Thu 17 Jul 2008
We made ricotta cheese at home Saturday. It was easy! It was fun! And the result was excellent! I used the ricotta on Saturday night’s pizza instead of mozzarella, and it was terrific. Then we used the ricotta in this wonderful pasta dish with tomato broth, bacon, peas and basil. The instructions for how to make your very own ricotta cheese in your very own kitchen and the recipe for the pasta dish were in the New York Times food section on May 28.
With the pasta, we drank the Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc 2006, Paso Robles.
Tablas Creek Vineyard was founded in 1987 by the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel, one of the best producers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and Robert Haas, owner of Vineyard Brands, Beaucastel’s American importer. After finding the right soil and micoclimate is Paso Robles, the team didn’t release the first wines until the vintages of 2001 for white and 2000 for reds. All the grape varieties grown on the estate are of Rhone Valley origin. Though the products of Tablas Creek are French in sensibility, they are Californian in execution, with alcohol levels and the spectrum of ripeness much more emphatic than their counterparts from the southern Rhone Valley. On the other hand, the wines, for the most part, are superbly balanced.
The blend in the Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel 2006 is 65 percent roussanne, 30 percent grenache blanc and 5 percent picpoul blanc; the idea seems to be to produce a wine that resembles or pays homage to the white wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and in that task the winery has succeeded. This is a white wine of power and elegance, balancing lushness and spareness, vibrant acidity and an almost radiant limestone element with flavors of spiced lemons and pears that take on a slightly roasted quality as the wine sits in the glass. That fruit follows a path to a rich, honeyed aspect, yet the wine is neither over-ripe or cloying; instead it’s dynamically dry and pulls up layers of earth and minerals on the forceful finish. Drink now through 2012 or ’13. Excellent. About $45.
Dropping back a few degrees in complexity and price, the Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Blanc 2007 is bright and sassy and almost too easy to drink; I mean because it’s irresistibly tasty. The bouquet teems with cinnamon and cloves, roasted lemon, smoke, lanolin and dried flowers. In the mouth, the wine is lively and crisp but offers a seductive, dense almost satiny texture; an undertow of grass and dried thyme flows through the citrus and peach flavors. The blend here is 38 percent roussanne, 25 percent marsanne, 20 percent picpoul blanc and 17 percent grenache blanc. Drink now through 2010 or ’11. Very good+. About $22.
Made from 100 percent roussanne grapes, the Tablas Creek Roussanne 2006 delivers a bounty of lanolin and beeswax, spiced and roasted lemon, white summery flowers; the wine is lush and juicy, slightly honeyed, though almost formidably dry. Notes of almond and almond blossom come in, lime and limestone, jasmine and honeysuckle. The texture is dense and chewy; the finish is expansive, dry and spicy. This is a terrific version of roussanne, which we drank with great pleasure with a piece of simple, grilled wild steelhead salmon. Drink now through 2011 or ’12. Excellent. About $27.
A soaring alcohol level of 15.3 percent detracted a bit from the success of the Tablas Creek Grenache Blanc 2006, especially on the “hot” finish; otherwise, the wine is exemplary. The bouquet resonates with lemon curd and lemon drop, face powder (think of being a kid and opening your mother’s compact), almond and almond blossom, honeysuckle and camellia. The wine is very pure, very intense, lively, vibrant, almost crystalline yet deeply imbued with earth and minerals. Notes of lavender and violet appear, along with a strain of the April in Paris perfume we used to give on Mother’s Day (can you still get that?). The finish is quite dry and austere and, as mentioned above, rather hot with alcohol. I would say that the rating is Excellent but shadowed by Very Good+ because of the alcohol content, which brings a hint of loss of control at the end. Now through 2010 or ’11. About $27.
Finally, the Tablas Creek Rosé 2007, blended from 57 percent mourvèdre, 31 percent grenache and 12 percent counoise grapes, offers a lovely cherry-magenta color, a spicy cherry-berry/raspberry bouquet with a touch of clove and Red Hots, and a lively texture wrapped around red and black cherry flavors invested with spiced peach, orange zest and limestone. It possesses unusual vitality and depth for a rosé wine and could drink nicely through the end of summer 2009. Excellent. About $27.