Introducing the wines for the 2014 Collector's Edition shipment

Each June, I have the pleasure of tasting through our library vintages of Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, with the goal of choosing the wines for the VINsider Wine Club Collector's Edition shipment in September.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Collector's Edition, we created it in 2009 to give members a chance to acquire our flagship wines with some age on them, and it's been a great success, generating a waiting list each year since we started it.  We will be adding people on our waiting list to the Collector's Edition next week, subject to available space.  This is done based in the order in which people joined the waiting list; our current wait time is just over a year.  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.

In last year's Collector's Edition shipment, we chose to feature both Esprits from 2006.  This year, we'll use the 2005 Esprit red, and move to the 2008 Esprit Blanc.  Why the move back in vintage for the red, and up in vintage for the white?  The 2007 red didn't taste to me like it was quite ready.  It's still tight, laced with iron, with big tannins that seem to me like they need another year to resolve.  That's often the case for our most substantial vintages; they spend longer in each stage: youth, where they're exuberant and juicy, with big tannins cloaked by lush fruit; in middle-age, where some of the baby fat has faded and the tannins stand out more; and in maturity, where the tannins have softened and come back into balance with the fruit, and the wine has developed secondary flavors of leather and roasted meat.  These flavors are in full evidence in the 2005, as you'll see in the tasting notes below.  The 2007 white, on the other hand, was so luscious that we included it in our Collector's Edition shipment back in 2011, and we don't have enough left to include again.  So, the 2008 was next in line, and it will be a treat.
 
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:

Collectors Edition Bottles 2014

My tasting notes:

2008 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc: Shows a deep, rich nose of grilled bread, marzipan, menthol, butterscotch, sage and terragon.  The mouth shows powerful flavors of creme brulee, apricot, clove and marmalade.  The finish is long and creamy, with peach pit and saline mineral.  The wine's flavors broadened steadily as it sat in the glass, and I recommend a decant if you're enjoying it now.  If you're considering stashing this in your cellar, my feeling is that it's got a decade ahead of it still.

2005 Esprit de Beaucastel: A richly savory nose of leather, grilled meat, dark red fruit, mint and iron. In the mouth the wine is firm and spicy, with juiciness building through the mid-palate and flavors of blackberry, garrigue, and crushed rock.  The wine is meaty, rich, and very dry, with tannins that have softened but are still substantial, though I felt them more on the attack right now than on the very long finish, which showed an appealing chalkiness and notable refinement.  This wine, like the white, would also benefit from a decant if you're drinking it now, and should be at the front end of a peak drinking window that will last 15 years or more.


Why we haven't offered red-only and white-only options for wine club members... and why we're doing it now

We're not big on change.  OK, maybe that's me.  I'm not big on change.  So the fact that we're making what amounts to our first major change to our VINsider Wine Club since we introduced it in 2002 is significant.  After several years of internal debate, we've decided to offer VINsider members not only our classic mixed shipment of wines, but also red-only and white-only options starting this fall.

I know; it shouldn't be this big a deal.  Most wineries have offered these options for years.  But I've always been reluctant, for a couple of reasons. 

  • A "show of confidence" in our whites. I think that we, more than most wineries, focus equally on our reds and whites, and that offering only a mixed-color shipments is in effect a vote of confidence in the breadth of our options, particularly the whites.
  • A reluctance to give up control.  Growing grapes in an environment like Paso Robles, with its regular cycles of drought and its frequent spring frosts, means that our own production can vary widely from vintage to vintage, and it's been great knowing that we're able to -- using a real-world example -- offer an extra red from 2010 in our fall 2012 and spring 2013 shipments shipment because our whites from 2011 were short. 
  • We already have our VINdependent Wine Club, which should fill this need. Our VINdependent Wine Club allows members total flexibility to buy whatever they want, with a minimum 6-bottle annual commitment (albeit at a somewhat lower discount). And it's been very successful.  Last year, we signed up nearly 1000 members to this club, and have roughly 2000 active members.
  • I was worried about breadth. I'm always concerned that we have a compelling selection of wines for our club members, and it's already a challenge making 11 different wines a year in 500-case quantities (11 rather than 12 because we include 2 bottles of the newest vintage of Esprit red each fall).  For red-only and white-only clubs, doubling the quantity of a shipment with 3 reds is an option (as you see below) but what do you do for a white-only shipment when your standard shipment has 4 reds and 2 whites, as we will this fall?  Including 3 bottles of each of just 2 wines didn't seem to me like a particularly exciting thing to do.

So why are we doing it now?  A couple of reasons. 

