Paso Robles, located on the Central Coast of California, became an American Viticultural Area(AVA) in 1983. It contains 614,000 acres of land, 32,000 of which are planted to wine grapes. There are over 200 wineries and even more independent grape growers. In 2013 a proposal was submitted by the Paso Robles Viticultural Area Committee to the Federal Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to subdivide the area into 11 AVA’s. The propelling force behind this initiative is the significant differences in the soil, temperature, average rainfall and elevation of the eleven areas. Specific AVA’s will allow these newly created sub-regions to develop an identity and style for themselves with a clarity impossible in a single large AVA. The request was approved by TTB effective November 2014.
The gypsy just returned from a sojourn to the wine trails of Paso Robles Two top-rated west Paso wineries, Tablas Creek and Justin Wines, are portrayed below. Both are in the Adelaida District; they are very different in similar ways, as you will see.
Tablas Creek winery is collaboration between the legendary Perrin Family of Château Beaucastel in Southern Rhone region of France and the Haas Family, founders of Vineyard Brands Wine Importing Conglomerate. In 1989, after an exhaustive search from the foothills of the Sierras in the north to coastal Ventura County in the south they selected an 120-acre property in Paso Robles, California, just 12 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. They chose this terroir because the high pH calcareous limestone soils, favorable climate and rugged terrain most resembled Châteauneuf du Pape, where lies Château Beaucastel.
The partners imported traditional Rhone varietals grown on the Perrins’ celebrated estate in France, including Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Counoise for red wine, and Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc for white. The vines had to pass through the USDA mandated three year quarantine. In 1992, they planted rootstock fields and built an on-premise nursery to propagate and graft their cuttings. In 1994 they were finally ready to plant the grapevines. In 1996 they began selling their grafted vines to growers all over the United States.
Tablas Creek Winery is a pioneer in the trilogy of Sustainability, Organic and Biodynamic Farming. These practices are addressed in more detail below. Vineyard blocks are picked by hand with up to four passes thru the vineyard to ensure that the grapes arrive at the winery at peak ripeness. Winemaker Neil Collins uses only native yeasts in fermentation, believing they yield a diversity of flavor and character more specific to the site. The wines receive minimal intervention. After fermentation, red wines are pressed, then blended and aged for one year in 1200-gallon French oak foudres. Mixology is an art form at Tablas Creek Winery. As is traditional in Châteauneuf du Pape, Rhône varietals are blended to produce a symphony where the sum is even greater than its parts.
Tablas Creek Winery showcases three tiers of award-winning wine, Espirit de Tablas, Côtes de Tablas and Patelin de Tablas. They also produce small quantities of varietal wines and dessert wine. The Espirit red is based on Mourvèdre, and the Espirit Blanc is based on Roussanne. These estate bottlings are designed to reward those patient enough to allow time in the bottle. The Côtes de Tablas is based on Grenache, and the Côtes de Tablas Blanc on Viognier crafted from estate fruit blended to be lushly fruit-forward and appealing; approachable sooner than the Espirit wines. The Patelin de Tablas line includes fruit from some of Paso Robles’ top Rhône vineyards in addition to Tablas Creek, and are blended to be bright and clean, offering exceptional value. The Patelin de Tablas Blanc is based on Grenache Blanc, the Patelin de Tablas on Syrah, and the Patelin de Tablas Rosé on Grenache.
The tasting room is open 7 days per week. Reserve level tastings with offerings from their Estate and Library of Wines are available with reservation. Winery tours take guests through the organic estate vineyard, grapevine nursery and winery twice daily at 10:30am and 2:00pm. Private Group Tastings (10 or more) are available daily with reservation. Customized group visits can be arranged on an individual basis.
Tablas Creek Winery was awarded the coveted 2016 California Green Medal Award – a program created by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. They have farmed organically and sustainable since inception and completed Organic Certification in 2003. In 2010, a 20-acre vineyard was completely dedicated to Biodynamic Farming.
