I asked some key members of the Tablas Creek team what their most memorable wines were of the last year, and loved the responses. From my dad's:
Here's everyone's response, in their own words, in alphabetical order:
Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker: 1964 Chateau Lafite
There is no question here for me. A few days before Marci's birthday I dropped this bottle off with Ian Adamo, the sommelier at Bistro Laurent, so he might care for and serve it properly. After wondering at the beauty of a 1976 Breton Chinon the wine in question was poured for the table, blind. The general consensus was that it was a French wine, perhaps a Bordeaux, some age but not as old as the Chinon. Revealed, it was a stunning Chateau Lafite 1964! Vibrant rich and far from over. Might put that one down not just for the year but for the decade!
Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager: 2012 Le Puy Rolland Vieilles Vignes Chateauneuf-du-Pape
My WOTY is the 2012 Le Puy Rolland Vieilles Vignes Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The day I attended the inaugural A7 Rhone event here in Paso, the family behind Font du Loup did a presentation and tasting of four of their wines. This 100% Grenache from 65 year old vines in a cooler sector of CdP floored the room with its purity, savory and sweet aromatics and flavors, and the raspberry and spice speckled finish. Winemakers in attendance were raising their arms, asking for production information (fermented and aged in concrete), and scribbling down these insider secrets. This reminded me that Grenache from the right spots can be every bit as compelling as the Pinot Noir, if not more so.
Evelyne Fodor, Tasting Room: 2013 Tablas Creek Dianthus
I had many memorable wines this year but nothing beats the Tablas Creek 2013 Dianthus Rosé I poured for my friends on the first day of summer day at my new home in Paso. The bright pink color, the freshness on my palate and the crisp dry finish brought me back instantly to the hot summer days I spent in Cassis. I paired it with my own homemade olives and a pissaladière. It was deliciously perfect!
Chelsea Franchi, Assistant Winemaker: 2003 Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon
Looking back on another exceptional year, it’s exceedingly difficult to nail down my favorite wine amidst the excitement of experience that was 2014. From a fun little foray to Sonoma wine country at the start of the year, to drinking my way through Portugal with a group of winemakers, to making frequent trips to the Wine Connection wine shop while my husband and I were in Thailand, there were a lot of wines worth remembering. Even with all those wonderful wines enjoyed in fabulous locations, I think the most special wine of my year was savored on December 26th with my husband and my family. For dinner, we took a snowcat up to the mid-mountain lodge at Mammoth Mountain and brought along a bottle of 2003 Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon that had been purchased when my parents took me to Napa in celebration of my 21st birthday. It was beautiful and robust and everything I want in a Napa Cabernet. But more than that, it was a special bottle from a special experience, shared with those I love while creating more wonderful memories. To me, that’s what wine is all about.
Levi Glenn, Viticulturist: 2011 Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Vouvray Sec
This wine is not the best I had this year, it's the most memorable. I've never had a wine from this producer that wasn't anything but exceptional. This proves to me the quality of a great house, even in an unheralded year. While it was drunk at least a decade too young, it showed the potential of an outstanding wine. Made from Chenin Blanc, the wine showed cut, precision, and just a glimmer of the weight it will gain with age. Few producers never seem to swing and miss, and this is one of them.
Robert Haas, Founder: Dominus, Pine Ridge, Tablas Creek, Trapet & Ponsot
I always have trouble selecting my "favorite" wine, except maybe my favorite wine of the day. I can usually make that decision.
So I selected several wines that particularly struck me by their individuality over this past year. Four of them are pictured [at the top of the article] but one, the Clos de la Roche 1976, is gone from my cellar. Too bad.
I loved both the Dominus 1996
and the Pine Ridge 1984
as true to type examples of their generations from Napa. The Pine Ridge
was a great Cabernet, stylish, intense and perfectly at ease, mature and superbly drinkable at its 13% alcohol. The Dominus,
at 14.1%, to me represented a transition toward the higher pH, more extracted wines that we are seeing today. However, I enjoyed its richness, intensity, and savory character that I am not finding in most of today's Napa cabs. Perhaps its intriguing rusticity came from its small component of Cabernet Franc?