  • Listening to our customers.  Every few years we survey the VINsiders who have canceled their membership, trying to probe on how we can do better.  In general, the survey responses are gratifying; nearly all cancel because of external circumstances: they moved to a non-shipping state, or they had a personal or professional setback that required them to cut back on their discretionary purchases, or they had health issues that required a change in lifestyle.  Most of these say they look forward to rejoining when they are able, and our data supports that: of the roughly 1600 new registrations we received last year for our VINsider Wine Club, nearly 10% (137) were previous members.  But there is a consistent minority in these surveys who say that they just don't drink either whites or reds, and it was a burden for them to have to pay for the color of wines they don't enjoy.  And I get that.  I happen to love both reds and whites, and probably drink both colors more or less equally, depending on what I'm eating at the time, but I know not everyone is the same.
  • We have more variety to offer now.  We made a conscious choice in the last vintage to make a little less of our core blends, particularly the Cotes de Tablas, and a little more of our estate varietal and small-production wines, so as to have more -- and more interesting -- selections to send to our club members and to show to the visitors who come out to our tasting room.  This change gives us options we didn't have before.
  • We realized that the VINdependent Wine Club was (compared to the VINsider Club) a lot of work.  This club, which we created about 5 years ago to satisfy customers who were excited about Tablas Creek but who didn't fit, for whatever reason, into the VINsider Club, is to my knowledge the only one of its kind in California.  As long as VINdependent members buy 6 bottles at any point in the calendar year, they satisfy their annual commitment and don't receive a prepackaged shipment.  They can choose those 6 bottles however they want... some (probably the largest segment, around one-third) only buy reds, or whites.  Others just buy our flagship wines.  Others want a smaller commitment, or live in a non-shipping state but visit Paso Robles once a year, or just don't want anyone else to choose their selection.  But, as the end of the year approaches, because we don't make automatic shipments, there is always a portion (typically around 30%) of our roughly 2000 VINdependents who haven't made their annual purchase yet, and in some cases may not have purchased since early the previous year.  A lot can happen in 18 months, and we spend much of December emailing and calling them to ascertain what they'd like.  Some we're never able to get ahold of, which has made the annual cancellation rate among our VINdependents about 50% higher than that of our VINsider Club.  If we can take that red-only and white-only customers -- most of whom only signed up for the VINdependent club because we didn't have another red-only or white-only club when they visited -- and bring them into our VINsider Club, that seems compelling.  Everyone wins: members get a better discount and more convenience, while we sell a little more wine, more predictably, and retain our members at a higher rate.

Without further ado, I'm pleased to present to you our inaugural red-only and white-only shipments.  The red-only includes 2 bottles each of 2012 Esprit de Tablas, 2012 En Gobelet, and 2012 Grenache:

Fall_2014_RedOnly_edit

For the white-only, we have 2 bottles of the 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc, 2 bottles of the 2013 Viognier, 1 bottle of the 2013 Vermentino and 1 bottle of the 2013 Picpoul Blanc:

Fall_2014_WhiteOnly_edit

And, of course, our classic mix, with 2 bottles of the 2012 Esprit de Tablas, and 1 bottle each of the 2012 En Gobelet, 2012 Grenache, 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc, and 2013 Vermentino:

Fall_2014_Classic_edit

We announced this change to our VINsiders via email about two weeks ago, and it has been interesting -- and gratifying, because it suggest that most of our VINsiders are happy with the mix we're offering -- to see that the number who have switched to one of the new options has been relatively low.  In this initial period (granted, only two weeks, but we typically see most of the response to an email within that period) we've seen 83 VINsiders switch, or roughly 1.5% of our membership.  In the tasting room, however, we've seen a higher percentage take advantage of these new options: 50 of the 355 new VINsiders (14%) have elected for red-only or white-only over the initial eight-week period we've offered these options.  This discrepancy is probably not surprising; while some of the new red-only and white-only signups would probably have signed up anyway, most would likely have either opted for our VINdependent Club or not have signed up at all.

As for proportion of red-only and white-only, it's been maybe even a little more lopsided than we would have predicted, with 115 (86%) opting for red-only and 18 (14%) opting for white-only.  I'll be interested to see whether these numbers will balance out at all; my suspicion is that they will, at least slightly, given that so far 18% of the new registrants have opted for white-only, while just 11% of those who switched from our existing members did so.

Finally, a little housekeeping, for anyone reading who wants to make a change. Current VINsider Club members can select red-only or white-only options on the VINsider Update Form, and prospective new members can choose their preferred color mix when they register on the VINsider Sign-Up Form.


Spring 2014 VINsider shipment food pairing dinner

By Lauren Cross

What better way to celebrate the recent release of our Spring 2014 VINsider shipment than to taste and enjoy each new wine with expertly paired dishes prepared by two of the best caterers on the Central Coast? Yes, there are benefits to working at Tablas Creek.

A little background, first. We asked two chefs (Chef Jacob Lovejoy and Chef Jeffry Wiesinger), with whom we often work for dinners and events here at Tablas, to put together six dishes, one for each new wine, so that our tasting room and wine club staff to get first hand experience with the different affinities of each wine and thereby more easily discuss food pairings with our guests.  I thought that a recap might inspire our fans to create new food and wine pairings in your own homes.

Personally, I was excited to taste the new shipment wines with dishes expressly created to pair with them and use this experience to draw conclusions about other potential pairings.  I didn’t grow up with wine being served at the dinner table and, as parent of two young children, my memorable food pairings are often unexpected: think Esprit Blanc and corndogs (which pair beautifully, by the way).  I’ve also been fortunate enough to stumble upon exquisite Tablas Creek wine pairings by accident.  I once paired our 2010 Counoise with barbeque chicken and almost fell off my chair it was so good. 

The tasting drove home to me that pairings can work because dish and wine share similar traits, and together they show harmony. But perhaps less intuitive was that certain pairings worked because of their differences, where contrasting flavors or textures highlighted each member's distinctiveness.

DSC_1666_edit

Pairing 1: Shrimp ‘n’ Grits with 2012 Côtes de Tablas Blanc

The foundation of this dish was mini polenta cakes which provided a rich and savory texture that paired splendidly with the viognier-rich Côtes de Tablas Blanc. The fresh shrimp was topped with a creamy white butter sauce brightened by lemon and blood orange. The bright acid that lifts the 2012 Côtes de Tablas Blanc through a long finish loved the citric notes in the cream sauce.

This pairing was one of similarities: a delicate balance of richness and brightness in the dish mirrored the related complexities of the Côtes de Tablas Blanc.

DSC_1683_edit

Pairing 2: Dungeness Crab Avocado Salad with 2012 Grenache Blanc

A beautifully quartered avocado, piled high with dungeness crab salad and topped with a ginger-infused asian pear brulee and a drizzle of yuzu vinaigrette, made for a sublime pairing for the 2012 Grenache Blanc.  The sweet and earthy crab brought out the mineral notes of the wine, and the avocado coated the palate while the acid of the wine cleaned it: a pairing of contrasts, each of which made the other taste more vibrant, capped off by the luscious ginger-infused pear garnish that accentuated the green apple crispness of the Grenache Blanc.

