Every six months, we send out a six-bottle shipment of wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club. While the fall shipment showcases our signature wines, and includes both our Esprit de Beaucastel and our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, the spring shipment is more eclectic, highlighted by the Panoplie, our elite wine made in the image of Beaucastel's iconic Hommage à Jacques Perrin. Beyond that we include wines we're particularly excited about. This year, we chose three whites from the fresh, mineral-laced 2010 vintage: the 2010 Grenache Blanc, 2010 Cotes de Tablas Blanc and 2010 Antithesis. We also picked the intense 2009 Grenache and the newly-bottled 2010 Cotes de Tablas.
This morning, I opened the wines in the upcoming shipment to write the tasting notes that will be included in the package, and thought that readers of the blog might like an advance peek. Joining me for the tasting were Winemaker Neil Collins, Tasting Room Manager John Morris and National Sales Manager Tommy Oldre. The lineup:
2010 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC
- Production Notes: The 2010 Cotes de Tablas Blanc is our showcase for the floral, lush fruit of Viognier, balanced by the freshness and minerality of Grenache Blanc. In 2010, the coolest year on record in Paso Robles, we found the Grenache Blanc particularly compelling and used our highest percentage ever in Cotes de Tablas Blanc. The resulting blend is 54% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc, 8% Marsanne and 8% Roussanne, all aged in stainless steel.
- Tasting notes: A serious, mineral-driven nose with peach skin, saline and sweet spices in the background. In the mouth, broad and mouth-filling with flavors of honeydew and green mango. An appealing sweet herbiness comes out on the long finish, with notes of tarragon and fennel and refreshing acidity. Drink now and for the next five years
- List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60
2010 GRENACHE BLANC
- Production Notes: 2010 was a banner year for Grenache Blanc, and our blending trials produced our highest percentages ever in both our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc and Cotes de Tablas Blanc. For the small-production (600 case) varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose lots that were fermented stainless steel (for brightness) and foudre (for roundness), then blended and bottled in the summer of 2011.
- Tasting notes: An expressive, intensely mineral nose that also includes sweeter flavors like marzipan, licorice, and chicory root. In the mouth, rich yet zesty, with flavors of quince, marmalade, and granny smith apple. The vibrant acids come out on the finish, suggesting preserved lemon and ending with just a hint of Grenache tannin. We all thought this was gorgeous. Drink now and for the next three years.
- List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60
- Production Notes: After a frost-devastated crop in 2009, our Chardonnay production was back up in 2010, and this combined with a very cool summer led to our longest hangtime for Chardonnay ever. We fermented the juice in a mix of neutral oak and stainless steel barrels, blended and bottled in summer 2011.
- Tasting notes: A creamy, minerally nose, Chablis-like in its expression of chalky minerality. But there are sweeter aromas too, like creme patisseur and custard. The mouth is lush but firmly dry, with supple texture and a generous mid-palate. The flavors are classic Chardonnay, edging slightly tropical with pineapple and toasted bread, then finishing mineral again, slightly saline. Drink now and for the next five years.
- List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28
2010 COTES DE TABLAS
- Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas is our take on a more traditional Chateauneuf du Pape blend, heavier on Grenache and Syrah and lighter on Mourvedre than our Esprit de Beaucastel. In 2010, we further strengthened the blend by declassifying over 2500 gallons into the 2010 Patelin de Tablas. Each variety was harvested and fermented separately, moved to foudre for aging, blended in the fall of 2011, and bottled in January 2012. The final blend is 46% Grenache, 39% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, and 5% Counoise.
- Tasting notes: Lots of dark red fruit on the nose, particularly boysenberry and black cherry, as well as a cool, chalky minerality. Neil commented on its "beautiful absence of oak". The mouth is vibrantly fruity with more cherry, but then firms up as the tannins come to the fore. There is tart red fruit on the finish, with a lingering impression of iron. We all thought this would be a fascinating wine to watch age. Try to give this 6 months, then drink for a decade or longer.
- List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24
- Production Notes: In 2009, the only red varietal we made was Grenache, as in this drought- and frost-reduced vintage we protected our flagship blends. But what a great year for Grenache, with remarkable intensity from the tiny crops and freshness from the cool summer. Harvested in two weeks spanning the end of September and the beginning of October, Grenache was fermented in closed stainless steel fermenters, then moved to neutral barrels, blended in June 2010 and aged in foudre until its bottling in April 2011.
- Tasting notes: A powerfully Grenache nose of cherry liqueur, licorice root, and cocoa, but held in check with a mineral note Neil described as "cast iron pan after you've seared a steak". In the mouth, rich at first, with rare meat and wild strawberry, then big tannins come to the fore that were asking for a marbled steak. The tannins resolve in the finish and leave a suggestion of clean minerality. Pair now with substantial food, or age for a decade or more for a more elegant profile.
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
- Production Notes: As always, Panoplie is selected from lots in the cellar chosen for their richness, concentration and balance, always heaviest on Mourvedre's rich meatiness and firm structure. Each lot was fermented individually and then moved to foudre to age, before being selected, blended and returned to foudre to age in July 2010. The wine was bottled in August 2011. The blend in this, our lowest-yielding year ever, is 65% Mourvèdre, 26% Grenache and 9% Syrah.
- Tasting notes: Tommy coined a new word for the nose: cornucopious, for its dark and savory aromas of black raspberry, eucalyptus, loam, and iron. The mouth is broad and rich but incredibly structured, with soy, garrigue and forest floor notes providing balance to the plum, currant and chocolate. The finish is long and complex, minty, brambly, and earthy all at once. We expect it to drink well for another year or so, then tighten up for a few years before reopening around 2017 and drinking well for two to three decades.
- List Price: $95 VINsider Price: $76
More details on the shipment, including shipping dates, press on the wines, and information about the spring shipment tasting party on Sunday, April 1st, is available on our VINsider News Page.
One concluding thought: the more that I taste it, the more I love the 2010 vintage. That remarkably cool year, with the very long hang time that resulted, has made wines that have richness yet are noteworthy for their vibrancy and freshness. The mineral components in our wines (which I always love) are highlighted, and the great acids make me want to keep coming back for the next sip. And this isn't just true with the whites. The 2010 Cotes de Tablas shows the same freshness and appeal, and does it without sacrificing intensity of flavor. I am eagerly anticipating the bottling and release of our other 2010 reds.