This week’s wines were inspired by a recent dinner at Thirty Two East, a favorite restaurant of ours here in Delray Beach, which featured the wines of two producers, one Old World, one New, who are dedicated to crafting world class wines from Rhône grape varieties. These two producers also happen to be related and represent a beautiful story of friendship that culminated in the production of some truly fabulous wines!
Our tale of two wineries begins with Château de Beaucastel, located in France’s Rhône Valley known for producing wines that represent the best of what the Southern Rhône has to offer. While the focus of the Northern Rhone is primarily single varietal wines (whites are made from Viognier and reds from Syrah) the Southern Rhône is all about blends. Up to thirteen grapes are permitted in the signature red wine of the Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf du Pape, which is comprised predominantly of Grenache. Whites from this region are generally a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc.
The Beaucastel family has inhabited this region since the middle of the sixteenth century and was among the most notable families of the small town of Courthezon. In 1909 Pierre Tramier bought the property and Beaucastel then passed to his son-in-law, Pierre Perrin, who considerably increased the vineyard holdings. His efforts were continued by his son Jacques until 1978. Today the estate is helmed by Jean Pierre and François Perrin, sons of Jacques, but Marc, Pierre, Thomas and Matthieu, who represent the fifth generation, are ready to pursue this fabulous family history.
Fast forward to 1985 at which time the friendship between the Perrin family and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands, results in the creation of Tablas Creek Vineyard. Since the 1970s both families had recognized the potential of California’s climate as an ideal place for planting Rhône varietal grapes and in 1987, they began the lengthy process of creating a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style vineyard from scratch in the New World.
In 1989 they 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. This is also where the winery ultimately derived its name. The partners imported the traditional varietals grown on the Perrins’ celebrated estate, including Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Counoise for reds, and Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc for whites. These imported vines passed a rigorous 3-year USDA testing program, were propagated and grafted in the on-site nursery, and used to plant the organic estate vineyard. This nursery of clones from Beaucastel cuttings are now used widely throughout the Paso Robles region. The estate currently has approximately 105 acres under vine and works with indigenous yeasts and favors large, neutral oak barrels and casks for aging.
Tablas Creek National Sales Manager, Darren Delmore, joined us for the dinner and guided us through the tasting of these special wines. Sampling the wines of California’s Tablas Creek and the Rhône’s Château de Beaucastel together highlighted the similarities and differences of their respective terroirs. The wines were paired with the delicious cuisine of Chef Nick Morfogen which accentuated the nuances of each wine beautifully!
Tablas Creek Vineyard, Côtes de Tablas Blanc, Paso Robles, 2010
Like most wines of the Southern Rhône, this wine is a blend of white grape varieties which in this case are comprised of 54% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc, 8% Roussanne and 8% Marsanne. All the fruit for this wine is estate grown and features the floral aromatics and stone fruit of Viognier, the crisp acidity and rich mouthfeel of Grenache Blanc, and the structure and minerality of Marsanne and Roussanne. This wine is perfect as an aperitif or paired with dishes such as Moules Marinières or Fish with Fennel. Drink now. Wine Advocate, 90 points.
Tablas Creek Vineyard, Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, Paso Robles, 2009
This wine a blend of three estate-grown varietals, propagated from budwood cuttings from the Château de Beaucastel estate. It is comprised of 62% Roussanne, 26% Grenache Blanc and 12% Picpoul Blanc. Roussanne provides the core richness, minerality, and flavors of honey and spice, while Grenache Blanc adds green apple and anise flavors, a lush mouthfeel and bright acids. Picpoul Blanc completes the blend, adding a saline minerality and tropical notes. Drink: 2012-2016. Wine Advocate, 91 points; Wine Spectator, 89 points.
Château Beaucastel, Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc, Rhone Valley, 2010
Comprised of 80% Roussanne and 20% Grenache blanc this wine is fermented in 30% new oak barrels with the remaining 70% fermented in stainless steel tanks. The wine displays beautiful notes of star fruit, acacia flower and peach which evolve into honey and tropical fruit with a hint of pie crust. The complexity is balanced by a lovely acidity and long, lingering finish. Drink over the next 4-5 years. Wine Advocate, 95 points; Wine Spectator, 93 points.
Tablas Creek Vineyard, Patelin de Tablas Rouge, Paso Robles, 2011
This wine a blend of four red Rhône varietals: 52% Syrah, 29% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre and 1% Counoise from several of the top Rhône vineyards in Paso Robles. Like many red wines from the Rhône Valley, it is based on the dark fruit, mineral and spice of Syrah, with the brightness and fresh acidity of Grenache, the structure and meatiness of Mourvèdre and a small addition of Counoise for complexity. Drink: 2012-2016. Wine Advocate, 89 points.
Tablas Creek Vineyard, Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge, Paso Robles, 2010
This wine is a blend of four estate-grown varietals, propagated from budwood cuttings from the Château de Beaucastel estate: 45% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 21% Syrah and 4% Counoise. The wine is based on the dark red fruit, earth, spice and mid-palate richness of Mourvèdre, with additions of Grenache for forward fruit, approachability and lushness, Syrah for mineral, aromatics, and back-palate tannins, and Counoise for brambly spice and acidity. Drink: 2015-2025. Wine Advocate, 93-95 points.
Château Beaucastel, Châteauneuf du Pape Rouge, Rhône Valley, 2010
This wine is structured and intense yet lean, thanks in part to the large percentage of Mourvedre (about 30%) in the final blend. Its tannic backbone and resistance to oxidation help Beaucastel age with grace. Grenache (30%) contributes a warming sensation of ripe fruit and a velvety feeling in the mouth. Syrah at 10%, and Muscardin and Vaccarese with around 5% each, add color and spicy aromas while increasing the wines aging potential. 5% of Cinsault is added for softness and its special bouquet. The remainder is made up of small quantities of the 7 other varieties allowed in Châteauneuf du Pape. They add that extra note of graceful complexity which makes Château de Beaucastel such an extraordinary wine. Drink: 2015-2045. Wine Advocate, 95 points.
To purchase these fabulous wines, please call 561-317-6663. Mention this post and receive an additional 10% discount off the purchase of a case!