Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Chef Robert Wiedmaier and Tablas Creek's Jason Haas
I had a wonderful evening at Brasserie Beck in downtown Washington DC with the food of Robert Wiedmaier and the wines of Tablas Creek, presented by Tables Creek General Manager Jason Haas. The price was $95 (exclusive of tax/gratuity). It was not just food and wines that I enjoyed so much, but also the conversations with a number of people present at the dinner.
Danny Haas from Vineyard Brands
I was happy to meet again Danny Haas from Vineyard Brands, an importer of fine wines. Danny is the son of Robert Haas, who founded Vineyard Brands in 1971; Robert Haas began his career in 1950, as the buyer for his father’s wine shop in New York City. Over the years, the number of employees has grown to 56 people today, with 32 sales representatives (including 5 regional managers) throughout the U.S. Today, Vineyard Brands represents over 25 growers of estate-bottled wines in Burgundy, Chablis, the Rhône, Loire Valley, Alsace and Southern France as well as some of the best wines available from Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Germany and Italy. All wines are personally selected by Jerry Neff (President) and Danny Haas, who continues the tradition of a close family relationship with the French proprietors and makes a number of trips to taste and select wines during the year.
Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Danny Haas
Three of the wineries I have visited recently – and written about - are represented by Vineyard Brands in the US:
South Africa: “Boekenhoutskloof – Producer of Sensational Premium Wines as well as Good Value Table Wines in Franschhoek”
France: “Visiting Colette Faller at Domaine Weinbach in Kaysersberg in Alsace” – see also “Domaine Weinbach Wines and Alsatian Food with Winemaker Catherine Faller, Alsace, and Chef Jacques E. Haeringer, Virginia”
Germany: “A Pinot Noir Star: Visiting August Kesseler and his Weingut August Kesseler in Assmannshausen, Germany” see also “August Kesseler’s Pinot Noir and Richard Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen in San Francisco, USA”
Jason Haas from Tablas Creek
Jason is also Robert Haas’ son (and Danny’s half brother) and General Manager of Tablas Creek in Paso Robles. Tablas Creek is a joint venture of Robert Haas and the Perrin family, proprietors of the world renowned Château de Beaucastel in France, with French and American wine loving friends as minority partners.
Pictures: Jason Haas
In 1989, the Robert Haas and the Perrin family purchased a 120-acre parcel twelve miles from the Pacific Ocean in west Paso Robles and named it Tablas Creek Vineyard, after the small creek running through the property. The property elevation averages 1,500 feet, and the shallow, rocky limestone soils are of the same geologic origin as those at Beaucastel. Summer days are hot and sunny, but the influence of the nearby Pacific cools the nights, and the remarkably Rhône-like Paso Robles climate allows the grapes to mature fully and yet retain crisp acidity.
Tablas Creek follows the centuries-old Châteauneuf du Pape tradition of blending chosen varietals. Each varietal is hand-harvested when completely ripe and fermented separately. Winemaking preserves the wines' ties to their soil, climate, and varietal character by applying native yeast fermentation and using neutral French oak barrels for aging.
The "Tablas Creek Vineyard" label debuted with the construction of the estate winery for the 1997 vintage. The winery's flagship Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc wines debuted in 2000 and 2001 respectively. Total estate production ranges between 12,000 and 20,000 cases depending on vintage, with an additional 7,000 cases of non-estate Patelin de Tablas beginning in 2010.
Paso Robles and the Rhone Rangers
I visited Paso Robles in the summer of 2010. In fact, I spent an afternoon with winemaker Sherman Thacher, a neighbor of Tablas Creek, and – as I found out during the dinner - a close friend of Jason Haas. Paso Robles - halfway between the 2 main California metropolises of Los Angelos and San Francisco - is California's third largest and fastest growing wine region, with over 26,000 acres of vineyards is Paso Robles Wine Country and now home to more than 200 wineries. While Cabernet Sauvignon is the leading variety for the Paso Robles appellation, accounting for 1/3 of the region's vineyard area, major progress has largely come from a group of producers often referred to as the Rhône Rangers, specializing in grape varietals of the Rhône Valley of France. In the 1980s, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard and Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars began popularizing the marketing of the Rhône varietals.
Brasserie Beck Proprietor and Executive Chef Robert Wiedmaier runs a little empire of restaurants now in Washington DC, of which Brasserie Beck is one.
Picture: Robert Wiedmaier
Born in Germany of Belgian (father) and American (mother) descent, he learnt cooking in Europe. During the past 12 years, he has built a restaurant empire in Washington DC. After having replaced the legendary Jean Louis Palladin at the Watergate Hotel in 1996, he opened Marcel’s on Pensilvania Avenue, named after his new born son, in 1999. Marcel's specializes in upscale French cuisine with a Flemish flair. Next, he opened Brasserie Beck (named for his younger son), which is loud and energetic and features traditional French/Belgian brasserie food. Robert Wiedmaier then added Brabo by Robert Wiedmaier and Brabo Tasting Room in Alexandria to his clan. I thought his most recent opening was the Butcher’s Block, a retail shop for gourmet foods, wine, and Belgian beer, also in Alexandria, but then I heard about his latest venture - the Mussel Bar - in Bethesda.
