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.


Tasting the Wines in the Spring 2012 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 both our Esprit de Beaucastel and our Esprit de Beaucastel 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 three whites from the fresh, mineral-laced 2010 vintage: the 2010 Grenache Blanc, 2010 Cotes de Tablas Blanc and 2010 Antithesis.  We also picked the intense 2009 Grenache and the newly-bottled 2010 Cotes de Tablas.

This morning, 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.  Joining me for the tasting were Winemaker Neil Collins, Tasting Room Manager John Morris and National Sales Manager Tommy Oldre.  The lineup:

Spring2012_Shipment_0001

2010 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: The 2010 Cotes de Tablas Blanc is our showcase for the floral, lush fruit of Viognier, balanced by the freshness and minerality of Grenache Blanc.  In 2010, the coolest year on record in Paso Robles, we found the Grenache Blanc particularly compelling and used our highest percentage ever in Cotes de Tablas Blanc.  The resulting blend is 54% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc, 8% Marsanne and 8% Roussanne, all aged in stainless steel.
  • Tasting notes: A serious, mineral-driven nose with peach skin, saline and sweet spices in the background.  In the mouth, broad and mouth-filling with flavors of honeydew and green mango. An appealing sweet herbiness comes out on the long finish, with notes of tarragon and fennel and refreshing acidity.  Drink now and for the next five years
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2010 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: 2010 was a banner year for Grenache Blanc, and our blending trials produced our highest percentages ever in both our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc and Cotes de Tablas Blanc.  For the small-production (600 case) 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 2011.
  • Tasting notes: An expressive, intensely mineral nose that also includes sweeter flavors like marzipan, licorice, and chicory root.  In the mouth, rich yet zesty, with flavors of quince, marmalade, and granny smith apple.  The vibrant acids come out on the finish, suggesting preserved lemon and ending with just a hint of Grenache tannin.  We all thought this was gorgeous.  Drink now and for the next three years.
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2010 ANTITHESIS

  • Production Notes: After a frost-devastated crop in 2009, our Chardonnay production was back up in 2010, and this combined with a very cool summer led to our longest hangtime for Chardonnay ever.  We fermented the juice in a mix of neutral oak and stainless steel barrels, blended and bottled in summer 2011.
  • Tasting notes: A creamy, minerally nose, Chablis-like in its expression of chalky minerality. But there are sweeter aromas too, like creme patisseur and custard. The mouth is lush but firmly dry, with supple texture and a generous mid-palate. The flavors are classic Chardonnay, edging slightly tropical with pineapple and toasted bread, then finishing mineral again, slightly saline. Drink now and for the next five years.
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2010 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.  In 2010, we further strengthened the blend by declassifying over 2500 gallons into the 2010 Patelin de Tablas. Each variety was harvested and fermented separately, moved to foudre for aging, blended in the fall of 2011, and bottled in January 2012.  The final blend is 46% Grenache, 39% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, and 5% Counoise.
  • Tasting notes: Lots of dark red fruit on the nose, particularly boysenberry and black cherry, as well as a cool, chalky minerality.  Neil commented on its "beautiful absence of oak".  The mouth is vibrantly fruity with more cherry, but then firms up as the tannins come to the fore.  There is tart red fruit on the finish, with a lingering impression of iron. We all thought this would be a fascinating wine to watch age. Try to give this 6 months, then drink for a decade or longer.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2009 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: In 2009, the only red varietal we made was Grenache, as in this drought- and frost-reduced vintage we protected our flagship blends.  But what a great year for Grenache, with remarkable intensity from the tiny crops and freshness from the cool summer.  Harvested in two weeks spanning the end of September and the beginning of October, Grenache was fermented in closed stainless steel fermenters, then moved to neutral barrels, blended in June 2010 and aged in foudre until its bottling in April 2011.
  • Tasting notes: A powerfully Grenache nose of cherry liqueur, licorice root, and cocoa, but held in check with a mineral note Neil described as "cast iron pan after you've seared a steak". In the mouth, rich at first, with rare meat and wild strawberry, then big tannins come to the fore that were asking for a marbled steak. The tannins resolve in the finish and leave a suggestion of clean minerality.  Pair now with substantial food, or age for a decade or more for a more elegant profile.
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2009 PANOPLIE

