We're working on a new Web site, to debut later this summer. (A screenshot of the home page of the new Web site is to the right. Click on it to get a bigger view. Yes, we're excited.) One of the things that we're looking forward to being able to do more flexibly with this new site is to allow people to browse through the different wines we've made. Right now, our Wines page has an overview of the different wines we make, and links to current releases, but beyond that you have to look wine by wine to get information. On the new site, you'll be able to select, for example, all the wines from 2007... or every Rosé we've made... or all whites currently for sale.
We realized that we could make these categories more useful by adding information about the categories, including summaries of each vintage. Most of this information is out there in pieces, either on individual wines' pages or in a blog piece I wrote a few years back called Ten Years of Vintage Grades: Paso Robles Report Card 1999-2008. But that last blog piece was not particularly descriptive of the wines, and not specific to Tablas Creek, focusing instead on evaluating Paso Robles as a whole. Plus, what was here on the blog and what was on the individual wines' pages was not always in perfect harmony.
So, I cleaned everything up, went back and researched our earliest vintages, and wrote vintage summaries for every vintage we've seen here at Tablas Creek. It occurred to me that this information would be of interest to our blog followers, so here it is. I've linked recent vintages to the harvest reports that we kept, if you're interested in digging more deeply into them or in seeing photos of what it was really like.
- The 2010 vintage saw healthy rainfall after three years of drought. The ample early-season groundwater and a lack of spring frosts produced a good fruit set. A very cool summer delayed ripening by roughly three weeks, with harvest not beginning until mid-September and still less than half complete in mid-October. Warm, sunny weather between mid-October and mid-November allowed the later-ripening varieties to reach full maturity. The long hangtime and cool temperatures combined to produce fruit with intense flavors at low alcohol levels. White whites display bright acids, good concentration and intense saline minerality. Red wines show dark colors, spicy aromatics and granular tannins.
- The 2009 vintage was our third consecutive drought year, with yields further reduced by serious April frosts. Berries and clusters were small, with excellent concentration. Ripening over the summer was gradual and our harvest largely complete except for about half our Mourvedre at the time of a major rainstorm on October 13th. Crop sizes were 15% smaller than 2008 and 30% lower than usual. The low yields and gradual ripening resulted in white wines with an appealing combination of richness and depth, and red wines with an great lushness, rich texture and relatively low acid but wonderful chalky tannins.
- The 2008 vintage was our second consecutive drought year, with yields further reduced by spring frosts. Berries and clusters were small, leading to excellent concentration. Ripening over the summer was gradual and harvest about a week later than normal. Crop sizes were similar to 2007 and about 20% lower than usual. The low yields and gradual ripening resulted in white wines with good intensity, lower than normal alcohols and an appealing gentle minerality and red wines that were unusually fresh and approachable despite appealing lushness.
- The 2007 vintage was a blockbuster vintage in Paso Robles. Yields were very low (down between 15% and 30% from 2006, depending on variety) due to a cold and very dry winter, which produced small berries and small clusters. A moderate summer without any significant heat spikes followed, allowing gradual ripening, and producing white wines with deep color and powerful flavors, and red wines with tremendous intensity, excellent freshness and a lushness to the fruit which cloaks tannins that should allow the wines to age as long as any we've made.
- The 2006 vintage was a study of contrasts, with a cold, wet start, a very hot early summer, a cool late summer and a warm, beautiful fall. Ample rainfall in late winter gave the grapevines ample groundwater, and produced relatively generous crop sizes. The relatively cool late-season temperatures resulted in a delayed but unhurried harvest, wines with lower than normal alcohols, strong varietal character, and good acids. White wines show freshness and expressive aromatics, while red wines have impeccable balance between fruit, spice, and tannins, and should age into perhaps the most elegant wines we've made.
