We recently received a treasure trove of photos from our original Nursery Manager, Dick Hoenisch. He oversaw the initial phases of Tablas Creek, from developing and building our nursery to planting our first vineyard blocks to our initial harvests and ultimately the building of our winery in 1997. He's remained a regular visitor and correspondent ever since, but even I had never seen most of the photos that he sent us. As by the time I moved out here in 2002 the property had assumed more or less the shape it has now, these photos feel to me like a time capsule, and most definitely worth sharing.
So, without further ado, and with thanks to Dick, I'm sharing some of my favorites of the photos. Dick gets pride of place in the first photo, posing next to two other firsts: our first vineyard truck, which we also think was the first thing ever to bear a Tablas Creek logo, in 1993:
In 1993, nearly all the activity was confined to the grapevine nursery. You can see our first two greenhouses, in which we kept and propagated the "mother vines" (those vines that came through quarantine, and whose progeny populate our vineyard and all the others who have planted our clones) and the small section of rootstock in the foreground:
Inside the greenhouses were the mother vines that we'd recently gotten out of quarantine from the U.S.D.A. These are many of the same vines that you can see in pots today on the patio outside our tasting room:
In 1992, we planted the top of our tallest hill to roughly two-acre blocks of the best quality California-sourced Rhone varieties we could find. This photo, also from 1993, shows them at the time. We have since grafted over the Syrah, Mourvedre, and Marsanne to French clones, though the Grenache (at the right) and Viognier (on the far side of the hilltop) remain. I can't imagine how we farmed this, given that the road up to the top looks completely unimproved. It must have been impassable all winter and most of the spring:
By 1995, we had come a long way in laying out the central part of the vineyard for planting, with vineyard on the hillsides and rootstock fields in the valley bottoms:
We may not have had a winery yet, but by 1995 enough was going on in the vineyard and nursery that the Perrins and my dad were here for long stretches of the year. I'm happy to see that, even if they had to do it at a plastic picnic table, they took the time to enjoy appropriate vineyard lunches. That's my dad at left, with Dick in the middle and Jean-Pierre Perrin at right:
Lest you think that the planting was easy, take a look at how much rock we uncovered just in digging the irrigation trench. David Maduena, now our Vineyard Manager, is manning the backhoe:
One of the cool early projects that I remember, since it took place in part when I was out here for a visit, was the 1997 construction of a beehive-shaped brick water cistern at the top of the property, which we still use as a fire suppression reservoir. We dug into the hilltop, built the cistern, and then filled the earth back in:
The construction of the winery was, as you would expect, a major milestone for us when it was happening in 1997. You can see its first framing stages in a photo from the spring of that year, from a vantage point more or less where our grafting and nursery education area is now:
We'd made quite a bit of progress on the winery building (back right) by the early summer, when we were planting the Chardonnay block that would produce our Antithesis each year between 2000 and 2011 (it was then grafted over to Mourvedre and Counoise):
The winery did get finished -- and, as seems axiomatic in winery construction, just a few days before the 1997 harvest began -- but the rest of the building was still being worked on as the grapes began to come in:
I'll leave you with one last photo, of the construction of the dry-laid limestone wall surrounding the original parking lot. You can see clearly how little topsoil there is above the calcareous clay, as well as the work involved in the wall's construction:
Thank you, Dick Hoenisch!