  • Production Notes: As always, Panoplie is selected from lots in the cellar chosen for their richness, concentration and balance, always heaviest on Mourvedre's rich meatiness and firm structure. Each lot was fermented individually and then moved to foudre to age, before being selected, blended and returned to foudre to age in July 2010.  The wine was bottled in August 2011.  The blend in this, our lowest-yielding year ever, is 65% Mourvèdre, 26% Grenache and 9% Syrah.
  • Tasting notes: Tommy coined a new word for the nose: cornucopious, for its dark and savory aromas of black raspberry, eucalyptus, loam, and iron.  The mouth is broad and rich but incredibly structured, with soy, garrigue and forest floor notes providing balance to the plum, currant and chocolate.  The finish is long and complex, minty, brambly, and earthy all at once.  We expect it to drink well for another year or so, then tighten up for a few years before reopening around 2017 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 1st, is available on our VINsider News Page.

One concluding thought: the more that I taste it, the more I love the 2010 vintage.  That remarkably cool year, with the very long hang time that resulted, has made wines that have richness yet are noteworthy for their vibrancy and freshness.  The mineral components in our wines (which I always love) are highlighted, and the great acids make me want to keep coming back for the next sip.  And this isn't just true with the whites.  The 2010 Cotes de Tablas shows the same freshness and appeal, and does it without sacrificing intensity of flavor.  I am eagerly anticipating the bottling and release of our other 2010 reds.


Tasting the Wines in the Fall 2011 VINsider Wine 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.  Beyond that, though, we get to choose more eclectic wines that we're excited about, often including single varietal renditions of grapes our fans know better from our blends, or small-production blends that we think express something interesting about Tablas Creek.  This year, we chose to include the beautiful 2010 Marsanne, our first-ever rendition of Hermitage's signature grape, the 2010 Picpoul Blanc, with its interplay of bright and lush, intensely reminiscent of pina colada, and the 2009 En Gobelet, an unusual (perhaps unique) blend of Mourvedre, Tannat and Grenache exclusively from head-pruned, dry-farmed vineyard blocks.  Note that there are only five wines because club members get two bottles of the 2009 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 19th).  I thought that readers of the blog might enjoy a preview.  Click on any wine for more detailed technical information.

Wc0911_0001

2010 MARSANNE

  • Production Notes: The 2010 Tablas Creek Vineyard Marsanne is our first 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 2010 we felt that the Marsanne was so complete and compelling, and so representative of the Marsanne grape, that we selected out several lots for a single-varietal bottling.  These were fermented in stainless steel to emphasize their freshness.  Just 13.0% alcohol.
  • Tasting notes: a minty, spicy, citrus blossom and honeyed nose, with flavors of saline, nectarine and mineral, a creamy mid-weight texture and a long, clean, limestone-enriched finish. Should be a sublime pairing with baked scallops or mussels marinieres. Drink over the next five years.
  • Production: 525 cases
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2010 PICPOUL BLANC

  • Production Notes: Tablas Creek's fourth bottling of this traditional Southern Rhone 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 Coteaux de Languedoc. Literally translating to "lip stinger", in France the grape is known for its bright acidity, its minerality, and a clean lemony flavor. We have found that in California, it maintains its bright acidity, but also develops an appealing tropical lushness. Fermented in stainless steel to emphasize freshness, and like the 2010 Marsanne just 13.0% alcohol.
  • Tasting notes: powerful aromas of pineapple, white flowers, grilled citrus and caramel. In the mouth it is brightly acidic with flavors of pina colada broadened by a hint of toast, a lush texture surprising for those who only know Picpoul from France, then reverting to brightness on a lemony, mineral-laced finish. Would be a great pairing with a creamy chicken pasta. Drink in the next two to three years.
  • Production: 500 cases
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2010 ESPRIT DE BEAUCASTEL BLANC

