Visiting Paso Robles for the first time was nothing short of amazing. The laid back setting, rolling hills, and less crowded viticultural area provides wine enthusiasts with what most people seek when visiting California wine country – peace and quiet, great food, great people, and AMAZING wines. This particular day brought us to a hand full of wineries, all of which showed very different wines. We were able to stop by two Neil Collins wineries, including Tablas Creek Vineyard. English-born Neil Collins was actually a trained Chef, but eventually came to dabble and subsequently focus solely on winemaking and vineyard management. With stints at Adelaida Cellars and Wild Horse, Neil met owners Robert Haas and the Perrin family when Tablas Creek was beginning its journey, and Neil had to be a part of it. Tablas Creek was founded by the Perrin Family, proprietors of Château de Beaucastel in famous Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, and Robert Haas, founder of Vineyard Brands. The two groups had long desired a vineyard site in California that could handle growing Rhône varietals and eventually found a 120-acre plot sitting on shallow, rocky, limestone soil that almost seemed to mirror that of Château de Beaucastel. This 25,000 case a year producing winery has been making wine from their imported vines from Château de Beaucastel of Mourvédre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Counoise, Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc since 1997.
As we pulled into the driveway in West Paso Robles past the stone wall supporting iron gates, the gorgeous tasting and production facility sat immediately in front of us. We parked and noticed some tables scattered about the property with the scenery resembling an estate in Chateauneuf-Du-Pape. Up the stone slabbed walkway, we pass some vines of Syrah and other varietals for sale for $10 a piece, and an exiting crowd ranting about the wines we were about to encounter. Inside the tasting room, over four long tasting bars stood with a small shopping area located directly in the middle containing wine purses, books, gadgets, and other wine related items. Along the exterior glass walls from left to right, fermentation tanks, barrels, and other production equipment were illuminated and on display for all to see behind the scenes. A very knowledgeable woman by the name of Cindy greeted us at the tasting bar with a smile and offered to walk us through a tasting. The tasting fee is $10 and is waived with the purchase of a bottle – clearly there was no debating what our plan was. Luckily on this day, many off the menu wines were available for tasting. As we began our tasting, it was clear that we had hit liquid gold as we tasted some of the best Rhône style wines that I have tasted in the United States.
On this particular afternoon, we tasted through ten wines. For the sake of not luring you to sleep, I am going to cover some of the best wines we tasted during this visit, starting with the 2012 Viognier ($24 Members Only). Gorgeous golden color displaying a nice weighted structure and dry flavor profile, this wine provided some toast and spice qualities backed by light floral and apricot notes that line the palate. The finish is layered with white stone fruit and minerality that concludes clean, with a fresh acidity. An excellent representation of one of my favorite white varietals. Moving on, we attack the 92+ point rated 2011 Esprit De Tablas Blanc ($40), which is a blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, and Picpoul Blanc. This flagship white is rich and very floral adding in some aromas of smooth native honey and nutty character. The palate carries the same character built on a foundation of white stone fruit and finishes clean and crisp with bright acidity and near impeccable balance. Following these white gems, we tasted the 2013 Dianthus Rose ($27), a blend of 57% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache Noir, and 15% Counoise. After 36 hours of skin contact, this rose boasts light strawberry and subtle floral notes while maintaining a vibrant, yet dry structure and near bone dry finish. An excellent Bandol style rose. As we move onto the reds, we dive into the 2011 Esprit De Tablas ($55), another 90+ rated blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, and Counoise. Blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry, and spice highlights blend with some rich oaky notes, meaty undertones, and smooth velvety tannins. Full bodied and round with a smooth creamy mouthfeel on the delicate, lush finish. We concluded our tasting with the bombshell of our tasting, the 2010 Esprit De Beaucastel ($55), a blend of 45% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache Noir, 21% Syrah, and 4% Counoise. This full bodied gem is very aromatic with copious amounts of dark berry and spice. The palate starts with blackberry and spicebox leading the charge as integrated tannins and white pepper highlights on the smooth, layered finish. Perfectly balanced and plenty of character makes this flagship red a standout, as well as a 94 point rated wine. After our tasting concluded, we were able to take our glasses home as a souvenir, but not before grabbing a bottle of their Cotes De Tablas table wine and a bottle of the 2010 Esprit De Beaucastel. This winery is top notch, and if you are in Paso Robles, this is a must visit location that came highly recommended from all of the other local wineries!
Tablas Creek Vineyard
9339 Adelaida Rd,
Paso Robles, CA 93446