Wednesday, July 9, 2014

California Grenache: Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas 2011

So, the wine pundits have concluded that Syrah has not fulfilled its promise as the Next Big Thing in California grapes.  Which variety will step up and claim that open position as the great purple hope?

Grenache seems well-suited to California, particularly in the cooler vintages.  Sporting plenty of what the wine-buying public likes - fruit, tannins, acidity - and often available at great price points, Grenache would seem to be poised to make some noise.

We have sampled some California Grenache wines from different parts of the state in this series.  There have been some all-Grenache varietal wines as well as some blends.  Today's entry in the California Grenache sweepstakes is a four-grape mix with Grenache playing the lead.

"Tablas Creek Vineyard," their website explains, "is the result of a decades-long friendship between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. The families created a partnership in 1985 and in 1989 purchased a 120-acre property in the hilly Las Tablas district of west Paso Robles for its similarities to Châteauneuf du Pape: limestone soils, a favorable climate, and rugged terrain."  The vine cuttings for the property were brought over from the celebrated French locale and propagated in the on-site nursery.

Tablas Creek Vineyard Côtes de Tablas 2011 - a blend of Rhône varieties - is made of 49% Grenache, 28% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre and 8% Counoise.  The alcohol tips in at 13.5% abv and 1,560 cases were produced.  It is listed as "sold out" on the winery's website.  Neil Collins is the Tablas Creek winemaker.

They also explain there how the different grapes contribute to the wine: "Like most wines of the Southern Rhône, it is a blend of varietals, featuring the fruit and spice of Grenache balanced by the spice and mineral of Syrah, the appealing briary wildness of Counoise, and the structure of Mourvèdre."  All the grapes are grown in their 120-acre, certified organic vineyard.  The grapes are fermented separately in both steel and wood fermenters.  After blending, the wine is aged for one year in a 1,200-gallon French oak cask.

Medium dark in the glass, the wine's nose shows plenty of Rhône-style funkiness.  Savory and spicy aromas are met with a little bit of black cherry.  On the palate, the dark fruit is layered thickly with tar, tobacco and anise.  The minerality is awe-inspiring while the acidity gets the juices flowing nicely.  There are ample tannins to handle pairing with a meat dish, but the sipping is so smooth you may get sidetracked and forget to throw the steaks on the grill.

This wine shows its terroir about as well as any wine I have tried.  Paso Robles limestone is all over this remarkable creation.  The bottle provided great pleasure over three nights tasting, becoming darker and funkier each night.


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