  • Production Notes: Like all our 2010 whites, a powerfully expressive wine, not at all sweet, at low alcohol, that should age very well.  Roussanne (60%) as usual forms the core of the honey and mineral flavors, but we used our highest-ever percentage of Grenache Blanc (35%) for breadth, anise and citrus notes and just 5% Picpoul Blanc as the wine already had excellent acidity.  The wine was blended in May, aged in foudre and demi-muid, and bottled in August 2011.
  • Tasting notes: Higher-toned than most vintages of Esprit Blanc, showing on the nose more yellow sweet/tart fruit like passion fruit, pineapple and mango.  A hint of lychee comes out as the wine warms, enriching classic Roussanne flavors of white tea, honey and spice.  The mouthfeel is extraordinary: rich but with great structure, very clean and pure.  We think this is the most ageworthy Esprit Blanc we've made.  It should drink well for two decades.
  • Quantity Produced: 2100 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2009 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: Our second-ever En Gobelet, a unique blend (we think perhaps the only one in the world) of Mourvedre, Tannat and Grenache selected from head-pruned, dry-farmed sections of the vineyard.  Mourvedre (56%) provides dark red fruit, earth, spice and mid-palate richness while Tannat (23%) adds dark color, smoky, spicy flavors and firm tannins and Grenache (21%) brightens everything with forward fruit, approachability and lushness.  The head-pruned blocks all also share a characteristic elegance that we have often remarked on as noteworthy.
  • Tasting notes: a spicy nose of black olive, dark chocolate, menthol and blue fruits. The mouth is powerfully structured showing flavors of fig, briary fruit, pepper spice and a surprisingly creamy texture with fine, chalky tannins. The finish shows Tannat's characteristic firmness leavened by bright acids and a pretty floral note from Grenache. For now, pair with substantial food like wild boar ragu or pasta puttanesca, or you could lay it down for a decade or more.
  • Production: 600 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2009 ESPRIT DE BEAUCASTEL

  • Production Notes: Like all the 2009 reds, scarce in quantity due to drought and frost, but remarkable in intensity while still maintaining balance through terrific tannins.  It is as usual based on the red fruit, earth and mocha of Mourvèdre (40%), while Syrah (28%) provides black fruit and mineral and Grenache (27%) brings rich mouthfeel, glycerin and a refreshing acidity.  6% Counoise adds vibrancy and brambly fruit. The wine was blended in August 2010, aged in foudre and bottled in July 2011.
  • Tasting notes: a deep, spicy nose of crushed rock, tobacco and dark fruit (particularly currants). The palate shows great balance between savory and sweet notes, with milk chocolate, herbes de provence, an iron-like mineral note and massive structure that, combined with the power of the ripe but substantial tannins suggest that it will benefit from short- to mid-term cellaring, and drink well for two decades or more.
  • Quantity Produced: 3100 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

A Tasting of the Wines in the Spring 2011 VINsider Wine 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 in many ways the showcase for our signature wines, and typically includes both our Esprit de Beaucastel and our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc.  The spring shipment is more eclectic, but typically highlighted by the next vintage of Panoplie, our elite wine made in the image of Beaucastel's iconic Hommage à Jacques Perrin.  We also typically try to send out our Rosé each spring as a preview of this wonderful summertime wine, and the 2010 is a beauty, crisp and spicy, rich yet clean.  Beyond that we choose whichever wines we're particularly excited about.  This year, we chose the beautiful newly-bottled 2010 Vermentino, crisp and classic in this cool vintage, the 2009 Grenache Blanc, remarkably lush yet still focused from the concentrated 2009 vintage, and two single-varietal reds from 2008: the bright yet surprisingly deep 2008 Grenache and the structured, mineral-laced 2008 Syrah.

My dad and I opened the shipment's wines this Friday to draft the tasting and production notes that will accompany them in the shipment.  These shipments will leave the winery the week of March 21st, so we'd waited to write the notes until the last possible moment.  I thought that readers of the blog might enjoy a preview.

