Tablas Creek 2009 Rosé



Courtesy Tablas Creek Vineyards


Type: Dry rosé
Made with: Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise
Plays well with: duck, figs, cheese, nuts and picnic fare.

Let’s be clear.  This is not a sweet wine.  Alas, US rosés, in particular, have that bad rep from the cheap box wines that were so popular in the 1960s and ’70s.  But this ain’t your daddy’s Lancers.  The Tablas Creek 2009 Rosé was pink, as in the color a fresh rosé should have. The nose was fruity with watermelon and strawberry, and the fruitiness continued into the taste, even though it is very dry without any residual sweetness. It also had that yummy, thirst-quenching cleansing effect on our palates.  Alcohol was a decent fourteen and half percent.

Keep in mind, we drank this at the Hospice du Rhone Rosé Lunch, along with about five other Tavels – rosés from the Tavel region of France, near the south of the Rhone Valley.  The Tablas Creek rosé stood out among the Tavels because it was more fruit forward.  But that’s the California style. And did we say it was dry?  It is.  Really.

You can find out more Tablas Creek Vineyard at their website,

Tablas Creek 2006 Cotes de Tablas


Courtesy Tablas Creek Vineyards

Type: Dry Red
Made: In Paso Robles, California with grenache, syrah, mourvedre, counoise grapes
Plays well with: Slightly spicy beef dishes, anything laced with garlic.

With Tablas Creek Vineyard GM Jason Haas one of the honchos behind the Rhone Rangers and Hospice du Rhone, you think maybe he and his family are into Rhone-style wines?  Like the winery’s portfolio is based on these food friendly wines of the Rhone valley of southern France.  The Cotes de Tablas is a typical Rhone-style blend of syrah, mourvedre and counoise built on a foundation grenache. The nose is full of dark bramble fruit – think blackberry – with a hint of cedar. Taste it, and the nose comes through with the same flavors and a nice medium-weight mouthfeel.

The wine also felt a tidge warm in the mouth – like a lot of “hot” or high-alcohol wines, which was kind of odd because it wasn’t particularly heavy on that end at 14.8 percent, and the wine was otherwise balanced.  So it may have been a fluke and the wine was very tasty in spite of the warmth.

This is a good food wine and can stand up to some spiciness, maybe a Steak au Poivre (which is the steak with the black pepper) or Pepper steak (which is the steak with bell peppers).  The wine might even be a candidate for the Ultimate Garlic Experience – take a garlic-stuffed olive, eat it and knock back the wine over it.  Wow!

You can get the Cote de Tablas through the winery at

Guerilla Pouring with Benjamin Spencer



Benjamin Spencer's great viognier

While waiting for the Rhone Rendezvous tasting at the recent Hospice du Rhone wine festival, we started chatting with winemaker and blogger Benjamin Spencer.  You can catch one of his posts here at  He also has a very small boutique winery Leojami – and you can check out their site here


Spencer and Anne were talking about writing about HdR, but then Spencer mentioned that he was about to do a guerilla pouring, as well.

A what?

“Well, basically, it’s just a behind the scenes pouring at public wine events,” Spencer explained.  “You grab your newly-released viognier, in my case, for Leojami, and you put in on ice in your trunk. And you pull it out when everybody else is tasting and you find your friends from Facebook, who you know are soms [sommeliers] at various established resorts and restaurants and wine writers for Wine Spectator, etc.”

But why not just get a table?

“For people like us, we’re only making 400 cases per year,” Spencer said.  “We’re possibly pouring out a substantial amount of our potential profit, it just doesn’t make sense. So, I’m not… I haven’t always been on this side of the law, and I’m not ashamed to say that. I’m very happy to get out there and work for whoever wants to taste our wines.”

We did get a taste of Spencer’s 2008 Viognier and liked it a lot.  It had the typical viognier flowers in the nose – kind of a honeysuckle thing, but not sweet like honey.  There was some nice food-friendly acidity, and Mike tasted some stone fruits and a hint of citrus, with a medium mouthfeel and no oak.

