Introducing Viticulturist Levi Glenn, who explains shoot thinning

We've had the same vineyard team here at Tablas Creek for the last fifteen years.  Neil Collins has overseen both the vineyard and the winemaking since 1998.  He is assisted by Winemaker Ryan Hebert and Vineyard Manager David Maduena, both of whom have been here since our 1997 harvest.

So it's with some excitement that we introduce Levi Glenn, who joins us this summer in the post of Viticulturist.  He brings a decade of experience managing vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, and has focused on converting vineyards from modern to biodynamic viticulture for the last five years.  Plus, he's got formal training, which none of the rest of us do, with a degree in Viticulture & Enology from Cal Poly.  We couldn't be more excited to add him to our team.  He introduces himself, and gives a brief overview of shoot thinning, in the below video.

We took some close-up photographs of the shoot thinning process as well.  The goal of shoot thinning is to select the two best shoots on each of the three spurs that we've left on each cordon.  As our vines are pruned double-cordon, this means we're selecting a dozen shoots per vine, each ideally with one cluster of grapes.  These shoots are going to provide the photosynthetic capacity, as well as the grape production, of the vine for the year.

This process completes the effort that we begin with our winter pruning of taking a three-dimensional plant and turning it into something more two-dimensional so that we can better ensure even access to sunlight as well as better flow-through of air.  Good air circulation reduces the potential for mildew or rot and allows whatever nutritional or antifungal treatments we think the vineyard needs to penetrate the canopy.  On the left is an un-thinned vine, so bushy it nearly obscures Levi, and on the right a vine post-thinning, fruit exposed to the light:

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Shoots that don't have fruit, that exit the cordon horizontally rather than angled up, or that are too close to a better shoot, are pruned away.  Below, Levi points at the spurs that will be kept, with the others pruned away.  In this selection process, we're also thinking of the coming winter, when we'll select three of these shoots per cordon to become the next year's two-bud spurs.

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The process this year is more challenging than normal.  The principal cause is our April frosts, which damaged many of the spurs that we left last winter and forced the plant to sprout from secondary buds that were not in ideal starting locations.  A secondary cause was the wet, cool, late spring, which delayed us getting into the vineyard until later in the year, when the long days, the sudden arrival of warmth in June and the abundant ground water have combined to produce explosive growth.

Despite our late start, we're more than 90% done with shoot thinning.  One more photo will give you a sense of the progress: thinned vines on the row on the left, with bushy vines awating thinning further up the row as well as on the row to the right:

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A family stay in Vinsobres

By Robert Haas

Where?  Well, Vinsobres is in the Drôme, the next département north of the Vaucluse: kind of the northern limit of the southern Vallée du Rhône.  We were in the outskirts of Les Cornuds, a village -- patelin, if you will -- of about four houses just east of Vinsobres.  Vinsobres is the newest Crû in the southern Rhone, recently elevated from a Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation.  Besides wine, the Drôme is also known for its olives, where Nyons is France’s only olive AOC, and black truffles, which are harvested in the fall.  Look for Vinsobres on a map between the towns of Nyons (Drôme) and Vaison-la-Romaine (Vaucluse), just north of D94.

Vinsobres_house_with_vines

We were staying on a vineyard property that the Perrins, our friends and Tablas Creek partners, bought about ten years ago. The house was a ruin at the time of purchase, and the Perrins have lovingly restored it over the last 8 years.  What a treat!  The kids, 21 months, 3, and 6, learned to play boules and enjoyed (along with the adults) the swimming pool.  We visited nearby village farmers’ markets, ate in a few restaurants, enjoyed the visit of our Paso Robles friends, the Careys, and generally relaxed.  Well, relaxed as much as being around three young and active kids will allow.  Another view:

Vinsobres_house

Vinsobres is so named for the dark color of its wines, due in large part to a higher percentage of syrah than surrounding appellations (The most northerly of the southern Rhone’s top appellations, Vinsobres is friendlier to syrah than further south).  The better vineyards are planted almost 50/50 syrah and grenache noir, and the wines show the darker spicy character of syrah along with the chocolate cherry of grenache.  The Perrins are big believers in the potential of Vinsobres, and have purchased several parcels totaling nearly 150 acres over the last decade.

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The house site was terrific.  It was on the top of a hill, had a wrap around patio with great vineyard views and good breezes.  We often breakfasted, lunched, and dined al fresco.   It struck me how similar the spacing and pruning of the vineyards around the house in Vinsobres are to ours at Tablas Creek.  The elevations of 300 to 500 meters and the many different exposures of the hillsides reminded us of Las Tablas/Adelaida in Paso Robles.  Even the soils and their geologic origins are similar to ours, with limestone boulders lining many of the roads.

Gigondas

During our stay Marc Perrin invited Jason and me to lunch at another recent Perrin acquisition, the restaurant l’Oustalet in Gigondas, where we lunched outdoors right in Gigondas center: an active place.  After lunch we explored the Perrins’ many Gigondas parcels, in locations from the top of the town, just under the rocky outcrops of the Dentelles de Montmirail (pictured above), to the town’s only Clos (the Clos des Tourelles just below the old town), to lower down vineyards in sandy soils, where they farm what they believe is the region’s only pre-phylloxera vineyard.  These grenache vines, planted on their own roots, are more than 130 years old.  Gigondas has a noble history and is the southern Rhone’s best known Crû after Châteauneuf du Pape.  The Perrins believe that its ability to show the feminine, floral side of grenache is unmatched.  The soils of Gigondas range across four different geological eras, and plantings are dominated by grenache noir.  A view down across the appellation, from the vineyard pictured above:

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Since Jason had not yet seen them, we also went to visit the new cellar installations at Beaucastel and the greatly enlarged cave producing the Perrin and Nicolas Perrin wines.  Impressive! 

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The Perrin holdings and family are beehives of activity.  Besides Jean-Pierre and François, Jacques’ sons, there are seven grandchildren: Marc, Pierre, Thomas, Cécile, Charles, Matthieu, and César (who is working this summer and fall at Tablas Creek) involved in the family wine business.  The creative energy of the Perrin family is remarkable, and the efforts they are putting into elaborating the distinct characters of the diverse appellations of the southern Rhone perhaps their most ambitious and important work yet.

RZH and FP

We’re proud to be their partners at Tablas Creek.


Tasting Room, Then and Now

By John Morris 

I recently ran across this photo of our tasting room staff from an outing in December of 2007.  The thing that strikes me most about this shot is the size of our group.  Our entire tasting room staff at the time consisted of 8 people.  Now, 3 and a half years later, we’re 16 strong.  Pictured from left to right are David, Phil, myself, Zach, Sylvia, Brian and Gustavo.  Absent due to a school-related commitment is Chelsea, then a member of our tasting room staff, now our assistant winemaker.  Since that time three of us have gotten married, one has become a father, another a step-father, and two have moved to the east coast.  Tellingly, five of the eight are still employed at Tablas Creek, six if you count the occasional guest appearance by Zach. 

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David, on the far left, was my first hire, and is perhaps our most energetic, even as he is our oldest.  Everyone else pictured predates me.   Phil recently moved to the Boston area to help with his grandchildren after a lifetime in California.  He exuded an oasis of calm in the tasting room for over five years.  Zach completed training at the fire academy last year as he juggled shifts here, and became a father a few weeks ago.   Sylvia has been our assistant tasting room manager since before I moved to Paso, if that says anything.   Brian joined the Peace Corps and was posted in Morocco after a year-long stint here, and now resides in Washington D.C.   Gustavo (originally from Chile, but commonly mistaken as Frenchman) came aboard just before me, and has been a rock for the last four years.  He spent two months interning in the cellar at Chateau de Beaucastel last fall, and returned even more knowledgeable than before.  Much of the rest of our staff, including Steve, Cindy, Tedde and Mary have been here going on three years.  Deanna worked here some years ago and returned last year.  Recent additions are Alex, Lisa, Joelle, Charlie, Teri and our dynamic new assistant manager, Jennifer.  Austin, our winemaker’s son, now helps out on Saturdays.

A lot has been made of our splendid new tasting room, with good reason.  It’s much roomier, beautiful to look at, quieter, supremely functional, and has been a dream to work in.  The cellar crew loves it because we aren’t setting up tables in their space every weekend.  We love it because we aren’t setting up tables in their space every weekend!  If you haven’t been in, you owe it to yourself to check it out. 

But in even in this striking new space, it still comes back to people.  Behind the gorgeous new bars, reflected in the huge glass windows that allow a glimpse into the cellar, you’ll see most of the same faces you’ve come to know, doing our best to provide welcoming, personal service with an educational twist, pouring wines we never forget we are blessed to work with.  Here’s to my crew.


Chronicling a Year in the Southern Rhone

In January I had the pleasure of sitting in on Marc Perrin's presentation of the wines of Beaucastel, Domaines Perrin, and La Vieille Ferme to the Vineyard Brands sales team at their annual sales meeting.  (I followed with a presentation of Tablas Creek).  The wines were beautiful, and the 2009's from the southern Rhone will be stunning.  But what I took away from the experience was a deeper appreciation of how remarkable a family the Perrins are, both passionate about the tradition they inherit and willing to innovate and experiment to improve.  This balance between tradition and innovation manifests itself in wonderful ways in the wines they produce, of course, but equally so in their marketing. 

Far from the stereotype of technophobic French farmers, the Perrins have been at the forefront of new media, creating the Perrin Family Blog in 2003 and more recently diving wholeheartedly into Twitter (@Beaucastel) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/beaucastel).

At the January sales meeting, Marc played a draft of a seven-minute video montage chronicling a year in the southern Rhone.  The video takes you through the annual cycle, from pruning to budbreak to ripening to harvest to fermentation and winemaking.  I particularly love the vignettes of the family (and Claude, their cellarmaster) deliberating about blending decisions, but the entire video is wonderful.

Enjoy.


Holiday Wine Suggestions from the Tablas Creek Team

The idea that there is one perfect holiday wine is silly.  There is no one single holiday meal, and no one single holiday group.  But at the same time, it's fun to peek into other worlds and see what people are planning.  I asked several key members of the Tablas Creek team what they'll be drinking at the holidays this year.  There was no requirement that the wine be a Tablas Creek wine, and as you'll see, several non-Tablas suggestions were offered.  But there's a healthy amount of Tablas Creek in the plans, too, which has to be a good sign. 

As usual, I've left the recommendations in the contributors' original words.  In alphabetical order:

Neil Collins, Winemaker and Vineyard Manager
I think for our holiday meal we will begin with a dry Bristol's cider which is always a good fit for the season and the food. With old Tom himself I think I will seek out a demi-sec Vouvray, I suspect that the sweetness will pair well with the turkey coupled with the fact that I am currently intrigued by the Loire Valley wines. And needless to say there will be a bottle of TCV Roussanne on hand, probably the 2002 because that is a sure thing. HAPPY HOLIDAY

Chelsea Franchi, Assistant Winemaker
This is going to be a very special holiday season for my family for many reasons, so we’re going to pull out all the stops when it comes to food and wine. Last year, I had the great privilege to sit in on a Panoplie vertical tasting at the winery just before Christmas, and the 2004 Panoplie struck me as a wine my parents would thoroughly enjoy. Its character is deep, lush and ripe with bittersweet chocolate, gorgeous sweet plum and profound fig notes. It certainly carries a “wow” factor upon first impression and only becomes more impressive with time in the glass. Honestly, I don’t think it matters what this wine is paired with – I’m sure it’ll please its audience regardless.

We traditionally kick off our Christmas morning with a few bottles of bubbly to enjoy as we open presents with the whole family. I’m a fan of just about all bubbles, but my favorites are always on the creamy and yeasty end of the spectrum. My choice this year, the Mumm Napa Brut Prestige Extended Tirage, is a wonderful value in my opinion, considering the extended sur lie aging and the use of méthode traditionelle fermentation techniques. I love finding wines that taste more expensive than they really are, and this happens to be one of them.

Nicole Getty, Director of Wine Club, Hospitality and Events
The traditional Christmas feast at my family's house is a standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. We usually change up the first course every year but last year was such a success, we’re doing it again! We will be pairing seared scallops with drizzled honey and apples served with a 2008 Viognier (Halter Ranch Vineyard) and the 2004 Esprit de Beaucastel with the hearty, rich roast.

Robert Haas, Partner
This year, the family is going seashore for our Christmas dinner with Maine lobsters from Barbara Scully's Oyster Farm located at the mouth of the Damariscotta River.  They will be arriving at our house live on the 24th after less than 24 hours out of the water.  We eschew fancy preparations for simply boiling them in salt water and serving them with lemon and melted butter.  Yum!

Our wine choice is Tablas Creek's Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc 2007: an intense minerally white with ripe, full flavors of stone fruits balanced with bright acidity that goes beautifully with this quite rich shellfish presentation.

John Morris, Tasting Room Manager
As always, we'll begin Christmas Eve dinner with a fish or shellfish course.  This year we’ll look back to a favorite, Steamed Mussels with Garlic Sabayon, from the Herbfarm Cookbook.  Really, just about any clean, dry white will work.  The Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Blanc loves garlic and would be a great choice, as would our Vermentino.  But a dinner guest promised to bring a favorite Chablis (I don’t know the producer), so we’ll put that front and center and go from there.
 
For a main course we’ll have a rack of pork coated in herbs, crushed fennel and black pepper, roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary, and braised fennel.  An earthy red wine of medium weight seems to me to be the ticket.  The Tablas Creek 2008 Côtes de Tablas is the obvious choice from our current roster, with its deft texture and fruity, slightly herbal underpinnings.  I’m also going to open our 2003 Esprit de Beaucastel, which was the star of a recent library vertical tasting.  It may be slightly weighty for the pork, but it’s so delicious right now that I really don’t care if it’s the perfect match.  Other wines I would try are an old-school Rioja (read: not over extracted or oaked), or a high-quality, Grenache-based Rhone.

Tommy Oldre, National Sales Manager
It looks like most of the holiday gatherings I will be attending will be in the potluck category and, for me, this equates to bringing our 2008 Cotes de Tablas.  It's versatility and friendly profile make it a great match for many dishes, and many palates, and it's always a nice way to introduce Tablas Creek to any new faces I may meet.  I also plan to have Champagne at the ready.  I'm not sure which producers I will be drinking, but Bonnaire is a safe bet, as is Billecart-Salmon.  I enjoy drinking Champagne for all that it is as a beverage and for all of the celebratory emotion it can inspire.  For me, the chance to celebrate family and friends, and to celebrate with family is friends, is what this time is year is really all about.

Marc Perrin, Partner
Family time. Burgundies and Rhones. Magnum of Beaucastel 62 will be one of the highlights. Also Clos St Denis 96 from Dujac. Amities.

Deanna Ryan, Assistant Tasting Room Manager
We plan on serving an English style prime-rib dinner, with Yorkshire pudding of course, and Trifle for dessert.  At this point, I am thinking of opening an 01 Founders Reserve and the 03 Esprit de Beaucastel.


A vertical tasting of Tablas Creek flagship red wines, from 1997 Rouge to 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel

Last week, we had the pleasure of one of Francois Perrin's semi-annual visits to Tabas Creek.  In this immediate post-harvest time, we tasted through the cellar, did our best to evaluate the 2010 components, and took one last look at the 2009 reds before they start to go into bottle.

We also took the opportunity to look back, and pulled a bottle from our library of each vintage of our signature red wines.  Of course, when we were first starting, we only had one red wine, but we pulled that anyway.  We were impressed with the life still left in even the oldest of these wines, and thought it would be fun to share our notes on how they are tasting now.  First, a look at the lineup:

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At this tasting, in addition to Francois, were me, my dad, Neil, and Chelsea.  Note that we didn't taste a wine from 2001, when we declined to make an Esprit de Beaucastel after spring frosts scrambled up the ripening cycle.  We declassified our entire production into the 2001 Cotes de Tablas (which made it one of the greatest bargains we've ever produced; if you have any, drink up; it's at a great stage but probably won't last much longer).

  • 1997 Tablas Rouge: A nose that shows cherry and eucalyptus, with some of the deeper, slightly balsamic character of age.  Still deep in color, though starting to brick a little.  Quite fresh in the mouth for a wine of this age from such young vines, with good acids framing cherry fruit, and a little drying tannin on the finish.  Not the most polished or concentrated wine we've made, but still totally viable.
  • 1998 Rouge: Aromatics are cool and dark, showing more loam and spice than fruit.  The color is a touch light and shows noticeable bricking.  The wine is a little simple, perhaps, but beautifully balanced, and would be a great dining companion.  Neil called it "Nordic".  Some appealing cocoa notes come out on the finish.  Just 13.8% alcohol, from quite a cool year.
  • 1999 Reserve Cuvee: A pretty, dark, youthful color.  Definitely more marked on the nose by Mourvedre's meatiness, Francois immediately said "more animal".  The mouth has a very nice balance between fruit that is round and lush and structure that is cool and mineral.  Must be pretty close to its peak.  The finish shows perhaps a little rustic, but we all thought it would be tremendous right now with osso bucco or cassoulet.  It opened as we were tasting; try decanting if you're drinking one now.
  • 2000 Esprit de Beaucastel: An animal, meaty, almost gamey nose with plums coming out with some air.  It's nicely rich in the mouth, though showing more signs of age than the 1999.  Still not at all tired, with complex notes of olive and tapenade coming out on the long, slightly drying finish.  This too got better with air; we'd recommend a decant.  And with its notable earthiness, it's always been a great ringer for a lineup of old-school Chateauneuf-du-Papes.
  • 2002 Esprit de Beaucastel: A nice mineral, chalky, dark fruit profile on the nose, much more polished than any of the previous wines.  At 57% Mourvedre, our highest ever, it's perhaps unsurprising that it's still so youthful.  In the mouth, rich, full, mature, deep, and ripe.  Notably lush, and much more like our current releases than the ones that preceded it.  Cocoa and chalky tannins at the back end, with lots of length.  Still years ahead of it.
  • 2003 Esprit de Beaucastel: A bright mint chocolate on the nose, very appealing.  The mouth was rich with sweet dark red currant and plum fruit, but enlivened by great acids.  Quite a long, luscious finish.  This wine had been closed for a while, and even this summer showed well but was overshadowed by the 2002 and 2004.  Not right now; this was perhaps the most impressive wine of the tasting.
  • 2004 Esprit de Beaucastel: A nice, restrained nose.  The mouth is in a good place, with beautiful acids, evident minerality and a long finish of chocolate-covered cherries.  Still very fresh, and pretty.  Not as big a wine as 2003 or 2005, but great balance.  It should continue to age gracefully, and we all expected that it would just be better a year from now.
  • 2005 Esprit de Beaucastel: A rustic nose of grilled meat, licorice and a bright note that Chelsea identified as mandarin.  Great sweet fruit in the mouth but big tannins, too.  The finish is a little disjointed right now, with the tannins and the acids reverberating off each other a bit.  It's going to be a very nice wine, but we'd recommend you forget it for a few years to let it integrate.
  • 2006 Esprit de Beaucastel: Very different from the 2005, pretty, clean, bright purple fruit, nicely mineral.  In the mouth, it's seamless.  Boysenberry and blackberry fruit, medium weight, nicely integrated chewy tannins, and a dark, almost soy-like tone that lends depth.  The acids come out on the long, rich finish.  Very pretty now, and looking forward to a bright future.
  • 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel: A dense black-red.  Powerful but somehow closed on the nose, with more mineral and rocks (and a little alcohol) coming through than fruit.  The mouth shows lots of sweet fruit, very lush, and big but ripe tannins.  There is a texture to the tannins that Neil commented reminded him of melted licorice.  It's impressive now but we'd recommend that you wait if you possibly can, and check back in in a couple of years for more complexity and better integration.
  • 2008 Esprit de Beaucastel: An open nose of red fruit, perhaps even strawberry, a lighter red fruit than is typical of Mourvedre.  The nose is given complexity by a balsamic, mineral note.  In the mouth, sweet fruit, medium body, and very open, forward and pure, almost Pinot Noir-like.  Reminiscent of the 2006 at a comparable age; we expect the 2008 to also darken and put on weight with some time in bottle.  Enjoy now for its purity, but wait for depth.
  • 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel (from barrel): All of the 2009 reds showed well, but the 2009 Esprit was the star, outpacing even the Panoplie at this stage.  A dark, mineral, blackberry and cocoa nose, with flavors of crushed rock, licorice, lots of spice, and black raspberry.  The texture is wonderful, with great, granular tannins that reminded Neil of powdered sugar.  Francois thought this was the best Esprit he'd ever tasted at this stage.

It's always valuable having one of the Perrins over at Tablas Creek, and Francois, who has spent the last three decades as the principal architect of Beaucastel's wines, brings a particularly interesting perspective. That he was as impressed as he was with the 2009's bodes very well for their quality.  One more photo, of Francois Perrin and Bob Haas, at the end of the vertical tasting:

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From my own perspective, as much fun as the vertical tasting was, I was most pleased by how well the 2010's showed.  It's typically a difficult time to taste, a few months after harvest while wines are just finishing primary fermentation and just starting malolactic fermentation.  But with the exception of Grenache -- which in my experience is always problematic for at least three months after harvest -- all the red varietals showed richness, balance, and a persistent saline character that seems to be a hallmark of the limestone soils here, and which frame the fruit and structural elements in all the wines.  I have never been as impressed with a vintage at this early stage, and am actively looking forward to getting to know the components we have in the cellar as we start the blending process.


A post-harvest round table discussion with Tablas Creek's winemakers

Late last week, with harvest concluded and the winemaking team rested up after a long, grueling harvest, national sales manager Tommy Oldre caught up with them to talk about their 2010 harvest experience.  In the video, you'll see winemakers Neil Collins, Ryan Hebert, and Chelsea Franchi each give their thoughts on what happened, what they're thinking about where we are, and what we learned.  I love the way that their personalities each come through in the ten-minute video. 

Don't miss the special appearance by vineyard dog Millie, who arrives complete with live vole captured in the vineyard around the 2:45 mark!


Winemaker Ryan Hebert discusses the end of the 2010 Harvest

With the arrival this past weekend of our last significant Mourvedre block, harvest 2010 is more or less in the books.  We have been going through the vineyard this week and cleaning up odd bits here and there in a leisurely fashion, but we can at last be confident we've made it.  We are under no illusions that we got lucky.  Starting harvest three weeks late always puts you at risk.  But we've been saved by the overall wonderful weather that we've seen in early November, and the nearly 60 tons that we've harvested this month has looked terrific.

You can look forward to two more pieces on the 2010 harvest next week: one a detailed recap of the results and a varietal-by-varietal analysis of what we've seen, and then a round-table video discussion with our winemaking team about their impressions.  But first, with the pace slowing down in the cellar, Tommy Oldre caught up with Winemaker Ryan Hebert to talk to him about how the harvest wrapped up and to get his thoughts on what we can tell so far about the vintage's character based on the wines in the cellar.


Winemaker Neil Collins discusses progress on the 2010 vintage

Early this week, after some light rainfall over the weekend, we had a couple of days where we couldn't pick, but used the time to press off fermenting lots in the cellar and make some space.  National Sales Manager Tommy Oldre caught up with Winemaker Neil Collins to ask him some questions about the (interesting, late, unpredictable and challenging, but ultimately rewarding) harvest so far.




All Things Consumed: I can almost taste it (Beaucastel, that is).

By Tommy Oldre

I'm trying to contain my enthusiasm right now, so as not to anger coworkers here in the office, but my thoughts are currently dominated by the trip I embark on tomorrow.  It has been over eight years since I spent time overseas and I leave tomorrow for a few days in Bristol, England before heading to the Southern Rhone early next week, and of course Chateau de Beaucastel.   In short, I'm psyched and very thankful.

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Photo © Chateau de Beaucastel

This is my seventh year at Tablas Creek and I have been referencing Chateau de Beaucastel, nearly daily, the entire time.  I spoke of Beaucastel often when I first started in the tasting room, I learned a lot about their cellar practices from Neil and Ryan in my time here in the cellar of Tablas Creek, and I still reference the Beaucastel estate frequently when I am out in the market.  I commonly talk about, and field questions about the galets, the mistral (please let if be windy just one day), the various, obscure varietals that are grown on the estate, and the nearly petrified foudres used in their cellars.  However, I have never seen, touched, nor experienced first-hand any of the aforementioned.

I have seen many pictures of the estate and its vines in different seasons and I have seen pictures taken in the cellars of Beaucastel from different eras.  I know the history of the friendship between the Haas and Perrin families, I have a very good idea of the topography of the Beaucastel vineyard, I can tell you exactly where it is located in the Chateauneuf du Pape A.O.C., and I know about the interstate that borders its property.  Honestly, I can tell you more things about Chateau de Beaucastel than any other place or property I have never been to, and I can't wait to change that next week.  It will be a dream, and frequently recurring daydream, come true.  

As the plan stands, Neil and I will be spending next week in the southern Rhone with the Perrin family.  We will not only be visiting Beaucastel, but will also visit their other properties in Gigondas, Vinsobres, Vacqueyras, and perhaps a couple others.  We also plan to head a bit further south one day to Bandol, where I understand vineyards of Mourvedre look out over the sea.   That sounds just fine to me.  More than anything, I can't wait to take it all in; to put faces and places to the words I have read and the wines I have enjoyed and continue to inspire me. 

I will be doing my best to send Twitter (@tommytablas) updates along the way and I will also be compiling data for future blog posts on my return, including another post in the All Things Consumed series.  Did I mention I plan on eating in a dignified, though omnivorous, fashion yet?  Well, I do. 

Thanks for reading et au revoir.

Tommy.