers
Gérard Bertrand’s suggested pairings for the Tautavel included “grilled peppers, pork in caramel sauce and rabbit with prunes and fine cheeses”. The tasting notes also listed red fruit and raspberry aromas underpinned by spicy notes…delicate notes of scrubland and spices on the palate”. In addition they noted “Ripe black fruits, chocolate, licorice and smoked herbs…”
Intrigued by the pork in caramel sauce, I found a recipe for sous vide pork to riff on. The pork went into the sous vide with a rub of salt, pepper, paprika (for those subtle spices on the palate) and rosemary (for the scrubland herb notes). 2 hours later, we seared the chops and drizzled with a caramel sauce with salt pepper and rosemary. This plated with roasted fennel (pulling forward those licorice notes) and peppers with a bit of rubbed sage (more scrubland). We garnished with fresh fennel and sage leaves and blackberries to tie in the “ripe black fruit”.
Roasted Chicken on a bed of cous cous with arugula and cranberries
The La Clape suggestions included roasted poulty and creamy cheeses. We had already enjoyed this with the triple creme, so now it was onto tasting it with the roast chicken. I served this on a bed of cous cous with cranberries to pull those fruit notes and arugula to pull some of the peppery notes, as well as add a bit of green.
Both of the wines paired well with the food. These wines are lovely on the nose, but feel lighter on the palate, so that they were beautiful to pair with these lighter meats without overpowering the flavors of the dishes.
Dessert – Deconstructed Berry tart
With a Brut Rosé you can rarely go wrong with a red fruit desert, and this was no exception. I created a simple deconstructed berry tart, with crumbled shortbread, raspberry jam, a puree of raspberries an strawberries, fresh blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, mint and a raspberry sorbet.
We poured another glass of the Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016 (which we had stoppered, pressurized returned to the fridge to preserve the bubbles while we enjoyed the rest of the meal). This pairing did not disappoint and was the perfect end to an evening of delicious wines.
This was a beautiful exploration into this region and this winery for me. I encourage you to search for Gérard Bertrand wines, beyond that beautiful rosé and taste a bit of Languedoc.
The French #Winophiles
Read on for more great pieces on the wines of Gérard Bertrand. As I mentioned before, many of these will focus on the wonderful 2018 Cigalus Blanc, an exceptional white blend that I look forward to tasting in the future.
And join us on Saturday May 18th at 11 am EST on twitter to discuss these wines! Just follow #Winophiles to find us!
The 12th Day of Wine demanded digging in the cellar for something special and Michael perused the Tablas Creek Wines that we patiently wait to open, allowing them to age as we gaze longingly at the Vintage chart waiting for them to be in their prime.
It’s worth noting that as we gazed at the Vintage Chart, we opted to open the 2009 even though it is listed as “Drinking Well: Youthful”. The 2010 that we have is in a closed phase. We probably could wait another 5 years to open this bottle and have it in a “Drinking Well: Mature” stage, but…life is short.
Tablas Creek Vineyard 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Panoplie
What makes the Panoplie different from the other Esprits? Well this is the most age worthy wine they make.
“sourced from the most age worthy lots in the cellar and blended for intensity and balance.”
Tablas Creek (from the bottle!)
This is why this wine that is almost 10 years old, is still drinking “Youthful”.
This vintage had the Panoplie blend at 65% Mourvèdre, 26% Grenache and 9% Syrah.
This was written in December of 2016 (so 2 years ago). In it Jason describes how the 2009 Panoplie was showing then.
2009 Panoplie (65% Mourvedre, 26% Grenache, 9% Syrah): A very cool, savory, and exciting nose of dark blue/black fruit, seemingly less about Grenache than the 2008. The fruit is fresh but concentrated, cherry and plum, with a powdered sugar character to the tannins that we often see in great vintages. Some cocoa powder on the finish, which is still youthfully grippy and fairly primary. It’s still quite a young wine, from a powerful vintage, and may also still be emerging from its closed phase. Should make great drinking over the next decade.
Jason Haas from the Tablas Creek Blog December 2016
What to pair?
We looked at options for pairings, and while Neil Collin’s recipe for Boeuf Provençale looked wonderful, I am beef stewed out this holiday season. So…we opted to go for something celebratory, like duck! And for an extra bit of celebration, (and to be sure I didn’t mess up cooking the precious duck), we chose to pick up some superbly made duck dishes from Cured & Whey and eatt here in Las Vegas.
Cured and Whey – Duck Reuben
I have been meaning to try this great sandwich from Cured & Whey and managed to be on this end of town today to stop by and pick one up. Rocksan was kind enough to have them prepare it for me uncooked, so I could grill it at home for Michael and I for dinner. What’s in it you ask? Hudson Valley Duck Ham, Swiss Cheese, Sauerkraut, Dijon and house sauce.
Cured and Whey is a great little gourmet/sandwich shop created by Chef Michael Stamm. They are in a warehouse area, but don’t be afraid, they are well worth searching out. They get busy at lunch time, because they are so good. So plan ahead and leave enough time to order and sit with your eyes closed soaking in each and every bite.
