Tablas Creek Wine Walk 2013
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.