With the grafting of Muscardin, Tablas Creek celebrates the arrival of the complete collection of 14 Chateauneuf-du-Pape grapes.
June 19, 2019
Paso Robles, Calif.—Château de Beaucastel is renowned for using all the permitted Châteauneuf du Pape varieties in their blends. Now, Tablas Creek Vineyard, the project co-founded by the Perrins of Château de Beaucastel and pioneering importer Robert Haas, has the complete collection of grapes to work with as well.
While historically the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation in France's Rhone Valley recognized thirteen different grapes, there are fourteen planted at Beaucastel, counting Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc separately. Tablas Creek Vineyard brought in high quality clones of six of these when they began their project in 1989. These were Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc (they also brought in Viognier and Marsanne, which are traditional Côtes du Rhone grapes though not permitted in Châteauneuf du Pape). In 1998, Tablas Creek imported Picpoul Blanc.
In 2003 Haas worked out an agreement with Deborah Golino, Director of Foundation Plant Services at U.C. Davis to bring in the remaining grapes (Cinsaut, Clairette Blanche, Terret Noir, Muscardin, Vaccarèse, Bourbelenc, and Picardan). [You can read our press release from that agreement.] These vines underwent a rigorous indexing process conducted at U.C. Davis, and have been released to Tablas Creek Vineyard one by one as they have been found to be virus-free. Three of the grapes (Clairette Blanche, Terret Noir, and Picardan) are currently in production at Tablas Creek. Three more (Bourboulenc, Vaccarese, and Cinsaut) were planted in 2017. Muscardin was released from quarantine last year and has been propagated at NovaVine Nursery in Sonoma, California since then. With the grafting of 250 buds onto rootstocks at Tablas Creek this week, the winery looks forward to having all fourteen in production within a few years.
"The prospect of having the complete collection of Châteauneuf du Pape clones is really exciting," says Tablas Creek Managing Partner Jason Haas. "It's also the culmination of my dad's dream, to have these grapes available not just for us to plant, but for the rest of the American Rhone community." Foundation Plant Services has made these new varieties available to grapevine nurseries around California, and NovaVine already has sold vine material to dozens of vineyards.
At Tablas Creek, four acres have been set aside as increase blocks for these new grape varieties. "We're not planting large quantities of any of these at the outset," says Jason Haas. "But we're excited enough with the wines we've made from our first few harvests to already be setting aside additional space in our vineyard. What comes next? We're not sure. But we're excited to find out, both from our own vineyard and by trying what our colleagues and neighbors do with this vine material."