For the Rhone-wine lovers here in SLO County, your ears may perk up to what is going on at Tablas Creek. Chateau de Beaucastel is renowned for using all the permitted Chateauneuf du Pape varieties in their blends. Tablas Creek Vineyard has been working on a project bringing the complete collection of these varieties to work with by partnering with Perrins of Chateau de Beaucastel and pioneering importer Robert Haas. At Tablas Creek, 4 acres have been set aside as increase blocks for these new grape varieties, and it's pretty exciting to find out that wines have already been made from their first few harvests. Tablas Creek will now wait and see what their colleagues and neighbors do with this vine material.
While historically the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation in France's Rhone Valley recognized 13 different grapes, 14 are planted at Beaucastel, counting grenache noir and grenache blanc separately. Tablas Creek Vineyard brought in high-quality clones of six of these when they began their project in 1989: grenache, mourvèdre, syrah, counoise, roussanne, and grenache blanc (they also brought in viognier and marsanne, which are traditional Cotes du Rhone grapes though not permitted in Chateauneuf du Pape). In 1998, Tablas Creek imported picpoul blanc.
In 2003, Haas worked out an agreement with UC Davis to bring in the remaining grapes (cinsaut, clairette blanche, terret noir, muscardin, vaccarèse, bourbelenc, and picardan). These vines underwent a rigorous indexing process conducted at UC Davis, and have been released to Tablas Creek Vineyard one by one as they have been found to be virus-free. Three of the grapes (clairette blanche, terret noir, and picardan) are currently in production at Tablas Creek. Three more (bourboulenc, vaccarese, and cinsaut) were planted in 2017. Muscardin was released from quarantine last year and has been propagated in Sonoma since then. With the grafting of 250 buds onto rootstocks at Tablas Creek this summer, the winery looks forward to having all 14 in production within a few years.
The 2018 Tablas Creek Vineyard picardan, which retails at $30, is their third varietal bottling of this unique estate-grown grape, propagated from budwood cuttings from the Château de Beaucastel estate. With aromas of green tea, citrus on the palate, and creamy mineral body, this white Rhone is to be savored. Visit the tasting notes at tablascreekvineyard.com. Δ
Flavor writer Beth Giuffre is a unique varietal. Send your favorite beverages to sip and swirl to email@example.com.