2010 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: The 2010 Vermentino is our ninth 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.
  • Tasting notes: A classic nose of mineral, citrus leaf, and lime zest. In the mouth, an initial impression of sweet citrus quickly turns crisp, with great acids, just a hint of tropical fruit, and a long, clean rocky finish. Pair it with rich oysters or as an aperitif. Enjoy now or over the next two to three years.
  • Production: 1235 cases
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2009 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: Grenache Blanc continues to shine on California’s Central Coast. Most of our production goes into our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc each year, but in 2009 we reserved a small lot for our wine club. It had a very long fermentation in a mix of stainless steel and foudre that didn’t finish until nearly a year after harvest. It was bottled in June 2010.
  • Tasting notes: A smooth nose of buttered toast, preserved lemon and caramel, with a mouth-filling richness on the palate. The finish at first is bright and lemony, and then turns softer with lingering creamy, mineral notes. Drink in the next two to three years.
  • Production: 524 cases
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2010 ROSÉ

  • Production Notes: After a tiny crop in 2009, production was back up in 2010, and the composition of our Rosé reflects that, with our traditional blend of 59% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache and 11% Counoise. We left the grapes on their skins for just under two days before drawing off the juice and completing the fermentation in stainless steel. The wine was bottled in February 2011.
  • Tasting notes: Cranberry in color, with an explosive nose of red chile jam, watermelon, plum, mineral and spice. The mouth is bright with flavors of watermelon and tart cherry. The sweetness of the fruit is chased quickly by bright acids and a long, deep finish with echoes of lime and tangerine. Drink now through the end of 2012.
  • Production: 1468 cases
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60

2008 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: The 2008 Grenache, like the 2008 vintage, is exceptionally elegant yet with sneaky power and remarkable complexity for such a young wine. The Grenache was harvested in excellent conditions in early October, fermented in individual lots in closed stainless steel fermenters, blended in June 2009 and aged in foudre until its bottling in April 2010. Unlike in previous vintages (into which we blended 10% Syrah) the wine is 100% Grenache, as we found it to be exquisitely balanced on its own.
  • Tasting notes: Bright medium red, with a classic Grenache nose of currant, red plum, and cherry. Fresh and pure on the palate with flavors of red fruit and milk chocolate, nice chalky tannins that provide firmness and a touch of saline minerality on the long finish. Drink now or over the next six to eight years.
  • Production: 480 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2008 SYRAH

  • Production Notes: The cool 2008 vintage was an excellent one for Syrah. Harvested largely in the middle two weeks of September and fermented in both open-top stainless steel fermenters and upright 1500-gallon oak casks, we blended the wine in June 2009 and aged it primarily in 1200-gallon foudres but also in two new 60-gallon barrels to provide a touch of oak. As with the Grenache, we chose to keep the wine 100% Syrah due to the expressiveness of the varietal in the 2008 vintage. The wine was bottled in April 2010.
  • Tasting notes: Translucent blue-black in color, with a nose of sweet oak, black fruit and mint. The flavors are consistent with the nose, with surprising acidity that should give the wine a long, graceful evolution. Think tart blackberries, with an appealing brambly component. The finish turns creamier, the hint of oak returning. Hold for 6 months or more, and then drink for another fifteen.
  • Production: 476 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2008 PANOPLIE

  • Production Notes: The 2008 Panoplie marries the vintage’s characteristic elegance with an incredible array of flavors. As always, Panoplie is selected from lots in the cellar chosen for their balance, richness and concentration. The composition (54% Mourvèdre, 29% Grenache and 17% Syrah) reflects the quality of the Syrah in this cooler vintage, but is still based on the structure and meatiness of Mourvèdre. The wine was blended in July 2009 and aged in foudre for a year before being bottled in July 2010.
  • Tasting notes: Dark brick red in color, with a dark, meaty nose showing aromas of raspberry, chocolate, leather and baking spices.  The mouth is rich but with a current of mineral-driven coolness running through it, showing flavors of plum, chocolate, loam, red bramble fruits, just a touch of oak and fine, ripe tannins.  The very long finish is minty, fruity and earthy all at once.  Although it's drinking beautifully now, we expect it to tighten up in the next few years, then reopen around 2016 and drink well for two decades.
  • Production: 500 cases
  • List Price: $95 VINsider Price: $76