6265 S Valley View Blvd Ste K Las Vegas, NV 89118 | 702-429-3617
eatt – Duck with sunchoke three ways & black currant sauce
eatt is a neighborhood restaurant in Vegas that is serving amazing Michelin Star worthy food. The duck is “Slow cooked and seared served with sunchoke three ways and a black currant sauce” The chef was kind enough to prepare it for me slightly deconstructed, so that I could warm the sunchokes and duck later for Michael and I to enjoy. The 3 ways for the sunchoke were confit, puree and chips. Sadly my plating is probably no where near as beautiful as it would have been had I enjoyed it at the restaurant.
You can find them at:
7865 W Sahara Avenue Suite 104-105 Las Vegas, NV 89117 702-608-5233
Funny Coincidence. When I told Rocksan that I was picking up her duck sandwich and then heading to eatt for their duck dish, she asked if I was basing this on Michael’s article in the RJ on duck dishes. Nope! I had missed that, but you know what they say about “great minds”! (Looks like there are a few more places I need to hit up!)
Ah duck…so adorable, but so delicious. The wine took a bit to open up. I suggest decanting an hour before (which I did not do, so we waited for it to open in the glass.)
The pairing was divine. The duck breast melted in your mouth and the sunchokes were the perfect companion adding a bit of brightness to the rich and beautiful duck. The currants set the dish off with that sweet/tart/acid component and made the pairing with the wine even better.
We moved on to the duck rueben…mmmmm…great flavor without being too overpowering. I had worried about the sauerkraut with this, but it was perfect. And I have to do a shout out on the tiny pickle medley that accompanied the salad. Mini gherkins, and tiny grape size and smaller tomatoes along with some heritage tomato slices in the lightest of pickling that were perfection (where can I get more of those Rocksan?)
A surprising pairing with goat cheese
One last surprising pairing. We still had some goat cheese around from other pairings and I had thrown together a cheese plate. The goat cheese with cherry preserves and a bit of rosemary was really nice with this wine, as did the Haymarket Goat Cheese I had picked up at Cured & Whey.
Make your way to Paso Robles. There is wine in abundance. Take the time to make the drive out to Tablas Creek. I really believe that these are some of the finest wines being made in this country. And…you can learn all about all of the Rhône varieties here
Tablas Creek Vineyard 9339 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446 Phone: 805.237.1231
Recently I indulged myself with a day of movies. I love going to movies by myself. You can immerse yourself in a film, in it’s moods, colors and tones. I always stay until the end to read all the credits. By then you can escape quietly, no other voices to pull you out of your contemplation/meditation. There is no one there waiting to talk about the film, no one to disagree with your interpretations. You are free to stay immersed in your reverie, musing on the mood the film has wrapped you up in.
This was a day for that. I went to see The Phantom Thread. It was lyrical and ordered, filled with manipulation and surrender. (The sound design, by the way, was stunning. You will hear about the annoying toast, but it goes far beyond that. They movie is filled with silences with the sounds of steps or breathes, of closing doors or fabric moving.)
I left and still happily ensconced in my reverie headed to look for a bottle of wine for my evening. I am exploring the Rhône and settled on a bottle from Lirac. The shelf talker spoke of violets and white pepper and this seemed appropriate today. (I will stay away from mushrooms for a bit. spoilers)
I chose a Domaine Coudoulis 2013. This wine is a blend of grenache and syrah.
Domaine Coudoulis 2013 Lirac
So as always, I like to know a bit about where the wine I am drinking came from, so…we will dive in to a few details on Lirac and then Domaine Coudoulis.
Lirac is in the southern Rhône and sits west of the Rhône River across from the famous Chateauneuf du Pape AOC and just north of Tavel where the famous rosés are found. It officially became and appellation in 1947, but wine grapes have been grown here since the middle ages.
You will find crus here in red, white and rosé. Primarily they focus on the reds, with 10% of the wines being white wines and just 3% rose. They focus on the white grapes Grenache blanc, bourboulenc, roussanne and clairette and use picpoul, marsanne or viognier for in small amounts for blending.
The variety of soils, clay plateaus with those galets roulés or pebbles for the reds, sandy soils where they grow the red for rosés and then the scrubland where the whites grow, give each variety a distinctiveness.
The red wines here are full-bodied, the white wines are heavier whites with floral notes. Many of the rosés of the area are in the deeper darker style of Tavel, but are significantly more affordable.
While Lirac has only been an AOC since 1947, it is said that Lirac is the birthplace of the Côte du Rhône. In the 16th century the wines of Lirac were known around the world. They were very popular so to protect them from misuse of the name, the wines were authenticated by labeling the barrels CDR (Côte du Rhône). This was the origin of Côtes du Rhône wines.
The soils here are limestone topped with a dusting of red clay and pebbles. They grow grenache, syrah, cinsault, carignan and mourvèdre as is typical for the region. Harvest yields are kept low to keep the best quality and the grapes are harvested by hand. The grapes are destemmed before fermentation.
Bernard Callet bought Domaine Coudoulis in 1996. The Domaine is 28 hectares (just under 70 acres). It sits on a terrace where you look out over head trained vines, the rows between filled with the galets roulés, and down onto the village of Saint-Laurent-Des-Arbres and it’s medieval castle. There is a sense the history of the place, and you remember that wines have been grown here since the middle ages.
When Bernard Callet bought this place he wanted to blend the tradition with the modern. He spent 10 years on-site learning from the crew. He and Patrick Hilaire, his winemaker, then take the tradition and add a little innovation. So the grapes are sorted by hand, and then go into a modern cellar with a cooling system built into the walls. But within the added technology there is a simplicity. A respect for the vines and the soil.
