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In a column two weeks ago, I covered what Tablas Creek had to do to establish something that hadn’t existed beforehand in California – a winery focused on French Rhone varietals nurtured and harvested under the generous California climate and soil. A venture so successful that over 600 wineries bought their vines from Tablas’ nursery.

But what about the wines and the winery itself?

The winery and its tasting room seem to imbibe the character of Jason Haas, our host for several hours. He’s knowledgeable, articulate, and well-educated (He is after all the Indiana Jones of Paso) but he’s also friendly, funny, and very approachable.

The other is his attitude about his competitors and their feelings about him. Remember, wine is huge business. According to the Wine Institute, in California alone, wine has almost a $60 billion impact on the economy. Tourists spend over $7 billion annually in California’s various wine regions. So, competition can be stiff.

Despite this pressure, Jason has such a great relationship with other winemakers that they named him the 2015 Paso Robles Wine Industry Person of the Year. As he puts it, “It’s not a zero sum game. The success of one winery does not hurt the others.”

The wines, in a word, are outstanding. We started with three whites. Often, wineries that are famous for their reds either skip whites altogether or simply have a few in an almost grudging acknowledgement that some folks prefer that. But not so at Tablas. They offer nine options from the 2014 vintage.

We sampled the 2015 Clairette Blanche (an obscure white Rhone varietal), 2015 Grenache Blanc, and the 2013 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. We enjoyed all three. Our favorite was the Esprit. Aromas and tastes of both tropical and stone fruit combine with layered flavors, a soft acidic finish, and notes of nuts and baking spices. It is a lush wine, and a relative bargain at $45.

We then tasted five reds: 2014 Cote de Tablas; 2013 Syrah; and a vertical of Esprit de Tablas 2008, 2012, and 2013. As with the whites, our favorite was an Esprit, the 2008. The eight years of maturity provided a canvas where the flavors (spices, licorice, and black berry) meld together along with the forest floor bouquet, offering a smooth, lush and long finish. We liked it so much we bought two bottles. (Note to reader: you know a critic really likes a wine when he uses his own cash to buy a bottle.)

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