More details on the shipment are online for anyone interested: http://www.tablascreek.com/wineclub_news.html


A first in-depth look at the 2009 Tablas Creek red wines

2009 was a challenging vintage, with very low yields from three years of drought and some significant April frosts.  It was further complicated by a record-breaking October rainstorm that dropped a foot of rain on the vineyard and stopped harvest for three weeks while everything dried out.  The net result was a vintage with the lowest yields per producing acre we've ever seen: 1.85 tons per acre of reds.

As the grapes were fermenting, we noted the lushness of the fruit and the power of the wines, both unsurprising in such a low-yielding vintage.  We also noted relatively high pH levels, which gave the wines a softness at early stages that worried us a little.  It's only as the wines have had some time in barrel to settle down that we've come to recognize the beautiful tannins that firm up the wines and give them balance.  The emergence of these tannins in barrel has changed our opinion of the harvest from one that was impressive but perhaps overly lush to one that we're exceptionally hopeful will be a great one.

We will be showing the 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel and 2009 Panoplie for the first time in December at our annual futures tasting and en primeur offering.  Offering wine en primeur 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.  We've done an en primeur offering to VINsider Wine Club members on our two top red wines each year since 2003, and it's become an event we all look forward to as it's our first opportunity to show, in effect, what's next to our biggest fans.

We are in the process of putting together an invitation that will go out in November to our club members, and so needed tasting notes on the two wines that will go into the offer.  I thought it would be an appropriate opportunity to take a look at all of the 2009 reds together, and wanted to share what we found.  It's worth noting that the tiny yields meant that in order to protect our flagship wines we had to sacrifice some wines (including the Mourvedre, which we've made each year since 2003, and the Syrah, which we've made each year since 2002) that have been a regular part of our portfolio.  Still, we did make the decision to make our second-ever En Gobelet, as well as the Cotes, Esprit, Grenache and Panoplie.  The wines are all sitting in foudre, and will remain there for the next 9 months or so until they're bottled. 

09 Esprit in Foudre

The tasting notes:

  • 2009 Cotes de Tablas (43% Grenache, 24% Syrah, 16% Counoise, 15% Mourvedre): A Grenachey, spicy nose that resonates between black and red fruit, showing red licorice, sweet spices, and dried strawberry.  In the mouth, it's notably rich for a Cotes de Tablas, showing candied red fruit, sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and a long finish that turns darker and is firmed by fine tannins and an almost iron-like minerality.  Very impressive, I thought.  
  • 2009 Grenache: A nose brighter than the Cotes red, very fruity, showing watermelon, red cherry, raspberry and blueberry.  The mouth continues the flavors suggested by the nose, with cherry cola and an appealing creaminess to the texture.  The finish is the most interesting part to the wine for me, with nice acids framing the fruit and then showing a chalky minerality before ending with a sweet spice that might be sarsparilla.
  • 2009 En Gobelet (56% Mourvedre, 23% Tannat, 21% Grenache): A darker nose, showing the menthol, black cherry and mineral notes that are characteristic of Tannat.  The mouth is still relatively tannic, with bittersweet chocolate, leather, mesquite, cherry liqueur and a bloody, beefy character that is often characteristic of young Mourvedre.  The tannins actually soften on the finish, leaving mineral and a garrigue-like herbiness (thyme? sage?) as the last impressions.
  • 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel (40% Mourvedre, 28% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 5% Counoise): Showing more red than black fruit at the moment, with a nose of red plum and currant, and a little Mourvedre-driven meatiness and gaminess lurking behind the fruit.  In the mouth, cassis, cherry, and mineral shows the Syrah component, as does a chalky/mineral/meaty/bone marrow character that my wife once described as "butter in a butcher shop".  The finish shows the wine's youth, with a primary grapiness that should evolve into something more complex.
  • 2009 Panoplie (65% Mourvedre, 26% Grenache, 9% Syrah): Oh, boy.  An explosive nose of pepper, grilled meat, boysenberry, currant and blackberry.  It's the most polished and resolved on the nose of any of the wines.  In the mouth, it's hugely mouth-filling, with sweet fruit but big tannins that give definition.  On the finish, it shows a saline minerality that highlights the roasted meat flavors and the dark red and black fruits.  Absolutely gorgeous.

