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January 2012
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March 2012

New Lambs at Tablas Creek

As we've mentioned, we're moving forward with our Biodynamic program throughout the property, including additional work with compost, cover crops, and Biodynamic preparations.  One of the keys to Biodynamics is biodiversity in flora, fauna and (consequently) microbes, and it is the additions to the fauna that have been the most visible manifestation of our moves to Biodynamics.

Today, one of the Barbados ewes that we brought in recently had lambs.  It's always amazing to me how self-sufficient newborn animals are compared to humans.  This is particularly true of herbivores, which have to be ready to run, evolutionarily, almost right away.  The photos below were taken less than an hour after the lambs were born, and they were already standing up and starting to nurse.  The mother was alternating between licking the lambs clean and continuing to munch on the mustard flowers in the head-pruned Mourvedre block where the animals are at the moment.  The new family:

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The sheep will join the flock, which is getting accustomed to its new home and gradually moving through selected portions of the vineyard.  The babies:

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We'll have the animals posted near the winery as part of our activities celebrating the Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival in mid-March.  If you're in the area, come on out and meet the vineyard's newest residents.


Viticulturist Levi Glenn and Vineyard Manager David Maduena demonstrate grapevine pruning

February is the month when the relative calm of winter ends.  The days start to get longer, the cover crops explode into growth thanks to the sun and rain, and it starts to feel like spring is just around the corner.  Of course, it's not, quite; it's still often below freezing at night, and the grapevines won't sprout for another month at least.  But all of a sudden you know the clock is ticking.

This is when we prune.  You need to wait until the vines are dormant to prune them, so that they can store up the necessary vigor in their roots.  But pruning too early encourages the vines to sprout early too, and in an area prone to spring frosts -- like Paso Robles -- that's a risk.  So, rather than prune in December or January, we prune in February and March, starting with the varieties that sprout late, and which we're not too worried about freezing, like Mourvedre and Roussanne.  We try to finish with Grenache, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier, which all tend to sprout earlier, in the hopes of getting another week or ten days of dormancy out of them. 

Two weeks ago, we had just started pruning the Roussanne and the Mourvedre.  Viticulturist Levi Glenn and Vineyard Manager David Maduena took a few minutes to explain what they aim for in their pruning, and then demonstrate on a couple of Roussanne vines.  First, the overview:

Then, they dive in, first Levi demonstrating how we choose which canes to leave and which to prune off, then David pruning a vine at full speed.  It takes him 23 seconds.

Yes, all this is done by hand.  We have about 105 acres in production.  80 of these acres are trellised like the ones in the videos, at roughly 1800 vines per acre.  The other 25 acres are head-pruned, at much lower density, typically 600 vines per acre.  That's about 160,000 vines to prune.  At 23 seconds each, that's about 1,022 man hours of work.  Figure that we typically have 8 of our full-time crew working on pruning in this season, with an hour of breaks each day makes 146 days of work... or with a crew of 8, just over 18 work days each.  That sounds about right... roughly a month of work, if the weather holds.

Why does all this matter? Having the correct pruning on our vines has several positive effects:

  • It reduces yields and improves quality.  As a rough estimate, you can figure on one cluster of grapes per bud that you leave during pruning.  Leaving six spurs each with two buds predicts roughly a dozen clusters of fruit, which should give us about the three tons per acre we feel is ideal for our setting and our style.
  • It makes for a healthier growing season.  If we space the buds correctly, we should have good vertical growth of canes and have clusters of fruit hanging below the canopy.  This configuration means that air flow through the rows should naturally minimize mildew pressure.  It will also shade the fruit from the sun at the hottest times of day, while allowing any nutrients or minerals we spray onto the vineyard to penetrate the canopy.
  • It promotes even ripening.  Different vines in any vineyard block have different base levels of vigor.  If left to their own devices, some might set a dozen clusters while others might set forty.  Of course, the more clusters, the slower they ripen.  Getting an even cluster count helps minimize the spread between first and last fruit ripe in a block and makes the job of the picking crew much easier.
  • It sets up the vine for the following year.  Done well, pruning encourages the growth of wood in places where it will be needed in future years, filling in gaps where cordons may have died back in previous years or separating spur positions that have grown too close.
  • It saves labor later.  A good example of how much labor good pruning saves can be found by looking at a frost vintage, where the primary buds have been frozen and secondary buds left to sprout wherever the vine chooses.

