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:
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
- 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, 26% 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 2014, aged in foudre and bottled in April 2015.
- 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:
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:
- 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