- The 2005 vintage was one of nature's lucky breaks, with excellent quality and higher-than-normal yields. The wet winter of '04-'05 gave the grapevines ample groundwater, and a warm period in March got the vines off to an early May flowering. The summer was uniformly sunny but relatively cool, and harvest began (relatively late for us) in the 3rd week of September, giving the grapes nearly a month longer than normal on the vine. The resulting wines, both red and white were intensely mineral, with good structure and powerful aromatics. Red wines have big but ripe tannins that reward cellaring.
- The 2004 vintage was our third consecutive drought year, with a very early spring balanced by a long, warm (but rarely hot) summer. These favorable conditions led to a fairly early harvest: most of our whites and all the reds but Mourvèdre were harvested before an early onset of the fall rains on October 14th stopped harvest for a short time. Two weeks of sunny, cool, and breezy temperatures allowed us to harvest the rest of the Mourvèdre. The extended ripening cycle gave the grapes intense aromatics, pronounced minerality, and good structure that has allowed reds to age gracefully.
- The 2003 vintage was a second consecutive drought year, though not as dry as 2002. A relatively early flowering, combined with a warm but not overly hot summer to produce a beginning of harvest about two weeks later than normal. This long hangtime produced grapes with concentrated flavors and a distinct minerality, and beautiful fall weather allowed us to bring in fruit when it was at peak ripeness, and allow other blocks to continue to mature. White wines showed good richness and classic varietal character, while red wines showed lush fruit balanced by good acids and firm tannins. Time has brought an unexpected complexity to 2003's red wines that at first showed mostly rich fruit.
- The 2002 vintage began with a warm, dry winter with the lowest rainfall in five years. Spring remained dry and cool, while June, July and August were very warm. Moderate temperatures returned in September and weather stayed ideal well into November. Cool nights prolonged the hangtime of the grapes and produced wines that were concentrated, rich, and ripe, with just enough acidity to balance the richness. Roussanne-based whites have proven to age remarkably well, and the powerful tannins on 2002’s reds have mellowed into wines with remarkable complexity and years of development left ahead of them.
- The 2001 vintage began with moderate vigor from average rainfall and cold temperatures. A warm March led to early budbreak, which allowed a serious frost in mid-April to inflict major damage and dramatically reduce yields by nearly 50%. The summer was hot and sunny, but cool nights preserved the aromatics of the fruit. Low yields (1.5 - 2.5 tons per acre) produced intense flavors in both reds and whites. The erratic ripening from the spring frosts and particular challenges with Mourvedre encouraged us not to make an Esprit de Beaucastel red this year, but and chewy, chalky tannins have allowed 2001's red wines to age very well.
- The 2000 vintage saw average rainfall, with warm springtime weather, early budbreak and no significant damage from frosts. Summer daytime temperatures were about normal while cooler than average summer nights helped extend the growing season. Harvest began two weeks later than normal, but warm harvest weather led to an earlier-than-normal conclusion to harvest. Both white and red wines had good intensity despite slightly higher than normal yields, and the reds had big tannins that encouraged mid-term cellaring.
- The 1999 vintage began with slightly below average winter rainfall that reduced yields. Ripening was further accelerated by a warm, dry spring and summer. Harvest began in mid-August, the earliest date on record at Tablas Creek. The wines were intense and the red wines tannic when young, with slightly elevated alcohol levels. The wines needed some time to come into balance, but many have aged magnificently.
- The 1998 vintage was the coldest, and one of the wettest, on record at Tablas Creek. After a late budbreak but no damage from frost, the summer remained cool and the harvest did not begin until early October. A warm, sunny October and November saved the harvest, and produced wines that were fresh and balanced, with low alcohols and gentle tannins. The white wines were beautiful from the beginning, and the red wines needed a few years to unwind into classic elegance, and continue to drink well today.
- The 1997 vintage was hot and dry, with early budbreak, low yields and an early onset to harvest in late August. This vintage saw the first significant contributions from our French clones, and produced wines that were juicy and lush from the start despite serious tannins. The wines drank well young and have aged better than we could ever have expected given the youth of the vineyard and the heat of the vintage.