So, we've been spending February giving the vineyard its winter haircut, while we hope for continued frosty nights that will delay the day when the vines will sprout to begin the 2012 growing season, and we get to start worrying about frost.


Tasting the Wines in the Spring 2012 VINsider Club Shipment

Every six months, we send out a six-bottle shipment of wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  While the fall shipment showcases our signature wines, and includes both our Esprit de Beaucastel and our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, the spring shipment is more eclectic, highlighted by the Panoplie, our elite wine made in the image of Beaucastel's iconic Hommage à Jacques Perrin.  Beyond that we include wines we're particularly excited about.  This year, we chose three whites from the fresh, mineral-laced 2010 vintage: the 2010 Grenache Blanc, 2010 Cotes de Tablas Blanc and 2010 Antithesis.  We also picked the intense 2009 Grenache and the newly-bottled 2010 Cotes de Tablas.

This morning, I opened the wines in the upcoming shipment to write the tasting notes that will be included in the package, and thought that readers of the blog might like an advance peek.  Joining me for the tasting were Winemaker Neil Collins, Tasting Room Manager John Morris and National Sales Manager Tommy Oldre.  The lineup:

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2010 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: The 2010 Cotes de Tablas Blanc is our showcase for the floral, lush fruit of Viognier, balanced by the freshness and minerality of Grenache Blanc.  In 2010, the coolest year on record in Paso Robles, we found the Grenache Blanc particularly compelling and used our highest percentage ever in Cotes de Tablas Blanc.  The resulting blend is 54% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc, 8% Marsanne and 8% Roussanne, all aged in stainless steel.
  • Tasting notes: A serious, mineral-driven nose with peach skin, saline and sweet spices in the background.  In the mouth, broad and mouth-filling with flavors of honeydew and green mango. An appealing sweet herbiness comes out on the long finish, with notes of tarragon and fennel and refreshing acidity.  Drink now and for the next five years
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2010 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: 2010 was a banner year for Grenache Blanc, and our blending trials produced our highest percentages ever in both our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc and Cotes de Tablas Blanc.  For the small-production (600 case) varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose lots that were fermented stainless steel (for brightness) and foudre (for roundness), then blended and bottled in the summer of 2011.
  • Tasting notes: An expressive, intensely mineral nose that also includes sweeter flavors like marzipan, licorice, and chicory root.  In the mouth, rich yet zesty, with flavors of quince, marmalade, and granny smith apple.  The vibrant acids come out on the finish, suggesting preserved lemon and ending with just a hint of Grenache tannin.  We all thought this was gorgeous.  Drink now and for the next three years.
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2010 ANTITHESIS

  • Production Notes: After a frost-devastated crop in 2009, our Chardonnay production was back up in 2010, and this combined with a very cool summer led to our longest hangtime for Chardonnay ever.  We fermented the juice in a mix of neutral oak and stainless steel barrels, blended and bottled in summer 2011.
  • Tasting notes: A creamy, minerally nose, Chablis-like in its expression of chalky minerality. But there are sweeter aromas too, like creme patisseur and custard. The mouth is lush but firmly dry, with supple texture and a generous mid-palate. The flavors are classic Chardonnay, edging slightly tropical with pineapple and toasted bread, then finishing mineral again, slightly saline. Drink now and for the next five years.
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2010 COTES DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas is our take on a more traditional Chateauneuf du Pape blend, heavier on Grenache and Syrah and lighter on Mourvedre than our Esprit de Beaucastel.  In 2010, we further strengthened the blend by declassifying over 2500 gallons into the 2010 Patelin de Tablas. Each variety was harvested and fermented separately, moved to foudre for aging, blended in the fall of 2011, and bottled in January 2012.  The final blend is 46% Grenache, 39% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, and 5% Counoise.
  • Tasting notes: Lots of dark red fruit on the nose, particularly boysenberry and black cherry, as well as a cool, chalky minerality.  Neil commented on its "beautiful absence of oak".  The mouth is vibrantly fruity with more cherry, but then firms up as the tannins come to the fore.  There is tart red fruit on the finish, with a lingering impression of iron. We all thought this would be a fascinating wine to watch age. Try to give this 6 months, then drink for a decade or longer.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2009 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: In 2009, the only red varietal we made was Grenache, as in this drought- and frost-reduced vintage we protected our flagship blends.  But what a great year for Grenache, with remarkable intensity from the tiny crops and freshness from the cool summer.  Harvested in two weeks spanning the end of September and the beginning of October, Grenache was fermented in closed stainless steel fermenters, then moved to neutral barrels, blended in June 2010 and aged in foudre until its bottling in April 2011.
  • Tasting notes: A powerfully Grenache nose of cherry liqueur, licorice root, and cocoa, but held in check with a mineral note Neil described as "cast iron pan after you've seared a steak". In the mouth, rich at first, with rare meat and wild strawberry, then big tannins come to the fore that were asking for a marbled steak. The tannins resolve in the finish and leave a suggestion of clean minerality.  Pair now with substantial food, or age for a decade or more for a more elegant profile.
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2009 PANOPLIE