John Engle Chef de Cuisine with Sous Chef Amy of Brasserie Beck
When a Chef starts to own several restaurants, like Robert Wiedmaier, he inevitable needs a resident Chef in each of his place, who runs the kitchen on a day to day basis. At Brasserie Beck, John Engle is the right hand of Robert Wiedmaier, with the help of Sous Chef Amy.
Picture: John Engle Chef de Cuisine with Sous Chef Amy of Brasserie Beck
Ramon Narvaez from Robert Wiedmaier Restaurant Group and Jaime Lang from Brasserie Beck
The wines were poured by Ramon Narvaez and Jaime Lang. They both ably supported Jason in explaining the wines to us.
Pictures: Ramon Narvaez from Robert Wiedmaier Restaurant Group (above) and Jaime Lang from Brasserie Beck (below)
Here is the Menu.
Amuse Gueule and Aperitif
Patelin de Tablas
Pan Seared Diver Scallop, Oyster Mushroom Cauliflower Purée, Osetra Caviar, Vermouth Cream
Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc 2004
Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc 2009
The Tablas Creek white wines, comprising about one third of the production, are made from Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, Picpoul Blanc, and Grenache Blanc.
The signature white Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, based on Roussanne, is spicy and complex, with aromatics of peaches, pears, honeysuckle and anise, and flavors of honey, green apple, pear, and licorice, balanced by crisp acidity on the finish.
Roasted Beaver Creek Farm Pheasant Breast, Confit of Leg “En Crepinette”
Braised Lobster Mushrooms, Hubbard Squash Purée
Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge 2009
Tablas Creek Reserve Cuvée 1999
The Tablas Creek red wines, comprising about two thirds of the vineyard's production, are made from Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Counoise.
The signature red Esprit de Beaucastel, based on Mourvèdre, is a richly intense wine, with aromatics of roasted meats, licorice and currants, and flavors of ripe cherries, blackberries, leather, earth and spice, held together in a velvety tannic structure.
The Tablas Creek Reserve Cuvee 1999 was one of the first wines made by Tablas Creek. 40% Mourvèdre,27% Grenache Noir, 23% Syrah, 10% Counoise. A deeply colored, richly intense, highly extracted wine. 14.7% alcohol by volume. 2208 cases produced
Virginia Bison Entrecôte, Swiss Chard, Marrow Timbale Caramelized Honey Crisp Apples, Bordelaise Sauce
Tablas Creek Panoplie 2007
In exceptional vintages, Tablas Creek Vineyard produces small quantities of Panoplie: a Mourvèdre-based cuvee from meticulously selected grapes, made in the model of Château de Beaucastel's Hommage á Jacques Perrin. The Tablas Creek Vineyard Panoplie 2007 is a barrel-by-barrel selection of the most intense lots of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Syrah in the cellar, structured for long aging. It is a dense purple-red in color with a rich plum nose, ripe and sweet with coffee and eucalyptus notes. The complex palate shows full flavors of red and black fruit, licorice, pepper, and roasted meat. It is concentrated, dense and elegant with a wonderfully long licorice and spice finish. Only 500 cases were produced.
Nectarine Tart, Spiced Crème Fraiche Ice Cream St. Germaine Caramel Sauce
Tablas Creek Vin de Paille Blanc 2006
The 2006 Tablas Creek Vineyard Vin de Paille is Tablas Creek's fourth bottling of this traditional Mediterranean technique for producing dessert wines. Jason explained: “Ripe grape bunches are carefully laid down on straw-covered benches in our greenhouses, and allowed to dehydrate in the sun. When the grapes reach the desired concentration, we press them and move the juice to oak barrels for fermentation. The juice ferments until it reaches an alcohol level where the sweetness of the juice is balanced by the acids and mineral characteristics of the wine itself.”
The 2006 Vin de Paille is a blend of four white Rhone grapes: Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne.The wine was aged in new French oak barrels for 9 months.
Beautiful nose of honey, apricots and candied grapefruit, with flavors of caramel, nectarine, marmalade and spiced apples and sweetness balanced by citrusy acids. Its finish is lingering, with flavors of fig and peach.
Only 150 cases were produced.
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Meeting a Rhone Ranger and Tasting His Wines - Sherman Thacher from Paso Robles in California
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Visiting Sherman Thacher and his Thacher Winery in Paso Robles, California
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Boekenhoutskloof – Producer of Sensational Premium Wines as well as Good Value Table Wines in Franschhoek