Each June, I have the pleasure of tasting through library vintages of our Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc to choose the wines for the upcoming VINsider Wine Club Collector's Edition shipment. [for the origin story of the Collector's Edition, from 2009, click here.] This club gives us a chance show off the ageability of our flagship wines, and it's been a great success, generating a waiting list each year since we started it.
This year, Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi and I tasted the 2007 and 2008 reds, and the 2009 and 2010 whites. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about why we didn't choose the 2007 Esprit, and because the 2008 was showing so well, it made the choice easy. As for the whites, the choice was made for different reasons, but equally clear-cut. I have always loved the 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel. I bought two cases of it myself when it was released, thinking I'd drink one and let the other one develop. I ended up having to buy a third case because I couldn't keep my hands out of the one that I was supposed to be laying down. But in tasting it again this year, we felt like it was nearly unchanged: still high-toned and juicy, fresh and clean. Delicious, but not showing enough signs of evolution to be really interesting as a library offering. The 2009, on the other hand, was fascinating.
One quick note, before the tasting notes. If you find the idea of an aged white wine surprising, consider that Roussanne acts in many ways -- in the vineyard, cellar, and bottle -- like a red wine. It has big structure that takes time to come into balance, it is resistant to oxidation, and the secondary flavors that it gets with time in bottle, including hazelnut and caramel, fit well with Roussanne's more youthful flavors of pear, honey and mineral. The wines:
My tasting notes:
- 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc: Rich and broad on the nose, with flavors of marzipan, creme caramel and hazelnuts, lifted by a little tarragon. Chelsea commented that it "tastes like a gala event". The mouth is more youthful, with a rich texture, flavors of yellow pear and grilled peach, good acids, and a little tannin, like toasted walnuts, on a long finish lifted by a minty, citrus zest note. The wine got more and more interesting as it sat in the glass, so a decant wouldn't be a bad idea. And definitely serve it at cellar temperature, not too cold.
- 2008 Esprit de Beaucastel: An immensely appealing nose of red fruit, pine forest, sea spray, boysenberry and mint. The mouth is bright with crunchy red fruit (Chelsea nailed cranberry) and deeper flavors of semi-sweet chocolate and baking spices. The finish is darker, with macerated cherries and a spicy, brambly note. The 2008 is a graceful and elegant wine that is at the beginning of what should be a long peak lasting another decade or more.
A few bits of housekeeping: we will be adding to the Collector's Edition membership, subject to available space, in the next week. Members of the waiting list should look for an email with news, one way or the other, of whether they've made it on. We add members, once a year, in the order in which we received applications to the waiting list. If you are currently a VINsider member you can upgrade to the Collector's Edition online. If you are not currently a member, you can indicate that you would like to join the Collector's Edition when you join the VINsider wine club.