Tablas Creek Adds to Winery Estate

Transitioning to Biodynamic, Paso Robles icon buys adjacent vineyard

by Jane Firstenfeld
tablas creek vineyard addition
Image property of Tablas Creek
Paso Robles, Calif.Tablas Creek Vineyard took advantage of its lease on a neighboring vineyard to purchase the property when the owner needed to sell. In the process, it acquired a 150-acre parcel with some 15 acres of planted vineyard and a stream-fed lake, a priceless asset in drought-prone Central California.

Perhaps even more appealing to an estate winery in the process of transitioning to Biodynamic practices, the newly annexed property can all be contained within a single fence line. “Estate wines express a place; you can’t do that if they’re scattered all over the AVA,” general manager Jason Haas told Wines & Vines.

About two years ago, Haas said, 20 acres of the estate were certified Biodynamic; conversion of another 105 acres began in the past six months.

According to Haas’ Tablas Creek Vineyard Blog, the 18,000-case winery, which recently completed an expansion of its production facility, had not originally contemplated purchase of the neighboring vineyard. But the owner was determined to sell, Haas wrote.

“Prices for prime vineyard land in the most coveted areas west of town have been going up fast. Big new money has been moving into Paso Robles in the past few years, and several properties out near us have sold in recent months. We were sure that if we passed on the opportunity now, we wouldn't see that land come available again...at least not at a price that we might be able to scrape together.

“And if we were going to buy more land, there is no other parcel that would make more sense. The land is beautiful: steep, with highly calcareous soils entirely consistent with what we have now. It's high enough that it shouldn't be particularly frost-prone.” The property currently contains about 50 acres of walnut orchards that would be “relatively simple to convert to vineyard.”

Built-in frost protection
Although Tablas Creek dry farms, and thus requires no irrigation water, Haas hopes that the new property’s lake, built 50 years ago by damming Tablas Creek, will provide valuable water for spring frost protection if necessary. Much of the year, the lake is dry, and the water is still low at the moment, he said, although a 5-inch rainfall two weeks ago has raised the water line.

“We are allowed to draw from it,” Haas said, but he’s called in engineers to determine what improvements are needed to facilitate that. Pumps will be required, and the water needs to be filtered because the lake is significantly silted up.

To provide the natural diversity required for true Biodynamic farming, the estate is newly home to sheep, donkeys, chickens—and soon, pigs. The donkeys, Haas explained, bond with the sheep, providing hard-kicking bodyguards should coyotes come to call.

Posted on 02.02.2012 - 10:00:22 PST
Excellent news Jason. A great business decision.