  • Production Notes: As always, Panoplie is selected from lots in the cellar chosen for their richness, concentration and balance, always heaviest on Mourvedre's rich meatiness and firm structure. Each lot was fermented individually and then moved to foudre to age, before being selected, blended and returned to foudre to age in July 2010.  The wine was bottled in August 2011.  The blend in this, our lowest-yielding year ever, is 65% Mourvèdre, 26% Grenache and 9% Syrah.
  • Tasting notes: Tommy coined a new word for the nose: cornucopious, for its dark and savory aromas of black raspberry, eucalyptus, loam, and iron.  The mouth is broad and rich but incredibly structured, with soy, garrigue and forest floor notes providing balance to the plum, currant and chocolate.  The finish is long and complex, minty, brambly, and earthy all at once.  We expect it to drink well for another year or so, then tighten up for a few years before reopening around 2017 and drinking well for two to three decades.
  • List Price: $95 VINsider Price: $76

More details on the shipment, including shipping dates, press on the wines, and information about the spring shipment tasting party on Sunday, April 1st, is available on our VINsider News Page.

One concluding thought: the more that I taste it, the more I love the 2010 vintage.  That remarkably cool year, with the very long hang time that resulted, has made wines that have richness yet are noteworthy for their vibrancy and freshness.  The mineral components in our wines (which I always love) are highlighted, and the great acids make me want to keep coming back for the next sip.  And this isn't just true with the whites.  The 2010 Cotes de Tablas shows the same freshness and appeal, and does it without sacrificing intensity of flavor.  I am eagerly anticipating the bottling and release of our other 2010 reds.


Photo Essay - Winter in the Vineyard

I love this time of year.  With the winter's rain, everything is deep green in the vineyard.  The days when it's not raining (which is most of the time) the sun is bright and the air crystal clear.  The sun angle is low, which lends a great hue to everything and lights the occasional clouds into wonderful sunsets.  I've found myself wandering out into the vineyard each afternoon this week.  These are some of my favorite shots.  First,a look south across Tablas Creek to the new property we just purchased.  Not going to be easy to farm on those hillsides!

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The cover crop is ridiculously lush and green right now, with the rain last month and the warm, sunny days we've had for the past two weeks.  It makes for a nice contrast with the dark brown of the dormant vines:

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We've begun pruning, and while most of the vineyard is still shaggy, a few blocks (like the Roussanne below) have received their winter haircuts.  The vines in a pile are being collected by NovaVine to graft into new grapevines for other California vineyards to plant.

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The diagonal flows of the hills make for dramatic backdrops with only their tops illuminated by the sun:

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And again:

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The local raptors always like the winter, when the rodent population is more exposed.  I had the owl that's living in the box below kick an owl pellet (mostly regurgitated bones and fur) at me when I got too close.  The blue of the sky is typical of Paso Robles this time of year:

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The contours of the land are also highlighted in winter.  Looking down through our old Grenache block, over our straw-bale barn and toward the Roussanne and Grenache Blanc behind:

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The winter sun brings out the honey color of the local limestone.  Below, the rock and recycled material animal barn we built this winter:

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Finally, a sunset I caught, shining through an olive tree:

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If you haven't made it a point to come out to Paso Robles in the winter season, you're missing out.  Let this be your excuse.