First the second movie
I sat down on the couch with this lovely bottle and continued my movie reverie, turning this time to “Theatre of Life” a beautiful documentary on the story of the Refettorio Ambrosiano, invisioned by Massimo Bottura. Massimo was overwhelmed by the amount of food waste at the Milan Expo and worked with other famous chefs to open a soup kitchen which would serve gourmet meals made from this food waste to the hungry in Milan. His restaurant Osteria Francescana is in Modena and was rated the 2 two restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine in 2015. The story of Refettorio Ambrosiano is not just that of the chefs and the food that they create, it is about the sense of community and respect that they bring to the hungry. Much of the food waste is bread and the through line becomes “bread is gold”. Such a simple thing, bread. Breaking bread together can span the gaps between us. The documentary begins with a homeless woman, Stefania Bassania reciting a poem she wrote, it continues, sharing the stories of the people who came to the Refettorio Ambrosiano and their stories of how they came to Milan and how they became homeless. It also documents their stories as their lives continue. It’s about people coming together at table, and finding that we are not so different from each other. Using our empathy to see their story from their perspective. So I was in this very open place when I reached for the bottle of of 2013 Domaine Coudoulis Lirac.
Then the 2013 Domaine Coudoulis Lirac
As I opened the wine, blackberries hit my nose immediately. As I dipped my nose into the glass there were dusty notes of cocoa powder, I swished it in my mouth and tasted dark chocolate. (It went brilliantly with the chocolate pudding cake I had for dessert). As it opened up there were notes of dried thyme, then a little barnyard funk and wet straw. Another dip with my nose and I smelled anise/black licorice. At this point the movie had me enthralled, there were tears…does that mess up your nose for tasting? Doesn’t matter, my heart was full and I went back to the wine and found more warm dark berries, those blackberries from the beginning, warming, changing and coming full circle. There were violets and white pepper and then some deeper warmer spices like curry.
cocoa powder in cup
Cumin a curry spice
The tannins on this wine coated my mouth, and then smoothed, like the feeling when you brush your hand against the grain on velvet feeling the prickliness, then you turn your hand and feel the luxurious softness as you smooth the fabric.
Velvet and other fabrics can be so soft when you touch with the grain, but brush it back and you get that prickliness, that roughness. (photo credit Act2Art by RuBen)
This wine is not a high end wine, and it comes from the other side of the tracks (the other side of the Rhône from the more well-known Châteauneuf-du-Pape). But the depth and unfussy complexity was perfect. This is a rustic heartfelt wine and it was the perfect pairing with my day of movies. The 2013 Domaine Coudoulis Lirac can be had for $17 or less and is pretty widely available.
All in all it was a day of exceptional feels. The movies opened me up to listening more deeply and being open to other perspectives, which in turn I believe opened my senses to be able to take in the depth of the wine and the changes as it opened up. It is typical to pair wine with food, but wine is so much more, and pairing it with, movies, art and music can open your mind to new ways to appreciate it.
I love Rhône wines. Wait…let me classify. I love Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Viognier, Tannat, Roussanne, Marsanne, Terret Noir, Picpoul Blanc….I love the varieties and the blends of said varieties. My experience with these wines is mostly from those Rhône Rangers in California. I am just beginning to explore further into French wines and Rhône Blends. In France the wine or blend is named by the area in which it is grown, the AOC , which is a completely different way of learning about the wines.
So as I learn about these wines, I start with comparing a couple of Rhône Blends from two of my favorite California wineries for Rhônes, Tablas Creek and Bonny Doon. We chose the 2011 Patelin de Tablas from Tablas Creek and the 2013 Le Cigare Volant reserve from Bonny Doon.
These two wines differ in where the grapes were grown, the makeup of the blends, the vintage and the wine-making techniques. So first lets look at the wines themselves.
This wine comes from Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, but this is not an estate wine. This wine comes from multiple vineyards that they source from.
“Patelin” means neighborhood in French, so these are grapes not from the estate, but from the neighborhood. The list of vineyards is long (16 different vineyards across 4 different AVA’s in the Paso Robles Region). The AVA’s range from Adelaida Hills (higher elevation and warmer), to Templeton Gap (cooler with a coastal influence) to El Pomar (which is more moderate in climate) and then Estrella which is warmer. The soils differ in these AVA’s also, Adelaida Hills, Templeton Gap and El Pomar tend to be limestone, where as Estrella is sandy loam.
Tablas Creek first produced this wine in 2010 after having a very light harvest in 2009. This was second vintage of the Patelin de Tablas in 2011.
The blend is 52% Syrah, 29% Grenache, 18% Mourvedre and 1% Counoise, and sits at 13.7% Alcohol.
As to the winemaking techniques: the grapes were de-stemmed and fermented in a mix of Open-top and closed stainless steel fermenters as well at 1500-gallon upright oak casks. As usual for Tablas Creek it was only native yeasts that were used. After blending they were aged in stainless steel and 1200 gallon oak foudres. So, kind of a variety (I think some of that may be due to available space). They made 8460 cases of this wine. That’s alot compared to the Côtes de Tablas of which they made 1560 cases.
