Tablas Creek Vin de Paille Sacrerouge Mourvedre 2006
Tablas Creek is a pioneer of California’s Rhone movement. Founded in 1989, it is the culmination of a friendship between two of the international wine community’s leading families dating back to 1967: the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and the Haas family of Vineyard Brands. After a four-year search, the partners chose Paso Robles, California for its many similarities to the Southern Rhone and began the lengthy process of importing vine cuttings, building a grapevine nursery, and creating an estate vineyard from the ground up. Today, the vineyards at Tablas Creek are proudly Biodynamic® and organic certified by Demeter USA.
Paso Robles has made a name for itself as a source of supple, powerful, fruit-driven wines wines. But with eleven smaller sub-AVAs, there is actually quite a bit of diversity to be found in this inland portion of California’s Central Coast.
Just east over the Santa Lucia Mountains from the chilly Pacific Ocean, lie the coolest in the region: Adelaida, Templeton Gap and (Paso Robles) Willow Creek Districts, as well as York Mountain AVA and Santa Margarita Ranch. These all experience more ocean fog, wind and precipitation compared to the rest of the Paso sub-appellations. The San Miguel, (Paso Robles) Estrella, (Paso Robles) Geneso, (Paso Robles) Highlands, El Pomar and Creston Districts, along with San Juan Creek, are the hotter, more western appellations of the greater Paso Robles AVA.
This is mostly red wine country, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel standing out as the star performers. Other popular varieties include Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Grenache and Rhône blends, both red and white. There is a fairly uniform tendency here towards wines that are unapologetically bold and opulently fruit-driven, albeit with a surprising amount of acidity thanks to the region’s chilly nighttime temperatures.
Full of color, ripe fruit, plenty of texture and earthy goodness, Mourvèdre is an important grape in many key regions in the south of France, as well as in Spain and the New World. Mourvèdre is actually of Spanish provenance (there known as Monastrell or Mataro) and is the key variety in Alicante, Jumilla and Yecla. It truly thrives, however, in Provence’s Bandol region, where it shines on its own as a single varietal red and in Southern Rhône where it palys a major part in blends . It is also of great importance in the Southern Rhône alongside Grenache and Syrah—and in California and Australia, as a single varietal wine or in Rhône blends.
In the Glass
At their finest, Mourvèdre wines are robust and full of brambly red and black fruit, and aromas and flavors of herbs, leather, earth, dark chocolate and licorice. Well-aged examples can show an impressive degree of elegance and an attractive perfume. In blends with Grenache and Syrah, Mourvèdre provides fleshy texture, tannic structure and deep color.
This earthy Mediterranean variety loves rustic food—think cassoulet, wild boar ragu or smoky ribs. Mourvèdre’s tannins are bold but not bitter, lending both weight and texture.
Mourvèdre used to have significant plantings in California, but the vine lost popularity during the 20th century in favor of other varieties. However, in the 1980s, a group of California winemakers inspired by the wines of the Rhône Valley have been working to bring the variety back into the spotlight. Plantings have since increased and Rhône blends are now a highly-regarded specialty of the Central Coast.