This is a tale of two wineries. Both are relatively new and both come from different perspectives. But both have one thing in common. That is to produce wines that are harmonious and have complexity and balance. The results so far from both wineries are very impressive. They are definitely wines to seek out. The Tablas Creek wines are available in limited quantities nationally for most of their offerings. The wines are also offered for sale directly from the winery along with special limited bottlings offered only from the winery. They can be contacted at www.tablascreek.com and also have a wine club, Tablas Creek VINsider, which offers discounts and special offerings to members. The production of Tyler wines is very small. They may be found in limited distribution, but are primarily sold direct from the winery. Tyler can be contacted at www.tylerwinery.com
Tablas Creek Vineyard was founded in 1989 with the purchase of 120 acres of vacant land in West Paso Robles. It is a partnership with Domaine Beaucastel and Robert Haas as the majority partners. The first wine was produced in 1997. All wines are estate bottled and are made from Rhone varietals. Tyler winery, on the other hand, produced its first wine in 2005. The grapes are purchased from subplots of special vineyards in Santa Barbara County. The talented Justin Willett is the founder and guiding force behind Tyler. The focus is entirely on the Burgundian varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The wines are made at a winery cooperative in Santa Maria. So the wineries are very different, but the philosophy of both is very similar. Below is more background on each and notes on wines recently tasted from bottle and barrel.
TABLAS CREEK VINEYARD
Tablas Creek Vineyard is a partnership between the Perrin family, proprietors of Chateau Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape, and Robert Haas, founder of Vineyard Brands, as majority partners and French and American friends as minority partners. The search for a vineyard location to grow Rhone varietals began in 1987 and in 1989 they purchased a 120 acre parcel in West Paso Robles some 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Here the rock and limestone soils are of the same geologic origin as at Beaucastel and the climate is also similar. The result is grapes that mature fully, yet retain crisp acidity. The vine cuttings were imported from Beaucastel to replicate the clonal selection and assure the quality and genetic source. The vine cuttings arrived in 1990 and planting began several years later. The first wine was made in 1997. Production, both in terms of quantity and number of wines produced, has been increasing steadily since then. Today the planting is complete and consists of 2/3s red varieties – Mouvedre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Tannat. and Counoise and 1/3 white varieties – Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Picpoul Blanc, and Grenache Blanc. The centuries old Chateauneuf du Pape tradition is followed with the varieties blended to produce wines of a unique style and complexity. The concept of blending different varietals to make wines is one that I have always believed would make better wines in California. There are only a few exceptions to this belief and those would include the Burgundian varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Tablas Creek is dedicated to pursuing its goal of balanced, harmonious wines. In the past three years the alcohol range for the white wines has been 13-13½% and 14-14½% for the red wines. The 2009 vintage at Tablas Creek is a bit like a blend of 2007 and 2008 which were quite different in terms of the intensity of the wines. In 2010 the vintage was different again. It was a very long growing season that began in early September and did not conclude until after Thanksgiving. This is expected to produce wines that again will be different than previous vintages. But, one thing is consistent through all the recent vintages. The wines have lovely fruit and are harmonious and balanced. Some require aging, others are meant to be consumed young. This is a very good trend, and is as it should be. Below are a range of tasting notes from bottle and barrel.