Tasting the Fall 2010 "Collector's Edition" Wines

Last fall, we debuted the VINsider Wine Club Collector's Edition.  Members of this wine club get three bottles of older vintages of Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc each fall (as well as a few more bottles of the newest Esprit and Esprit Blanc) in addition to their club shipment.  They also have the opportunity to buy a little more.  The club has been a great success from the beginning, and we've maxed our our capacity each of the last two years.  Our membership is now up to about 450 people.

Collector's Edition members will receive the 2004 Esprit de Beaucastel and the 2006 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc this fall.  These wines were ones that showed beautifully in recent vertical tastings, both at stages where some of the primary flavors of youth had matured into deeper, more complex tones, but which should still provide another decade or more of good drinking.  I thought it would be fun to share the tasting notes from our recent tastings.

06 Esprit Blanc Bottle Shot ESPRIT DE BEAUCASTEL BLANC 2006

  • Production Notes: Above-average winter rains and a cool spring got 2006 off to a wet and late start. A moderate summer followed, and the resulting harvest was delayed but unhurried, with beautiful weather persisting into November. Wines showed notable elegance, pure flavors, medium body and comparatively lower alcohol levels. The 2006 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc featured 65% Roussanne, primarily from neutral barrels, at its core. 30% Grenache Blanc provides roundness and distinctive anise aromatics, and 5% Picpoul Blanc adds bright acids that emphasize the wine's mineral and saline characteristics. The wine was blended in April 2007 and bottled in June 2007.
  • 2010 Tasting Notes: The color at age four is youthful: a clear pale gold with a hint of green. The nose shows more savory than fruity, with notes of mineral, saline, honey and menthol. The mouth is rich and warm, with flavors of lanolin, rose petal, new boards and sweet spices. It feels both seamless and – despite its intensity – weightless. On the lingering finish, the wine has both brighter lemon and darker butterscotch flavors. It would love rich food like crab, lobster, or ginger pork, and should drink well for at least the next three years and likely much longer.
  • Quantity Produced: 1800 cases
  • Library Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

Esprit04_lores ESPRIT DE BEAUCASTEL 2004

  • Production Notes: 2004 was our third consecutive drought year, marked by low yields, a warm spring and very early flowering. A fairly mild summer morphed into a late-August heat wave, with much of the harvest completed by mid-September. The fall weather cooled down, and we waited a long time for Mourvèdre, suspending harvest for two weeks after a mid-October rainstorm. For the 2004 Esprit de Beaucastel, we balanced the relatively high proportion (50%) of Mourvèdre with 27% Syrah for color, black fruit, and mineral, 17% Grenache for freshness, warmth, and sweet spice, and 6% Counoise for openness. The wine was blended in August 2005, aged in foudre and bottled in July 2006.
  • 2010 Tasting Notes: The first impression is decidedly Old World, with a deep, dark nose of laquered wood, rosemary, spiced plum and cloves. As it sits in the glass, more fruit emerges with cherry, black raspberry and gingerbread spice. The palate shows beautiful balance, with flavors of roasted meat, mineral, fig, pomegranate, black cherry and crushed rock. It’s a very pure and self-assured wine; Francoise Perrin called it a “vin carré”: literally a “square wine”. It has a long finish of plum, herbs and mineral. The wine is at the beginning of what should be a wonderful decade-long maturity. Try it with a rack of lamb.
  • Quantity Produced: 3250 cases
  • Library Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48

The Collector's Edition is full for 2010, but anyone who is interested can read more on our Web site, and can get onto the waiting list for 2011.  We expect to be able to add another 150 or so members next year, and we'll take them off the waiting list in the order in which we receive their requests.

Finally, anyone who missed the notes on the other wines in the fall 2010 wine club shipment can find them here.