Did you know: Tablas Creek Vineyard is certified both organic and biodynamic? I think it’s a testament to the integrity of both certifications that they don’t flaunt these facts. Indeed, many folks I speak to who are familiar with the name and wines don’t realize these amazing efforts. Fun Fact: In February of 2019, Tablas Creek began taking part part in a pilot program of yet another, new farming practice called Regenerative Organic.
I first met Randall Grahm at one of the annual Rhone Rangers events in San Francisco, after which he was kind enough to invite me to his Davenport tasting room and take me through a full line up of his — then — current releases. I was enthralled, not just with Randall’s obvious passion for wine, but his innate ability to teach about wine and pass his passion forward. That first one-on-one meeting will always be a special memory for me.
The thing about Bonny Doon Vineyard wines is that there’s, well, a lot of them — reds, whites, pinks, even oranges and more obscure colors — the common thread being Rhone varietals and Rhone-style blends. As a young winemaker, Grahm sought to recreate the great wines of France here in his native California home, but soon realized that one cannot make French wine if one is not, in fact, in France. So now the very core of his Rhone-style wines is the idea of vins de terroir — wine that speaks of its specific place and time. He’s constantly experimenting with new-to-California wine grape varieties to see if and where they’ll thrive — and if he finds a vine’s sweet spot, rest-assured a wine will soon follow. He also plays with the idea of Rhone-style blends. This eclectic mix of Iberian grapes Tempranillo and Graciano along with the well-recognized Rhone grape Grenache Blanc was, for me, a new concept — and one I couldn’t leave behind in the tasting room.
Holly and Tom Cooper fell in love with the Rhône Valley and Rhône wines over their first bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape as a married couple during their honeymoon in France. Many years later, Holly had the romantic notion to live on a hill in the country, and the couple moved to the Sierra Foothills, taking up residency on Tom’s family’s cattle ranch. Here, in the Pleasant Valley region of the El Dorado AVA, where the Mediterranean climate mimics that of their beloved Rhône Valley, Tom was able to fulfill his romantic notion of owning a vineyard. In 1998 the couple planted their first 15 acres of Syrah, celebrating their first harvest in 2000. Since that time, the family-owned vineyard and winery has expanded to include Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Petite Sirah, Cinsaut, Picpoul, Mourvedre, Roussanne,Viognier, and Carignane. The 2015 Carignane is the winery’s first single-varietal bottling of this somewhat “obscure” varietal.