Tannat: the Perfect Grape for Paso Robles?

Tannat2Although we specialize in Rhône varietals, we continue to experiment with other grapes that we feel might thrive in the shallow rocky soils and dramatic summer climate of Tablas Creek. Tannat is one of these grapes, and its intense fruit, spice and powerful tannins combine to make remarkable wines here, in a distinctly different style than our Rhone grape varieties. 

In addition, we've come to believe that it is perhaps the easiest grape to keep happy in Paso Robles' challenging climate.  If there's an empirical sign that a grape is suited to an area, it has to be that it excels without an extraordinary amount of work on the part of those who grow it.

Early History
Though many scholars believe Tannat originated in the Basque region, Tannat is most closely associated with the winemaking region of Madiran, at the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France and just north of the region that is traditionally thought of as the Basque heartland. The grape has been grown in that region for centuries, and 17th and 18th century French kings accepted Madiran wines as payment for taxes. Madiran appellation laws mandate that Tannat be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc, but Madiran producers have recently begun receiving notable press for their 100% Tannat wines.

Tannat continues to be grown in the Basque country, most notably in the tiny appellation of Iroulèguy, on the Spanish border. In 1870, Basque immigrants brought the grape to Uruguay, where it adapted well to the local soil and climate. It has since become the national red grape variety of Uruguay, accounting for approximately one third of all wine produced in that country; more Tannat is grown in Uruguay than in the varietal’s native France.

Tannat at Tablas Creek
We did not originally intend to produce a Tannat. In fact, the Perrins’ French nurseryman included Tannat cuttings of his own volition when he also packed up the Rhone varieties we'd asked for in 1990.  These cuttings were entered into quarantine at the USDA station in Geneva, New York and it was a couple of years before we untangled the mystery of how this non-Rhone grape came to be under our account with the USDA. When we traced it back to the nurseryman we asked him why he'd included this (to us) unrelated grape.  His response was "I know this grape, and from what I've learned about Paso Robles, it should grow well there. You should try it."  When in 1993 the Tannat cuttings were declared virus free and released to us, we decided that with little of our vineyard yet planted we might as well see if he was right.  In 1996 we planted just under an acre, and while we received a tiny production that was tossed in at harvest with other varieties starting in 2000, we first harvested enough to ferment on its own in 2002.

In the vineyard, Tannat is one of the easiest varietals to grow. It is frost hardy and a solid producer whether trellised or head-pruned. Yet unlike most of our other red varietals (most notably Grenache) it is not prone to overproduction, and we do not have to thin the shoots to keep production down. Its berries have thick skins, which make it resistant to powdery mildew and botrytis.  It ripens in the middle of the ripening cycle, typically in late September or early October, and we can harvest it nearly every vintage at numbers that we consider ideal: around 24° Brix and a pH of around 3.3.  The sole difficulty with growing Tannat is its thick stems, which cling tightly to the berries and can be difficult to de-stem at harvest. 

Tannat is quite tannic (due in part to the berries’ thick skins), and we ferment it in open-top tanks to expose the juice to more oxygen and soften the tannins.  We age Tannat in small (usually neutral) barrels to expose the juice to some oxygen in the aging process.  We typically either co-ferment or blend into our Tannat our small nursery parcel of Cabernet Sauvignon.  In France, Cabernet is traditionally added to Tannat to open it up and make it more approachable.  That fact alone should give you a sense of just how powerful Tannat can be.  But the grape gets riper here in Paso Robles than it does elsewhere in the world, while still maintaining its wonderful structure.  When I asked Winemaker Neil Collins for his thoughts on Tannat this morning, he replied "Tannat is very happy in Paso Robles, where our climate and terroir allow the tannin to become an asset not a detriment".

Because of our enthusiasm for the grape's potential, we have since 2002 planted two more parcels to Tannat, and now have a total of 3.5 acres at Tablas Creek, off of which we harvest on average 9 tons of fruit per year.

Tannat and the BATF
Although Tannat had existed in the University of California’s vine collections since the 1890s, when we began growing Tannat it had not yet been recognized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

When we decided to bottle it, we petitioned the BATF to recognize Tannat as a separate varietal, a process we had recently undergone with both Grenache Blanc and Counoise. We amassed literature on Tannat to demonstrate it was a recognized varietal in other countries, and compiled descriptions of its characteristics to show that it had positive value as a wine grape in the United States. In September of 2002, our petition was formally approved.