DSC_1685_edit

Pairing 3: Duck Confit Bread Pudding with 2012 Roussanne                      

This pairing would make a convert of anyone who doubts that Roussanne is substantial enough to pair with traditional red wine partners. The fluffy and buttery bread pudding, served by Chef Jeffry, reminded me of Thanksgiving stuffing packed with egg, herbs and dried apricots.  The slightly gamy duck flavors deepened the whole and brought out the apricot notes in the 2012 Roussanne, while the rich texture of the wine proved a match for the weighty dish.

DSC_1710_edit

Pairing 4: Smoked Pork Mac ‘n’ Cheese with 2012 Patelin de Tablas

We often recommend the 2012 Patelin de Tablas, with its smoky and peppery nose, with barbeque because of its moderate alcohol and its fresh acidity.  So I was not surprised by the elegance it brought to the gooey smoked pork mac ‘n’ cheese.  Another example of contrasts making each partner taste more clearly of itself: the elegance and freshness of this syrah-based blend paired was accentuated by the smoky richness of the pork, refreshing the palate where a more assertive wine could have made a fatiguing partner.

A side note: this truly was the people's wine paired with the people's food.

DSC_1730_edit

Pairing 5: Kalbi Style Beef Short Ribs with the 2012 Côtes de Tablas

The Grenache-based 2012 Côtes de Tablas leads with bright chewy fruit accentuated by a good amount of spice and pepper. The combination of sweet and spicy flavors in the Kalbi style beef short ribs made for a spot on pairing, with the fruitiness of the wine standing up to the ribs' slightly sweet glaze and the combination's tingling spice echoing after each bite.  This pairing showed me why the Perrins talk about southern Rhone wines (most of which are based on Grenache) as natural partners for asian-inspired dishes.

DSC_1733_edit

Pairing 6: Wet-Aged Prime Rib Roast with 2011 Panoplie

It probably won't surprise any of you that an aged prime rib paired well with our new 2011 Panoplie. As prepared by Chef Jacob, the prime rib was deliciously rich and tender, made even more luscious by a pat of blue cheese butter layered on top and the mouthwatering truffle mashed potatoes below.  The Panoplie is built on a base of our most powerful Mourvedre lots, whose combination of mid-palate richness, chewy tannins, loamy earth notes and silky-smooth texture matched the dish sip for taste, and whose higher tones of rose petals and raspberry fruit lingered perhaps because they were not directly mirrored in the dish.  All in all a fitting, and completely satisfying, way to end a wonderful night.

As always, we are thankful to and impressed by our chefs Jacob and Jeffry for working together so seamlessly and with so much intention and passion, and for creating dishes with such distinct personalities that still partnered beautifully with the wines. I hope that this inspires you in your pairings; if you have particularly memorable ones -- good or bad --  please share them in the comments.


Tasting the wines in the spring 2014 VINsider Club shipment

Every six months, we send out a six-bottle shipment of wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  While the fall shipment showcases our signature wines, and includes our Esprit and our Esprit Blanc, the spring shipment is more eclectic, highlighted by the Panoplie, our elite wine made in the image of Beaucastel's iconic Hommage à Jacques Perrin.  Beyond that we include wines we're particularly excited about.  This year, we chose five wines from the luscious 2012 vintage: the Cotes de Tablas Blanc, highlighting our best-ever Viognier vintage, the mineral-laced Grenache Blanc and powerful Roussanne, and two red blends: the Patelin de Tablas that shows off Syrah and the Cotes de Tablas that is based on Grenache.

Yesterday I opened the wines to taste with my dad and Winemaker Neil Collins to write the tasting notes that will be included in the package, and thought that readers of the blog might like an advance peek.  The lineup:

14 Spring Shipment for Blog

2012 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: 2012 was a banner year for Grenache Blanc, both in quantity and quality, with the year's strengths (generous fruit and good acidity) playing to the grape's natural strengths. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose lots that were fermented stainless steel (for brightness) and foudre (for roundness), then blended and bottled in the summer of 2013.
  • Tasting notes: A classic Grenache Blanc nose of preserved lemon and wet rocks, with a sweeter (mandarin orange?) citrus coming out with air.  The mouth follows through with the citrus promised on the nose, with marmalade and citrus leaf, chalky minerality and a little sweet anise spice at the end.  Fully dry on the long, rich finish.  Drink now and for the next three years.
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2012 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas Blanc is our showcase for the floral, lush fruit of Viognier, and the 2012 vintage was our best ever for this tricky grape. The result was Viognier with an appealing creamy lushness but great balance, and the additions of the mineral, high-acid Grenache Blanc and the gentle elegance of Marsanne served to polish the Viognier rather than change its character. The resulting blend is 34% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc, 30% Marsanne and 6% Roussanne, all aged in stainless steel.
  • Tasting notes: An immediately appealing nose of honey, pear, tarragon, jasmine and peach.  In the mouth it is luscious with flavors of peaches and cream, a hint of gingery spice, and then finishing clean and fresh, with those classic Grenache Blanc acids coming out at the end. Drink now and for the next five years.
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2012 ROUSSANNE

