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French Roots and New Growth at Tablas Creek Winery

Tablas Creek Winery - VineyardFor the Perrin family, creating Rhone-style wines in America meant starting from the ground up -- literally. In the rocky foothills of the Sierra Mountains near Paso Robles, the owners of the famed Chateau Beaucastel in the French Chateauneuf du Pape appellation (along with American partner Robert Haas) found the ideal climate and concentration of mineral-rich soil for a new American outpost.

It seemed a perfect place to create a new French style of wine that had its own terroir, or sense of place, in the warm, ocean-influenced hills of mid-coastal California. But there was one problem: the vines. Uncomfortable with American-grown Rhone vines, the owners instead decided to import stock directly from the mother vineyard, Chateau Beaucastel.

That was no easy task. The roots spent three years in quarantine (to avoid transferring possible pests or disease), before being approved for planting at the Paso Robles vineyard. Vine by vine, grafts of Mourvedre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Roussanne and Viognier were married with existing rootstock. This is a time and labor-intensive operation attracted the attention of neighboring wineries (and others) who wanted the authentic French clones of their own.

The popularity of Rhone-style wines like Roussanne, Viognier and Syrah in America, buoyed in part by groups like the Rhone Rangers, has caused a high demand for authentic French rootstock. To meet demand, Tablas Creek built a large commercial nursery to accommodate their own needs as well as the growing contingency of Rhone fans. The growing operation, (which has become a second business to the winery) has imported several more lesser-known Rhone varietals as well as Cinsaut, Clairette, Terret Noir, Muscardin, Vaccarèse, Bourbelenc, and Picardin.

But this summer, Tablas Creek decided to outsource its rootstock operation to NovaVines. The Sonoma nursery will now exclusively grow and sell the Chateau Beaucastel clones, leaving the winery’s nursery temporarily empty. But only temporarily.

Tablas Creek Winery - WinesTablas Creek Winery is forming a new partnership with the popular heirloom tomato and produce growers, Windrose Farms. Operating from a 50-acre farm outside Paso Robles, the farm provides many Los Angeles, Central and Southern California restaurants with highly sought-after vegetables, most notably its colorful red, green and black heirloom tomatoes. The small family-owned farm has all but outgrown its current space.

Starting in August 2005, Windrose will grow additional produce and plants at the recently vacated Tablas nurseries and operate a farm-stand at the winery. Both Tablas Creek and Windrose are certified organic and have plans to pair their food and wine at unique tasting events, the first of which is a pig roast scheduled for August 20. At that event, Tablas Creek will release its 2003 Syrah.

For more information, contact the winery at 805.237.1231 or www.tablascreek.com.


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