Please see Part one if you have not read that yet.
This installment features two of the oldest and larger wineries in Paso, Tablas Creek Vineyard and Hope Family Wines, along with some observations on similarities in wines and regional characteristics between Paso Robles and Texas Wine Country. As well as a nod to several winemakers from that region who see new opportunities in the wine industry and have relocated to make wine in Texas.
Tablas Creek Vineyard
I was able to be a part of a delightful, informative, vineyard tour with one of the former winemakers on an unusually cool August morning at the Tablas Creek Estate Vineyard in the Adelaida District.
Established in 1989, Tablas Creek is one of the oldest wineries in what is now the Paso Robles AVA and is a pioneer of the Rhône movement in California.
The story is an interesting and unique one of friendship and subsequent partnership between two international leading wine families. The Haas Family of Vineyard Brands in California and the Perrin Family of Château de Beaucastel of Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC in the Rhône region of France. After an extensive search the partners chose a location in Paso Robles for its similarity to the southern Rhône region. Currently Jason Haas, son of founder Robert Haas, leads the operations and is a highly visible champion for the Paso Robles region.
The estate vineyard was established from scratch with imported vine cuttings from Château de Beaucastel and creation of the estate grapevine nursery. The first vinifera cuttings of eight Rhône varieties; Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, and Picpoul Blanc arrived in 1990 and were quarantined by the USDA for three years before planting could begin. The ultimate goal was to replicate the clonal selection of an estate French Vineyard with vines from Château de Beaucastel. In 2003, the mission was completed with the arrival of the remaining varieties from Beaucastel; Cinsault, Terret Noir, Muscardin, Vaccarèse, Picardin, Clairette Blanche, and Bourboulanc.
There are now 115 of the 120 acres of estate vineyards planted with rootstock from these original cuttings from France that were then cultivated in the estate nursery. Over time Tablas Creek produced over 200,000 bench grafted vines for themselves, as well as to sell to other interested growers. Over 600 wineries now have Tablas Creek grafts and clones.
From the beginning, Tablas Creek has taken a holistic view of growing grapes and producing wine, beginning with organic practices and dry farming, and over the years it has expanded to sustainable and biodynamic practices that include a flock of sheep that roam the vineyards keeping the cover crops, that are planted between the rows, in check. They have also taken steps in production to reduce their carbon footprint including reducing the thickness of the glass used in bottles, switching rosé wine to recyclable wine boxes, and in the tasting room they pour wine from barrels instead of bottles. Last year, Tablas Creek became the first Certified Regenerative Organic Winery in the world. This recognizes their commitment to caring for the land and the people who work it and make the wine.
The wines of Tablas Creek follow the tradition and techniques of Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC, blending wine to produce complex, rich, balanced wines with a freshness and minerality that is authentic to the grape, place, and vintage.
Tablas produces between 25,000 and 30,000 cases a year. 50% is red wine primarily from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Counoise grapes. 35% is white wine primarily from Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc and 15% is rosé from Grenache and Mourvèdre.
Learn more at tablascreek.com
Hope Family Wines
Austin Hope’s grandfather, William Austin Hope, was a Texan. In 1933, during the Depression, he moved to the San Joaquin Valley to make a living farming. After he passed away in the late 1970s his son, Chuck Hope and his wife Marlyn, their children, and his brother Paul, made the decision to follow the opportunity to grow apples and grapes in Paso Robles.
Since 1978, the Hope Family has been growing grapes on their land in Paso Robles. In the mid-1990s when Austin Hope, Chuck and Marlyn’s son took over the business he transitioned from just grape growing to winemaking and replanted the vineyards in Rhône varieties that were well suited for the warm days, cool nights, and sea breezes in the Templeton Gap District. Their first Rhône style vintage was a Syrah in 2000.
Austin took over the Liberty School label from Caymus Vineyards and also established the Treana brand, the first releases of Hope Family wines under these brands were in 1996. Since then, Austin has added four other brands: Austin Hope, Quest, Troublemaker, and Austin. The wines focus mainly on Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Zinfandel, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. This year Treana released a Sauvignon Blanc and Austin is working with growers in both warm and cool climates to cultivate more of these grapes.
The 40 estate acres are planted in Rhône varietals and used in Austin Hope wines. They work with 50 other growers throughout the Central Coast and other parts of the state to source the grapes for all the other wines. With long standing relationships, some of 30 years, they work closely with the growers to select rootstock and clones, and to ensure the highest standards for the best quality grapes. Stewardship of the land, incorporating biodiversity and sustainable practices is a key element of their mission.
