Tablas Creek was the first winery I visited in Paso Robles when I started my scouting trip for our book "The Winemakers of Paso Robles".
I was really curious about this biodynamic pioneer of the Rhone movement winery and even more curious about its partner and archeologist Jason Haas, who writes the most captivating wine blog I've ever read. In de Saussure terms, I'd say that Jason's wine blog created a language and speech out of the vague and "uncharted" nebula of the wine world.
I toured the winery and learned about their sustainable approach and farming practices along with their nursery techniques. As you stroll the beautiful vineyard surrounded by rolling hills you can see an alpaca, a donkey and sheep, which they use to fertilize their soil.
Jason's dog, Sadie, is the big star of the show. She welcomes guests and other dogs in the most friendly and playful way. In different occasions I tried to photograph the Aussie pup but instead I ended completely licked down and playing fetch with her.
I was fortunate to be part of Tablas Creek pick up party and got to witness Jason giving an intimate annual report to their club members. Haas explained in detail the whole vintage: from precipitation, yields, temperature, sugar levels, picking schedules, budbreak time frame, to acidity, structure... The truth is after listening to him I could keep going. It is so valuable to get to know all these details which completely changed the way I drink Tablas' wines.
Because Tablas Creek is about the experience, while Jason was speaking, we got to taste their new release and rare treat: Picardan. Which brings them a little closer to their goal of having all eighteen Chateauneuf-du-Pape grapes.
It was delightful to get to know the inspirational and innovative Jason Haas and photograph him.
Note of the Photographer: After your tasting at Tablas, get a bottle of the exceptional 2014 Panoplie, head to their tables outside and enjoy it with your favourite person.
Here's Jason Haas's profile, excerpted from "The Winemakers of Paso Robles" book, written by Paul Hodgins.
9339 Adelaida Rd
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Jason Haas enjoyed the kind of upbringing that many wine lovers would choose for themselves if they could. From the time he was small, Haas was steeped in the personalities, culture and tradition of European wine.
His father, Robert, worked for one of New York’s most prominent wine import businesses, M. Lehmann, Inc. As a buyer, Robert Haas traveled to the great wine regions of Europe, making lifelong friendships and establishing a formidable reputation for his discerning palate.
In the mid-1960s Robert left Lehmann to start his own business importing fine estate wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Loire, Alsace and the Rhône Valley. He made friends with a prominent Rhône producer, the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel, and became that winery’s exclusive American importer.
“When I was in high school and college and I didn’t have other plans for the summer, I tended to get sent to the Perrins’ vineyard,” Jason Haas said. “That was my first exposure to being around people who made wine for a living.”
It was in the Rhône that Haas first felt a passion for winemaking. “It wasn’t particularly glamorous work, but I also got to see the family sitting around a table arguing about wine and which one is better and why. That got me excited about the making of wine.”
He also saw firsthand the benefits of multi-generational winemaking; the Perrins’ ownership stretches back five generations.
“In French winemaking families, each generation thinks of themselves as caretakers of the legacy and concerns themselves with keeping what they’re doing relevant to the current environment. The wine was always a reflection of where they were and who they were. I found that really inspiring.”
Later, the Perrins and Robert Haas collaborated to create a Châteauneuf-du-Pape-style vineyard in the New World. The Tablas Creek Vineyard Partnership was born in 1987, with the Perrin and Haas families as majority partners. After searching for the ideal spot in the hills of the west side, the partnership bought a 120-acre parcel about 12 miles from the coast in 1989. Planting began in 1994. The Tablas Creek Vineyard label debuted with the completion of the estate winery for the 1997 vintage. The winery is distinguished in many ways. One of its most remarkable features is the nursery and grafting factory built on-site.
Even though he imagined a future for himself at Tablas Creek, or at least in the wine business, Haas decided to pursue other interests first. “I wanted to go out and collect some useful skills.”
Haas completed a double major in economics and architecture. He went on to earn a master’s in archaeology at Cornell University, teaching classes and spending two summers in Greece. “Those years gave me a chance to travel, work on languages, write and allow some time to figure out what I wanted to do.”
Next came a four-year stint in D.C. with a startup in the tech industry, where he learned about website design and helped build the company to 80 employees in six cities. “I learned about marketing, management, putting together teams – all valuable skills.”
Finally, Haas was ready to work with his father at Tablas Creek. “It was time. By then my dad was in his mid-70s, and if I waited until he wasn’t around anymore I would have kicked myself.”
Haas and his wife moved to Paso in 2002, started a family and waded into the challenge of turning Tablas Creek into one of the most successful direct-to-consumer wineries in the state. As partner and general manager, Haas oversees the business and marketing side of the winery; British-born Neil Collins is the winemaker.
Haas is proud of the relationship he established between his wine and its growing legion of fans. “That was the single most important marketing decision we made: to focus on the wine consumers who visit us, give them a great experience and make sure they leave as disciples. People want more than just wine these days. They want to know about the men and women behind it and establish a relationship, make it personal. We’re all about that.”