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 de 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 this part of the interview Jason tells us how the soil and climate brought them to Paso. Average rainfall was also one of the draws and Jason tells us how the current drought is affecting them, which segues into a discussion on planting dry farmed vines and the benefits of a head-pruned vineyard.
More on Tablas Creek Vineyard to Come
This is just part one, we will release additional segments where we discuss biodynamics, similarities and differences between the Beaucastel wines and Tablas Creek Vineyard Wines, native yeast fermentations, the use of Foudres (1200 gallon barrels), as well as aging wines and the library of wine Tablas keeps. We do a walk through the vineyard to look at the new acreage as well as Scuffy Hill where they grow their field blend. We look at the soil, the biodiversity in the fields and then explore the winery and it’s barrel rooms, before Jason talks us through how they create their blends. So stick with us…there is lots more to come.
And if you are fascinated by this discussion, visit the Tablas Creek Blog. Jason has a 3 part series on his blog about dry farming in California’s drought.
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Early morning touring Tablas Creek Vineyards with Steve Fascinating, Here are the Highlights. All of the vines were sent from Chateau Neuf de Pape they spent 3 years in quarantine before they could graft them to american root stock and plant them. All were grafted in the nurseries on site. They have a staff that monitor’s the vineyards year round so they do not need to depend on over hire during the harvest. They also use legumes as a cover crop to put nitrogen back into the soil, also oats to bring in lady bugs which combat lace wing bugs. The winery is owned in part by the Perrin family of Chateau neuf de pape in france who own the Chateau Beaucastel and Bob Haas who is a wine importer. Chateau Beaucastel does Rhone varietals and found the limestone and climate here on the westside of Paso Robles perfectly suited to growing these varietals. They found 120 acres here in Paso Robles and also farm in an adjacent farm with 160 more acres. They brought 80 cuttings from France which sat in quarantine for 3 years before being approved. They set up a nursery on site and began grafting the cutting to American rootstock. They are for the most part Mourvedre (they have 21 acres of Mourvedre) based with lots of Syrah.
After walking up and looking at the vineyards we went behind the tasting room to look at the limestone wall, which covers the side of the hill which is basically limestone beneath. There is about 6 inches of top soil and the rest is limestone. The 2 foot shales act as a reservoir for the rain. They are turning much of the vineyard to head pruned plants which they find better reflect the terroir. They typically get 2 to 3 tons of fruit per acre. They work hard to maintain high quality compact berries. Head pruned plants while they take more space, produce the same amount of fruit in the same space as trellised fruit. Steve mentioned that the grape roots secrete and enzyme that dissolves limestone allowing the roots to got deeper for water and nutrients. We discussed that this lets them go through more layers of rock and minerals. It has been chemically proven that the vines take in ions and not minerals. So when we say we taste the slate in the terroir, that is not chemically possible, something else is going on there. The vineyards are certified organic and most is meant to be dry farmed. They do have part of the vineyard that is being grown biodynamically. We discussed the care of the vineyard, that the staff is constantly in the fields, clearing, pruning etc… The trellised vines have yet to be pruned and will probably be pruned in February when they are completely dormant. He mentioned that each place where a leaf appeared last year has a bud at the base, which if sliced open would show you miniaturized versions of 3 or 4 grape bunches plush leaves. So next years harvest is already somewhat determined and sitting there on the vines already!