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.
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!
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.