PRWC – Part 2: Barking Up The Right Vine

Welcome to binNotes’ Terroirist Tuesday.

Today’s Topic: Part 2 of 3: Paso Robles, CA

(Part 1 of 3 here.)

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Paso attracts visionaries. Not your run-of-the mill, bark-at-the-m00n, wear-a-hairshirt-in-the-middle-of-the-desert type of visionaries. No. Paso attracts passionate, pragmatic, patient visionaries capable of turning dreams into realities. The result? A New World haven for Old World vines at vineyards such as Eberle Winery and Tablas Creek Vineyards – two very different venues with one similar vision: producing world-class wines in Paso Robles.

Eberle Winery: “The Boar”


What do you get when a Penn-State-football-player-turned-LSU graduate-student with a passion for food and wine enrolls in U.C. Davis’s Enology Doctorate program, vowing to produce bad-ass, beyond-the-pale, Bordelais-style wines – in California?

You get Eberle Winery, the culmination of Gary Eberle’s vision. For the non-German speakers among you, ‘Eberle’ in German means “Little Boar,”  symbolizing all things fearless and intrepid. Check and check. Add charisma and a gift for collaboration, and you’ve grabbed a clue about those components integral to Eberle’s success. Success that includes ranking as one of top ten gold-medal winning wineries in the United States.

But not just bringing home the gold. Sharing it with others. Gary’s intrepid spirit led the charge towards introducing the first Syrah clone to California in 1975, producing the first 100% Syrah grape in 1979, and helping creating the Paso Robles Appellation in 1982. Oh, and in his spare time in 1982 (a busy year…) he launched Eberle Winery’s first Estate wines, all produced on its forty-acre parcel: 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Muscat Canelli.

Today, Eberle Winery also enjoys partnerships with other source sites that provide additional varietals, including Syrah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Viogner, Grenache Noir, and Sangiovese. Winemaker Ben Mayo annually harvests, crushes, punches down, gravity-feeds to barrel, ferments, stirs, and bottles over 25,000 cases of dry white, red, rosé, sweet white, and port wines in impressively immaculate state-of-the-art wine facilities. Which includes… ah-hem…16,000 square feet of underground cellars complete with a gravity feed system for gentle tank-to-barrel transfer. That’s right. In sleepy little Paso Robles.

And for those foodies among you, The Wild Boar Room offers epic, Eberle-esque guest-chef wine and food pairing events. Yes, like its’ namesake, the boar, Eberle Winery remains an indomitable force in the Paso Robles wine industry.



Tablas Creek Vineyards:  “Bringing the Rhône to Paso Robles.”

So, switching channels…what do you get when a prestigious, Ivy-League-educated East-Coast wine importer, and an equally illustrious Châteauneuf du Pape castle-owning, fifth-generation wine-making family join forces in Paso Robles? You get Tablas Creek Vineyard, a collaboration between old and new worlds, resulting in a cache of other-worldy wines.

In the mid-1960’s, Yale-educated Robert Haas left his father’s renown Manhattan fine wines and spirits firm, M. Lehmann, to launch his own Vineyard Brands. Robert Haas subsequently forged a relationship with the Perrin family of Rhône’s Château de Beaucastel, becoming their exclusive American importer.

Fast forward to 1985. A shared vision of ‘bringing the Rhône to the United States’ fashioned a partnership between Robert Haas and the Perrin family. This partnership resulted in the 1989 purchase of 120 acres in western Paso Robles Las Tablas district, a region that mirrors the Rhône in its limestone-predominant soils, rugged topography, and Mediterranean-like climate.

Today, Tablas Creek Vineyards thrives, producing over 16,000 cases of wine annually. The winery employs old world methods devoted to subtle expression of the terroir, including dry, organic, and some Biodynamic farming, as well as hand-picking of fruit. Other old world  practices include blended varietals, neutral oak barrels, the use of native yeasts, and minimal human intervention.

Interestingly, Tablas Creek Vineyard promulgates their clonal material in a unique, on-site nursery; since 1996, other winemakers may also purchase clones from this nursery program. Tablas Creek Vineyards Rhône varietals include:

  • Reds: Mouvèdre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Counoise
  • Whites: Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc

For  wine drinkers, Tablas Creek Vineyards offers three distinct wine styles, in addition to dry rosés, Rhône and non-Rhône varietal wines, and small production blends:

  • Esprit de Beaucastel: Flagship wines – elegant, complex, age-worthy
    • Reds: Mouvèdre-based blends
    • Whites: Roussane-based blends
  • Côtes de Tablas: Fruit-forward, easily accessible wines
    • Reds: Grenache Noir-based blends
    • Whites: Viognier-based blends
  • Patelin de Tablas: Value, entry-level wines
    • Reds: Syrah-based blends
    • Whites: Grenache Blanc-based blends

Tablas Creek Winery  deftly combines Paso Robles’ new world ‘sense of place’  with  old world varietals and techniques, resulting in world-class wines of elegance and restraint. Santé!

Copyrighted 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Next week: Paso Robles, Part 3 of 3: Boutique wineries.


Many thanks again to Stacy, Leslie and Ben of Eberle Winery and Mary at Tablas Creek Winery for sharing the vision.  And  a big THANK YOU (again) to Shannon at Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

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