Tablas Creek Vineyard 2006-2009 Wines Tasted From Bottle
2009 Tablas Creek Vineyard Cote de Tablas Blanc. This wine is made with 45% Viognier, 28% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne, and 7% Grenache Blanc. It is light yellow in color with a floral perfume and lovely apple and citrus-tinged fruit with a hint of almond. Flavorful, yet elegant and crisp, this is a lovely wine –- Highly Recommended. $30
2009 Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc. Made with 62% Roussanne, 26% Grenache Blanc, and 12% Picpoul Blanc, this is a gorgeous wine with early appeal. It has a light golden color and a lovely perfume of apple and citrus with a floral nuance. On the palate it is elegant, yet flavorful and crisp, with flavors of apple and citrus with a hint of almond on the finish –- Outstanding. $40
2009 Tablas Creek Vineyard Roussanne Blanc. Made with 100% Roussanne, this is a delicious wine. It is light golden yellow in color with a deep perfume of pear, apple, citrus, and a faint honied spice nuance. The wine has lots of complex flavors with apple, pear, and citrus intertwined with a faint mineral spiciness and a long crisp finish –- Outstanding. $30 Best Buy
2008 Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc. This wine is made with 65% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc, and 5% Picpoul Blanc. It is light yellow gold in color with a lovely perfume of apple, pear, and citrus with a faint floral, almond tinge. There are nicely balanced flavors of apple, pear, and citrus with a floral, almond nuance and a nice crisp finish. Lovely –- Highly Recommended Plus. $40
2007 Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc. This is a really delicious wine made with 68% Roussanne, 22% Marsanne, and 10% Picpoul Blanc. It is light golden yellow in color and has a gorgeous perfume of peach and apple, accented by a floral and spice nuance. It is rounded and lush with complex flavors of peach and apple with floral, citrus and spice nuances. The finish is long and crisp which is a great counter balance to the richness of the wine –- Outstanding. $40
2008 Tablas Creek Cote de Tablas. Made with 42% Grenache, 21% Syrah, 20% Counoise, and 17% Mouvedre, this wine has a very nice brick red color and a lovely perfume that is floral and cedary with hints of dry leaves and spice. With lovely fruit it has elegance, complexity, and balance with floral and cedary spice-tinged flavors and a long finish –- Highly Recommended Plus. $25 Best Buy
2008 Tablas Creek Vineyard Mouvedre. Made from 100% Mouvedre, this wine has a very nice brick red color and a lovely perfume with hints of plum and a touch of cedar and spice. It has lovely rounded flavors of plum, cedar, and spice and is harmonious with a long finish –- Outstanding. $40
2008 Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel.
This wine is 38% Mouvedre, 30% Grenache, 26% Syrah, and 6% Counoise. It has a deep color with a brick red tinge and a lovely blackberry perfume with floral and cedary nuances. On the palate there is a harmonious balance and complex flavors of berry, cedar, and spice followed by a long finish –- Outstanding. $50
2006 Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel. Made with 38% Mouvedre, 30% Grenache, 26% Syrah, and 6% Counoise, this wine has a deep brick red color and a great perfume of plums, berry, cedar, and spice. It has great balance, flavor, and complexity with lots of cedary fruit and a long finish. Really delicious –- Outstanding. $50
2009 Tablas Creek Vineyard Red Wines Tasted From Barrel
2009 Tablas Creek Vineyard Cotes de Tablas. This wine is 43% Grenache, 24% Syrah, 18% Counoise, and 15% Mouvedre. It will be bottled in March and released in April. This is a really fruity, tasty wine. It has a very nice color and a lovely cherry perfume with a floral nuance. On the palate, it is lush, rounded, supple, and flavorful with lot of fruit and a floral and spice nuance –- Very Good Potential Plus.
2009 Tablas Creek Vineyards En Goblet. En Goblet translates as goblet shape and describes the head-trained vines that produce the grapes from which this wine is made. The wine was first made in 2007 and now again in 2009. It is 56% Mourvedre, 23% Tannat, and 21% Grenache. It will be bottled in July and released in the fall. It has a dark color and a deep blackberry perfume with a hint of spice. There is lots of spice tinged fruit on the palate backed by balanced tannins and a long finish –- Very Good Potential Plus.
2009 Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel. This wine is 40% Mouvedre, 27% Grenache, 28% Syrah, and 5% Counoise. It will be bottled in July and released in October. The wine has a dark color and a great perfume of plum, blackberry, cedar and spice. It is balanced and rich with complex fruit and lots of flavor. This is a delicious wine –- Outstanding Potential.