2013 Le Cigare Volant Réserve “en bonbonne”
2013 Le Cigare Volant reserve from Bonny Doon
Randall Grahm has been making this homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape since 1984. The name comes from a weird wine law in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The story goes that a railway worker in northern France claimed he saw two Martians on his property who had landed in a cigar-like machine. Soon the reports spread and the French were all worried about these “flying cigars” or Cigare Volant. The Mayor of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region put a law into place banning these “Cigare Volants” from landing or even flying over the area or vineyards. And…it worked, there have been no alien sitings in the region since then. Randall came across this law and in his own inimitable fashion, names his homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Le Cigare Volante”.
This wine is from the Central Coast. This wine comes from multiple vineyards that are not necessarily close to each other. It is a bit more diverse in soils and climates that they Tablas, which at least sources from the same region.
When you talk about wine-making techniques…well in Randall’s own words
“The idea of “raising” the wine in glass demijohns was also a bit of a fever dream, occasioned in part by the many hours I spent in deep contemplation of the mysteries of redox chemistry; there was something dream-like (à la Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan) about the many hours driving around southern France with Patrick Ducournau, deep thinker about oxygen and wine (and inventor of microbullage, or micro-oxygenation). I’ve already written quite a bit about the nature of the esoteric élevage en bonbonne—bâtonage magnetique, etc., the opportunity for the wine to digest a substantial volume of yeast lees, and the extraordinary texture and savoriness this protocol engenders.” From his Production Notes
When you visit the tasting room you can see one of the demijohns (or carboys)
A “Carboy” or demijohn on the counter at Bonny Doon Vineyards. This is used for élevage (the progression of a wine between fermentation and bottling)
This wine is 55% Grenache, 25% Syrah, $16% Mourvedre and 4% Cinsault and it sits a little bigger than the Tablas with Alcohol at 14.3%.
This wine’s production was only 554 cases.
What to Pair with these Rhône Blends?
I took inspiration from Randall’s suggestions.
“All manner of cute creatures: rabbit, tiny birds, etc. Rabbit in Mustard Sauce (We suggest our Cigare Blanc mustard for this dish). Beef Kidneys. Stilton. Braised Oxtail.”
Well I have a thing about eating cute creatures, so we settled on the Stilton as well as a Cambozola (a triple creme chees with the flavor of a bleu cheese).
Tablas Creek suggested Grilled Steaks, rich beef stews and spicy sausages with the Patelin.
We set off and got some sweet italian sausage, a shepard’s pie and steak and stout pie.
So here is the spread: Sweet Italian Sausage with a brown mustard, Shepherds pie, a steak and stout pie, some zuchinni noodles sautéd with spices, black olives, a fig jam, the Stilton, Cambonzola, some manchego and aged gouda.
Eccelctic pairings for 2011 Patelin de Tablas and 2013 Le Cigare Volant
Tasting the Rhône Blends
In general, the Patelin was more fruit forward, with a bit of wet hay on the nose (I love that funkiness), and you get a little mineral. The fruit is red and bright, but then there is spice and a bit of anise. The tannins here are light, but the wine still has great structure. It has developed, but still will be great for further cellaring.
The Le Cigare Volant was mellower on the nose, But when it hit your mouth, it was richer than you expected from the nose. My first impression was Thyme in cooked strawberries with hints of smoked spices (like a sweet smoked paprika that is very mellow)
Pairing the Rhône Blends with Food
Both of the wines were fantastic with the sausage, but each brought out something different in the wine. The Steak and stout pie was also good with both, when paired with the Patelin, brought the fruit forward, with the Cigare Volant it highlighted the more savory notes. Michael liked the aged gouda best with both wines (mostly because he’s not so into the Bleu cheeses). The Bleu cheese with fig jam and the Patelin de Tablas was a big hit for me. We got less scientific as we tasted on savoring every bite and pondering on it. We pondered quite a bit and I forgot to write down all the notes, job hazard. Regardless, we enjoyed both wines thoroughly and I am inspired to dive further into Rhône blends, from California as well as digging in deeper to the history of the AOC’s of the Rhône Valley in France.
We had planned to head to the Valley of Fire, but the winds kicked up and it didn’t seem like a good day to go, so…how to fill our day off? Michael suggested a vertical. We settled on a Grenache Vertical from Tablas Creek Vineyard. We had a 2009, 2010 and 2012 in the cellar (they didn’t make a single variety Grenache in 2011).
First, let’s start by talking about Grenache. The grape likely originated in Spain where they call it Garnacha, but it is found abundantly in France in the Rhône Valley. It is the “G” in a “GSM” (Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre) which is the traditional Red Blend from the Southern Rhône. About half of the Grenache grown in the world is in France, with the next biggest portion being grown in Spain. As far as the Rhône Valley goes, it is the most widely planted grape and it is the second most widely planted grape in the world! When you have a single variety Grenache you are looking at a Medium bodied wine.
Tablas Creek Winery in the Adelaida AVA in Paso Robles
Tablas Creek Vineyards,Paso Robles
Tablas Creek Vineyard is located in Paso Robles in California’s Central Coast Region. The Vineyard and winery are a collaborative effort between the Perrin Family of Chateau de Beaucastel in the Rhône Valley’s Châteauneuf du Pape area and the Haas Family. Vineyard Brands, the wine import company founded by Robert Haas had been the exclusive importer for Beaucastel wines. They spent 4 years searching for a property that would be similar to the southern Rhône and settled on this piece of land with limestone soils similar to Beaucastel. In 1989 they founded Tablas Creek Vineyard on the West side of Paso Robles to grow Rhone Varieties. Hot sunny summer days and cool nights from the nearby Pacific, were just the right conditions. At the time, Paso Robles was one big AVA. This ginormous AVA which covered 614,000 acres of land and had 40,000 vineyard acres, was broken into 11 new AVAs including the Adelaida District AVA which is where Tablas Creek is located.
