Veraison 2011: a Time to Assess Progress (Late) and Yield (Light)
Tablas Creek 101: Why We Are Where We Are

Tasting the Wines in the Fall 2011 VINsider Wine Club Shipment

Every six months, we send out a six-bottle shipment of wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  The fall shipment is the showcase for our signature wines, and is typically centered around both our Esprit de Beaucastel and our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc.  Beyond that, though, we get to choose more eclectic wines that we're excited about, often including single varietal renditions of grapes our fans know better from our blends, or small-production blends that we think express something interesting about Tablas Creek.  This year, we chose to include the beautiful 2010 Marsanne, our first-ever rendition of Hermitage's signature grape, the 2010 Picpoul Blanc, with its interplay of bright and lush, intensely reminiscent of pina colada, and the 2009 En Gobelet, an unusual (perhaps unique) blend of Mourvedre, Tannat and Grenache exclusively from head-pruned, dry-farmed vineyard blocks.  Note that there are only five wines because club members get two bottles of the 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel.

We opened the shipment's wines today to draft the tasting and production notes that will be included in the shipment (which will leave the winery the week of September 19th).  I thought that readers of the blog might enjoy a preview.  Click on any wine for more detailed technical information.



  • Production Notes: The 2010 Tablas Creek Vineyard Marsanne is our first varietal bottling of Marsanne, the noble white grape of France's Hermitage appellation. We use most of our Marsanne in our Cotes de Tablas Blanc each year. However, in 2010 we felt that the Marsanne was so complete and compelling, and so representative of the Marsanne grape, that we selected out several lots for a single-varietal bottling.  These were fermented in stainless steel to emphasize their freshness.  Just 13.0% alcohol.
  • Tasting notes: a minty, spicy, citrus blossom and honeyed nose, with flavors of saline, nectarine and mineral, a creamy mid-weight texture and a long, clean, limestone-enriched finish. Should be a sublime pairing with baked scallops or mussels marinieres. Drink over the next five years.
  • Production: 525 cases
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24


  • Production Notes: Tablas Creek's fourth bottling of this traditional Southern Rhone varietal, used in Châteauneuf du Pape as a blending component, and best known from the crisp light green wines of the Pinet Region in the Coteaux de Languedoc. Literally translating to "lip stinger", in France the grape is known for its bright acidity, its minerality, and a clean lemony flavor. We have found that in California, it maintains its bright acidity, but also develops an appealing tropical lushness. Fermented in stainless steel to emphasize freshness, and like the 2010 Marsanne just 13.0% alcohol.
  • Tasting notes: powerful aromas of pineapple, white flowers, grilled citrus and caramel. In the mouth it is brightly acidic with flavors of pina colada broadened by a hint of toast, a lush texture surprising for those who only know Picpoul from France, then reverting to brightness on a lemony, mineral-laced finish. Would be a great pairing with a creamy chicken pasta. Drink in the next two to three years.
  • Production: 500 cases
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60


  • Production Notes: Like all our 2010 whites, a powerfully expressive wine, not at all sweet, at low alcohol, that should age very well.  Roussanne (60%) as usual forms the core of the honey and mineral flavors, but we used our highest-ever percentage of Grenache Blanc (35%) for breadth, anise and citrus notes and just 5% Picpoul Blanc as the wine already had excellent acidity.  The wine was blended in May, aged in foudre and demi-muid, and bottled in August 2011.
  • Tasting notes: Higher-toned than most vintages of Esprit Blanc, showing on the nose more yellow sweet/tart fruit like passion fruit, pineapple and mango.  A hint of lychee comes out as the wine warms, enriching classic Roussanne flavors of white tea, honey and spice.  The mouthfeel is extraordinary: rich but with great structure, very clean and pure.  We think this is the most ageworthy Esprit Blanc we've made.  It should drink well for two decades.
  • Quantity Produced: 2100 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32


  • Production Notes: Our second-ever En Gobelet, a unique blend (we think perhaps the only one in the world) of Mourvedre, Tannat and Grenache selected from head-pruned, dry-farmed sections of the vineyard.  Mourvedre (56%) provides dark red fruit, earth, spice and mid-palate richness while Tannat (23%) adds dark color, smoky, spicy flavors and firm tannins and Grenache (21%) brightens everything with forward fruit, approachability and lushness.  The head-pruned blocks all also share a characteristic elegance that we have often remarked on as noteworthy.
  • Tasting notes: a spicy nose of black olive, dark chocolate, menthol and blue fruits. The mouth is powerfully structured showing flavors of fig, briary fruit, pepper spice and a surprisingly creamy texture with fine, chalky tannins. The finish shows Tannat's characteristic firmness leavened by bright acids and a pretty floral note from Grenache. For now, pair with substantial food like wild boar ragu or pasta puttanesca, or you could lay it down for a decade or more.
  • Production: 600 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36


  • Production Notes: Like all the 2009 reds, scarce in quantity due to drought and frost, but remarkable in intensity while still maintaining balance through terrific tannins.  It is as usual based on the red fruit, earth and mocha of Mourvèdre (40%), while Syrah (28%) provides black fruit and mineral and Grenache (27%) brings rich mouthfeel, glycerin and a refreshing acidity.  6% Counoise adds vibrancy and brambly fruit. The wine was blended in August 2010, aged in foudre and bottled in July 2011.
  • Tasting notes: a deep, spicy nose of crushed rock, tobacco and dark fruit (particularly currants). The palate shows great balance between savory and sweet notes, with milk chocolate, herbes de provence, an iron-like mineral note and massive structure that, combined with the power of the ripe but substantial tannins suggest that it will benefit from short- to mid-term cellaring, and drink well for two decades or more.
  • Quantity Produced: 3100 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44