Here are highlights from just a “sampling” of their best management practices that led up to Tablas Creek Winery receiving this honorable accolade.
Water Use: Four years into a California drought, Tablas Creek is leading the path toward dry farming their vineyards. They initiated these practices in 2000 in an effort to conserve water and return to California’s farming practices of the 18th and 19th centuries. After the recent four year drought, dry farming is crucial
Pest Management: Organic soaps and oils, and natural insect control of pests as well as cover crops that compete with weeds for insect control
Biodiversity & Wildlife Conservation: Their herd of sheep, alpacas and donkeys graze on cover crops while “naturally fertilizing” the vineyards. Inter-planting of fruit trees, beehives, and wetlands that filter the waste water for recycling
Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation: Solar power panels, motion sensors, reduction in packaging materials and improved efficiency in domestic wine transport
Human Resources: Employees are provided a very generous Compensation Package. To their credit, well above industry standards
Solid Waste Management: Transition from disposable to reusable/durable products and use of lighter weight glass bottles
Neighbors & Community: Countless community based charities, donations and sponsorship. Proprietors serve on Wine Industry Boards and Committees. Last but by far not least, as ambassadors of every aspect of the land, Tablas Creek Winery’ s Management Team provides educational seminars on a multitude of environmental and ecological issues
Tablas Creek is named after the creek that runs through it. Simply walking the grounds is a delight with the meticulous array of domestic and wild flowers. This is a winery for the senses.
To view a video regarding the Green Medal Award click here:
Something for Everyone and Everything for Someone
Justin Winery was awarded Winery of the Year in 2015 by the Wine Enthusiast, an international publication Typically my winery reviews don’t concentrate so heavily on the facilities however, Justin is a small metropolis, pristine and first-class in every area. The recently renovated landscape is complete with tasting room, state of the art winery and wine cave, manicured vineyards, fine dining restaurant, an Inn, a phenomenal Hospitality Team and internationally acclaimed wine. Founder Justin Baldwin planted grapes on the 160-acre property in 1981 when Paso Robles was in its first steps in an upward projectory toward national prominence. There were fewer than 10 of the current +200 wineries in the region.
The Wine: Let’s begin with the wines which range in price from $13.75 to $150 for a bottle of Eighty One, their signature wine named for the year the winery originated. The flagship wines are Isosceles Reserve, Isosceles and Justification featuring varying blends of the noble grapes of Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot. Eighty One is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon; Savant and Trilateral are Syrah based meritage. Their standard line-up includes several single varietals, a dry rosé and two dessert wines.
Justin’s Wine Society: With two wine shipments a year, membership offers many amenities beyond the 20% discount on all purchases, the restaurant and Inn. Participation grants access to the bucolic Society Lounge, priority wines, member’s only events, and complimentary tastings and tours which may include three guests.
The Just Inn: Comprises three beautiful rooms and a 1400 square foot Vintner’s Villa surrounded by vineyards in rolling hills. An overnight stay includes breakfast, wine tasting and a tour of the winery and caves.
Restaurant Justin: Offers a Sunday Brunch, lunch and dinner, (service day, hours and sample menus are specified on the website). The farm-to-table concept sources local products and forages from the bountiful on premise Chef’s Garden.
Wine Tasting: 10am – 4:30pm daily in a see and be –seen modern tasting room with ample alfresco seating
Winery and Underground Cave Tour and Sommelier Lead Wine Seminars: available with a reservation.
Private Events: Multiple sites are available for both small to large groups for weddings, business or pure leisure. Chef Will Torres will accommodate with custom menus from hors d’oevres to five course meal with wine pairing.
As the proprietress of a polished-casual Bistro for 28 years, Justin products were a mainstay on the wine list. They are solid, trustworthy and with their name recognition, always good sellers. They are often in the Wine Spectator’s list of top 100 wines of the year. The next time you are hopscotching the wine trails of the Central Coast of California, a visit to Tablas Creek and Justin Wineries are not to be missed and conveniently so as they are less than one mile apart.