So they found the spot, now it was about the grapes. At this point in time, Rhône grape vines were not abundantly available in California, so they began the process of importing vines from Beaucastel. 9 grape varieties, with several clones from each as well as a variety of rootstocks where selected and imported. Of course that sounds easy right? Just get the cuttings and FedEx them right? Nope. The process is tedious, but important. After the Pheloxera outbreaks in the mid 1800’s and again in 1980’s, regulation to keep vineyards safe was imperative. The first vines arrived from France in 1990 and went through a 3 year process to be sure they were free of all virus’. Once the vines were released they needed to make more vines to have enough to plant. They created a nursery to do this which “at it’s peak produced over 200,000 bench-rafted vines for planting in Tablas Creek’s own vineyard and for sale to interested growers each year.” ( from https://tablascreek.com/story/history) They later partnered with NovaVine in Sonoma to handle this. You can now find Tablas Creek Clones in over 600 vineyards in multiple states.
They began with 9 varietals from Southern Rhone, including Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Picpoul. They continue bringing in varietals so that they eventually will have all of the Châteauneuf du Pape collection.
We have been lucky enough to visit them multiple times and even had an opportunity to do an extensive interview a few years ago with Jason Haas their General Manager. You can find all that info here on the website on our Tablas Creek Page.
The Grenache Vertical
Yes, each of these wines are grown at the same vineyard and made by the same winemaker, but there are differences. First of course is the difference in age, when it was made and how much time it has spent in the bottle before opening. But each vintage is unique. We began our Grenache vertical with the 2009 which was the fourth time that Tablas Creek had done a single varietal Grenache bottling.
Vertical tasting through 3 years of Tablas Creek Grenache
In 2009 California had been in drought conditions for 3 years. April frost and a huge October rainstorm caused the lowest yields they had ever seen at 1.85 tons per acre for the reds. Low yields do typically indicate more concentrated fruit and that held true for this wine when it was made. This was the 4th bottling of Grenache as a single varietal for Tablas Creek.
The Vintage Chart for this wine (which you can find on the Tablas site) indicates that this wine is “Drinking Well: Youthful” while the other two vintages are noted at “Drinking Well: Mature”. Seems strange that the older wine is more tasting more youthful right? The concentration of this vintage allowed more tannins in the wine to give it more room for aging, and in fact they believe that this wine will continue to age nicely for another decade or more. When it comes to aging wines, these folks know a thing or two.
This wine started off warm with red fruit topped with baking spice and prune then it opened up and became spicier with fine ground white pepper. It continued to open through the evening with more herbs and resin.
Harvest for this vintage was late, starting 3 weeks later than usual and ending 2 weeks later. As opposed to 2009, yields of Grenache were almost doubled from the previous vintage. The summer was cool, but not foggy and while they had a little rain during harvest, it was followed by sun and wind to dry out the moisture. This wine and the ’12 are expected to continue to age well for the next 15 years.
This wine had more fruit on the palate than the ’09 and it was a little figgy on the nose (which caused me to buy some fig butter to pair with it). As it opened up I got a little leather, then prunes and more warmth.
The yields from this vintage were similar to 2010 (just a small increase in the tons of Grenache). The sugar levels in the 2012 Grenache sit at just about the same place as the 2010 also.
My first impression in the glass was dried strawberries and cocoa. It opened up to more savory notes of black tea on roasted meat with dried herbs and then some caramel at the end.
We opened the wines mid day and had a taste to see what we wanted to pair with them. We did not decant, which was recommended and here’s why. We had 3 bottles, and we were planning to pair with lunch and then again with dinner and we did not want to let them dissipate too quickly. So after sipping, we set out to find some pairings that might show up the similarities and differences in our Grenache Vertical.
Our cheese pairings with the Tablas Creek Grenache Vertical
Our lunch pairings included a Beef Shepherd’s pie, lentil soup and then a cheese plate that consisted of Asiago with Rosemary, a triple crème cheese and a Cambolzola (a triple crème bleu), fig butter, cherry preserves, dates, strawberries and rosemary.
For dinner, we made bacon wrapped dates, roasted root vegetables (carrots and beets), roasted strawberries with rosemary and crostini’s with cherry preserves and Beef Sirloin Tri Tip in a Kansas City BBQ sauce, which we topped with a little fresh rosemary.
The lentil soup: This went well with the ‘09, great with the ‘10 and not so much with the ‘12. The 12 was just a little too fruity to go with the spices, where the 09 was good, but took a little bit of a backseat. The ‘10 was “just right”.
The Shepherd’s Pie: The ’09 was really nice, there was less spice in the shepherd’s pie than in the soup and that seemed to lend itself to a nice match with the ’09. The ’10 was a little big for the pie and the ’12 a little fruity but okay. The ’09 wins for this pairing.
With the cheeses the Fig butter and triple crème brie were wonderful with the ’09, and the ’10. The Asiago and rosemary went best with the ’10 and the Triple Crème Bleu and cherry preserves were heaven with the ’12.