As of 2010, there were 248 acres of Tannat planted in California, most from Tablas Creek cuttings.

Aromas and Flavors
Tannat makes decidedly robust wines, with pronounced aromas of smoke and plum, significant tannins and a wonderfully spicy finish. Here at Tablas Creek, we’ve found the wines to be dense purple-red in color, with a nose of tobacco, smoke, and ripe berries. The rich palate has juicy flavors of plum and raspberry, with a long, generous finish. The tannins are impressive, but nicely balanced with the intense fruit and spice flavors of the wine. Unlike most Old World examples, you can enjoy our Tannats young, but we believe that they benefit from three to five years of bottle aging and should evolve gracefully for two decades. As for food pairings, Tannat's smoky character makes it a perfect match for roasted meats and game, as well as sausages and strong aged cheeses.

In addition to bottling Tannat as a varietal wine each year since 2002, we have recently started including it in our En Gobelet blend of head-pruned, dry-farmed vineyard blocks, where Tannat's firm structure and smoky minerality balance the relative opulence of Grenache and Mourvedre.  In this blend, it assumes the role typically played by Syrah -- which does not head-prune well -- in the southern Rhone.

Tannat and Health
Recent research, led by Dr. Roger Corder (a cardiovascular expert at the William Harvey Research Institute in London) makes the case for oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs) as the source of red wine’s health benefits. All red grapes, particularly those with thick skins and high skin-to-pulp ratios, contain OPC’s. But, after measuring the OPC concentration of several common red wine grapes, Dr. Corder identifies Tannat as the grape with the greatest concentration. The real-life evidence of Tannat’s benefits can be seen in the surprisingly long lifespans of residents of the département of Gers in southwest France, whose local wine appellation is Madiran. Gers contains more than double the national average of men in their nineties.  I wrote a few years ago about the link between Tannat, heart health and longevity.

2009 Tannat: Featured Wine for February 2012
We taste through our cellar regularly to see which wines are showing particularly well given the season and the wines’ own inherent evolution. As a way of sharing these observations with you, many months we spotlight one of our wines as our featured wine. To encourage you to try this featured wine, we offer it, for the designated time only, at a 10% discount. This discount is applied above and beyond any other discounts that might apply, such as for case purchases or wine club membership. The February featured wine is the 2009 Tannat, featured through February 29, 2012.  It recently received one of the highest ratings (90-93 points) ever bestowed on a Tannat-based wine by the Wine Advocate's Antonio Galloni, who called it "absolutely fabulous" and "a captivating wine".  You can read the complete review.


Mapping out the future of Tablas Creek

It's been a busy couple of years for us.  We built an expansion to our winery that increased our square footage by 70%.  We launched two new wines (the Patelin de Tablas and Patelin de Tablas Blanc) that have been a success both here at the winery and in the national market.  We dove wholeheartedly into the implementation of Biodynamics here at the winery.  We even debuted our long-delayed new Web site.

But perhaps the biggest investment we've made in the long-term success of Tablas Creek is the recently-concluded purchase of a 150-acre parcel adjacent to our property to the south.  We had been leasing a small portion of the property (about 15 acres) for the last decade, along with another 20-acre parcel to our west.

Overview map

This was not a move we were expecting to make.  And after our major investment in our new building, it was a stretch, financially.  But our neighbor from whom we purchased it had determined he needed to sell it for tax reasons, as he was purchasing some different agricultural land in northern California.  He was going to sell it, one way or the other.  And because of our lease, we had the right of first refusal on the land.

It's no secret that Paso Robles is in the middle of a remarkable surge of development.  There are more wineries and more vineyard acres each year.  And prices for prime vineyard land in the most coveted areas west of town have been going up fast.  Big new money has been moving into Paso Robles in the past few years, and several properties out near us have sold in recent months.  We were sure that if we passed on the opportunity now, we wouldn't see that land come available again... at least not at a price that we might be able to scrape together.