  • Production Notes: 2012’s generosity 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 2013 then aged through the subsequent harvest before bottling in February 2014.
  • Tasting notes: A wonderful nose of honey, nuts, dried, spiced pineapple and lemon zest: think baklava. In the mouth, it's characteristically Roussanne, with honey, pears and a kiss of sweet oak, but friendler than normal at this stage, with an appealing saline note coming out on the finish. Drink over the next 3-4 years, or wait until 2020 and drink over the next decade.
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2012 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 August 2013 and aged in bottle to round into its structure.
  • Tasting notes: An exuberantly pretty nose of tangy berries, like raspberries marinated in balsamic vinegar, with an appealing foresty note, pepper spice and a gentle floral character. The mouth is complex, medium bodied, spicy, with juniper and sage notes, marinade and dark fruit.  The finish is clean and mineral-laced. Drink now and for the next five to seven years.
  • List Price: $20 VINsider Price: $16
2012 COTES DE TABLAS
  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas is our take on a more traditional Chateauneuf du Pape blend, heavier on Grenache and Syrah and lighter on Mourvedre than our Esprit de Beaucastel. 2012's long hangtime and gradual ripening were excellent for both Grenache and Syrah, whose complementary flavors balance juiciness and freshness with structure and spice. The components were harvested separately, then blended in June 2013 and aged in foudre until its bottling in February 2014.
  • Tasting notes: A deeper and more assertive nose than the Patelin, lush, with dark red plum and currant fruit, cola and licorice, very Grenache.  The mouth shows an initial sweet Grenache attack, with strawberry confiture and sweet spice, then the Syrah asserts control, with steely tannins.  Notes of leather and aged saucisson come out on the long, rich finish. Drink now or for the next fifteen years.
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2011 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 2012.  The wine was bottled in August 2013 and has been aged in bottle in our cellars since then.  The blend is 60% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache and 10% Syrah.
  • Tasting notes: On the nose, deep and complex, rich and spicy, with black raspberry, sandalwood, leather and grilled meat dripping notes. The mouth shows brooding dark fruit and plush tannins: absolutely luscious without being sweet or simple in any way. The finish is long and complex, with beautiful balance. We expect it to drink well for another year or two, then tighten up for a few years before reopening around 2019 and drinking well for two to three decades.
  • List Price: $95 VINsider Price: $76

More details on the shipment, including shipping dates, press on the wines, and information about the spring shipment tasting party on Sunday, April 13th, is available on our VINsider News Page.


Tasting the wines in the Fall 2013 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.  What is different is that the Esprits aren't Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, but Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc.  If you missed the explanation of why we changed the names of our flagship wines, you can read that blog post here.

Joining the 2011 Esprit de Tablas and the 2011 Esprit de Tablas Blanc in this shipment we chose two varietal whites from the classic 2012 vintage, one (Vermentino) that we make every year and another (Viognier) than we haven't made since 2006.  Finally, we included the remarkable 2011 En Gobelet made entirely from head-trained, dry-farmed vineyard blocks of Mourvedre, Grenache, Tannat and Syrah. Note that there are only five different wines because club members get two bottles of the 2011 Esprit de Tablas.

Winemaker Neil Collins and I opened the shipment's wines on Friday to draft the tasting and production notes that will be included in the shipment, which will leave the winery the week of September 16th. I thought that readers of the blog might enjoy a preview.

VINsider Fall 2013 Shipment

2012 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our eleventh 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: Incredibly pale color, with powerfully mineral aromas of broken rocks, citrus leaf, and peppered citrus peel.  In the mouth, the wine shows vibrant citrus fruit, not at all sweet, suggesting kumquat or yuzu, then turns richer on the finish, peaches and cream and lingering minerality, with great acids. Just 12.5% alcohol: classic Vermentino. Drink now and for the next 2-3 years.
  • Production: 1300 cases
  • Press: 90 points Galloni ("rich, layered and exceptionally beautiful")
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2012 VIOGNIER

  • Production Notes: The productive, consistently high quality 2012 vintage allowed us to produce our first Viognier since 2006. Viognier, known more from the northern Rhone than the area around Chateauneuf du Pape, sprouts first of all our grapes, making it the most prone to frost, but was spared in 2012 and thrived in the warm days and cool nights. It was whole cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel, then blended and bottled in August 2013 in screwcap, to preserve its brightness. 
  • Tasting Notes: For a Viognier, its nose is more savory than fruit or floral driven at this stage, with peppered mango and preserved lemon, grilled bread and exotic herbs.  In the mouth it's rich, long and broad, with flavors of citrus peel, lemongrass and Chinese five spice.  The richness is held in check by good acidity, and the texture is marvelous. Let this age for a few months if you can, then drink between 2014 and 2018. It's possible it will go longer, too, but with Viognier, you never know.
  • Production: 550 cases
  • Press: 88-90 points Galloni ("hugely promising")
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24
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. We blended 64% Roussanne (fermented primarily in foudre) with 26% Grenache Blanc and 10% Picpoul Blanc to provide floral aromatics and lift on the palate, then finished aging the blend for a year in foudre before bottling in August 2012 and aging it an additional year in bottle before release.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic Esprit Blanc, with aromatics dominated by non-fruit descriptors: mineral, sea spray, grilled bread and a hint of non-toasted oak. The mouth is dramatically rich and broad, with the vintage's acidity showing in the front palate, rich Roussanne in the mid-palate, and a hint of tannin from the Grenache Blanc on the long, nutty finish. A fascinating combination of rich and very dry.  Still a baby, this is a serious white to age for up to 15 years or more.
  • Production: 2480 cases
  • Press: 92-95 points Rhone Report ("full-bodied, perfectly balanced"); 92 points, Tanzer's I.W.C
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2011 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: 29% Mourvedre, 27% Grenache, 26% Tannat and 18% Syrah. Our fourth 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. We co-fermented the components from Scruffy Hill, then blended in Tannat from our head-trained section near the middle of the vineyard for its dark color, smoky, spicy flavors and firm tannins. It was then aged in foudre, and bottled in May 2013.
  • Tasting Notes: A dramatic, dark nose showing a meaty, iron-like aroma that reminded me of newly-carved, rare grilled steak. This mingles with fruit aromatics that shift between black and red (blackcurrant and black cherry) and a minty, chocolatey note. In the mouth it's rich and robust with meaty flavors darkened by notes of espresso and cocoa bean, and powerful but refined tannins coming out at the end. The finish shows more grilled meat and a hint of saline minerality. Spectacular, and Neil and I thought it our best En Gobelet ever. Drink over the next two decades.
  • Production: 750 cases
  • Press: 92 points Galloni ("fabulous depth and richness"), 91-94 points Rhone Report
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