The bacon wrapped dates and the crostini with cherry jam and BBQ tri tip were heaven with all 3.
My idea of the roasted strawberries seemed great and the nose and taste seemed like it would be great with the wines, but I tasted alone with the ’12 had me reeling. The sugars in the strawberries made the wine go pure heat and alcohol in my mouth (don’t try this at home).
These wines continued to open up. We vacuum sealed them at the end of the evening and popped them open the following day to taste again. They continued to open up in our glasses with more nuances and surprises.
This was a wonderful vertical…I just wish I had another bottle of each that I could hold for another 10 years and try then! (This is why I need a Coravin!)
Check back for more vertical tastings! We will be doing an Esprit de Tablas (with one Esprit de Beaucastel) vertical with Thanksgiving Dinner!
In Santa Barbara, Mikael Sigouin is known as the “Grenache King”. This Island Boy has a winery called Kaena in Santa Barbara County where he makes some amazing Grenache as well as other wines. He sources his grapes from local vineyards, many of whom specially farm his blocks to his particular specs. One of these vineyards is Larner Vineyards in Ballard Canyon. He has the best Grenache block on this vineyard, but it wasn’t always that way. Let’s hear him tell the story….
You can visit Kaena and try some of this amazing Grenache at their tasting room in Los Olivos at 2890 Grand Avenue.
The beautiful Kaena tasting room
Mikael Sigouin of Kaena
Beautiful Tree outside the Kaena Tasting room in Los Olivos
While on the Central Coast in April we were lucky enough to meet with Jason Haas, General Manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles. Jason graciously took time out of his busy schedule to spend a couple of hours with Michael and I in the vineyard and the winery.
Tablas Creek Vineyard is the collaborative effort between the Perrin Family of Chateau du Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape in France’s Rhone Valley and the Haas Family. Vineyard Brands, the wine import company founded by Robert Haas had been the exclusive importer for Beaucastel wines. In 1989 they founded Tablas Creek Vineyard in the west side of Paso Robles to grow Rhone varieties.
In our 3rd segment, Jason tells us about all the Rhone Varieties that Tablas has brought in to the United States, we discuss the new Adelaida AVA, he tells us the intricacies of native yeast fermentation and we discuss Tablas Creeks use of 1200 gallon Foudres for aging wines. Here’s the video, but you can read below for the details
The Rhone Grapes at Tablas Creek Vineyard
Tablas Creek brought in classic Rhone varieties directly from Chateau du Beaucastel. These original cuttings went through the mandatory 3 year quarantine and were grafted onto rootstock. These were; Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, Counoise, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc. Soon after they also added Picpoul. They planted 1/2 acre of Picpoul and this increased the amount of Picpoul planted on the planet by 50! In 2003 they decided they might as well bring all the rest of the Chateauneuf du Pape grapes. Many of these were the first new plantings of these varieties in a decade. Clairette Blanche and Terret Noir were added and both have been made into single varieties wines in 2013 and 2014. Picardan was planted and they expect to have a small crop this year for the first time. 3 others Vaccarese, Cinsaut and Bourboulenc are out of quarantine and they expect to be able to plant these this winter. Poor Muscardin is still in quarantine and may be released next year. Tablas Creek has wonderful information on their site about all of these varieties Tablas Creek Vineyard Grapes
The Adelaida AVA
Paso Robles Wine was one of the largest unsubdivided AVA in California spanning 40 miles East to West and 30 miles North to South. This immense area varies from 350 to 2700 feet in elevation, rainfall in different areas can run from 6 to 35 inches and temperatures from one area to another can vary by 15 to 20 degrees. In November of 2014 this area was broken into 11 new AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). Tablas Creek is located in the Westernmost AVA known as the Adelaida District. This is one of the AVAs to be noted by their calcareous soil, which is one of the reasons Tablas Creek chose this location. How these new AVAs will change the area is yet to be seen. For Tablas Creek Vineyards, all of their Estate Wines will now list “Adelaida District” on their label.
Native Yeast Fermentation
I have always been fascinated by native yeast fermentation. Many winemakers find it to be too risky, so I took this opportunity to ask Jason about the native yeast fermentation at Tablas Creek and how they might handle a “stuck” fermentation. Jason mentioned that often native yeast fermentation is described as “hands off” wine making. He looks at it more as “fingerprints off” wine making because the process actually makes you more “hands on”. During fermentation they are closely monitoring each lot and testing to be sure it is perking away. If a lot is not fermenting well or looks like it is getting stuck, they have options. They can mix the lot with another lot that is fermenting well or pump it over the lees of something that is fermenting well. They can build a culture from a tank that is doing well and release it into a tank that isn’t. So they don’t get “stuck”, they just have to work harder. Using only native yeast is another way of expressing the uniqueness of the site or the “terroir” which is something that Tablas Creek is passionate about.
Use of Foudres
There are few places in California that you will see foudres used. Foudres are 1200 gallon barrels (as opposed to a typical wine barrel that holds 60 gallons). When you walk into the Tablas Creek Vineyards tasting room you can see these beautiful large foudres through the glass windows that surround the tasting room. As Jason explains it, when you are aging a wine you must determine how much oxygen and how much oak you want. As they follow the Chateau du Beaucastel style they are looking for very minor but consistent oxygen and very little oak. As a result, large wood it the way to go. With a 1200 gallon Foudre you have 20 times the wine and just 4 times the surface area compared to a normal 60 gallon barrel. This gives you more volume to surface area. The staves in these larger barrels are thicker also, which makes the penetration of oxygen slower. This is perfect for protecting Grenache which is prone to oxidation and for Syrah and Mourvedre which are prone to reduction which can cause them to go funky. The large foudres give a balance allowing the wines to age gently and still progress.
