This is bottling week. We're mostly done with putting eight different wines into bottle: the 2011 Cotes de Tablas Blanc and seven of our red varietal wines from 2010: Counoise, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, our two Pinot Noirs and our first-ever Cabernet. Most of these are small production wines, with only Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah over 300 cases in production. But it's still the most extensive lineup of varietal reds we've ever done, thanks to the high quality, plentiful 2010 vintage.
When the last of these rolled off the bottling line this afternoon, I took the opportunity to pull a bottle of each and open one up (plus the 2010 Tannat, bottled two weeks ago). They'll surely be better in another few months, but even fresh off the bottling line, when many wines don't show their best, all were expressive and varietally true. All show depth of flavor without any sense of extra weight. Taken together, they provide more evidence that 2010 is going to be a classic vintage for Tablas Creek. The lineup:
2010 Counoise: A rich, tangy, spicy nose of low country barbeque, smoke, pomegranate and figs. The mouth is silky at first -- surprising for a Counoise -- with a milk chocolate note and a polish that I've never seen in one of our Counoise bottlings. Then the flavors explode into sour cherry, spice, tree bark, blood orange and cola, an amazing collection of powerful, vibrant flavors hard to imagine in one wine. The finish (like many of the 2010s) reverberates between tangy fruit and sweet spice. 13.5% alcohol; 277 cases produced.
2010 Grenache: A composed, restrained nose of mineral, plum compote, and cola. More expressive in the mouth, showing sweet fruit, crushed rock, and wild strawberry, quickly reined in by Grenache's classic front-palate tannins. The finish opens back up with mouth-watering acidity that reminded me of watermelon rind and cherry pit. 14.8% alcohol; 733 cases produced.
2010 Mourvedre: A nose of herb-rubbed roast, figs, balsamic and mint: totally classic aromas for Mourvedre. The mouth is cool and minty, very fresh, with nice dark red currant fruit, fresh herbs, mineral and a hint of sweeter fruit coming out toward the end that made me think of watermelon, all surrounded by chewy tannins. A beauty that will likely provide pleasure early and with age. 14.1% alcohol; 720 cases produced.
2010 Syrah: A rich, round, creamy nose that reminded me of my wife Meghan's first description of Syrah, tasted out of foudre: "butter in a butcher shop". Additional aromas of licorice, white pepper, crushed rock and a little cedary oak. The initial impression in the mouth is one of freshness, but it packs a punch of flavor with blackberry, creamy minerality, mint and beautiful tannins. I think it's the best Syrah we've ever made. 14.5% alcohol; 708 cases produced.
2010 Pinot Noir: Ripe, round, spicy Pinot fruit on the nose, showing potpourri, roses, juniper and cherry. The mouth is rich but somehow gentle, strawberry candy and root beer, but not sweet. Good tannins provide a welcome touch of firmness and a nice clean finish. 14.5% alcohol; 72 cases produced.
2010 Full Circle (100% Pinot Noir, Haas Vineyard): This is a new wine for us, from the 3-acre vineyard surrounding my dad's house in one of the coolest pockets of Templeton. It's called "Full Circle" because it reflects his career: from a start introducing America to the greatness of Burgundy, through decades focusing on grapes from the Rhone, he's now growing Pinot at home. Shows broader and deeper, if less exuberant, than the Tablas Pinot: an absolutely classic old world Pinot Noir nose of sweet spices, black tea, plum and earth. The mouth is similar, but leading with the loamy minerality and following with purple fruit, good acids and granular tannins. A wine to get to know and watch evolve, and a testament to the potential of Pinot Noir in the right parts of the Paso Robles AVA. 13.6% alcohol; 53 cases produced.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon: Another new wine for us; in previous years our tiny block of Cabernet has been blended into our Tannat. But this year it was too compelling to blend away, so we made four barrels. After the Rhones and Pinots, it's a totally different world: a classic Cabernet nose of eucalyptus, sour cherry, sawdust, wood spice and green peppercorns. The mouth is richer than the nose suggests, with plum, Christmas spices (I found juniper, clove and allspice) and a very long finish that vibrates between sweet fruit, firm tannins and spice. 13.5% alcohol; 88 cases produced. 13.5% alcohol; 88 cases produced.
2010 Tannat: A rich, deep nose of balsamic reduction, grilled meat, black pepper, smoke and mineral. The mouth is surprisingly supple, with flavors of strawberry-rhubarb pie, figs, dark chocolate, and wood smoke. Drinking this felt like sitting around a campfire, smelling meat that's grilling, or sitting in front of a fireplace in wintertime. Wild. 14.5% alcohol; 760 cases produced.
A few concluding thoughts. To my taste, this is the best collection of varietal wines we've ever made. Each is absolutely characteristic of the varietal that it comes from, with remarkable depth and complexity of flavors. But none feel heavy, and none feel to me like I need to bury them in the back of my wine cellar for several years (as I have with some of the bigger vintages, like 2005, 2007 and 2009). And while they won't need lots of time at the front end to be approachable, I am convinced that these wines will age very well, with the vibrant acidities keeping things together as they develop secondary flavors and their tannins soften. And the alcohols are all pretty low, with several under 14%. The end result should be wines with remarkable elegance and silky texture, for those with the patience to wait.
It won't be easy.