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A California Red that Bridges Steak and Squash

Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Paso Robles 2006
Dana Nigro
Posted: March 9, 2011

By late winter, it’s hard for me to stay inspired by seasonal cooking. When February’s end rolled around, I’d had quite enough of butternut squash and sweet potatoes—soup, roasted and tossed with blue cheese and pecans, cooked with mini-meatballs and served over rice, used in a shrimp and mango curry-type dish. I was staring balefully at the last squash and potato sitting on my counter, looking back at me forlornly.

Then I remembered that I hadn’t yet tried Greens chef Annie Somerville’s recipe for butternut squash gratin, topped with Parmesan breadcrumbs, from Wine Spectator’s Nov. 30, 2010, issue. She recommended pairing this uncomplicated dish with a California Grenache-based blend, which I had on hand and also worked with the sirloin I grilled to keep my husband happy about seeing squash on his plate one more time.

Tablas Creek, in California’s Central Coast appellation of Paso Robles, is a partnership between the Haas family of importer Vineyard Brands and the Perrin family of the prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate of Beaucastel. The Côte de Tablas red, from their certified organic vineyard, is a blend of four Rhône varieties: 72 percent Grenache, along with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Counoise. Priced around $25, it’s Tablas Creek’s most affordable estate bottling and typically earns very good scores.

But for an ordinary weeknight meal, the 2006 Côte de Tablas turned out to be a wow wine, having developed added complexity with a couple years in the bottle. With the first pour, peppery, dusty earth and anise aromas overlaid wild berry and plum fruit. Starting out focused, with earthy, mineral notes up front, this red blend expanded with a generous burst of raspberry, blackberry, black cherry and plum, then finished with lingering savory, flint and other mineral notes.

As the wine opened up with a subsequent pour, the ripe raspberries became more dominant, with all the earthy, spicy, herbal notes serving as accents. Its acidity made a fine foil to the steak, while the squash brought out the sweetness of the fruit and a licorice note. 90 points, non-blind. members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Paso Robles 2006 (86, $25).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated reds from Paso Robles.

Member comments   3 comment(s)

John Jorgenson — Seattle, —  March 9, 2011 4:39pm ET

I enjoyed your remarks very much, especially taking note of how the wine opens up and changes over the course of time.

Dana Nigro — New York, NY —  March 9, 2011 7:39pm ET

Thanks, John. Glad you liked it!

Debra Patterson — Libertyville, IL —  March 9, 2011 10:50pm ET

I had read that recipe and meant to try it with my family, too....thanks for reminding me of it. Now to find some Tablas Creek...

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