Owner and winemaker Justin Willett started Tyler winery in 2005. Previously he had worked in vineyard management as well as assistant to winemaker Joe Davis at Arcadian. In a very short time he has established himself as a leader in the movement to make balanced, harmonious wines. He is a very serious and talented young man dedicated to making the Burgundian-style of wine that many of us love. Justin makes only Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and has a great respect for the wines of Burgundy. Careful viniculture and low impact winemaking are guiding principles. Three basic truths are followed. First, older vines are preferred over younger vines as these vines produce wines of more character and depth. Second, picking grapes early allows the production of wines with lower alcohol and more fruit and finesse. And, third, only a modest amount of new wood (20% for Chardonnay and 20-30% for Pinot Noir) allows the fruit and transparency to come through in the wines.
The grapes for Tyler wines are sourced from what Justin believes to be some of the finest plots of selected vineyards in Santa Barbara County. Production has increased steadily from under 200 cases in 2005 to over 1600 cases in 2010. In 2010 there are 14 different wines – 4 Chardonnays and 7 Pinot Noirs.
I recently tasted the Tyler Winery 2009 and 2010 Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from barrel. The 2009 harvest was a very good one with very good weather conditions throughout the growing season. Various different vineyards were harvested beginning in early September and extending to early October. The 2009 Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are both harmonious, balanced, and very pure. They are wines to buy! The 2010 harvest was unusual and completely different than 2009 with one of the longest growing seasons that any one can remember. The weather was very cool and many growers picked into late November. Tyler picked early which allowed complete ripeness and extraordinary fruit with lower than normal alcohol levels (in a range of high 12% to low 13%). The resultant wines are balanced and lush with great intensity. The 2010 Chardonnays have wonderful fruit and are lovely. The 2010 Pinot Noirs are really special. They are some of the finest California Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted from barrel. Don’t miss them!
Tyler Winery 2009 – 2010 Barrel Tasting Notes
2009 Tyler Winery Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley.With a light yellow color this Chardonnay has a gorgeous perfume of peach, apricot, and citrus with a faint floral spice nuance. Balanced with gorgeous fruit, it is a delicious wine with a long crisp finish –- Outstanding Potential. 199 cases produced April release $36
2009 Tyler Winery Chardonnay Zotovich Family Vineyard Santa Rita Hills.
Light yellow in color this Chardonnay has a great perfume with hints of pineapple, peach, spice and vanilla. It has lots of fruit and lovely flavors tinged with spice and vanilla and a long crisp finish –- Outstanding Potential. 101 cases produced April release $40
2009 Tyler Winery Chardonnay Clos Pepe Santa Rita Hills.
This Chardonnay has a light yellow color and a gorgeous perfume with hints of peach and citrus and a kiss of spice and vanilla. With lots of fruit it is lush and flavorful with a long crisp finish –- Outstanding Potential. 152 cases produced September release $42
2009 Pinot Noir
2009 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County.
This is a very nice, elegant Pinot Noir. It has a wonderful berry perfume with a floral tinge and lovely supple fruit with a faint spicy nuance. It is balanced and tasty –- Very Good Potential. 309 cases produced April release $36
2009 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir La Encantada Santa Rita Hills.
With a deep color this Pinot Noir has a gorgeous floral and berry perfume and a lovely balance and flavor. It has lots of fruit with just a tinge of spice and is supple and delicious with a long finish –- Outstanding Potential. 166 cases produced April release $50
2009 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir Dierberg Vineyard Block Five Santa Maria Valley.
This wine has a nice color and a nice floral-tinged perfume. It is balanced and flavorful with lovely fruit and good backbone –- Very Good Potential Plus. 173 cases produced September release $45
2009 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir Presidio Vineyard Santa Barbara County.
This is a very elegant Pinot Noir with a lovely floral, and spice-tinged perfume. It has lovely fruit and is rounded with a very nice finish –- Very Good Potential Plus. 98 cases produced September release $50
2009 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard N Block Santa Maria Valley.
