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Changes: Linne Calodo & Tablas Creek

April 6, 2011 The Press 2 Comments

Paso Robles, finally! Not since last July had I spent any reasonable amount of time in the Central Coast land of Syrah and Roussanne.

A few Sundays ago, in some of the worse rain Central California saw all season (and it has seen a lot), we braved the wind and water and headed north. The storms were no joke. We passed flooded farmlands and barns, tempest swollen rivers, and a number of micro-mudslides (not a good sign) along the way. But the wine was good, the conversation lively, and with my wife and our Beagle along for the ride, it was a perfect day. As it turns out, the timing as it was perfect too.Linne Calodo had been on my winery “to-do” list for while. With the press that winemaker Matt Trevisan has received over the past few years, I was curious to see what he had going on. After some debate about visiting them on this Paso trip or the next, we decided it was a good day to go. As it turns out, we caught them at the perfect time.

That Sunday would be the last day Linne Calodo would be open to the public without an appointment. Tasting Room Manager Brandi Stansbury explained to us that it was about getting back to a one on one experience with customers and providing a more intimate exchange. She took us on a short tour of the facility (they have concrete fermenters, exciting stuff!), that included a barrel sample of a fantastic Grenache forward blend. What we experienced with Brandi is exactly what they hope to do provide to a more limited number of guests.

However, there is more to the change than just smaller groups of visitors, winemaker Matt Trevisan told me in an email.

“The reasoning behind this,” he wrote, “is something I have spent a great deal of time thinking about. For over the last eight years of being open to the public, a lot has changed at Linne Calodo and in Paso Robles. First and foremost, Linne Calodo is not only a winery but also my home. We are focused on farming and making wine, tasting is a by-product of our work and not our first focus.”

Trevisan told me that for the first two years since Linne Calodo was founded in 1998, they only did tasting from barrel samples. Over time, with more friends and family coming to taste, they started doing the tastings on an old concrete patio a few steps below his house. In 2002 they expanded their facilities further.

“We built our first ‘all in one’ facility,” he said of the 2,000sqft space that “included barrel storage, tanks, laboratory, and tasting room. “The new building,” he continued, “provided a central point that was designated for tasting, as well as easy access to all of our barrels. At first, we were open Friday to Sunday, the other days we were available by appointment. Eventually we had so many appointments that we decided to open up 7 days a week. In 2009, we opened up our new tasting room and facilities (connected to our original). The number of individuals tasting has risen steadily since.”

While business was good at the tasting room, there was one detail that was overlooked.

“Somewhere out of the blue I realized what I had done. You see, in the early days we were able to greet everybody and welcome them into our home, then as time went by the sociability of tasting became sterile and lack luster. Yes, a person could come incognito and taste quickly through the wines on the bar, not say a word to our staff and leave. Whoops, I turned my home into a bar! I bought the

idea that I needed to have a tasting bar, letting every passer drive up to my home and come in. This is no longer the case.”

Trevisan says they had many wonderful experiences because of their tasting room. “I have met some of the most amazing andgracious people,” he explained, “but I have also opened up my home to the rude and inconsiderate.”

In the end, Linne Calodo has the same goals of most wineries: find the right people to introduce their wines to. “I want everyone to try my wines. Like them or hate them they are a reflection of Location, Seasons, and Winemaking. By going to appointment only, I can offer you a private experience that educates and explores all facets of who, what and why we are Linne Calodo.”

Trevisan also hopes these changes are a positive for those who will participate in the tours.

“We hope to take things back to the way they used to be, when the crowds were smaller and each visitor was granted the attention they deserve. I have a belief that knowing who is coming, how many and at what time will bring a sense of appreciation from both sides. It is about providing a long lasting experience that is more than just drinking wine and is more focused on creating a mutual friendship.”
So far, the change has been received well. “Those that have come through on tours and appointments have already sent us gracious words about their experience and we hope they tell their friends,” said Trevisan. He concluded, “we hope that the experience at Linne Calodo will be one that is memorable in that it provided a more in depth and personal look at a winery without the distractions of a loud, bar like tasting room.”

Tablas Creek is a different story.

While Linne Calodo is scaling down public tastings to better serve their clientele, Tablas Creek has found the need to make significant additions to their facilities. As Jason Haas, General Manager of Tablas Creek, pointed out to me in an email it is, “a different response to the same challenge: how do you handle limited supply and good demand?”

When the Perrin and Haas families first built Tablas Creek on isolated Adelaida Road in western Paso Robles, it was practicality and not grandiose, they were after. The tasting room was modest, cozy. That was before Tablas Creek became an American classic and one of the most sought after wineries in California.

So in 2010, Tablas Creek took on the undertaking of adding a new tasting room and expanding and improving their office spaces.

Watch a video of some of the construction here.

Built by Rarig Construction (who built Grassini, Foxen, Sea Smoke, and many others), the new space incorporates aspects of the winemaking facilities into a more spacious and efficient tasting room. Large windows open into one of the production areas, showcasing their trademark oak casks. The expansion also includes sitting areas outside the tasting room and landscaping that will bring Tablas Creek’s legacy of Rhone varietal importation and propagation front and center.

As far as how the staff of Tablas Creek is adjusting to all these changes, “we’re still figuring it out,” Jason says.

“I love that we can take good care of more people than we could previously; if we’d still been in the old space, we would have had people waiting outside over Zin Fest, in the drizzle, and people would have been packed inside uncomfortably. So, we’re thrilled just that we have the capacity to take the care of people that we’d like. Beyond that, it’s hard to say. I think that the cellar will be much more integrated with the tasting room experience, but right now the offices are less a part of what’s going on there.”

Even though many may not have realized it, the offices were just around the corner from the old tasting room. If you needed to see Jason, someone walked behind the corner and few seconds later out he was there. At the new facilities, the staff enjoys a larger office space, but one that is more detached from the tasting room. “I find I have to get up and walk into the tasting room t

o know even how busy we are,” Jason explains, adding, “I kind of miss hearing the clamor of a busy day in the offices.”
But the changes are overwhelmingly positive ones, especially for guests. There is more benefit to the new construction than just improved customer capacity however.

“Beyond just being able to accommodate the crowds on our busiest days without a wait (a significant goal in itself) I hope that we’ll be able to bring more of the educational aspect of visiting the winery into the tasting room experience. The proximity of the cellar and the vineyard, and the fact that we’re integrating the mother vines around the patios, should make it easier to talk about our history and our philosophy even for people who don’t go out on a tour. And I think it sets the scene for who we are and what we care about in a way that we weren’t ever able to do in our old space.”

“I hope it won’t change the experience. We’ve tried to design the space to allow us to have lots of different people pouring, so no one has to try to pour for a dozen people at a time. I think we’ll be able to continue to be as personal with the visitor experience. And I hope that it’s a space that people look forward to spending some time in.”

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. [...] 2009 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas (43% Grenache Noir, 24% Syrah, 18% Counoise, 15% Mourvedre) – $30 [...]

  2. [...] Late this past winter, in the middle of a terrible set of storms, Damaris and I decided to visit Linne Calodo on a bit of a whim. It would be our miracle. The next day, Linne Calodo closed their doors to the public and thereafter could only be visited by appointment (you can read about Matt’s thoughts on closing his tasting room here). [...]

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