By Robert Haas
This week we had fun visitors from Vermont: our daughter Rebecca, her husband, their three year old, Emmett, and old friends Mike and Cheryl LeClair. The LeClairs volunteered to drive our 1990 Ford Bronco here from Vermont in September of 1996 and help with the harvest. That 1996 harvest was from our new, very young Tablas Creek vineyard but, since our own on-site winery was a year away from completion we vinified and bottled the tiny production over at the Adelaida Cellars winery, a few miles down Adelaida Road.
I wanted to sample a bottle of 1996 with the LeClairs while they were here, so I found a bottle of our Tablas Hills "Cuvee Blanc" from that year. We used the Tablas Hills label for our wines in 1995 and 1996, grown on our property but made at Adelaida Cellars, and debuted the Tablas Creek Vineyard label we use today in 1997 with the completion of our estate winery. The 1996 Cuvee Blanc was a blend of Roussanne and Viognier from our then-3-year-old vines. I brought the bottle to a dinner party at Jason’s to which Cesar Perrin (François’ youngest son, who was 6 years old in 1996) and Neil Collins were also invited.
We were all surprised by the resiliency of the wine. It was delicious: light golden in color, white flowers, honey and almonds on the nose, dry, soft, rich and structured on the palate, with only the slightest hint of its 17 years of age. You can see the youthful color in the photo below.
We are often asked about our expected longevity for our wines; mostly about the reds. Since our first bottlings from our imported vines were in 1996, we do not have decades of experience to go on. At this point, we believe at least 20 years. But this weeks’ experience of this 1996 demonstrates the ability of the whites, especially the Roussannes and their blends to age many years and improve in bottle. The blog has the report from one recent vertical tasting of the Esprit blancs.
The ability of a wine to not only age, but to age well, going from rich, juicy, sometimes tannic youth to elegant, nuanced maturity, has always been a mark of quality. Paso Robles may not have yet deveoped the reputation of ageworthiness to rival that of Napa, Bordeaux or even Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but tastings like these give us every reason to expect that it will. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, that old Bronco that arrived in time to help us with the 1996 harvest is still running. It was great to see that the vintage it helped produce is keeping pace.