Vineyard & Winemaking

Vineyard

Tablas Creek’s limestone-rich 120-acre organic estate vineyard is located in the heart of the Adelaida District, in the hills north and west of Paso Robles, about 11 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Our viticulture practices emphasize quality through dry-farming and moderate crop levels. We farm organically, and received our organic certification in January 2003. Since 2010 we have incorporated many Biodynamic techniques across the vineyard, including our own mobile herd of sheep, alpacas and two guard donkeys, Fiona and Dottie. Our goal in our farming, as in our winemaking, is to maximize the expression of place from our vineyard, and to produce grapes full of intensity and character.

Biodynamic Grazing Sheep
Biodynamic farming

Nursery

To provide ourselves with the high quality Rhone grape varieties we wanted for our own vineyard, we imported new cuttings of Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Counoise, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc from the Beaucastel estate.  These plants all went through a rigorous USDA-mandated 3-year quarantine to ensure they were free of virus.

In 1992, we planted rootstock fields and built grafting and greenhouse facilities to propagate and graft our cuttings. These produced the grapevines we used to plant our estate vineyard beginning in 1994.

Beginning in 1996, we made available for sale these high-quality grafted vines and budwood to interested growers through the Tablas Creek Nursery.  Between 1996 and 2004 we sold more than one million cuttings to interested vineyards and wineries from California to Washington State to Virginia and Texas.

Since 2005, we have partnered with NovaVine Nursery of Santa Rosa, California. They produce grafted vines of consistent high quality from our cuttings, using environmentally responsible farming practices. Customers who wish to purchase Tablas Creek varietal budwood and grafted vines can do so exclusively through NovaVine.  Click here for more information, including contact information and a list of available varieties and clones.

Our investigation of new grapes continues today.  In 2003, we made the decision to import new cuttings of the rest of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape grapes: Bourboulenc, Cinsaut, Clairette Blanche, Muscardin, Picardan, Terret Noir, and Vaccarese.  The first of these grapes were released from quarantine in 2010, and we expect to have the full Chateauneuf-du-Pape collection available by 2019.

Grapes

There are dozens of grapes grown in France's Rhône Valley. Thirteen of these are approved in Châteauneuf du Pape, with another eight approved in the Côtes du Rhône appellation. We chose initially to focus on nine key varieties of the Southern Rhône for our Paso Robles estate vineyard: Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, and Counoise for the reds, and Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and Picpoul for the whites. 

More recently, we have imported seven additional grape varieties, with the goal of having the complete Chateauneuf du Pape collection: Clairette, Bourboulenc, Vaccarese, Cinsaut, Picardan, Muscardin, and Terret Noir. You can read what we've learned about these grapes.

Winemaking

Like our viticulture, our winemaking decisions are made to preserve the wines' expression of their place of origin. At harvest, each vineyard block is hand-harvested selectively, typically in 2-4 passes through each block. 

White grapes are whole cluster pressed, and the juice is fermented in a mix of small and large French oak barrels, mostly neutral, and stainless steel. Red grapes are sorted and destemmed after harvest, and the juice and whole berries moved to stainless steel or 1600-gallon wooden upright fermenters. Because we believe that the collection of wild yeasts at the winery is unique, all Tablas Creek wines are fermented using only native yeasts. 

During fermentation, the must is pumped over, punched down or broken up using compressed air twice a day. After about 10 days on the skins, red wines are pressed, and complete primary and secondary fermentation in neutral barrels. Both red and white wines, as is traditional in Châteauneuf du Pape, are blended the spring after harvest, with aromatic whites being moved to stainless steel tanks to settle briefly before bottling, and Roussanne-based whites and our reds aged for an additional year in 1200-gallon French oak foudres (left).

Foudres 2017
French oak foudres