While this concludes our formal interview with Jason, we did continue with a vineyard walk and winery tour which concluded with a great conversation about how they blend their wines. So watch for more videos and blog posts.
The drive to Purisima Mountain was like taking a step back into my childhood, the curving roads at the top of this canyon reminded me of southern West Virginia, with one dramatic difference…there were vineyards on these hills. WE made this trek during the Spring Vintners Weekend, when we were lucky enough to do a Vineyard hike with Steve Beckmen at the Purisima Mountain Vineyard.
Located in the new Ballard Canyon AVA this property sits at the north end of the Canyon. From Ballard Canyon Road you drive up and around the Stolpman property to reach the 365 acre property. This estate vineyard is planted primarily with Syrah & Grenache with smaller blocks of Roussanne, Marsanne, Counoise, Mourvedre, Grenach Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This vineyard became 100% biodynamic in 2006 and uses a gravity fed drip irrigation system.
The elevations at Purisima Mountain reach 1250 feet. The wind, the fog, the climate all affect the grapes and I had a fascinating conversation with Steve about the “architecture” of the vineyard and how that was still evolving.
We had hiked part way up the Mountain and stopped in the shade of a large Oak tree to taste some wine, have some water and enjoy some snacks. Then Steve pulled us over to the nearest vines and showed us the process of shoot thinning that was beginning to happen all over the vineyard.
The vines here are bi-lateral cordons and they pull off the suckers and try to leave 4 evenly spaced shoots on each cordon. Sometimes you are just pulling suckers (shoots with no blossoms or fruit) and sometimes you are doing some pre-thinning on your fruit this way. The shoot thinning does a couple of things, it gets rid of the suckers that are pulling energy from the vine, it thins out the leaves to allow better sunlight and airflow through the vines and it thins your crop a little to allow your berries to be a little more concentrated. As they thin they also start to train the shoots up into the trellis system above.
Watch as Steve explains:
The Beckmen Winery and Tasting room are not located here at Purisima Mountain, but are one valley over. They have a tasting room on a duck pond with gazebos where you can enjoy a picnic lunch, that is located just outside Los Olivos.
During the Spring Vintners Weekend we were lucky enough to do a Vineyard hike with Steve Beckmen at the Purisima Mountain Vineyard.
Located in the new Ballard Canyon AVA this property sits at the north end of the Canyon. This estate vineyard is planted primarily with Syrah & Grenache with smaller blocks of Roussanne, Marsanne, Counoise, Mourvedre, Grenach Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This vineyard became 100% biodynamic in 2006.
The elevations at Beckmen Vineyard Purisima Mountain reach 1250 feet. The wind, the fog, the climate all affect the grapes and I had a fascinating conversation with Steve about the “architecture” of the vineyard and how that was still evolving.
In this episode, Steve talks about the soils of the Purisima Mountain Vineyard.
The soil types here include clay and clay loam soils as well as a limestone subsoil. Limestone subsoil is predominate in the Rhone region of France but is not widely found in California. It can be found in the Central Coast from West side Paso to the North and here in Ballard Canyon further south. This limestone is tough and makes it hard for the roots to penetrate it. As a result the roots struggle in the topsoil keeping the vines less vigorous and creating low yields and intense fruit.
Listen to Steve talk about the soils:
The Beckmen Winery and Tasting room are not located here, but are one valley over. They have a tasting room on a duck pond with gazebos where you can enjoy a picnic lunch, that is located just outside Los Olivos.
We gathered in the shade just outside the Tablas Creek tasting room. You could tell why we were here by our sturdy shoes. Yes it was almost 100 degrees, but we were wine lovers ready to brave the elements to find out more about this wonderful winery with a vineyard walk and tasting.
Levi Glenn, the Tablas Creek Viticulturist gave us some basics on the winery history before we got started. The Perrin and Haas families joined to find vineyard land here in California to grow the Rhone varieties that the Perrins’ have long grown at Chateau de Beaucastel in France’s Rhone Valley. The Tablas Creek property is on the same latitude, the climate and soil are both similar and when they bought this 102 acre property in 1989 they began the process of bringing the traditional Rhone varieties grown on the Perrins’ estate to this country. The cuttings from France had to go through a three year process to be sure that they were virus free. In order to have enough vines to actually make wine, they started a nursery, bench-grafting vines to plant on the estate and enough to sell to other vineyards. While they no longer have the nursery, they partner with NovaVine in Sonoma to create Tablas Creek clones from grafted vines and bud wood. Many wineries are now raising Tablas Creek clones to create their Rhone style wines.
They grow sustainably, organically and use biodynamic practices. There is a compost tea that they use to fertilize the vines and they plant sections of the vineyard with insectaries to encourage beneficial insects.
We headed down the drive then past the head-pruned Mourvedre by the gate and continued down to the lambing barn and barnyard. Levi talked about the animals, they have 2 donkeys and 5 alpacas that guard the herd of 40 sheep. The sheep are primarily used to mow down the cover crops. Over the season they can cover 30-40 acres of vineyard. In addition they fertilize as they mow. Once the vineyards are growing the sheep have to be moved elsewhere and still need to be fed. Typically they grow legumes as cover crops to add nitrogen back into the soil. They had some vines that were showing a little too much vigor so instead they planted barley as their cover crop. This works beautifully as they can then harvest the barley to use as feed for the herd.