And if we were going to buy more land, there is no other parcel that would make more sense.  The land is beautiful: steep, with highly calcareous soils entirely consistent with what we have now.  It's high enough that it shouldn't be particularly frost-prone.  Everything can be inside one fence line and we can use our current equipment and facilities.  The property contains about 50 acres of walnut orchards that would be relatively simple to convert to vineyard.  It also included 15 of our acres on which we were currently paying rent.  And it contains a lake, built fifty years ago by damming up Tablas Creek, that we have high hopes can be used to frost-protect major sections of our vineyard.

Detail map

But, did we want to buy more land?  We are at least a couple of years from finishing planting our own property, and figured we'd evaluate our needs then.  Regular readers of the blog may remember the 2010 blog post Whither inexpensive, artisanal California wine where we laid out the money-losing proposition of purchasing and developing land to either sell grapes or make more of our least-expensive wine for the wholesale market.

Two things have changed in the past two years.  First, we launched the Patelin de Tablas wines, which have been a runaway success.  We will have sold out of the initial vintage of the white in about 10 months, and are on pace to sell out of the red in about 8 months.  Second, the demand for our estate wines has continued to grow, driven by consecutive 15% annual increases in traffic to our tasting room and a 2011 year where we added nearly 700 net members to our VINsider and VINdependent wine clubs.  The growth in our direct sales demand has meant that, increasingly, we're forced to choose between selling out of our top wines early in the wholesale market or in the tasting room (or both).  There just hasn't been enough production in the last 5 years (with the exception of the relatively plentiful 2010 vintage) to make enough wine to satisfy the demand.

To a certain extent, the Patelin de Tablas helps with this.  Because the bulk of the grapes for the Patelin are purchased, it's possible for us to hold a steady production from year to year, even when drought or frost strikes our vineyard.  But as proud of it as we are -- and we think that the 2010 Patelins are terrific wines -- we are wary of becoming known principally for the Patelin.  And we were worried that, if we didn't act, the only Tablas Creek wines regularly available in the wholesale market would be the Patelins, creating a potentially divergent marketing model where our best wines, the wines we felt make our reputation, were difficult or impossible to find around the country.  It's easy to name respected wineries who ended up being known for their least expensive, non-estate wines, to their long-term detriment.

Recognizing the challenge we faced made our decision easier.  We saw that in order to make enough wine to achieve our goal of bringing our supply up into closer balance with our demand without having the quantity of Patelin we produced dominate the quantity of estate wines, eventually we would need more vineyard.  Financially, more vineyard doesn't make sense if it's all going out wholesale.  But if a vineyard purchase supports balanced growth in both direct and wholesale sales, while protecting the reputation we've worked hard to build, the picture is a different one.

We were up in the new parcel today, getting a better sense of the property and trying to decide when to start pulling out the walnuts and preparing the land for planting.  We'll probably not plant anything there for at least a few years; we want the land to lie fallow for a couple of seasons while we plant cover crops and replenish soils beaten down by years of cattle ranching and surface disking.  And even when we do start planting, we'll certainly plant bit by bit, maybe five acres a year for a decade.  But this gives us the land on which to grow, and terroir which is, critically, like what we have now.  A few photos will hopefully share why were so excited.  From the top of the orchard, looking north-west along the orchard's ridge-top:

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From the southwestern edge of the orchard, looking northeast up the hill toward where the previous photo was taken:

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Looking southwest at the orchard from a high spot near the eastern border of the property:

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And looking north off the ridgetop, across the valley in which Tablas Creek runs, toward the current Tablas Creek property.  The winery building, with its red tile roof, is just visible:

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The intensely calcareous soils are apparent throughout the property, with bits of limestone littering the surface.  A soil cut where the previous owner dug into a hillside shows even more clearly how chalky things are:

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The lake is only partly full after our dry winter.  But even so it's a lot of water, and the potential of that water to protect both current and future vineyard from frost is exciting.  We interrupted a large flock of ducks who flew off before I could take their photo, but you can see a couple swimming toward the back of the lake:

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It was this lake, and its potential to ameliorate the spring frosts we face nearly every year, that sealed the deal for us.  We'll likely develop this first, perhaps as soon as this summer, while we prep the rest of the property for planting.  Will the frost protection plans work as we hope?  We'll know more soon, and we'll share it with you.  But we are confident that with this purchase, we've secured the future of Tablas Creek as an estate winery.  And that is a big deal.