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. This results in a medium-weight wine of great intensity of flavor and excellent freshness. Esprit is as usual based on the red fruit, earth and mocha of Mourvèdre (40%), while Grenache (30%) brings rich mouthfeel, glycerin and a refreshing acidity, Syrah (20%) provides black fruit and mineral and Counoise (10%) adds 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.
  • Tasting Notes: The nose shows exuberant freshness, with Mourvedre's signature currant, black tea and roasted meat aromas, given lift by a tangy, winey note showing rosemary and mineral. The mouth is long, fine and balanced, lusher than the nose suggests, with flavors of licorice, spice, meat drippings and clove, mid-weight now (relatively soon after bottling) but with every expectation of deepening over coming months.  We recommend that you hold the 2011 Esprit for a few months, then drink either between 2014 and 2016 or 2020-2040.
  • Production: 4000 cases
  • Press: 93-95 points Rhone Report ("beautifully full-bodied and elegant")
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

Announcing the wines in the 2013 VINsider Collector's Edition shipment

One of my highlights each June is the tasting where we get to choose which library vintage of the Esprit and Esprit Blanc we will include in the VINsider Wine Club Collector's Edition shipment in September.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Collector's Edition, we created it in 2009 to give members a chance to acquire our flagship wines with some age on them, and it's been a great success, generating a waiting list each year since we started it.  We will be adding people on our waiting list to the Collector's Edition next week, and also opening reigstration for a short time, subject to available space.  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.

We have been keeping older vintages of the Esprit and Esprit Blanc since the 2003 and 2005 vintages, respectively.  So this week, I tasted through our library vintages to decide which wines we wanted to include this fall.  It's an interesting challenge, because we want the wines to have had enough time in the cellar to show signs of maturity, but still catch them at (ideally the beginning of) their peak.

In the tasting, for the second year in a row we chose wines from the same vintage.  This drives home what we see regularly, that Roussanne acts in many ways -- including aging in bottle -- like a red wine.  The vintage of choice was 2006:

Collectors Edition Bottles 2013

My tasting notes:

2006 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc: A clear, vibrant light gold color.  The nose is bright and floral, showing jasmine, honeysuckle, melon and pear, as well as more savory notes of aloe and lanolin. The mouth shows the wonderful acids that I remember from the 2006 vintage, then flowing into richness: honeyed pear, marmalade and grilled pineapple, with a nuttiness from the seven years of age. The acids reassert themselves on the finish, emphasizing the wine's minerality and leaving a lingering impression of fresh honeycomb.  This seems to me to be at the beginning of a peak that will last for some time.

2006 Esprit de Beaucastel: Shows a deep, earthy nose of soy, dusty red fruit, licorice, black olive and mocha.  The mouth is lusher than the nose initially suggests, with rich flavors of plum, leather, anise and sweet spice, all underpinned by a brambly wildness I found totally captivating.  The tannins have softened but still provide a welcome counterpoint to the palate's richness, and a chewy texture that lingers on the finish, framed by the acidity I noticed in the white.  While this is beautiful now, I have the sense it can age for easily another decade in the cellar and likely more.


Tasting the wines in the spring 2013 VINsider Club shipment

Every six months, we send out a six-bottle shipment of wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  While the fall shipment showcases our signature wines, and includes our Esprit and our Esprit Blanc, the spring shipment is more eclectic, highlighted by the Panoplie, our elite wine made in the image of Beaucastel's iconic Hommage à Jacques Perrin.  Beyond that we include wines we're particularly excited about.  This year, we chose the Cotes de Tablas Blanc from the intense, low-yielding 2011 vintage, the 2012 vintage of our Mourvedre-based estate rosé Dianthus [see here for an explanation of the new name], the 2011 Patelin de Tablas that has been winning fans with its freshness and great value, and two varietal reds from the elegant, mineral-laced 2010 vintage: Grenache and Syrah.

Late this week I opened the wines in the upcoming shipment to write the tasting notes that will be included in the package, and thought that readers of the blog might like an advance peek.  The lineup:

Spring 2013 VINsider Shipment

2011 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas Blanc is our showcase for the floral, lush fruit of Viognier, but in 2011 our Viognier crop was decimated by frost. The result was a tiny crop with intense flavors, which we balanced with the freshness and minerality of Grenache Blanc, the mineral and melon flavors of Marsanne, and the structure of Roussanne.  This is a uniquely powerful Cotes Blanc, in many ways like a mini-Esprit Blanc. The resulting blend is 27% Viognier, 26% Grenache Blanc, 25% Marsanne and 22% Roussanne, all aged in stainless steel.
  • Tasting notes: A serious nose, minty with stone fruits and honey lurking underneath. The mouth is broad and rich, peaches and cream, but dry, with a very long finish with a hint of tannin, cream, and rocks, nicely saline at the end. Drink now and for the next five years.
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2012 DIANTHUS

