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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel

United States (California)

mouvèdre (45%), grenache (28%), syrah (22%), counoise (5%)

This is an international co-production, and proof positive that when two trans-oceanic wine families get together, great bottles can result. Tablas Creek Vineyard in the Paso Robles region of California is a blending of the wine knowledge of the prominent Perrin family of the Château Beaucastel in the southern Rhône Valley of France with that of the Haas family, a long-standing and leading name in the American wine industry.

In the mid-1980s François and Jean-Pierre Perrin (left) and Robert Haas (left) went in search of a Mediterranean-like, limestone-rich terroir in California that closely resembled the region of the Rhône where Beaucastel had established itself. (One can assume this is not the vehicle they used in their quest.)

Although rather more hilly than its counterpart in France, the Las Tablas district of the exceptional Paso Robles region in the Central Coast of the state was found to fit the bill. Rare Californian limestone soil, a broad day/night temperature range, a moderating ocean influence, optimum climate for ripening grapes. The winery had a home. What had once been an alfalfa farm became Tablas Creek Vineyard, named after the stream running through it.

The first order of business was, of course, setting in motion the work of acquiring vines. Cuttings were imported from the Beaucastel estate itself, both red and white varietals, with a view to reproducing as closely as possible the French vineyards. No easy task, and one that required three years of testing before certification was granted by U.S. authorities. By 1993 a nursery complex on site had begun the task of multiplying the imported vinifera, grafting it to rootstock, and eventually hardening if off in preparation for planting. As with Beaucastel in France, viticulture would be entirely organic.

The first vintage reached the market in 1997. By the latter half of the decade that followed the wines had come into their own, with consistently top-notch reviews. Tablas Creek Vineyard had rather quickly and deftly established itself as one of the first-class wineries in California, with a Rhône blend that is proving significant competition to the often overpriced Californian wines of Napa and Sonoma.

Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel 2006

A rich ruby red, and on the nose fresh spice and a red fruit intensity. It is sumptuous from the beginning. Warm welcoming concentration, sprightly, layered with savoury elements — plummy spice, berried fruit, a current of minerality. It lingers about the mouth, finishing with gentle but stalwart strokes, presaging the pleasures of a full bottle.  $$


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