I have been an advocate the 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
from the very first time I tasted the completed blend after a few months in barrel. It has terrific intensity, fine acid and a full palate of ripe melon, citrus and minerality. It has all the elements of a wine that will mature and age beautifully. I did not have a bottle here to photograph, but I also was intrigued by our En Gobelet 2012
just a few nights ago. It had all the "garrigue" of Mediterranean vineyards of France in the nose and flavors of dark red fruits and brambles. Barbara and I ended up drinking the whole bottle over dinner and left feeling that we wanted more.
Two memorable Burgundies of the year were the 1985 Trapet Chambertin and the 1976 Ponsot Clos de la Roche. Both were beautifully, gracefully aged. Actually, the Clos de la Roche could still use a few years. 1976 was a very tannic year and those tannins are softening but are still quite evident, along with the wine's strong cassis flavors. What I particularly love about this wine is its Clos de la Roche-ness. I think that Clos de la Roche and Clos St. Denis, Morey St. Denis neighbors, are my favorite Grand Crû vineyards in Burgundy. The Chambertin, consumed with friends, was exquisite. Just about a perfect Burgundy: deliciously, elegantly mature, still sturdy and rich. It was all that could be expected of this fabled vineyard of the Côte de Nuits.
Sylvia Montague, Assistant Tasting Room Manager: 1996 Vineyard Drive Marsanne
1996 “Vineyard Drive” Marsanne, opened last week in the tasting room. I was amazed at the flavors contained in that big, old bottle with the label most of us had not seen until now. The sweet spice of gumdrops greeted me on the nose and a richness I did not expect filled my mouth before I enjoyed the very satisfying finish. I am patiently waiting for other surprises from some of my older bottles of Tablas Creek whites... perhaps I should have asked Santa for an extra dose of patience for Christmas this year. [Editor's Note: this was a very early effort from our young vineyard, in a year where the Viognier didn't come out successfully. We bottled the Marsanne, the only other white grape we had in production at the time, as a mono-varietal wine under the "Vineyard Drive" name that we used for declassified Tablas Creek a few times in the 90's. I was just as surprised as Sylvia at how well the wine had aged and how interesting it had become.]
John Morris, Tasting Room Manager: 2009 Les Vieux Clos Savennières by Nicolas Joly
During my annual visit to Seattle this summer, I was lucky enough to be invited to an old friend’s house to see her new wine cellar. Her focus, interestingly enough, is whites from the Jura and the Loire Valley. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb in suggesting she may be the only person in the world with such a focus. We tasted a number of interesting wines, but the one I’ll never forget is a 2009 Les Vieux Clos Savennières by Nicolas Joly. I’ve had a number of Chenin Blancs from the Loire, including one or two Savennières, but I’d never had the opportunity to sample one by Joly, the most prominent producer in the region. This wine was breathtaking! I think its beauty was amplified by the simple, no-fuss setting, tasting in a cellar with nothing but a few good bottles, an unadorned table and chair, and a good friend.
Deanna Ryan, Tasting Room Team Lead: 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
Well, being the enthusiastic Roussanne fan that I am, I would have to say our 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc hit the spot for me. With 75% beautiful Roussanne in there, who could wish for more. Because of its rich roundness, balanced perfectly with the necessary acidity and minerality, I find it extremely versatile with a myriad of different food items. Can’t wait to open another one!
Me: 1978 Domaine Ponsot Clos de la Roche
As for myself, my most memorable wine this year I had over the summer on our annual pilgrimage back to Vermont with the kids. One serious benefit of these trips is the chance to prowl around my dad's cellar (with his help, of course) and dig into some of the treats that have been aging quietly there for, in some cases, longer than I've been alive. In a trip full of great wines, the one that stood out for me was a bottle of 1978 Ponsot Clos de la Roche. Perfectly mature, still rich with fruit but with with the mineral-laced earthy gracefulness of aged Burgundy, it was one of the greatest wines I've ever had. And the setting, with three generations around the table in the house I grew up in, just made the experience that much better.
A few concluding thoughts:
As you might expect, this was an eclectic list. Some wines are Tablas Creek, but most are not. Many were older, one a full 50 years old, which says that for all the challenges of storing and being patient with wines, the rewards can be marvelous. But the thing that stood out most for me was the extent to which our memories of wines are enhanced by the meaningfulness of the situation in which we open them. As it should be!