  • Production Notes: A new name for our estate rosé, but following our traditional Bandol-style blend of 60% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache and 15% 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. We've been backing off on the skin contact on our rosé the last few years, but this is still a deeply colored, flavorful rosé that shows the richness of the classic 2012 vintage. After roughly 36 hours on the skins, the fermentation was completed in stainless steel.
  • Tasting notes: Cranberry in color, with an expressive nose of watermelon rind, rose petals, plum and mineral. The mouth is rich but vibrant, with flavors of wild strawberry, pomegranate, plum and lime, and a long, rich finish that is both fresh and spicy. Drink now through the end of 2014.
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2011 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 June 2012 and aged in bottle to round into its structure.
  • Tasting notes: Aromatic and spicy on the nose, with red raspberry and cherry vieing with pepper spice and a gentle floral character. In the mouth, juicy red and black fruit flavors are highlighted by tangy acidity and a pronounced mineral character, with the finish reverting back to red fruit and spice. Drink now and for the next five to seven years.
  • List Price: $20 VINsider Price: $16

2010 SYRAH

  • Production Notes: Syrah is a cool-loving grape, and thrived in 2010, which was our coolest vintage of the last decade. The result was a harvest about three weeks later than normal, with Syrah picked largely in the last week of September and the first two weeks of October. In the cellar we fermented the Syrah in open-top stainless steel fermenters and upright 1500-gallon oak casks on the skins for an average of ten days before moving the wine to barrel to complete its fermentation. We blended the wine in June 2011 and aged it in a 1200-gallon foudre and a few smaller, neutral barrels, before re-blending and bottling it in May 2012.
  • Tasting notes: The nose shows rich, round and creamy: classic cool-climate "butter in a butcher shop" Syrah, with additional aromas of licorice, white pepper, crushed rock and a little cedary oak.  The initial impression in the mouth is one of freshness, but it packs a punch of flavor with blackberry, creamy minerality, mint and substantial but fine-grained tannins. Hold for 6 months or more, and then drink for another fifteen.
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2010 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: 2010's long hangtime and gradual ripening were excellent for Grenache, as its tendency toward candied red fruit was counteracted by the minerality and freshness from this unusually cool vintage.  Harvested thoughout October and into early November, Grenache was fermented in upright wooden and closed stainless steel fermenters, then moved to neutral barrels, blended in June 2011 and aged in foudre until its bottling in May 2012.
  • Tasting notes: A composed, high-toned nose of mineral, plum compote, and cola.  In the mouth it shows expressive sweet fruit, crushed rock, and wild strawberry, reined in by Grenache's classic front-palate tannins.  The finish opens back up with mouth-watering acidity and savory flavors of watermelon rind and cherry pit. Drink now or for the next fifteen years.
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2010 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 2011.  The wine was bottled in August 2012 and has been aged in bottle in our cellars since then.  The blend is 60% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache and 10% Syrah.
  • Tasting notes: On the nose, a wealth of both fruity and savory aromas, including blueberries, plum pit and olive tapenade. The mouth shows a lovely melted licorice character, rich yet tangy, with a saline note characteristic of many 2010's, and a spice note in balance with fruit and mineral components. The finish is long, clean and complex, with beautiful balance. We expect it to drink well for another year or two, then tighten up for a few years before reopening around 2018 and drinking well for two to three decades.
  • List Price: $95 VINsider Price: $76

More details on the shipment, including shipping dates, press on the wines, and information about the spring shipment tasting party on Sunday, April 28th, is available on our VINsider News Page.


We celebrate the holidays with a vertical tasting of Panoplie

Over the last few months, I've gotten several questions on how the Panoplie was tasting, and I realized that this isn't a wine I'm fortunate to open enough to know what to tell people.  So, on Friday, the last day before our offices closed for the Christmas holiday, I decided to reward myself and our team with a chance to taste every vintage of Panoplie we've made, and share the notes so that anyone who's lucky enough to have a few bottles in their cellar can see what we think.

The Panoplie, for those who don't know it, is our elite red wine modeled after the Beaucastel Hommage a Jacques Perrin, with a very high percentage of Mourvedre and an extremely limited production.  This is not a wine that we put into distribution; it goes exclusively to our wine club members each spring, with the opportunity to purchase 2 or 3 more bottles maximum after each shipment.  Even so, it rarely lasts more than a month.

The lots that we choose for the Panoplie are the richest and most compelling in the cellar, and these wines are made to age.  In the tasting, all but the oldest (from 2000) tasted still to me like young wines, with decades ahead of them.  But one revelation for me that came out of the tasting was that there were only two vintages I'd caution people away from at the moment: 2009, which is just too big, young, and wound up, and 2006, which appeared to us to be in the in-between teenage stage that many Mourvedre-based wines go through 5-7 years after their vintage date.  The other wines all offered immense pleasure, even in their youth, and while they will undoubtedly add complexity with additional time in bottle, no one will be disappointed if they open one up this holiday season. Joining me and my dad for the tasting were Winemakers Neil Collins, Ryan Hebert and Chelsea Magnusson, Viticulturist Levi Glenn, and National Sales Manager Darren Delmore. The lineup:

Panoplie vertical

The notes, by vintage (note that we didn't produce a Panoplie in 2001):

  • 2000 Panoplie (55% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 15% Grenache): Rich and deep on the nose, with some deeper soy and roasted meat flavors from maturity but no sign of fatigue.  The mouth shows more of the mature meatiness of Mourvedre, still with some significant tannins on the finish that were different than later vintages perhaps because of the youth of the vines and perhaps because of the much higher percentage of Syrah than we used in any future vintage. Chelsea called it "sinewy", for its lean power. It made me want a braised meat dish to serve it with.
  • 2002 Panoplie (80% Mourvedre, 13% Grenache, 7% Counoise): An immensely appealing nose of milk chocolate and rich red fruit, with a mouth-filling weightiness in the mid-palate that was quite different from the lean power of the 2000.  The finish showed nice acidity and tightened a bit, suggesting to all of us some extra time in the cellar. My dad commented that "you'd never guess this was a 10-year-old wine" and we all agreed.
  • 2003 Panoplie (69% Mourvedre, 21% Grenache, 7% Syrah, 3% Counoise): The showstopper, in my opinion, of the first five vintages, with a nose balanced between sweeter aromas of jam and confectioner's sugar and more savory elements like juniper and sage. The mouth is packed with sweet fruit, almost raspberry jam, and great length with a smoky garrigue note that was welcome after the palate's lushness. A great Christmas wine, with all the classic Christmas flavors wrapped up inside.
  • 2004 Panoplie (69% Mourvedre, 21% Grenache, 10% Syrah): The nose is wonderfully seamless and refined, if less exuberant than the two previous vintages: more leather, licorice and plums.  The mouth was showing an almost unctuous richness with flavors of milk chocolate with a creamy texture that made me think of marshmallows. Then the wine lengthens on the dry finish with lots of ripe tannins and wild berry fruit, and a little sweet oak. Perhaps a touch on the sweet side right now for my taste, but an obvious crowd pleaser.
  • 2005 Panoplie (70% Mourvedre, 25% Grenache, 5% Syrah): A different nose than the previous three wines, smokier with grilled herbs and dark fruit. The mouth is very rich but clean on the mid-palate and adds an appealing sweet mintiness on the finish, more wintergreen than juniper. The wine's big tannins come out at the end, suggesting that people need be in no hurry to drink it. Like the other 2005 reds we've opened recently, it's a sexy wine, with what Darren called "racy tannins" and my dad called "come-hither" aromatics.
  • 2006 Panoplie (68% Mourvedre, 27% Grenache, 5% Syrah): More restrained aromatically (Neil called it "almost Pinot-esque") with a woodsy, foresty, savory nose.  It was fresh in the mouth with a raspberry brightness on the palate and something zesty that I thought reminded me of quince. The finish was shorter than the vintages around it, with a little menthol character that came across to several of us as a little hot.  This struck me as a bit disjointed right now, not unpleasant but neither what it was nor what it will be.  I'd wait another year or two and check back in.
  • 2007 Panoplie (60% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah): Amazingly rich and dense on the nose, but not at all sweet: mint and iron and soy and roasted meat drippings. The mouth is just spectacular, rich and potent with big tannins cloaked by lush fruit and a spice box character, broadening out on the very long finish to show roasted meat and a lifting aromatic note that reminded me of a clove-studded orange. Neil commented that "it immediately took me to Beaucastel". Chelsea said "that one smells like a special occasion". A consensus favorite, along with 2010. If you're opening this in 2013, be careful to check our vintage chart; the clock suggests that this will start to shut down in the near future and it's so good it would be a shame to catch it at anything less than its peak.
  • 2008 Panoplie (54% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 17% Syrah): Very pretty, with some of the same Pinot character to the nose that we found in the 2006. A coolness to the tone of the aromatics showed pine forest, spice, and red berries. The mouth is elegant, translucent in comparison to the 2007, with tobacco, purple fruit, and a clean, pretty finish. Not the blockbuster that some other vintages are, but wonderfully expressive and, as Levi pointed out, "super cohesive".
  • 2009 Panoplie (65% Mourvedre, 26% Grenache, 9% Syrah): The nose was a little unfocused after the two previous wines, and showed a touch of heat. The mouth is rich and coating, but clean, with powdered-sugar tannins, cherry, and tobacco flavors, and big tannins that come out on the finish and dominate the fruit a bit at this stage. Neil commented that there is "lots of stuff going on, but just not all together yet". Very young and wound up, but with lots of potential.
  • 2010 Panoplie (60% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah), will go out to VINsider club members in March: A really nice stony fruit character on the nose, blueberries and plum pit and a savory olive tapenade note. The mouth shows a lovely melted licorice character, rich yet tangy, with a saline note that I've noted in many of our 2010's, red and white. It's spicy, but in great balance with fruit and mineral components. The finish is long, clean and complex, with beautiful balance. And as good as this is now, Neil commented that "five years from now, this will be at another level".
  • 2011 Panoplie (60% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah), in foudre right now, will be bottled in July and released spring of 2014: So young, fresh and juicy, with a licorice note that we typically associate with Grenache and a campfire smokiness that owes nothing to barrel and everything to the unique combination of lushness and savoriness we find in the 2011 vintage. There's a creamy, white chocolate texture in the mouth, with lots of herbs and spice, and a long finish highlighted by 2011's characteristic fresh acidity. Shows wonderful potential.

Overall, we were impressed with how, even within a relatively narrow range of blends, the wines showed the character of the different vintages.  Years that showed more freshness and more translucency (like 2006, 2008 and 2010) showed that character in more elegant Panoplies, though they still showed plenty of power. More blockbuster years like 2003, 2005 and 2007 showed that lushness, but balanced it with savory notes.  All the wines seem like they have a long, happy life ahead of them.  But other than the couple of vintages noted (2006 and 2009) don't feel like you need to hold off opening one in the nearer term, particularly if you have a few bottles.  I know that we'll be picking out one for the New Year's Eve dinner at our house tomorrow. If you do the same... please share how it's tasting!


Tasting the wines in the fall 2012 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 typically centered around both our Esprit de Beaucastel and our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc.  But this year is a little different.  We decided that we had been releasing our Esprit Blanc before it was really ready, and have made the commitment to cellar our flagship white another year before releasing it.  This freed up another spot for one of our small-production wines.

So, joining the 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel in this upcoming shipment we chose two whites (Vermentino and Roussanne) from the rich yet vibrant 2011 vintage and two reds (Tannat and En Gobelet) from the elegant, mineral-laced 2010 vintage.  Note that there are only five wines because club members get two bottles of the 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel.

We 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 17th. I thought that readers of the blog might enjoy a preview. I was joined by our new National Sales Manager Darren Delmore. 