While here they poured us a cool and refreshing glass of the 2012 Vermentino, one of only 2 non Rhone varieties grown on the estate. This was the wine that got me hooked on Tablas Creek when I recieved it as a gift from a friend. Enjoying this wine as the sun came dappled through the poplars, we took in the animals, the view of the cutting shed and the beautifully ripening Grenache.
Refreshed, it was time to move on up the long hill to the top where Chef Jeff Scott waiting under the oak trees. The vineyard views are beautiful. At the top of the hill you have a view of the las tablas creek area including Halter Ranch next door. Reveling in the shade they poured us glasses of the 2011 Estate Rose, a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Counoise. We enjoyed the view and Chef brought out a tray of figs topped with goat cheese to pair.
We headed back down the hill to the head pruned Roussanne block. We believe these are the only head-pruned Roussanne vines in the state. The 2009 Roussane is a gorgeous golden color. Rousanne is often very difficult to grow (NovaVine calls it “the princess”). This is the backbone to the Esprit du Beaucastel Blanc their flagship white wine adding richness, weight and honey with a nice salinity on the backend. Chateau du Beaucastel makes their Roussanne Vielles Vignes which is considered one of the greatest white wines in France. “Roux” is the French word for “russet” which describes the color of the grapes when ripe and gives us the base for the name “Roussanne”. This is the latest ripening white Rhone varieties that are grown at Tablas Creek. The vines respond highly to sunlight and bunches that get sun on the western side will ripen faster than those on the eastern side. This is also a wine that will age well, case in point we were drinking a 2009 and it was rich and stunning. After Levi gave us the run down on the grape, Chef Jeff pulled out the pairing. This was a crostini with fresh ricotta and thyme roasted golden beets topped with a piece of candied bacon. Beets and bacon pair well and both were gorgeous with the wine.
Across from the Roussanne there are scattered fruit trees including some Quince. Levi supplied me with a quick recipe for quince paste.
As we had walked down I noticed a large rack with netting and asked Levi when they netted before harvest. He said that they no longer net. There are so many vineyards locally that the birds no longer descend and feast, but rather just stop in here and there for a snack which is not an issue. They still have air cannons when needed.
We headed back up the hill to the head trained Tannat. This is the other non Rhone variety grown on property. Levi said that it has been called Tablas Creek Zin, as it is so rich, deep and flavorful. This grape thrives in the Tablas Creek climate and soils. Levi says that it takes almost no work and produces consistently good fruit. Tannat is found most notably in the Basque country on the Spanish border. Growing this at Tablas Creek was actually a little bit of an accident. The Perrins’ French nurseryman included cuttings when he packed up the Rhone varieties in 1990 even though it was not requested. His instincts told him that this grape would do well in Paso Robles and I for one would like to thank him! The berries have very thick skins which add to the tannins in the wine. It is fermented open top to allow more oxygen to soften the tannins and then is aged in small barrels again to introduce more oxygen. In 2010 most of the 248 acres of Tannat planted in California came from Tablas Creek cuttings. This wine is beautifully balanced with acid, fruit and tannin. Chef Jeff Scott then had to figure out a way to do a cold red wine pairing out in the vineyard! He succeeded overwhelmingly with this small bite, which still makes my mouth water whenever I think of it (and I think of it often!). He prepared Rillettes in the style of the south of France. The pork is slow cooked for 6 hours in it’s own fat then sits in olive oil, thyme and garlic to soak up some more goodness. This is placed on crostini topped with caramelized onions, drizzled with a pommerey mustard aioli and sprinkled with fleur de sel and black pepper. The fat in the rillettes paired with the acid and tannins in the wine were perfect. We enjoyed the wine, watched the sun set, had some great conversations and suddenly turned around to find that only 1/3 of the group was left! We headed back down to the winery and tasting room in the slowly dimming light, sated and fulfilled. There’s really nothing like being part of the Tablas Creek family. The staff was incredible and the other wine club members we met share our love for great wine and fascinating wine facts. Levi was extremely patient as we all pummeled him with questions, answering and enlightening us. All in all it was a glorious evening.
Sculpterra is located on the East side of Paso off of Linne Road. This unique winery greets you with a magnificent sculpture garden. Surrounded by gorgeous iron fencing by master black smith Robert C. Bentley the garden itself is filled with the beautiful sculpture work of John Jagger.
Dr. Warren Frankel bought this property back in the 1980’s and moved his family there in 1990. Paul his son is the winemaker, a graduate of Cal Poly in Viticulture and Enology. Paul is more than just the winemaker, he also manages the vineyards, deals with fruit and juice sales and occasionally can be found pouring in the tasting room.
As we were here on a Saturday, the winery was busy and had an accordion player playing live in the tasting room. In addition to making their own wines, they also sell bulk fruit and juice to small independent winemakers. They do a wide variety of wines here, including Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Mourvedre, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wines are lovely and it is a wonderful place to come grab a glass of wine and wander the sculpture garden for a little art fix.
Enjoy a virtual stroll through their amazing sculpture gardens…you’ll have to provide your own wine, I recommend a rose.