Wine of the Week, Winery of the Month – Tablas Creek 2010 Patelin de Tablas Blanc

It struck me recently I have been quite negligent in my wine reviews.  Somehow I had missed ever publishing a review of Tablas Creek. How could this be? I consider myself a vocal fan, what in marketing and social media terms we refer to as a 'brand ambassador.' The term, which I use regularly in wine marketing presentations, refers to a customer/consumer (generally) that is passionate about a company and its product's and essentially is a walking billboard, compensated in no way.

If I am asked for an opinion on where to taste in Paso Robles – my answer is Tablas Creek. Name a leading US Rhone producer? Tablas Creek. US producer who makes refined, elegant non new world palate Rhones? Tablas Creek. One of my favorite xxxx varietals? Tablas Creek. I frequently gush about them on Facebook, Twitter, give them high scores on Cellartracker (although I often enjoy their wines so much, I don't take the time to pick them apart and don't always record notes.)

I am not alone, many industry writers agree. On a recent trip to Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone, I had the good fortune to ride down with Lisa Shara Hall, esteemed Senior Editor Wine Business Monthly and author of Wines of the Pacific Northwest. We were on a tight schedule for HdR and only had time for one stop, to let Lisa experience what I thought was demonstrative of a Paso leader. This is not an easy woman to impress, as you might expect, and she was, as she complimented General Manager Jason Haas, and thanked me later.

Contribution to Rhone Varietals in Paso Robles, and North America

I am no Patrick Comiskey (writer, Wines & Spirits, Rhone lover, and working on a book on the history of US Rhones) but I have been around enough to recognize the incredible impact they have had on the proliferation of Rhone plantings in the US. You can read some of the history here.

The history of Tablas Creek and their contributions deserve far more coverage than I am going to put into a wine review, and perhaps I will re-tell their story in a separate piece. They tend to be fairly humble about it themselves, although their website is a wealth of information about Rhone varieties, and one of the best single online sources of information. Jason also publishes a blog on the website. He doesn't promote it heavily nor does it receive the full recognition it deserves – its one of the best written winery blogs in existent in my discoveries, especially if you are a Rhone lover. Jason has also played a significant role (told here) in the growth and evolution of the Rhone Rangers, and its been my pleasure to work with him this year as an active supporting member.

Tablas has played a strong leadership role in the US Rhone movement. Their assistance in helping propagate Rhone grapevines to other growers, instead of keeping to themselves. contributed greatly to the role of Paso Robles as the stronghold of Rhone wines in this country. For this reason, I select Tablas Creek, as the first of my 'Winery of the Month.'

History of Patelin de Tablas Blanc

This wine has an interesting origin and a new path for Tablas, that I wholly applaud both in conc

ept and especially in the results. Jason outline the full story in a blog post. While it sounds like a good problem to have, Tablas Creek has run out of wine several years in a row. Growth of sales, combined with drought years double hit them, with a variance as high as 7k cases less production. DTC wine sales have grown to 10k cases a year. As a result, for several years in a row, distributors received less wine than requested. This is not a good problem to have, frustration like this can result in loss of a distributor.

Prior to Patelin, Tablas Creek had never sourced fruit from the outside, it was always estate. Yet Rhone growers in Paso Robles had excess, the last few years, and many of them had planted Tablas clones. Tablas decided to combine these two phenomenon and create a relief valve. By purchasing fruit from top, sustainable local growers, for this single label, they are able to buffer demand in lean harvest years, and have a home for excess fruit in bumper harvests. Its also a few dollars less than their other white blend, Côtes de Tablas Blanc.

The two new wines are named Patelin de Tablas and Patelin de Tablas Blanc.  Patelin is French slang roughly translated as “country neighborhood”.  Growers were chosen for the care they take in their vineyards, and for the track records of the wines that these vineyards have produced.  All are in the neighborhood. The growers are named explicitly on the labels; each wine will list the vineyards that contributed fruit, with the percentage of the wine that each accounted for.

Wine Review – Tablas Creek 2010 Patelin de Tablas Blanc

As someone now making Rhone whites, bottling soon, and trying to figure out my blend, I have huge new appreciation for the complexity, and less available direct experience in Rhone wines making in Northern California that  I can refer to. I am working with the same four varietals for my small personal project, and could only hope to achieve a wine of this quality.

While the Côtes de Tablas Blanc. is more Viognier based, with Grenache Blanc as the smallest component, the Patelin Blanc leads with Grenache Blanc (50%), then 33% Viognier, 10% Roussanne, and 7% Marsanne. Whole cluster pressed, and fermented in stainless steel, only native yeasts were used. Bottled in February 2011.

Vineyard sources:

  • Viognier from the biodynamically-farmed Chequera Vineyard in the cool Templeton Gap
  • Tablas-clone Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc from the Edward Sellers Vineyard in the Templeton Gap
  • Tablas-clone Grenache Blanc from the Dawson's Creek Vineyard in the limestone-rich El Pomar region of Templeton
  • Tablas-clone Grenache Blanc from Catherine's Vineyard in El Pomar
  • Grenache Blanc from the Tablas Creek estate vineyard.

Color: Vibrant, clear, pale yellow straw.

On the Nose: Stone fruit, citrus, hint of floral.

In the Mouth: Be sure to drink this at proper temperature (aka not overchilled) to experience its nuances. For a wine that is $20 retail, it has a lot of complexity. Light, pleasant and fresh,  on the front palate, it picks up weight and density in the mid palate, coating the tonque, and finishing with great mouthfeel and lingering acidity, and some minerality. A pleasing combination of lemon, peach, more stone fruit and citrus. Pairs well with a variety of foods due to the mouthfeel and acidity, fish, chicken, paella,

Recommendations: Buy, drink, before gone. Priced like a house wine, drinks like Friday night bottle. $20 retail. (or join Vinsiders Wine Club, $16.) Buy it online. Look for these National distributors. You Bay area people can find it at K&L Wine as well. (11 left, hurry!) 93 Points, Highly Recommend.

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