As I noted in my last post (LINK), Dorianne and I went to Paso Robles along California’s Central Coast region for three nights and two days of wine tasting with her sister and brother-in-law, Debby and Mike. Our daughter, Grace, joined us on the first day of wine tasting, but the four of us were on our own as we set out on Tuesday morning. We decided to keep it to two wineries to allow time for a nature walk later in the day.
Our first stop on the west side was Tablas Creek Vineyards (LINK) in the Adelaida AVA of west Paso Robles. Long known for their expertise in Rhône varietals, Tablas Creek has a Rhône River partner, Chateau Beaucastel (LINK) in France. You could spend months studying the Tablas Creek history, viticulture, wine making techniques, and tasting their wines (maybe a lifetime on that), but we only had a couple of hours.
From the website (LINK) with embedded links:
Tablas Creek Vineyard is the result of a decades-long friendship between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. The families created a partnership in 1985 and in 1989 purchased a 120-acre property in the hilly Las Tablas district of west Paso Robles for its similarities to Châteauneuf du Pape: limestone soils, a favorable climate, and rugged terrain.
The partners imported the traditional varietals grown on the Perrins’ celebrated estate, including Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Counoise for reds, and Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc for whites. These imported vines passed a rigorous 3-year USDA testing program, were propagated and grafted in our on-site nursery, and used to plant our organic estate vineyard.
Dorianne and I were members of the Tablas Creek wine club for a couple of years before we moved from Southern California. Their wines are beautifully crafted and many of their varietals are unique on the Central Coast, or even in all of California. They produce a few dozen wines, only three of which, called their core blends, are distributed widely. Here is the link to their wines page (LINK) for a more thorough description of each one.
Tablas Creek Vineyards and Tasting Room is located at the far west end of the Paso Robles area, which means that they are closer to the Pacific Ocean and its cooling influence. The tasting room is modern and state-of-the-art, with views into the winery. Several tasting stations surround a central core with displays of wines and other things for sale. As you approach the entryway, a display of grape vines for sale and a tub of stainless steel water bottles for guests to use during their visit.
The tasting room was crowded when we arrived. We found some space at a station being staffed by Suphada Rom, a very knowledgeable and well-traveled young woman from Vermont. Like many of the winery and tasting room workers in California, she arrived after some experience in Old World wine regions and developed a love for wine. Suphada writes a wine blog (LINK).
The tasting experience at Tablas Creek involves the core blends and one or two varietals. To keep it short, I will just say that the core blends are always of a very high caliber. What I seek out at Tablas Creek are the single varietals. Our tasting included the 2013 Viognier and the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were very good – the Cabernet being smoother and lighter, more elegant than the typical Paso Robles-style Cabernet, which are big powerful wines.
Before departing Tablas Creek, we purchased a four-pack of varietals that included the 2013 Cabernet, 2012 Tannat, 2012 Picpoul Blanc (a varietal we enjoyed in France), and the 2013 Vermentino – a set that should provide many pleasures in the coming months.
Our next stop was farther east, up on a very high hill closer to Paso Robles on the border between the Adelaida and Willow Creek AVAs. Calcereous (pronounced with two hard “C’s”) is another wonderful Paso Robles wine experience. The name comes from the limestone soils of the area.
From their website (LINK): “Father and daughter Lloyd Messer and Dana Brown realized their dream of finding a place to express their passion for wine in 2000, when they established Calcareous Vineyards on one of the highest limestone plateaus on Paso Robles’ westside. Both Lloyd and Dana, experienced wine distributors in their native Iowa, recognized the westside of Paso Robles had potential to produce world class wines. Their acquisition of 342 acres atop solid calcareous rock reaching 1,800 feet above sea level confirmed their dedication to producing the highest quality, terroir driven wines possible. It is a labor of love to cultivate fruit on this challenging land, but the reward is immediately apparent when tasting the wines.”
Everything about Calcereous is beautiful – the wines, the land, the tasting room, and the experience. Our tasting room host, Karl Jepsen, is from Denmark. He gave an animated and informative “wine seminar” as we tasted six wines (five from the list and one additional).
Karl led us through the tasting, going over the provenance of each wine and adding some additional bits of information, such as how to determine which aspects of the bouquet of the wine come from the fruit and which come from the barrel.
Calcereous wines are premium wines – every wine we tasted was in the 90’s in my own mental ratings chart. We were given an impromptu tour of the vineyard & winery as well. I think we spent nearly 3 hours there. Wine highlights were the 2014 Estate Chardonnay, the 2013 ZSM (a fantastic blend of Zinfandel, Syrah & Merlot), and the 2012 Lloyd Bordeaux-style Blend, a truly exceptional wine Our 1/2 case purchase contained all three of those.
A note about the restaurant where we ate lunch after these great winery experiences – Fish Gaucho (LINK) in downtown Paso Robles did not disappoint. Very good Mexican dishes, large portions, and a nice atmosphere with good service. It’s worth a look when you are in Paso Robles.
There are over 200 wineries in Paso Robles, California. We visited just five of the more established producers on this short trip. I look forward to returning soon and exploring some of the smaller and newer producers.
As always, your comments are welcome.
And it was chilly – here are Dorianne and Debby clearing the ice from the car in the morning.
Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard