Tasting the wines in the fall 2016 VINsider Wine Club shipments

Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club.  In others, the club gets a first look at wines that may see a later national release. Before each shipment, we reintroduce ourselves to these wines (which, in some cases, we may not have tasted since before bottling) by opening the full lineup and writing the notes that will be included with the club shipments. Yesterday afternoon, Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi and I dove into this fall's collection, and I thought that readers of the blog would be interested in what we found.

We base the fall shipments around the newest releases of the Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc, and this fall's shipment is no exception. In addition, this year we reached back into our library to include not just the newest 2014 Esprit de Tablas, but also a bottle of the 2012 Esprit de Tablas that has been showing so well recently.  I'm excited to hear the feedback that we get.  

When we'd finished the tasting, Chelsea and I looked at each other and had the same thought: this fall is going to be fun, and the shipment pickup party, where we get to introduce the wines to several hundred club members, is going to be a blast.  2014 and 2015 are, each in their own way, remarkable: both the products of low yields, with the 2015 powerful and savory, with a noteworthy saltiness in all the whites underpinning their power. 2014 is luscious and expressive, with ripe tannins cloaked by plenty of fruit. It's going to be exciting!

The classic shipment includes six different wines:

Classic_crop

2015 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Making the Cotes de Tablas Blanc in 2015 proved to be a challenge, as the two grapes (Viognier and Marsanne) on which it is usually based were both in very short supply. On the plus side, both showed remarkable intensity, no doubt in part because of the very low yields. We ended up using all our Viognier and Marsanne in this blend, and adding nearly as much Grenache Blanc (for freshness) and Roussanne (for structure), resulting in a wine with nearly equal proportions of the four grapes (26% Viognier, 25% Marsanne, 25% Grenache Blanc, 24% Roussanne). Even choosing more open-knit lots of the richer grapes, the wine has as much in common with our Esprit Blanc as with a normal Cotes Blanc. The selected lots were was blended in April 2016, and the wine was bottled -- under screwcap, to preserve its brightness -- in June.
  • Tasting Notes: An immediately Rhone-like nose, with aromas of peach pit, lemon verbena, beeswax, key lime, and sweet spice. On the palate, the wine is rich and mouth-filling, with the Roussanne persistence evident. Flavors of apricot and salted nuts are balanced by creamy minerality, and the finish is exceptionally long.  Drink now and for at least the next five years.
  • Production: 1550 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2014 ROUSSANNE

  • Production Notes: All our whites in 2014 showed a balance of lush power and good acids from the unusually high diurnal temperature variation. This combination was kind to the powerful but sometimes austere Roussanne grape, bringing lushness and openness to complement its characteristic structured profile. We fermented the Roussanne lots that were selected for our varietal bottling roughly 55% in foudre, 35% in neutral oak puncheons, and 10% in small new barriques. The selected lots were blended in April 2015 then aged through the subsequent harvest before bottling that December.
  • Tasting Notes: A luscious nose of peach syrup, jasmine, and lanolin is undercut by cool, spicy notes of lemon thyme and citrus leaf. On the palate, flavors of salted caramel, nutmeg, marzipan and orange zest are backed by rich texture and saline notes come out on the long, dry finish. Already appealing (moreso than many vintages of our Roussanne are in their youth) but should also develop over at least the next decade.
  • Production: 885 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2014 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Thank to the dramatic conditions in 2014, all our white components showed both power and freshness, which made blending the Esprit Blanc a pleasure. We used a relatively high proportion of Roussanne (72%, fermented primarily in foudre) for weight and structure, and added Grenache Blanc (23%, from foudre and stainless steel) for sweet spice and openness, and Picpoul Blanc (5%, from stainless steel) for floral aromatics and saline freshness. As we have done since 2012, we let the blend age in foudre through the subsequent harvest before bottling it in January 2016 and aging it an additional 8 months in bottle before release.
  • Tasting Notes: An immensely appealing nose of fresh pears, wildflower honey and candied pecan, lifted by a spicy notes of anise and orange blossom. The mouth shows flavors of salted honeydew, honeycrisp apple, and more pear, with floral notes of jasmine and citrus blossom reemerging on the long, clean, spicy finish.  Already delicious, it should also go out 15 years or more and gain additional nuttiness and complexity with time.
  • Production: 2200 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2014 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: Our seventh En Gobelet, a non-traditional blend all from head-trained, dry-farmed blocks, and mostly from the 12-acre block we call Scruffy Hill, planted in 2005 and 2006 to be a self-sufficient field blend. We have found that in our drought, our head-trained blocks suffer less than our closer-spaced irrigated blocks, but the wine still showed the signature of the lush intensity and freshness characteristic of 2014. We chose a blend of 34% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre, 15% Counoise and 5% Tannat, even after holding back several head-trained Mourvedre lots for Panoplie. As usual, the small addition of head-trained Tannat proved valuable for its chalky tannins and deep flavors. The wine was blended in June of 2015, aged in foudre and bottled in April 2016.
  • Tasting Notes: A rich dark-red-fruited nose of currant, leather, chocolate, licorice, and crushed rock that Chelsea said "you almost need to chew". The palate is similar, but a touch darker: salty cocoa, black raspberry, plum skin and chalky minerality. Despite the wine's serious tannins, the overall impression is one of gracefulness, and it should provide a great deal of pleasure in both the near and longer term. Drink now and for the next two decades.
  • Production: 700 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

2012 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Like all the 2012 reds, the Esprit de Tablas shows the results of the vintage's classic combination of healthy yields, warm temperatures, high diurnal variation, and beautiful weather at harvest. The generous fruit character of the Mourvedre and Grenache resulted in us using our highest-ever percentage of the dark, smoky, savory Syrah grape, to bring structure and seriousness to the resulting blend. Still, Esprit was as usual led by the red fruit, earth and mocha of 40% Mourvèdre, with additions of 30% Syrah, 21% Grenache and 9% Counoise. It was aged in foudre. In the two-plus years since its bottling in July 2014, the wine has grown richer, with Mourvedre's saddle leather component coming more to the fore. It still has many years ahead of it.
  • Tasting Notes: Fun to revisit after spending so much of my recent time with the 2013 Esprit. The 2012 has a nose of purple fruit, leather, dried cranberry, pepper, and juniper spice. The mouth is medium weight, beautifully balanced, with flavors of milk chocolate, zesty red plum, and black cherry. The finish is savory and meaty, like the the drippings from a charcoal grilled ribeye. It's still quite a youthful wine, which should make for very good drinking for the next year or two, then likely shut down for a few years before reopening in 2019 or 2020 and drinking well for another fifteen plus years.
  • Production: 4400 cases
  • List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48

2014 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: In our blending trials in 2014, we decided to highlight the year's natural lushness with the fruit and freshness of Grenache rather than try to rein it in with the structure of Syrah or the restraint of Counoise. So, to our typical contribution of Mourvedre (40%) we added our most-ever Grenache (35%) and relatively small portions of Syrah (20%) and Counoise (5%). The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for the Esprit, blended in June 2015 and aged a year in foudre before bottling in June 2016.
  • Tasting Notes: The nose is powerfully expressive, with deep aromas of licorice and cherry liqueur given lift by spicy notes of pink peppercorn and mint. The mouth is luscious but still very young, with flavors of chocolate-covered cherries, a briny sea spray note, and serious tannins. The finish shows more baker's chocolate and cherry cola notes, as well as a smoky berry element. The wine is still unwinding after its recent bottling; we recommend that you hold the 2014 Esprit for a few months, then drink either between 2017 and 2019 or again starting in 2022 any time over the subsequent two decades.
  • Production: 3800 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

There was one additional wine (joining the Cotes de Tablas Blanc, Roussanne, and Esprit de Tablas Blanc) in the white-only shipment:

WhiteOnly_crop

2015 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: Like all our white grapes except Roussanne, 2015 saw dramatically reduced yields for Grenache Blanc, down 31% due to drought and cold, unsettled weather during its May flowering. The reduced yields also brought remarkable fruit intensity to go along with Grenache Blanc's typical notes of minerality and sweet spice. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose lots that were fermented in stainless steel (for brightness) and foudre (for roundness), then blended and bottled in the summer of 2016.
  • Tasting Notes: An immensely appealing nose of baked apples, fresh pineapple, anise, mint and pie spices. The mouth is quite luscious, with flavors of baked apples, ripe pink grapefruit, pie crust, and strawberry granita. The grape's characteristically beautiful acids come out on the long, rich finish, which ends with a saline note. Stunning. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 600 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

Two additional reds joined the En Gobelet and the two Esprit de Tablas vintages in the red-only shipment:

RedOnly_crop

2014 COUNOISE

  • Production Notes: Our first varietal Counoise since 2010! In 2014, the vintage's weight provided enough substance to balance Counoise's open-knit personality, and we picked one small lot that seemed to us particularly characteristic of the grape to bottle on its own. It was fermented in stainless steel, aged in neutral barrels, and bottled -- under screwcap, to preserve its brightness -- in April of 2016. Counoise is renowned for its bright acids and flavors of brambly fruit, and this wine shows that in spades. 
  • Tasting Notes: A spicy, minty nose of sage, wild strawberries and violets. On the palate, a wonderful tension between the fruit and the bright acids, with crunchy cranberry and barely-ripe blueberry notes, brambly spice, and light-to-medium body. The finish is fresh and spicy, with a beautiful saline note. You might serve this slightly chilled, as you would a Cru Beaujolais, and enjoy it any time in the next six to eight years.
  • Production: 340 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2014 FULL CIRCLE

  • Production Notes: 2014 is the fifth vintage of our Full Circle Pinot Noir, grown on the small vineyard outside Robert Haas's family home in Templeton, in the cool (for Paso) Templeton Gap AVA. Its name 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. The grapes were fermented in one-ton microfermenters, half de-stemmed and half with stems for a more savory profile, punched down twice daily by hand. After pressing, the wine was moved into year-old Marcel Cadet 60-gallon barrels, for a hint of oak.  The wine stayed on its lees, stirred occasionally, for a year and a half before being blended and bottled in April 2016.
  • Tasting Notes: A dense dried cherry nose with aromas of figs, cloves, graham cracker, and mint. In the mouth the wine is opulent, with flavors of chocolate, cola, olallieberry and lots of nutmeg spice. The finish is warm and comforting, a wine to break out in front of a fire during the holidays. Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 460 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

If you're a wine club member, you should make your reservation for our shipment tasting party, where we open all the wines in the most recent club shipment for VINsiders to try.  This fall's party will be on Sunday, October 2nd.  If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join us while there's still a chance to get this fall shipment? Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club


Introducing the Wines for the 2016 VINsider Wine Club "Collector's Edition" Shipment

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. We created the Collector's Edition version of our VINsider Wine Club back in 2009 to give our biggest fans a chance to see what our flagship wines were like aged in perfect conditions. Members also get a slightly larger allocation of the current release of Esprits to track as they evolove. This club gives us a chance show off our wines' ageworthiness, and it's been a great success, generating a waiting list each year since we started it.

This year, our selections will be the 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel and the 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc. Each wine provides a clear signature of the vintage that produced it: 2009, with its power and density from the combination of spring frost (low yields) and warm weather, and 2010, with noteworthy elegance from an unusually cool summer that produced our longest hangtime ever. And yet time had, in each case, made the wine more complete, softening the tannins and opening the structure of the 2009 Esprit, and deepening the flavors and bringing more weight to the 2010 Esprit Blanc. And this isn't the end; both wines will go out another decade. It will be fun to get these in people's hands in a few months. The wines:

CE Wines 2016 Square

Tasting notes, from a tasting yesterday that Chelsea and I conducted:

  • 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc:  A nose balanced, I thought, between youthful and mature notes: white flowers, mint and pear skin on the youthful side, with beeswax, straw and nutmeg showing signs of maturity. The mouth is rich, with flavors of golden delicious apple and cinnamon (just bake the pie, already), creme brulee, and sweet straw. There's a welcome little bite of tannin -- likely from the 35% Grenache Blanc, our highest Grenache Blanc percentage ever for this wine -- that reminded us of mandarin pith to keep things clean on the long finish. Just beautiful. Drink now or for the next several years.
  • 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel: A darkly powerful, expressive nose of mint, black plums, petrichor, figs, baker's chocolate, and a savory note that Chelsea and I debated between balsamic and Worcestershire. The mouth shows both dark fruit notes and something higher toned -- think fresh black figs -- and is nicely focused with flavors of chocolate-covered black cherries, menthol, and new leather. There are some chewy tannins that suggest substantial food as a partner (as well as the capacity for more aging). The finish is beautiful, with cocoa powder, blackcurrant and sarsaparilla root. Drink now and over the next 15 years.

The complete Collector's Edition shipment is, I think, the best collection we've ever offered, with 3 different vintages of our flagship red, 2 of our flagship white, our newest En Gobelet (maybe my personal favorite wine we're making right now), and two gorgeous whites: the luscious 2014 Roussanne and the floral, mineral 2015 Cotes de Tablas Blanc:

  • 2 bottles of 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel
  • 1 bottle of 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc
  • 3 bottles of 2014 Esprit de Tablas
  • 1 bottle of 2012 Esprit de Tablas
  • 1 bottle of 2014 En Gobelet
  • 2 bottles of 2014 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 1 bottle of 2014 Roussanne
  • 1 bottle of 2015 Cotes de Tablas Blanc

We will be adding to the Collector's Edition membership, subject to available space, in the next week. If you're on the waiting list, you should look for an email with news, one way or the other, of whether you've made it on for this round. 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 and interested in getting on the waiting list, you can upgrade to the Collector's Edition online. And if you are not currently a member, but would like to be, you can indicate that you would like to join the Collector's Edition when you join the VINsider wine club.


Tasting the Wines in the Spring 2016 VINsider Club Shipments

Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club.  In others, the club gets a first look at a wine that may see a later national release.  About 6 weeks before the club shipments will be sent out, we open them all to write the tasting and production notes that will be included in the club shipments.  In many cases, this tasting is our first post-bottling introduction to wines that we'll come to know intimately in coming weeks and months.  In some cases (like this time) where the shipments contain wines that aren't yet even bottled (they will be week after next) it's a chance to get to know wines that are newly finished.  Over recent years, I've given followers of the blog a first look at these notes.

These shipments include wines from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 vintages.  It was interesting to taste these three vintages, all of which we think were very strong, together, and to get a sense of how they compare.  My quick thoughts, after the tasting, are that 2013 is a classically-styled, old-world vintage, on the brooding side, with substantial tannins, more about balance than exuberance.  It should be exceptionally ageworthy, and I think that most of the reds will benefit from a little time in bottle.  2014 is a blockbuster vintage, with wines that are luscious and forward, yet not lacking in tannin and structure.  Both our 2014 Cotes de Tablas and 2014 Cotes de Tablas Blanc are a part of this shipment, and I think they're the best examples of these wines we've ever made.  I can't wait to get the 2014 Esprits into bottle.  Finally, 2015 (we only tasted two wines) seems to be explosively vibrant, with intense fruit and a sweet-tart character that should be immediately appealing. 

I'll start with the classic mixed shipment, and then move on to the red-only and white-only shipments, noting which wines will be included in each.  I was joined for the tasting by Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi.  The wines:

Spring 2016 Shipment Wines

2014 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas Blanc is our showcase for the floral, lush fruit of Viognier (39%), grounded by the texture, acidity, and citrus of Grenache Blanc (29%), with Marsanne (20%) providing gentle minerality and Roussanne (12%) providing structure. The components were blended in April 2015, aged briefly in stainless steel, and bottled in June.
  • Tasting Notes: Stunning in its intensity for this bottling: honey and nectarine and spicy passion fruit on the nose, with something cooler, like wet stones.  In the mouth, it's rich and tangy, with ripe pineapple fruit lifted by orange blossom and deepened with a briny sea-spray element.  The finish is rich, long, and clean, with a creamy expansiveness that reminded me of lemon meringue.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 1250 cases

2011 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Although 2011’s spring frosts largely spared the notoriously late-sprouting Roussanne, yields were still low and these low yields combined with the unusually cool growing season to produce structured Roussanne with good acidity, suitable for aging. Knowing this, we held back a good chunk of this wine, and are releasing it to club members now. 64% Roussanne, 26% Grenache Blanc, and 10% Picpoul Blanc, aged for a year in foudre and then for 3 more years in bottle.
  • Tasting Notes: The three years in bottle have brought depth and additional substance to the classic Roussanne flavors and aromatics, and like many Roussanne-based wines it has become more aromatic with age. It's showing candied orange peel, ginger, creme brulee and lychee fruit on the nose. The mouth is savory, with green plum, grilled bread, honeydew rind, lots of mineral, and a hint of nutty oak on the long, stony  finish.  When it was released, I called it "a fascinating combination of rich and very dry". That's more true than ever now.  Drink now or continue aging for another decade.
  • Production: 2480 cases

2015 PATELIN DE TABLAS ROSÉ

  • Production Notes: Our fourth vintage of the Provencal-style dry rosé that we base on Grenache and source primarily from other vineyards with our grapevines in the ground. Always heavy on Grenache (68% this year), the wine also includes additions of zesty, vibrant Counoise (13%), rich, floral Mourvedre (11%) and for the first time, a little spicy Syrah (8%). Most of the Grenache and all the Syrah were picked for the rosé program and direct pressed upon arrival at the winery, with the balance bled off after a few hours on the skins.  It is just a shade darker than our 2014, but still pale, fresh, and clean.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty light peach color.  On the nose, explosive aromatics of nectarine, wild strawberries, grapefruit pith, and jasmine.  The mouth is rich but vibrant, with flavors of rubired grapefruit, plum, mineral, spice and rose petals.  The acids are bracing on the finish, and the wine is really long.  I can't wait to get this in front of people.  Drink now and over the next year.
  • Production: 2150 cases

2014 COTES DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas is our chance to let Grenache shine, as it does in most Chateauneuf du Pape blends. The luscious 2014 vintage led to us using a closer percentage of Grenache (44%) and Syrah (36%) than normal, to keep Grenache's generosity and fruitiness from tilting over into sappiness.  Additions of Counoise (12%) and Mourvedre (8%) added a savory earthiness to the wine, which was blended in June 2015 and aged in foudre until its bottling in February 2016.
  • Tasting Notes: Shows a deep, spicy nose for a Grenache-based wine (of course, there's a lot of Syrah in here): new leather and blackcurrant and licorice and a sweet spiciness like a clove-studded orange, all held in check by a minerality that Chelsea called "rock quarry".  The mouth is generous with chocolate-covered cherry and a minty, juniper note.  It reminded me of the best grape jelly you could ever imagine.  Beautiful chalky tannins clean things up at the end, and the finish is long, with licorice, mint, and chalky mineral notes.  Drink now and over the next decade or more.
  • Production: 1600 cases

2013 TANNAT

  • Production Notes: Our twelfth bottling of this traditional varietal from South-West France, known principally in the Pyrenees foothills appellation of Madiran, but originally native to the Basque region. Tannat typically has intense fruit, spice, and tannins that produce wines capable of long aging.  While we often blend ours with Cabernet Sauvignon, in this vintage we bottled the Cabernet separately and the wine is 100% Tannat.  We aged it in neutral demi-muids for nearly 2 years before bottling it in July 2015. 
  • Tasting Notes: On the nose, dark, savory and winey, with baker's chocolate and an iron-like bloodiness that reminded me of marinating meat with rosemary and soy.  The mouth is lusher than the nose suggests, with dark chocolate flavors, brambly black fruit, and a creamy texture.  The iron-like minerality came back out on the long finish, which also showed Tannat's signature tannins and smoky character.  A wine to watch evolve over decades.
  • Production: 720 cases

2013 PANOPLIE

  • Production Notes: As always, Panoplie is selected from lots chosen in the cellar for their richness, concentration and balance, always giving pride of place to Mourvedre's rich meatiness and firm structure. Each lot was fermented individually before being selected, blended and moved to foudre to age in July 2014.  The wine was bottled in August 2015 and has been aged in bottle in our cellars since then.  The blend is 75% Mourvèdre, 15% Grenache and 10% Syrah.
  • Tasting Notes: A nose that manages to be both brooding and inviting, with notes of pine forest and aged balsamic and cassis and meat drippings.  The mouth is luscious, with red plum, black licorice, leather, cocoa powder and cigar box flavors.  The finish is long, with big tannins enlivened by a minty lift.  A wine to wait on if you possibly can, at least in the short term, but one that should have two decades of life, easily.
  • Production: 670 cases

There were two additional wines (joining the Cotes de Tablas Blanc and Esprit de Tablas Blanc) in the white-only shipment:

2015 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our fourteenth bottling of this traditional Mediterranean varietal, known principally in Sardinia, Corsica, and Northern Italy. It is also grown in the Mediterranean parts of France (particularly Côtes de Provence) where it is known as Rolle. The Vermentino grape produces wines that are bright, clean, and crisp, with distinctive citrus character and refreshing acidity. To emphasize this freshness, we ferment and age Vermentino in stainless steel, and bottle it in screwcap. Normally a generous producer, our yields in 2015 were down by nearly 50%.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic Vermentino nose of white grapefruit, citrus leaf, and crushed rock, but then surprisingly generous and mouth-filling, like lemon-lime soda, with a briny sea spray minerality and a long, clean, luscious finish.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 575 cases.

2014 PATELIN DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Patelin is French slang for "neighborhood" and the Patelin de Tablas Blanc is our white Rhone-style blend sourced from our many great neighborhood Rhone vineyards. We base the wine on the richness and acidity of Grenache Blanc (49%), with Viognier (31%) providing lush stone fruit and floral notes, and Roussanne (12%) and Marsanne (8%) adding minerality and texture.  The wine is fermented entirely in stainless steel and then bottled young (in May 2015) to preserve its freshness.
  • Tasting Notes: The nose is very polished, with toasted marshmallow and lemongrass, honeydew, orange zest and preserved lemon.  In the mouth, the wine is luscious, with caramel apple and rose water flavors, and a little Grenache Blanc tannin that maintains order on the long, aromatic finish.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 3000 cases

Three additional reds joined the Cotes de Tablas, Panoplie, and Tannat in the red-only shipment:

2013 FULL CIRCLE

  • Production Notes: 2013 is the fourth vintage of our Full Circle Pinot Noir, grown on the small vineyard outside Robert Haas's family home in Templeton, in the cool (for Paso) Templeton Gap AVA. Its name 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. The grapes were fermented in one-ton microfermenters, punched down twice daily by hand. After pressing, the wine was moved into year-old Marcel Cadet 60-gallon barrels, for a hint of oak.  The wine stayed on its lees, stirred occasionally, for a year and a half before being blended and bottled in April 2015.
  • Tasting Notes: A classically Pinot nose of sarsaparilla, nutmeg, milk chocolate and black cherry.  In the mouth the wine is beautifully fresh and medium-bodied, with cherry cola flavors and a touch of sweet oak on the finish.  Really pretty, and (for us) a validation that we can make classic-styled Pinot Noir here in Paso Robles.  Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 310 cases

2014 PATELIN DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Patelin is French slang for "neighborhood" and the Patelin de Tablas is our red Rhone-style blend sourced from our many great neighborhood Rhone vineyards. We base the wine on the spicy savoriness of Syrah (55%), with Grenache (29%) providing juiciness and freshness, and Mourvedre (10%) and Counoise (6%) earth and structure. Fermented in a mix of upright oak fermenters and stainless steel tanks and aged in wooden uprights, it was bottled in July 2015 and aged in bottle to round into its structure.
  • Tasting Notes: A dark, Syrah-driven nose that is creamy, meaty, minerally, and a little bit wild.  A little blue fruit lurks underneath and comes out with air.  The mouth shows both Grenache and Syrah's influence, with black plum, boysenberry, chalky minerality and nice powdered sugar tannins that come out on the finish. Decant if you're drinking now, or age for up to a decade for secondary and tertiary flavors of meat and earth.
  • Production: 3500 cases

2013 SYRAH

  • Production Notes: Our first varietal bottling of Syrah since 2010.  Despite the warm 2013 vintage, the vintage proceeded largely without extreme heat spikes, and cool-loving Syrah showed both power and freshness in our blending trials.  So, we kept aside one foudre (assembled from a mix of newer and older small barrels) of our most expressive Syrah, and aged it there for a year before bottling in May of 2015.
  • Tasting notes: A dark, spicy brambly campfire wildness that is absolutely characteristic of Syrah.  There is also a marinade wineyness that seems to be 2013's signature in our red wines. The palate is vibrant with blackberry and briary spice, big tannins and a little sweet oak.  I don't think this will hit its peak for a decade or more, but it should be pretty amazing once it does. Decant in advance if drinking soon, or wait up to two decades.
  • Production: 550 cases

If you're a wine club member, you should make your reservation for our shipment tasting party, where we open all the wines in the most recent club shipment for VINsiders to try.  This spring's party will be on Sunday, April 10th.  If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join up, while there's still a chance to get this spring shipment?  Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club


En Primeur: a Tablas Creek tradition since 2003

By Lauren Phelps

Today, we were joined by many of our most enthusiastic wine club members for our annual futures tasting, which provides the first opportunity for anyone outside the cellar to taste (from barrel) our newest vintage of Esprit de Tablas and Panoplie.  

Group
Our Cellar, Newly Decorated for the Holidays

For a little background, 13 years ago we began offering wine en primeur, which is a time-honored French tradition most often associated with first-growth Bordeaux estates. In outstanding vintages, valued customers are offered the opportunity to secure a limited quantity of sought-after wines at a special price in advance of bottling and subsequent general release.

Info
The Tasting List

Our focus today was on the 2014 vintage, which we have felt since blending may turn out to be one of our best.  We showed our two top red wines from the vintage, the Esprit de Tablas and Panoplie, each of which was blended this past spring.  They have been resting in foudre until this morning's tasting, and are only about halfway through their barrel aging; they'll remain in foudre until bottling next summer.

Bottles
The Wines

Jason Haas provided a bit of context for the tasting by summarizing how 2014 compared to other recent vintages, while Viticulturist Levi Glenn and Winemaker Neil Collins dove into the details of the challenges and opportunities that 2014 presented in the vineyard and cellar.  Finally, Robert Haas shared his thoughts on how these wines have come together and express themselves, and where they may go in the future.

The 2014 vintage produced wines that are notably luscious, but with good tannins behind them. Jason compared it to 2007, a similarly intense vintage with plenty of fruit balanced by substantial but ripe tannins.  We think that the wines will be impressive young (they showed very well today) but will also be among the most ageworthy we've made.

Neil
Neil (foreground) and Levi (behind) speak to the group

Bob
Founder Robert Haas

We find that often the most interesting topics are raised by the participants in our events, and very much enjoyed the lively question and answer session that followed the vintage discussion and tasting.

Wreath
A wreath hangs on a Roussanne tank

Because we feel it is important to taste these wines both on their own and with food, we asked Chef Jeffery Scott to make a dish that would pair well with them.  He chose a coq au vin, braised in syrah, and we contributed the 2008 Esprit de Beaucastel out of our library to give guests a chance to see how a (relatively) mature version of the wine might look. [Editor's note: we're working with Chef Jeff to get the recipe, or at least a version that doesn't require a 3-day preparation of the stock, and will post it here on the blog if and when we do.]

Yum
Chef Jeffery Scott's delicious coq au vin

We hold this tasting every year, always in early December, if you're setting your calendars for next year. And if you missed the tasting,  you haven't missed your opportunity to buy the wines at their futures-only discount. Members interested in ordering wine en primeur should contact our Wine Club team no later than Monday either by email at vinsider@tablascreek.com or by phone at 805.237.1231 x36.

Mavis
Mavis


The 11th annual Tablas Creek Vineyard pig roast dinner

By: Lauren Phelps
We hosted our 11th annual Pig Roast dinner on Saturday evening, August 15th and wanted to share some of the images and a bit of information about this event.  Over 120 guests joined us for a family-style meal on our terraced patio with wines paired from our cellar.  The meal was collaboratively prepared by our very own Winemaker, Neil Collins and local Chef, Jeffery Scott

Tablas_Creek_20150815_182833_2000It was a beautiful evening, and relatively mild for August in Paso Robles.  As the sun set behind the tasting room the breeze brought in cool marine air.

Tablas_Creek_20150815_193044_2000Our very own Darren Delmore and his brother who make up the duo, The Delmore Boys set the tone with their Americana guitar tunes.

Tablas_Creek_20150815_190304_2000Many Tablas Creek team members and their families attended the event including, Neil Collins, Chelsea Franchi, Jason Haas and Nicole Getty.

Tablas_Creek_20150815_190617_2000This year, Neil roasted the 350 pound estate-grown pig for over 12 hours using a modified iron-cross roaster with oak from our property. Chef, Jeffery Scott contributed incredible appetizers and sides using locally-sourced and organic ingredients.

TABLAS CREEK PIG ROAST

SATURDAY AUGUST 15th, 2015

CHEF JEFFERY C. SCOTT

 UPON ARRIVAL

CHILLED SUMMER MELON CUPS
GINGER CRÈME FRAICHE

  TABLAS ESTATE LAMB CRUSTADE
MOROCCAN SPICES, ROSEMARY HUMMUS

DINNER FAMILY STYLE

 HEIRLOOM TOMATO & WATERMELON
FRENCH FETA, SOFT HERBS, BALSAMIC CREMA

TOASTED PEARL COUSCOUS
PINE NUTS, SULTANAS, CURRANTS, FENNEL CONFIT

SHEEP’S MILK YOGURT TATZIKI

MASON JARS OF CAPONATA

HUSH HARBOR RUSTIC BREAD

________________

 EMBER ROASTED TABLAS CREEK ESTATE PIG

AMARETTO-APRICOT GLACÈ

 LOO LOO FARMS GARDEN PAELLA
PORCINI STOCK, LINGUICA, ROMESCO

 CUMIN GLAZED CARROTS & CHARRED SUMMER SQUASH
ROASTED GARLIC, LOCAL GOAT CHEESE, LEMON THYME

______________

BLUEBERRY-PEACH COBBLER

OLIVE OIL GELATO, CINNAMON BASIL

Tablas_Creek_20150815_184259_2000

We paired the meal with the 2014 Grenache Blanc, our 2014 Dianthus, the newly released 2013 Mourvedre and our flagship red wine, the 2011 Esprit de Tablas, that we brought up from the library.

Tablas_Creek_20150815_194257_20003

We'd like to thank all of the guests who joined us and invite you to view additional photos by Patrick Ibarra Photography on our Pig Roast Dinner Flickr Album

Also, we are thrilled to announce that the Cooking Channel's, Man Fire Food will be airing an episode on September 15th highlighting our pig roast dinners! We're really looking forward to watching it.

The date for the 2016 pig roast has not been set yet and we recommend periodically checking our Upcoming Events page for more details.  We give priority invitation to our wine club members and seating is very limited.


Tasting the Wines in the Fall 2015 VINsider Club Shipments

Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club.  In others, the club gets a first look at wines that may see a later national release.  And with each shipment, we reintroduce ourselves to these wines (which, in some cases, we may not have tasted since before bottling) with a tasting that we use to write the notes that will be included in the club shipments.  I opened the wines this afternoon with Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi, and thought that readers of the blog would be interested in what we found.

We base the fall shipments around the newest releases of the Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc, and this fall's shipment is no exception. One difference, though, is that this year we reached back into our library to include not just the newest 2013 Esprit de Tablas, but also a bottle of the 2011 Esprit de Tablas that has been showing so well recently.  I'm excited to hear the feedback that we get.  

Finally, one quick note, before the notes on the wines.  This tasting convinced me even more strongly that the 2013 and 2014 vintages are the best back-to-back vintages we've ever made: both showing remarkable intensity, but with different personalities. The 2013's are savory and darkly spiced, with great tension, while the lusher 2014's still retain a core of acidity that keeps them in balance.

The classic shipment included six different wines:

Classic

2014 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: 2014 was a great year for Grenache Blanc, with intensity from our third year of drought but with the characteristic bright acids of the vintage. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose lots that were fermented in stainless steel (for brightness) and foudre (for roundness), then blended and bottled in the summer of 2015.
  • Tasting Notes: An immensely inviting nose of green apple and nuts, sea spray, caramel and crushed rocks. The mouth is rich but buoyed with vibrant acids, showing more fresh apple, lychee, preserved lemon, and a lovely briny note.  The finish is long, smooth, and refreshing, showing lime zest, nectarine, and more minerality.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 950 cases.
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2013 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: As our drought stretched into its second vintage, we pre-emptively cut back our crop levels, giving all our 2013's an extra level of concentration.  For the Esprit Blanc, this showed most dramatically in a powerful, structured Roussanne component.  To that, we added Grenache Blanc for sweet spice and openness, and Picpoul Blanc for floral aromatics and saline freshness. The final blend was 71% Roussanne (fermented primarily in foudre), 21% Grenache Blanc (from foudre and stainless steel) and 8% Picpoul (from neutral barrels). As we had done in 2012, we let the blend age in foudre through the subsequent harvest before bottling it in February 2015 and aging it an additional 8 months in bottle before release.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep-toned nose of lacquered wood, peach pit, and butterscotch: absolutely Roussanne, richly layered, with an intriguing tarragon-like high note that emerged with air.  The mouth is more tightly wound than the nose initially suggests, with a rich texture, flavors of grilled peach, clove and allspice.  The finish opens back up, with nectarine, citrus blossom and a little sweet oak.  Impressive now, it should also go out 15 years or more and gain additional nuttiness and complexity with time.
  • Production: 2200 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2013 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: 2013's lower crop levels produced Grenache with deeper, lusher flavors than usual, but the unusually large diurnal temperature shifts also provided good freshness.  Harvested mostly in September, Grenache lots were fermented in upright wooden and closed stainless steel fermenters, then moved to neutral barrels. The lots were selected and blended in May 2014, aged a year in a mix of foudre and neutral barrels, and bottled in April 2015.
  • Tasting notes: A pretty garnet color, with an appealing nose of surprisingly dark fruit for the usually red-fruited Grenache: black raspberry, plum, black pepper, sweet spice and milk chocolate.  The mouth shows redder than the nose and is nicely balanced between sweeter and more savory flavors, with wild strawberry, new leather, and a little welcome mintiness.  Good acids and youthful Grenache tannins hold everything together, and it all smooths out and shows more red fruit and chocolate on the finish.  Drink now or for the next fifteen years.
  • Production: 670 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2013 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: Our sixth En Gobelet, a non-traditional blend all from head-trained, dry-farmed blocks, and mostly from the 12-acre block we call Scruffy Hill, planted in 2005 and 2006 to be a self-sufficient field blend.  In this warm, dry year, our head-trained vineyards thrived, and in fact showed less decline in yields than our irrigated blocks.  After several years of co-fermenting the components from Scruffy Hill, in 2013 we kept most separate to preserve our options in blending, and then included them in trials with our two blocks of head-trained Tannat, valuable for its chalky tannins and deep flavors. The final blend was 34% Grenache, 31% Mourvedre, 19% Syrah, 11% Counoise and 5% Tannat.  It was aged in foudre and bottled in April 2015.
  • Tasting Notes: A deeply spiced, minty, polished nose of black cherry, crushed rock and plum, with a tangy marinade-like element bringing lift.  The mouth is rich and deeply savory, with chalky tannins cloaking blackberry and black cherry fruit, a spicy sage note, and a long finish showing mouth-coating, brambly fruit.  Should be fascinating to watch age. Drink now and for the next two decades.
  • Production: 580 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2013 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Like all the 2013 reds, the Esprit de Tablas shows the results of the vintage's combination of intensity from drought-reduced yields and generosity from the classic Californian vintage.  The comparative lushness of the year again convinced us to shift the blend toward the dark, smoky, savoriness of Syrah as opposed to the open juiciness of Grenache.  Still, Esprit is as usual led by the red fruit, earth and mocha of 40% Mourvèdre, with additions of 28% Syrah, 22% Grenache and 10% Counoise. The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for the Esprit, blended and aged a year in foudre before bottling in August 2015.
  • Tasting Notes: For me, this wine was immediately evocative of Beaucastel on the nose: deep and meaty, with wild blackberries, currants, mint, and a spicy note that Chelsea nailed as cumin.  On the palate, the wine shows wonderfully lifted red fruit (plum, and more currant) with a leathery, mocha richness behind it that is characteristic of Mourvedre in a great year. The long, savory finish shows a cedary, smoky spice over the fruit, like wild berries harvested on campout while the meat is grilling.  We recommend that you hold the 2013 Esprit for a few months, then drink either between 2016 and 2018 or 2022-2040.
  • Production: 3700 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

2011 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Like all the 2011 reds, the components that went into the Esprit de Tablas were concentrated by the vintage's spring frosts and then given acidity by one of the coolest years in our history. Upon release, the wine was medium-weight and dominated by an iron-like core, but in the intervening two years that core has opened and is now showing a creamy generosity while still preserving its dark, savory character.  2011 Esprit was as usual based on Mourvèdre (40%), while a relatively high percentage of Grenache (30%) brought rich mouthfeel, glycerin and a refreshing acidity, Syrah (20%) provided black fruit and mineral and Counoise (10%) added vibrancy and brambly fruit. The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for the Esprit, blended and aged a year in foudre before being bottled in June 2013.  The bottles have aged in our cellars ever since.
  • Tasting Notes: Fun to taste after the youthful 2013, the nose shows as deep and plush, with a soy and squid ink darkness over a minty, black raspberry base.  The mouth has developed an appealing integration over the last two years in bottle, with a noteworthy creamy texture, a saline iron-like firmness, and generous but very dark-toned fruit, like blackberry preserves.  The finish shows savory and meaty, like the drippings from a steak that has been prepared with a salty dry rub.  Drink over the next year or so, or hold until 2018 and drink over the next two decades.
  • Production: 4000 cases
  • List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48

There were two additional wines (joining the Esprit de Tablas Blanc and Grenache Blanc) in the white-only shipment:

Whites

2014 MARSANNE

  • Production Notes: The 2014 Tablas Creek Vineyard Marsanne is just our fourth varietal bottling of Marsanne, the noble white grape of France's Hermitage appellation. We use most of our Marsanne in our Cotes de Tablas Blanc each year. However, in 2014 we felt that the Marsanne was so complete and compelling, and so representative of the Marsanne grape, that we selected out one small lot, fermented in foudre, for a single-varietal bottling.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty pale gold color, with a surprisingly tropical nose of fresh pineapple and lychee, baked apples, lemongrass and wet rocks.  The mouth is pretty and composed, notably saline, with apple skin and candied lemon peel flavors that soften and broaden into a long, gentle finish with echoes of soft minerality.  We thought it quite gorgeous, and that it should drink well for at least the next five years, likely longer.
  • Production: 300 cases
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2014 PICPOUL BLANC

  • Production Notes: The 2014 Picpoul Blanc is our eighth bottling of this traditional Southern Rhône varietal, used in Châteauneuf du Pape as a blending component, and best known from the crisp light green wines of the Pinet Region in the Languedoc. On its own, it shows the vibrant acids for which it is valued, balanced by a tropical lushness from the generous Paso Robles climate.  We ferment it in a mix of stainless steel and neutral barrels, and use the majority of our production for our Esprit de Tablas Blanc, while reserving a small quantity for this varietal bottling.  The Picpoul was blended in April 2015, and bottled in June 2015.
  • Tasting Notes: A mostly savory nose of watermelon rind, dried pineapple, green herbs, white flowers and lemon peel.  The mouth is exuberant by comparison, richly tangy with pineapple juice and sweet baking spices, bright acids, and saline minerality, with a long finish of fresh mango and crushed rocks.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 350 cases
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

One additional red joined the GrenacheEn Gobelet, and the two Esprit de Tablas vintages in the red-only shipment:

Reds

2013 MOURVEDRE

  • Production Notes: Mourvedre is the one red varietal that we try to bottle on its own each year, partly because it is our most planted grape (and plays the lead role in our Esprit de Tablas) but equally because we think it is a wonderful grape that has an undeserved reputation as "just a blending variety".  The 2013 vintage and our second year of drought emphasized Mourvedre's savory darkness.  We ferment it in large wooden fermenters, then move it to neutral barrels to await blending.  The Mourvedre was blended from selected lots in the spring of 2014, then aged in foudre until bottling in April of 2015.
  • Tasting Notes: Absolutely characteristic of Mourvedre's tension between deeper and more high-toned elements, with aromas of black currant, leather, meat drippings, bittersweet chocolate, and rose petals.  On the mouth, tangy and nicely balanced between sweet and savory, with plum skin, cocoa powder, leather, baking spices, and an appealing burst of acidity on the finish to clean everything up.  Still a baby.  Open a bottle now, if you'd like, but expect it to really shine between 2020 and 2030.
  • Production: 690 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

If you're a wine club member, you should make your reservation for our shipment tasting party, where we open all the wines in the most recent club shipment for VINsiders to try.  This fall's party will be on Sunday, October 4th.  If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join up, while there's still a chance to get this fall shipment?  Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club


Introducing the wines for the 2015 Collector's Edition shipment

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:

CE Wines 2015

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.


Checking in on the 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel

The 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel is our highest-rated Esprit to date.  It got mid-90s ratings from Robert Parker, Stephen Tanzer, and the Rhone Report, and capped off its year by being named the Wine Spectator's #33 wine of 2010.  And we sold most of what we had, fast.  We typically keep two year's supply of our Esprit red for our tasting room, so we can show two different vintages to people.  Because of its ratings, and because it was so showy, we sold our two years' worth in one year.  And I understand why: it was luscious and powerful, with big tannins cloaked by generous fruit and an underlying meaty wildness that kept the wine from coming across as either simple or sweet.  I'm sure much of it was drunk within a few months of when it was purchased, and enjoyed.

Our Esprit wines have two drinking windows in which we think they are best enjoyed: a window around 3-5 years after the vintage date, when some of the youthful rambunctiousness has had a chance to calm down a touch, but when the wine is still big, juicy, and primary.  Then there is a second window, typically in the 8-12 year range, where the wine's tannins have softened, the texture has opened up, secondary characteristics of meat and earth have developed, and the fruit tone has deepened.

You will have noticed that there is a gap in between these two drinking windows, when the wine's tannins are still strong, but the cloaking fruit has receded a bit, and the wine can come across as closed. I've written about this closed phase on the blog, comparing it to being in its teenage years.  Not all wines, and not even all of our red wines, go through this phase, but the Esprit red nearly always does. How long it spends in this phase depends on several factors, but tends to be longest for the wines that were the most powerful to start with.  This variability is why we recommend that customers bookmark our vintage chart (updated every few months) and why we don't put much stock in predetermining specific drinking windows upon release.

It's been a few years now that we've been waiting for the 2007 Esprit to come out of its closed phase. Yesterday, I opened it, along with some other nearby vintages, as a part of the tasting we do each summer to determine which wines we'll send out to members of the VINsider Wine Club "Collector's Edition".  I had been hoping that this 2007 would be ready to go, but it wasn't to be.  It had smoothed out greatly since the same tasting last year, but still had a shortness and blockiness on the finish that suggested to us that it will greatly benefit from another year of patience.

I thought I'd share my notes, both to give a sense of where it's at now, and to explain why we think that patience is recommended.  The wine:

Esprit07

Tasting Notes (5/28/15): A classic 2007 Esprit nose of hung meat, baking spices, dark red fruit, menthol and leather.  The mouth is still massive and thick with fruit, with big tannins.  Currant and plum (dark red fruits) predominate over a creamy texture that masks some of the complexity it will have. The tannins build in the wine, and clip the finish.  The wine opened significantly with time in the glass (a decant is highly recommended if you're drinking it now) but never lost that clipped character, or the thickness of texture.  Check back in another six months, but expect to enjoy for two more decades.

My notes, I hope, explain what someone who opens it now is likely to get: not a bad wine, but a wine that is less than it will be.

What will the wines be that we chose for the 2015 Collector's Edition shipment? Stay tuned!

 


Tasting the wines in the spring 2015 VINsider Wine Club shipments

Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club.  In others, the club gets a first look at a wine that may see a later national release.  An important pre-shipment event for us is the in-house tasting that we conduct, about 6 weeks before the club shipments will be sent out, to help us write the tasting and production notes that will be included in the club shipments.  This tasting is often our first post-bottling introduction to wines that we'll come to know intimately in coming weeks and months.  This time around, because these shipments include four wines that aren't yet even bottled (they will be next week), I found this get-to-know-you process particularly informative. My main take home message: that the 2013 and 2014 vintages are the best back-to-back vintages we've seen in our history.

This spring's classic shipment is as usual anchored by the Panoplie, our elite wine, dominated by Mourvedre and made from the most compelling, ageworthy lots in the cellar. To that, we've added three varietal wines: two white (2014 Vermentino and 2013 Grenache Blanc) and one red (2012 Tannat), as well as the newest vintage of our rich, vibrant Mourvedre-based Dianthus rosé, and perhaps the most surprising wine of the tasting for me: our 2013 Cotes de Tablas, led by Grenache.

I was joined for the tasting by my dad, and by our winemakers Neil Collins and Chelsea Franchi.  First, our notes from the classic (mixed) shipment:

Spring 2015 Classic

2014 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our thirteenth bottling of this traditional Mediterranean varietal, known principally in Sardinia, Corsica, and Northern Italy. It is also grown in the Mediterranean parts of France (particularly Côtes de Provence) where it is known as Rolle. The Vermentino grape produces wines that are bright, clean, and crisp, with distinctive citrus character and refreshing acidity. To emphasize this freshness, we ferment and age Vermentino in stainless steel, and bottle it in screwcap.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic chalky citrus leaf Vermentino nose, but then surprisingly mouth-filling, long and creamy, but with lots of great savory flavors of citrus pith, saline and wet stone. Great acids on the finish.  Really nice, and classic for the Vermentino grape.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 1000 cases.

2013 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: 2013 was a great year for Grenache Blanc, with solid quantity and remarkable quality concentrated by a second year of drought. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose lots that were fermented in stainless steel (for brightness) and foudre (for roundness), then blended and bottled in the summer of 2014.
  • Tasting Notes: Solid and rich on the nose, with quince, baking spices, crystallized ginger and orange marmalade,  elevated by a nice citrus blossom character. The mouth is broad and rich, with a touch of Grenache Blanc's signature tannin providing structure on the finish. The flavors were rich and broad, then clean: mimosa, lemon peel and anise. My dad called it "bracing" and "bold" which both seemed right on to me.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 700 cases.

2014 DIANTHUS

  • Production Notes: Our estate rosé is now in the third year under its Dianthus name, chosen for a family of plants with deep-pink flowers. A style between that of Tavel (deeper pink, based on Grenache) and Bandol (less skin contact, based on Mourvedre) this year's blend is heavy on Grenache, for us, at 46% Mourvèdre, 41% Grenache and 13% Counoise. The core of the Dianthus comes from a co-fermented lot from our nursery block, planted in 1994, supplemented by saignées (bleedings) from other Mourvèdre and Grenache lots. This is a deeply colored, flavorful rosé that shows the richness of the classic 2014 vintage. After roughly 24 hours on the skins, the fermentation was completed in stainless steel, and bottled in February 2015.
  • Tasting Notes: A gorgeous color, like fresh-pressed strawberry juice. The nose shows strawberries too (maybe that's why I thought of the color), watermelon, plum and rose petal. The mouth is rich, with great acids and a powerful floral jasmine element. The finish is long and clean. A rosé to convert people who think that pink wines can't be serious.  Drink before the end of 2016.
  • Production: 1600 cases

2013 COTES DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas is our chance to let Grenache shine, as it does in most Chateauneuf du Pape blends. 2013's drought-reduced yields and moderate growing season produced standout Grenache: juicy and powerful, but not sappy or candied. We blended 55% Grenache with 30% Syrah (for firm tannins, minerality and spice), 10% Counoise (for freshness and brambly wildness) and 5% Mourvedre (for earth and ageability). The wine was blended in June 2014 and aged in foudre until its bottling in February 2015.
  • Tasting Notes: We heard murmurs of "oh, boy" when people stuck their noses in this. An explosive minty nose of blueberry, licorice, black plum and pepper. There's powerful fruit on the front palate, then firming up with great tannins on the back. There's a luxurious texture, with nice granular tannins and a minty garrigue cooling and lingering on the finish. Just, wow. Neil declared it "as good a Cotes as we've ever made". I think he's understating things; I think it's the best. It's wonderful now, and I know much of it will be drunk in coming months, but I think it's got a decade of development.
  • Production: 1580 cases

2012 PANOPLIE

  • Production Notes: As always, Panoplie is selected from lots chosen in the cellar for their richness, concentration and balance, always heaviest on Mourvedre's rich meatiness and firm structure. Each lot was fermented individually before being selected, blended and moved to foudre to age in July 2013.  The wine was bottled in August 2014 and has been aged in bottle in our cellars since then.  The blend is 70% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache and 10% Syrah.
  • Tasting Notes: Rich, deep and meaty on the nose, cassis and new leather, with a wonderful note of violets that I found captivating.  The mouth is textured, Mourvedre's signature rare steak character on the front-palate, then elegant and minerally in the mid-palate, showing cocoa powder and loam, with more currants and plums on the finish. A poised and approachable Panoplie, much more so than usual at this stage, more about elegance than sheer power, but that balance and the high percentage of Mourvedre should combine to give it two decades of life.
  • Production: 650 cases

2012 TANNAT

  • Production Notes: our ninth bottling of this traditional varietal from South-West France, known principally in the Pyrenees foothills appellation of Madiran, but originally native to the Basque region. Tannat typically has intense fruit, spice, and tannins that produce wines capable of long aging, and it is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon (in this vintage, 9%) to bring a hint of minty lift. 
  • Tasting Notes: Easily the darkest wine on the table, a luminescent black-red. The aromas are nearly all savory: iron, tobacco, squid ink and wild herbs. Neil called it "the crusty end of a rib roast". On the palate, more bramble and underbrush, iron and dry-aged steak, black fig and baker's chocolate. The finish shows Tannat's signature tannins, smoke and mineral. A wine to watch evolve over decades.
  • Production: 1000 cases

There were three additional wines (joining the Vermentino and Grenache Blanc) in the white-only shipment:

Spring 2015 White

2013 MARSANNE

  • Production Notes: The 2013 Tablas Creek Vineyard Marsanne is just our third varietal bottling of Marsanne, the noble white grape of France's Hermitage appellation. We use most of our Marsanne in our Cotes de Tablas Blanc each year. However, in 2013 we felt that the Marsanne was so complete and compelling, and so representative of the Marsanne grape, that we selected out one small lot, fermented in foudre for the first time, for a single-varietal bottling.
  • Tasting Notes: We worried that the often-subtle Marsanne would suffer after tasting the Tannat, but needn't have. The nose showed vibrant aromas of quince paste, clover honey and newly-laid straw. On the palate, an absolutely classic Marsanne, with preserved lemon, wheat, mineral and honeydew melon, great texture and a hint of tannin on the finish. Quite gorgeous, we all thought.  Should drink well for the next five years, maybe longer.
  • Production: 235 cases

2013 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas Blanc is our showcase for the floral, lush fruit of Viognier, given texture, acidity and restraint by the good acids and citrus of Grenache Blanc, and by the gentle minerality of Marsanne. The resulting blend is 39% Viognier, 29% Grenache Blanc, 20% Marsanne and 12% Roussanne, all aged in stainless steel.
  • Tasting Notes: Open-knit, compared to the Marsanne, with pear and nectarine and minty savory note that we variously identified as tarragon and key lime. The mouth was initially rich: peaches and cream from the Viognier, but bright and with nice minerality on the finish. Clean and compelling.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 1250 cases

2013 ROUSSANNE

  • Production Notes: 2013’s combination of intensity and juiciness was kind to the powerful and sometimes austere Roussanne grape, bringing lushness and openness to complement its characteristic structured profile. We fermented the Roussanne lots that were selected for our varietal bottling roughly 50% in foudre, 35% in small, older neutral oak barrels, and 15% in new demi-muids. The selected lots were blended in April 2014 then aged through the subsequent harvest before bottling in February 2015.
  • Tasting Notes: Not yet bottled, the 2013 Roussanne was the second vintage of our 100% Roussanne that we aged in foudre through the subsequent harvest, and we agreed that like the 2012, this wine showed the benefits of that longer elevage. Aromas of beeswax, lacquered wood, white flowers and yellow pear, with rich, broad flavors of honey and pear, some nicely integrated sweet oak, and a long, rich, slightly spicy finish. Appealing in its youth (moreso than many vintages of our Roussanne) but should also develop over the next decade.
  • Production: 700 cases

Two additional reds joined the Cotes de Tablas, Panoplie, and Tannat in the red-only shipment:

Spring 2015 Red

2013 PATELIN DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Patelin is French slang for "neighborhood" and the Patelin de Tablas is our wine sourced from our many great neighborhood Rhone vineyards. We base the wine on the spicy savoriness of Syrah, with Grenache providing juiciness and freshness, Mourvedre structure, and just a dash of Counoise. Fermented in a mix of upright oak fermenters and stainless steel tanks and aged in foudre and stainless steel, it was bottled in July 2014 and aged in bottle to round into its structure.
  • Tasting Notes: An appealing nose of chocolate, cherry, cranberry, mint and graphite, balanced between Syrah's savoriness and Grenache's juiciness. It's fresh, juicy and friendly on the palate, with Grenache's signature purple fruit and Syrah's minerality and spice. Some nice chalky tannins on the finish frame the wine and suggest that for all its approachability, it will develop additional complexity over the next 5+ years.
  • Production: 5900 cases

2012 FULL CIRCLE

  • Production Notes: 2012 is the third vintage of our Full Circle Pinot Noir, grown on the small vineyard outside Robert Haas's family home in Templeton, in the cool (for Paso) newly-approved Templeton Gap AVA. Its name 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. The grapes were fermented in one-ton microfermenters, punched down twice daily by hand. After pressing, the wine was moved into year-old Marcel Cadet 60-gallon barrels, for a hint of oak.  The wine stayed on its lees, stirred occasionally, for a year and a half before being blended and bottled in April 2014.
  • Tasting Notes: The nose is smoky red cherry, with leather, milk chocolate, and chaparral. The mouth is dark and compelling (Chelsea called it "sultry" and "jazz lounge") with nice grippy tannins that clean up the richness and suggest a good life ahead. Sun and forest and fresh berries: a great warm climate expression of Pinot Noir. Drink over the coming decade.
  • Production: 350 cases

If you're a wine club member, you should make your reservation for our shipment tasting party, where we open all the wines in the most recent club shipment for VINsiders to try.  This spring's party will be on Sunday, April 9th.  If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join up, while there's still a chance to get this spring shipment?  Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club


Tasting the wines in the fall 2014 VINsider Club shipment

Every six months, we send out a six-bottle shipment of wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  The fall shipment is the showcase for our signature wines, and is highlighted by the newest vintages of our Esprit and Esprit Blanc.  That's no different this year.  But this is the first shipment we've sent out entirely made up of wines from the classic, generous 2012 and 2013 vintages.  And if my pre-tasting of these wines is any indication, everyone is in for a treat.

The 2012 Esprit de Tablas and 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc are joined in this shipment by two varietal wines: the 2013 Vermentino, particularly bright and crisp this year, and the 2012 Grenache, with its classic freshness and high-toned, spicy fruit.  Finally, we included the remarkable 2012 En Gobelet made entirely from head-trained, dry-farmed vineyard blocks of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise and Tannat. Note that there are only five different wines because club members get two bottles of the 2012 Esprit de Tablas.

I opened the shipment's wines today to draft the tasting and production notes that will be included in the shipment, which will leave the winery the week of September 22nd. Readers of the blog, as usual, get a preview.

Fall 2014 classic shipment

2013 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our twelfth bottling of this traditional Mediterranean varietal, known principally in Sardinia, Corsica, and Northern Italy. It is also grown in the Mediterranean parts of France (particularly Côtes de Provence) where it is known as Rolle. The Vermentino grape produces wines that are bright, clean, and crisp, with distinctive citrus character and refreshing acidity. To emphasize this freshness, we ferment and age Vermentino in stainless steel, and bottle it in screwcap.
  • Tasting Notes: a zesty, citrusy nose that also includes the fresh green herbs and pronounced minerality characteristic of Vermentino. In the mouth, an initial impression of richness quickly turns crisp, with great acids, just a hint of tropical fruit, and a long, bright, meyer lemon/key lime finish. Classic Vermentino. Drink now and for the next 2-3 years.
  • Production: 900 cases
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2012 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: 2012 provided a warm contrast to the cold vintages of 2010-2011, giving Roussanne generous fruit to go with its spice, structure and flavors of honey and pear skin.  This unusual friendliness allowed us to use more Roussanne than usual in our Esprit Blanc, adding just enough Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc to lift the aromatics and the acidity slightly, and bring in a hint of sweet spice.  We blended 75% Roussanne (fermented primarily in foudre) with 20% Grenache Blanc and 5% Picpoul, then for the first time let the blend age in foudre through the next harvest before bottling it in December and aging it an additional 10 months in bottle before release.
  • Tasting Notes: An inviting nose of preserved lemon, panna cotta, green pear, buttered toast, anise and wet rocks. The mouth is rich but dry, with flavors of butterscotch, apple pie, marmalade, candied pineapple and ginger, and gentle acids keeping things clean. The long finish is luscious and spicy with lingering flavors of peach pit, gingersnap and mineral. Absolutely delicious now, so don't feel bad about opening one soon. But it you want to age it, we expect it to go out 15 years or more and to gain nuttiness and complexity with time.
  • Production: 2465 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2012 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: 2012's generous crop levels and warm temperatures combined to produce Grenache that tends toward red fruit and sweet spices, but the unusually large diurnal temperature shifts also provided long hangtime, gradual ripening and good acidity.  Harvested between late September and late October, Grenache lots were fermented in upright wooden and closed stainless steel fermenters, then moved to neutral barrels. The lots were selected and blended in May 2013, aged a year in a mix of foudre and stainless steel, and bottled in May 2014.
  • Tasting notes: A clear garnet color, with a clean, minty, lifted nose of mineral and wild strawberries. In the mouth it shows both richness and freshness, with flavors of cherry and red licorice, crushed rock, and sweet spice. Vibrant acids and Grenache's classic front-palate tannins keep the long finish fresh, with lingering flavors of cherry pit and cocoa powder. Drink now or for the next fifteen years.
  • Production: 1050 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2012 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: Our fifth En Gobelet, a non-traditional blend all from head-trained, dry-farmed blocks, and mostly from the 12-acre block we call Scruffy Hill and planted in 2005 and 2006 to be a self-sufficient field blend.  In this warm, dry year, our head-trained Grenache thrived, and in fact produced more fruit than the rest of the acreage combined, producing a blend of 63% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 11% Syrah, 8% Counoise and 6% Tannat.  We co-fermented the components from Scruffy Hill, then blended in head-trained Tannat from near our tractor barn for its dark color, smoky, spicy flavors and firm tannins. It was aged in foudre and bottled in July 2014.
  • Tasting Notes: An exuberantly appealing nose: minty, meaty and spicy, with strawberry and red currant, tobacco and sweet spice. In the mouth it is rich, tangy and mouth-filling, darker than the nose suggests, with chewy tannins, chocolate and grape flavors, and good grip. The finish is exceptionally long, with chalky minerality and dark red fruit. Delicious now, but with the stuffing and balance to age. Drink now and for the next two decades.
  • Production: 950 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2012 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Like all the 2012 reds, the Esprit de Tablas shows the results of the vintage's classic combination of healthy yields, warm temperatures, high diurnal variation, and beautiful weather at harvest.  The generous fruit character of the Mourvedre and Grenache resulted in us using more of the dark, smoky, savory Syrah grape than we have in years, to bring structure and seriousness to the resulting blend. Still, Esprit is as usual led by the red fruit, earth and mocha of 40% Mourvèdre, with additions of 30% Syrah, 21% Grenache and 9% Counoise. The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for the Esprit, blended and aged a year in foudre before being bottled in July 2014.
  • Tasting Notes: The nose is winey and serious, with aromas of blackberry, mint chocolate, aged balsamic, Worcestershire and red licorice. The palate is long and complex, with flavors of black raspberry, plum compote and leather, and Mourvedre's signature flavors of cassis, black tea and roasted meat. The wine's tannins come out on the long finish. We recommend that you hold the 2012 Esprit for a few months, then drink either between 2015 and 2017 or 2020-2040.
  • Production: 4600 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44