Fall 2012 shipment

2011 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our tenth bottling of this traditional Mediterranean varietal, known principally in Sardinia, Corsica, and Northern Italy. It is also grown in the Rhône Valley (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: Incredibly pale color, with exotic aromas of lychee, citrus leaf and crushed rock. In the mouth, the wine packs a surprising punch, bright with lemon/lime acids, herby and clean, minerally and persistent. Just 13.1% alcohol, but one of our most intensely flavored Vermentinos ever. Drink now and for the next 2-3 years.
  • Production: 825 cases
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2011 ROUSSANNE

  • 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. 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 then aged for an additional four months in foudre. 
  • Tasting Notes: A different beast entirely, with aromas of grilled bread, pear, pine resin and white flowers.  The mouth is classic, structured roussanne, rich yet savory with flavors of butterscotch, thyme, white chocolate and just a touch of oak.  Still a baby, this is a serious white to age (for up to a decade) and serve with substantial food like roast pork.
  • Production: 620 cases
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2010 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, although our 2010 Tannat is unblended because we were so taken by our small production of Cabernet in 2010 that we bottled it separately
  • Tasting Notes: A vibrant red-black in color, with plush, polished black raspberry, smoked meat and laquered wood on the nose. The flavors that follow are surprisingly pretty, pure and seamless for a Tannat this young, before a wash of tannins reassert control.  The lingering finish vibrates between sweet fruit and dusty, loamy earth. Drink this now or cellar for a decade or more.
  • Production: 760 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2010 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: 37% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 13% Syrah, 12% Counoise, 10% Tannat.  Our third En Gobelet, a unique blend (we think perhaps the only one in the world) of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise and Tannat mostly from the 12-acre head-trained, dry-farmed vineyard block we call Scruffy Hill. Grenache and Counoise provide rich purple fruit and bright acidity, while Tannat and Syrah contribute dark color, smoky, spicy flavors and firm tannins, and Mourvedre brings dark red fruit, earth, spice and ageability. Unlike most of our wines, the En Gobelet was largely co-fermented, then aged in foudre.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty nose showing grenache's characteristic grape, milk chocolate, pepper spice, and floral components.  An initial perception of sweetness in the mouth is quickly banished by grippy tannins that suggest a rest in the cellar is recommended.  In the near term, pair it with a marbled steak, or age it for 5-10 years to reveal the leather and truffle notes that are lurking in the background.
  • Production: 700 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2010 ESPRIT DE BEAUCASTEL

  • Production Notes: 45% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 21% Syrah, 4% Counoise. Like all the 2010 reds, the components that went into the Esprit spent nearly a month longer than usual on the vine, as the 2010 ripening cycle was lengthened by the coolest year in our history. This long hangtime shows in the vintage's noteworthy minerality, and in its intensity without any sense of excess weight. Esprit is as usual based on the red fruit, earth and mocha of Mourvèdre, while Grenache brings rich mouthfeel, glycerin and a refreshing acidity. Syrah provides black fruit and mineral and Counoise adds vibrancy and brambly fruit. The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for the Esprit, blended and aged in foudre.
  • Tasting Notes: The nose shows Mourvedre's signature currant, balsamic, black tea and roasted meat aromas, given lift by a brighter raspberry note and an unusual gunpowdery mineral note. The mouth is lusher than the nose suggests, with plum, blueberry, pepper steak and dark chocoloate notes. Well-mannered tannins keep order without blocking or weighing down the wine. Beautifully balanced. A wine that provides pleasure now, but which should also age gracefully for two decades.
  • Production: 4400 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

Selecting the library wines for the 2012 Collector's Edition

One of the treats we get each summer is to choose which older vintage of the Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc we will include in the VINsider Wine Club Collector's Edition shipment in September.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Collector's Edition, we created it in 2009 to give members a chance to acquire our flagship wines with some age on them, and it's been a great success, generating a waiting list each year since we started it.  We will be announcing to our VINsiders next week that registration for the Collector's Edition will be open for a short period.  We are able to add slightly to the membership in advance of this fall's shipment. [A little housekeeping: 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.]

We have been keeping older vintages of the Esprit and Esprit Blanc since the 2003 and 2005 vintages, respectively.  So this week, I tasted the 2005 and 2006 red and the 2005, 2006 and 2008 white to see which we could use this year.  I had not planned it this way, but it was clear that of the wines that I tasted, the 2005's were both clearly the best choices.  The 2006, in both red and white, felt closed down to me, perfectly nice but not nearly as deep or giving as the 2005's, and less expressive than they were a few years ago.  The 2008 Esprit Blanc was very pretty, but wasn't yet showing any significant signs of time in the bottle.  (If you're wondering why I tasted only those vintages, we used the 2007 Esprit Blanc last year for the Collector's Edition, and I didn't want to repeat with the same wine the following year, and the 2003 and 2004 Esprit red went out to Collector's Edition members the last two years and are now too scarce to permit another release.)

My tasting notes:

CE 2012

2005 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc: A rich nose of creme caramel, lanolin, cotton candy, menthol and beeswax.  The mouth is rich but higher-toned than the nose suggests, with flavors of pear, butterscotch, preserved lemon and mineral, and a floral note that reminded me of honeysuckle.  Surprising and welcome acidity comes to the fore on the long finish, emphasizing the mineral notes and playing off the dominant honeycomb profile.  This has come out of a closed phase and is likely at the beginning of a 5-year peak.

2005 Esprit de Beaucastel: The nose is rich, deep and wild, with dark red fruit, game meat, black olive, Provencal herbs and mint.  The mouth, conversely to the white, shows sweeter than the nose suggests, with rich flavors of currant, plum, grilled meat and orange peel, with chewy tannins that frame the tangy and complex finish.  With air, this added an iron-like mineral note that I found fascinating.  I strongly recommend a decant 30 minutes or so before drinking.  While this is beautiful now, I have the sense it can age for easily another decade in the cellar.