Over the last couple of vintages, word has seeped out that Tablas Creek is making a Pinot Noir. Why, you might ask? It's personal.
The person in question is our founder -- and my dad -- Robert Haas. He made his name as an importer, mostly of French wines, and although his impact on Bordeaux was significant, his love was really Burgundy, and in the years after World War II introduced Americans to an amazing list of classic producers including Ponsot, Mongeard, Sauzet, Matrot, Girardin, Morey, Carillon, Boillot, Gouges, Merode, Trapet, Groffier, Parent, Pernot-Fourrier, Lamarche, Laleur-Piot and d'Angerville.
It was the Perrin family with whom he found the shared interest in making wine in California, but any Burgundy lover also notes the resemblance of our calcareous soils here in Paso Robles to the chalk found there. And like many wine lovers -- and winemakers, for that matter -- my dad has always been fascinated with Pinot's ability to illustrate, reflect and elaborate the soils in which it is grown.
So when he had the chance to plant a two and a half acre block outside his house in one of the coolest pockets of Templeton, what did he pick? Pinot Noir. These vines went in the ground in 2007 and 2008, and we made two barrels of wine from it in 2010. It was amazing to me how different this wine tasted than the wine we made from the few rows of Pinot vines we planted in our nursery block to propagate the roughly 4000 vines we needed to plant his property. [If you're interested in reading my tasting notes on those two wines, both from the 2010 vintage and from the same clones, grown in the same appellation, you can do so here.]
We decided to call the Pinot from my dad's property "Full Circle", reflecting my dad's journey from Burgundy through the Rhone to California and now bringing a little bit of Burgundy to his world in California. That first release of Full Circle sold out quickly (there were only 52 cases made) but we're getting ready to release the 2011, and there will be quite a bit more: some 250 cases for us to pour for people in our tasting room and sell. Still not enough to send out in a wine club shipment, and definitely not enough to put into distribution, but the 3000 bottles we're releasing mean that some significant percentage of our fans will get to try this wine in the next few years. And the 2011 is delicious: like the 2010 with the volume turned up a bit: a little more texture, a little more fruit, and a little higher acidity. Vibrant Pinot Noir showing sweet spices, black tea, plum and earth, with loamy minerality and lingering spice on the finish. Wine club members should look for an announcement of the wine's release next week.
Meanwhile, last week I went on a ramble through my dad's vineyard to see how things were progressing on the 2013 version. It looked great. A few of the better photos are below. First, a check in on veraison: nearly finished, which is unsurprising with the comparatively early-ripening Pinot Noir. We expect to make our first pass through this vineyard to get the ripest clusters next week.
On the ground were clusters we'd pruned off a few weeks ago to even out the crop loads and ensure that the grapes have good concentration:
The setting sun lit up the canopy and gave a warm tone to everything it touched.
My favorite photo was one where I caught the light just before the sun set, shining through a little gap in the vine rows and lighting up one cluster. I tasted it after I took the photo, and it was every bit as delicious as it looks. Full Circle, 2013 vintage, is shaping up well.