This Pinot Noir is made from grapes grown in the oldest section of the vineyard. The vines here were planted in 1973. This is the first year this wine has been made as a separate bottling. It is gorgeous with a deep color and an intense berry perfume with floral and spice nuances. Flavorful, supple and rich, but with structure and great balance, this wine is delicious now, although it should age effortlessly for an extended period –- Outstanding Potential. 99 cases produced April release $65
2009 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard Santa Rita Hills.
This is a delicious Pinot Noir with a deep color and a gorgeous perfume of spice-tinged berry fruit. It has great fruit and flavor with an impressively long finish –- Outstanding Potential. 117 cases produced September release $60
2010 Tyler Winery Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard Santa Maria Valley.
This is the first year that Tyler has made Chardonnay from this vineyard. It is light yellow gold in color and has a faint floral and citrus-tinged perfume. The wine has very nice fruit and a crisp, clean finish –- Very Good Potential. 45 cases produced
2010 Tyler Winery Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley.
I tasted two different Bien Nacido Chardonnays from different parts of the vineyard. They will be blended together before bottling. Both had lovely fruit with a nice citrus and mineral component and very nice balance –- Very Good Potential Plus. 125 cases produced
2010 Tyler Winery Chardonnay Zotovich Family Vineyard Santa Rita Hills.
This is a lovely Chardonnay with a light yellow color and a lovely perfume of citrus and peach with a touch of vanilla and spice. It has gorgeous fruit with a faint hint of spice, great balance and flavor, and a long, crisp finish –- Outstanding Potential. 180 cases produced
2010 Tyler Winery Chardonnay Clos Pepe Vineyard Santa Rita Hills.
This is a lovely Chardonnay with a light yellow gold color and a very nice spice-tinged perfume showing hints of citrus and peach. It has lots of fruit with a faint spicy nuance and is flavorful and balanced with a long crisp finish –- Outstanding Potential. 150 cases produced
2010 Pinot Noir
2010 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County.
I tasted a representative sample of this wine which was not yet blended. This is an impressive Pinot Noir with a dark color and a lovely berry perfume. It is very flavorful with loads of fruit, great structure and flavor and a long finish –- Outstanding Potential. 450 cases produced
2010 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley.
This is a terrific Pinot Noir with a dark color and an intense berry perfume. On the palate it is loaded with spice-tinged black cherry fruit and is rich, rounded, and balanced with a long finish –- Outstanding Potential. 175 case produced
2010 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Q Block Santa Maria Valley.
This is the first year for the Q block bottling which is made from old vines. What a debut! Dark in color, the wine has a deep berry, cherry perfume with just a tinge of spice. It is packed with supple rich fruit and is balanced with great flavors and a long finish –- Outstanding Potential Plus. 100 cases produced
2010 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard N Block Santa Maria Valley.
This is the second year for this wine made from grapes grown on vines nearly 40 years old. Wow! This is really special. The wine is dark in color and has a deep blackberry perfume with floral and spice-tinged fruit and a faint exotic nuance. Packed with layers of blackberry fruit it is complex and intensely flavorful with seamless balance and a very long finish – Extraordinary Potential. 85 cases produced
2010 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir Dierberg Vineyard Block 5 Santa Maria Valley.
This is a gorgeous Pinot Noir with charm and finesse as well as lots of flavor. It is dark and color with a lovely berry perfume and a faint hint of spiciness. Supple and rounded with a long finish, this is a delicious wine –- Outstanding Potential. 125 cases produced
2010 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard Santa Rita Hills.
I tasted two samples from the two parcels of this vineyard that will go into the final blend. Both were dark in color with great blackberry fruit and impressive balance, depth and concentration. This should be a gorgeous Pinot Noir –- Outstanding Potential. 125 cases produced
2010 Tyler Winery Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard Santa Rita Hills.
Dark in color, this Pinot Noir has a deep perfume of berry fruit with floral and spice nuances. It is well structured and has impressive depth and balance and a long finish –- Outstanding Potential. 65 cases produced
These 2010s are expected to be bottled and released next year at approximately the same time as the 2009s this year. So be sure to look for them in April and September of 2012. The wines should be terrific. Do not miss them!