Drinks Innovators of the Year: Jason Haas

The Tablas Creek proprietor is using regenerative organic methods to make great wines, and help fight climate change while he's at it.

Portrait of Jason Haas
Photo: Tablas Creek Vineyard

What is a winery supposed to be? Not long ago, Tablas Creek proprietor Jason Haas got an annoyed comment from a customer regarding the winery's commitment to fair treatment for its workers — one of the tenets of the regenerative organic farming certification that Tablas received in 2021. The customer did not want, he said, to get preached to, so he planned to shop somewhere else, "where wine was the issue."

See all of Food & Wine's 2022 Drinks Innovators of the Year

Haas is remarkably even-keeled, so he sounded more amused than annoyed by this exchange. Still, he wondered, what exactly did that commenter think regenerative agriculture meant? Tablas Creek is the first winery in the U.S. to earn Regenerative Organic Certified status. The program looks at every aspect of a farm: soil health, carbon capture, biodiversity, animal welfare, and, yes, farmworker fairness. (Sorry, angry customer guy.) Haas says, "We felt this was kind of the gold standard for wine and agriculture, and if we got certified, it would help to build awareness."

Jason Haas

Regenerative organic methods give agriculture the ability to be part of the solution to big-picture problems.

— Jason Haas

Tablas Creek has been organic since its inception and biodynamic since 2017. "But both organics and biodynamics are focused solely on farming," Haas explains. "Regenerative requires you to show that you are reducing your use of limited resources like water and energy, and to actually measure the carbon content in your soil, for instance. It adds animal welfare in as well. And then you also have to show not just that you're paying a living wage and that your workers are safe, but that their feedback is actually sought after and acted upon."

What's particularly notable about Haas' efforts is they're done at scale. Tablas isn't a tiny operation, farming 125 acres of vines and producing over 16,000 cases of wine per year—not huge but substantial, especially in the organic/biodynamic/regenerative world. And the wines are excellent; the flagship Esprit de Tablas is a benchmark for Central California Rhône-style reds. Haas says: "Regenerative organic methods give agriculture the ability to be a part of the solution to big-picture problems like climate change, resource scarcity, and inequality—and since roughly 30% of the Earth's land mass is used for agriculture, those problems aren't solvable without getting agriculture on board. So what a privilege it is to try and inspire other wine growers to follow on this path."

What to Try

2020 Côtes de Tablas Blanc ($30)
This Viognier-based white melds the richness supplied by Paso Robles' generous climate with tangy acidity and light, saline mineral notes.

2019 Esprit de Tablas ($60)
Tablas Creek's flagship blend is modeled on the great wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. (Château de Beaucastel's Perrin family are partners in the winery.) Powerful and complex, it has layers of black cherry and savory spice flavors.

Where to Find Tablas Creek

Website: tablascreek.com
Blog: tablascreek.typepad.com
Instagram: @tablascreek
YouTube: @tablascreek

Meet the 2022 Drinks Innovators of the Year

Fawn Weaver and Victoria Eady Butler | Bill Shufelt | Morgan McLachlan | Jason Haas | Graciela Ángeles Carreño | Jackie Summers

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