Austin shares that his intention behind the multiple brands within Hope Family is to ensure accessibility by diversifying and making excellent wine for every kind of wine drinker.
This year Hope will ship over 400,000 cases of wine. Austin says that he is focused on global distribution. His personal quest is to elevate Paso Robles to the world stage.
Learn more at hopefamilywines.com
After visiting multiple Paso Robles wineries, meeting winemakers and other industry members, and tasting the wines I feel like there are a lot of commonalities between the two regions. I felt an immediate connection and look forward to more opportunities to increase those connections between Texas and Paso Robles. Here are some things I observed.
Similarities between Texas Hill Country, High Plains, and Paso Robles
Texas Wine Country and Paso Robles actually have a lot in common. While Paso Robles is considered more established, both areas are currently experiencing growth and change and receiving national and international recognition for the wines that are being made.
Community and Collaboration
In meeting and talking with winemakers and people working in many aspects of the wine industry in both Paso and Texas, I found a strong sense of community among people.
Most of the wineries in both places are still small and primarily family owned and operated. They live, work, and raise their families in their communities and are committed to supporting each other, and to the success of the entire region. Sharing resources and knowledge is common, there is a sense that the success of individuals is success for all.
Relaxed, Accessible, and Exciting Energy
Both regions have a relaxed but modern vibe and feel more accessible to all types of wine drinkers. There is an exciting undercurrent of energy – things are happening, plans are being made, and new ideas are welcomed.
Significant Crossover in the varieties of Grapes and Wine
While there is a wide range of grape varieties that grow well in the vastly different climates of Texas, there is significant overlap of many of the varieties that are seeing success in both areas and in the wines being made. The southern Mediterranean, Rhône, and Spanish grapes grow well in Texas High Plains, Hill Country, and many of the sub-AVAs in Paso Robles. Some of these include Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Clairette, Cinsault, Picpoul, Albariño.
While there are differences and particular challenges that are present in both regions, the warm, friendly, welcome by the community in both places is what makes both Texas and Paso Robles, and the people who make the wine, special.
Paso Robles and Central Coast Winemakers Are Moving to Texas
Over the past few years there has been a trend of winemakers relocating to Texas from California, in particular from Paso Robles and the Central Coast area, to take advantage of opportunities they see in the emerging Texas wine region.
Sarah and Brice Garrett – Serrano Wine
Sarah and Brice are young winemakers who relocated from Paso Robles in 2020 to a property along the Highway 290 Wine Trail in the Texas Hill Country AVA. They purchased land near Hye to grow grapes, make wine, and build a welcoming tasting room. They had visited the area and loved the attitude, the people, and the culture, and saw opportunities here to contribute and make a positive impact. They are excited to get creative and make wines that are appealing to a broad range of wine lovers, especially younger wine drinkers.
Mark Schabel – Hidden Hangar Vineyard and Winery
Mark Schabel is the winemaker at Hidden Hanger Winery in Denison in the Texoma AVA. He came to north Texas in 2019 from the Central Coast of California. Originally from Chicago, he studied viticulture and enology at UC Davis and worked throughout central and southern California as a winemaker and consultant with multiple wineries for 15 years. He told me that he was enticed by the opportunity with Hidden Hanger to come to a young, growing region and winery. He is excited to create a brand, innovate, and be a part of the energy in north Texas.
Ryan and Jody relocated to Texas from Paso Robles last year. Ryan worked as a viticulturist with Gallo and Jody was in operations with Tablas Creek. They are now pursuing new opportunities in the Texas Hill Country. Ryan is Wine Production Lead as part of the team at the newest addition to the Grape Creek portfolio, Invention Vineyards, on the former Slate Mill Wine Collective property, and Jody is working with Grape Creek in operations.
Zachary Raines – Kuhlman Cellars
Zack is the winemaker at Kuhlman Cellars. He joined the winery in 2022, coming from Paso Robles, where he grew up as part of the wine world. Most recently he was the winemaker at Dubost Cellars in Paso Robles. He says he was ready to make changes and take on new challenges and sees Texas as an opportunity to step out of his comfort zone. He is looking forward to charting this new path working with a less predictable climate, younger vines, and different grape varieties.