A legend in sustainable winemaking
by Fleur @ The BIB Wine Company
It’s always fascinating and inspiring to talk to wine producers who have a clear determination to reduce their carbon footprint with meaningful actions. So whilst in the States recently, I couldn’t resist the chance to visit one of the wine-world’s leaders in sustainable practices, Tablas Creek.
Tablas Creek is nestled in the hills of Paso Robles, and was established in 1987 by the Haas family in a joint partnership with the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel. They were pioneers in bringing Rhone grape varieties to America and established Paso Robles as a premium wine growing region. They chose this site for its remarkable Rhone-like climate and terroir.
Not unsurprisingly given the care taken in the vineyard and cellar, their wines have a beautiful texture and poise. I tasted through some delicious white and red blends, which they are most well known for. However, just as finessed and tasty were their single varietal wines - see below for some tasting notes on a couple of highlights.
I had the pleasure of chatting with their general manager and proprietor, Jason Haas, who is an encyclopedia on wine sustainability, and an all-round good egg.
Jason (and Sadie the dog) showing the detailed harvest chart from last vintage
It was immediately apparent that ‘doing the right thing’ trickles through every element of the business, including how they run the vineyards, the winery, tasting room, staffing and of course packaging.
I loved the fact that there are no single-use plastic water bottles on site, and every visitor is given a branded water bottle (which you can purchase and keep, as I did) with access to the water refill station. Apparently, it’s especially handy for the local cyclists who are always popping in to fill up their cycling bottles...
They incorporate many biodynamic techniques across the estate vineyard to minimise their impact on the land. They even have their own herds of sheep and alpacas (along with shepherd and sheep dogs). The sheep have an additional benefit in the summer months – when they are sent to graze in the surrounding woods, eating the dry matter that can be a cause of forest fires!
In 2020 they were the United States' first Regenerative Organic Certified™ vineyard - a certification that is both inclusive of and yet more comprehensive than organic and biodynamic practices. I thought this had some fantastic core requirements, to find out more about what this involves, take a look here.
I had especially wanted to meet Jason, as earlier this year they hit the wine-press headlines after releasing their first bag-in-box wine for their Patelin range. Charging $95 a box for their 3L box, Jason wanted to highlight the massive carbon footprint reduction offered when using BIB packaging compared to glass bottles, and show that this format is a good option for many premium wines that aren’t meant for cellar-ageing.
He’d already had success with kegs and was keen to do more. The first run of bag-in-box was a small trial. However, they sold out in less than 4 hours, and he spent the next 4 hours replying to all the customers who had wanted to order wine in this alternative format but missed the boat!
They’ve since done another, larger run, and expect to keep doing so. It was brilliant to compare experiences boxing premium wine.
As I never go anywhere without a BIB Wine box, below is a snap of one of our 2.25L lined up next to their Patelin de Tablas Rosé.
Sadly they don’t make enough wine to export any of their boxed range, but you can find some of their wines in a number of good independent retailers.
At Tablas Creek, they consider themselves to be ‘always learning’ so that they can continue to improve their carbon footprint. This runs so deep I’ve only been able to touch upon some of the headlines here, but if you’re ever near Central Coast California – book in for a visit. The wines are delicious and they are definitely ‘good people’!
Tasting Note Highlights:
I loved their Roussanne 2020. This is a variety that has a reputation as a difficult to grow (in the Tablas Creek nursery it was affectionately called "the princess"), however, they have mastered it, producing a wine that's a delightful mix of salinity and jasmine perfume, alongside apricot fruit with a long finish.
The great surprise when tasting the reds was their Vaccarese 2020. This was the first time I've knowingly tasting this ultra rare variety, which is a little-known blending grape from the south of France and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It had a deep purple hue, was full of crunchy dark fruit and bags of fresh mint, with a really appealing streak of mineral freshness. It totally worked being bottled on its own in Tablas Creek's capable hands, although they have only planted two thirds of an acre, so it was a brilliant treat to get to taste it.