Jason Haas – Tablas Creek Rosé Heaven

Jason Haas, of Tablas Creek and nice pink stuff

We’re having an insanely good lunch at the Hospice du Rhone on the last day of April – duck confit, goat cheese, roasted veggies (food was catered by The Girl and The Fig, of Sonoma, California), and it’s the rosé lunch, partly sponsored by the Synidcat de Tavel, where they make some of the world’s greatest dry rosés.  Every table had five Tavels to share.

So what does Jason Haas, general manager of Tablas Creek Winery, go around and do?  Plops down random bottles of the Tablas Creek 2009 rosé.  Thank you, Jason.  Was that good stuff!  And given that we had the best of an entire region to compare it to, it compared quite favorably.  We can’t say that any one of the wines was better than the others because they were all fabulous.

Anne then got out her trusty voice recorder and caught Haas sitting down for a chat about making rosé.  As he noted, it’s a pretty simple process.

One of the nice things about the rosés is that they’re very straight forward to make,” Haas said.  “You make your decision as to which lots you want to use. You bleed ’em off. You stick them in stainless steel and they’re done three weeks later.”

Well, actually, there are two ways to go.  Keeping in mind that most grape juice is white, red wines and rosés get their color from the grape skins.  Red wines are fermented with the grape skins and the juice.  Juice that becomes rosé sits on the skins for only a day or two.  Then, if that particular batch of wine is only going to be rosé, the grapes are pressed and the pink juice is made into wine.  Or, if the winemaker wants to punch up some of the fruit flavors in a more typical red wine, some of the juice is bled off after a day or two and either tossed (feh) or made into rosé.

So which way do they do it at Tablas Creek?

“It’s actually half and half,” Haas said.  “We have a section of the vineyard that we dedicate to making the rosé. We co-harvest and co-ferment about four rows of mourvedre, grenache and counoise. And use that as the base of the rosé. It’s actually our original nursery block that we planted to get more vines to plant the rest of the vineyard. So that’s the base of the rosé, and then we supplement that with mourvedre and grenache saignées from other lots of the vineyard. [Saignées are]bleed offs from the fermentation.”


The bleeding off, however, is not about the reds, Haas said, “Because we really like rosé. It would honestly make our lives a lot easier if we didn’t have to do it. But we love the rosé so much that we always scour the cellar for lots that we feel like we can bleed a little bit of wine off without making them too intense.”


The result was yummy.  Stay tuned for tasting notes to come.

Hospice du Rhone 2010


Instead of John, George, Ringo and Paul - you have Pierre, Francois, Yves and Yves

Oy.  We’ve finally recovered from a busy weekend at the Hospice du Rhone (and the following week, which was busy but not for wine-related reasons).  HdR is a two-day festival celebrating wines made from the 22 varieties of grapes commonly grown in the Rhone Valley of France.  It’s one of the older variety-related tastings/gatherings in California and has become one of the most respected, as well.


We’ll be posting more on our experiences soon.  But in the meantime, here are a few of the highlights of the weekend:

During the Syrah Shoot Out, the producers all blind taste and vote on the best syrah there.  And we got to taste it!  Yum!

Meeting winemaker Amy Butler, who is a kick and a half.

The fund-raising auction – what a hoot that was.  As soon as we figure out how to post an audio file, you’ll get to hear auctioneer Todd Ventura in action.

The Rose Lunch – not sure what tasted better, the duck confit or the myriad Tavels (from the Tavel region and, by definition, are roses).

Guerilla tasting some viognier.

Chatting with and meeting with all the different winemakers – what a treat.

And finally, tasting all the wines – including several actual Rhones (Cotes du Rhone, Cote Rotie, Chateauneuf du Pape), from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and from the U.S., including Washington State and believe it or not, California.

Is it any wonder we were completely blown on our backsides?