Zinfandel Festival guests last weekend were the first to sample Tablas Creek Vineyard’s new tasting room, part of a $2.5 million expansion of the Paso Robles winery.
“It was kind of a soft opening,” general manager Jason Haas said. “The people who had been to the old tasting room were wandering around looking at everything with their mouths open.”
Wine club and local industry members will be invited to viewings in early April, with a “big launch” to the public during May’s Paso Robles Wine Festival.
The expansion added 8,000 square feet, increasing the overall facility more than 70 percent. It included four new offices and two cellar rooms, visible through glass windows in the tasting room.
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Originally slated to start in early 2009, Haas said owners postponed construction when the economy declined in fall 2008. But when sales — and its employee roster — continued to grow, they couldn’t put it off any longer.
Tablas Creek now employs nearly 30 full- and part-time workers.
“We’ve added three new full-time people in the last six months,” Haas said. “I had four people sharing my office.”
The old tasting room was so cramped on busy weekends, staff set up tables in the barrel room to accommodate customers.
The new one is on the east side of the facility, closer to its driveway.
Designed in a modern craftsman style, it features bamboo wood bars, pendant lighting and cork flooring. Haas said it’s better at absorbing sound than the former one, which had concrete walls and a tile floor.
Tablas Creek worked with Paso architect Nick Gilman and Marilyn Farmer of Habitat Studio in San Luis Obispo, who did the interior design.
Outside, a parking lot of chipped limestone was cut into the mourvèdre vineyards. Cascading limestone patios are surrounded with transplanted olive trees. That mineral initially attracted owners to the soil.
At the entrance, pots with the French mother vines used to start the vineyards greet guests.
Korean trade pact
The California Association of Winegrape Growers has joined other agricultural groups to support approval of a free trade agreement with South Korea. The president is expected to send it to Congress for consideration soon.
Signed in 2007, the agreement would reduce Korean tariffs on U.S. goods. The grower association said economists at the UC Davis Agricultural Issues Center concluded in 2009 it could more than double California’s exports to that market.
— Raven J. Railey
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