Looking back with a decade's perspective on the sunny, generous 2012 vintage

Though we didn't know it at the time, 2012 was a pivot year for us. Following two cold, wet vintages, 2012 was notably warm, and began what would turn out to be a five-year drought cycle and the first of eight dry years in ten. It also marked a significantly warmer vintage than we'd seen in the past, which turned out to be a preview of conditions we would see regularly over the next decade. Because 2011 was a frost-reduced crop, the vines went into 2012 with plenty of stored up vigor, even though rainfall was just 70% of normal. Budbreak proceeded smoothly at a normal time frame, and the growing season was routine until a major August heat spike gave us eight consecutive days over 100. Most of the vineyard shrugged this off, except for Mourvedre, where we saw significant sunburn. Although we were expecting normal to slightly above normal yields, they turned out to be plentiful in all grapes except Mourvedre, as we saw an average of 3.5 tons per acre. Harvest took place at a normal time frame, beginning the first week of September and finishing the last week of October.

When we got to blending it was a relief to have more options than in our tiny 2011 harvest, when the frost dictated largely what we could and couldn't make. But the higher-than-expected yields had some negatives too, particularly in Grenache, and there were lots that were less intense than we were looking for. Some got declassified into Patelin, which turned out to be terrific that year. Other wines required a higher percentage of Syrah than normal in order to get the color and structure that we wanted. (The vintage was something of a wakeup call for us, and we changed what we had been doing to be more hands-on in both the cellar and the vineyard starting in 2013, in order to keep from being surprised again.) And I was happy after our blending trials; our top wines were outstanding. But the vintage overall always came across to me as more friendly than impressive, sunny and juicy and open-knit, wines to drink and enjoy while other, more structured vintages evolved in the cellar.

So it was with interest that I approached the opportunity to taste through the entire lineup of wines that we made in 2012 last week. This horizontal retrospective tasting is something we do each year, looking at the complete array of wines that we made a decade earlier. We do this for a few reasons. First, it's a chance to take stock on how the wines are evolving, share those notes with our fans who may have them in their cellars, and keep our vintage chart up to date. There are wines (like the Esprits, and Panoplie) that we open fairly regularly, but others that we may not have tasted in six or seven years. Second, it's a chance to evaluate the decisions we made that year, see if they look better (or worse) in hindsight, and use that lens to see if there are any lessons to apply to what we're doing now. And third, it's a chance to put the vintage in perspective. Often, in the immediate aftermath of a harvest and even at blending, we're so close to this most recently completed year that it can be difficult to assess its character impartially. Plus, the full character of a vintage doesn't show itself until the wines have a chance to age a bit. In evaluating these 2012s, I was particularly interested to see the extent to which a decade had deepened that sunny friendliness that I remember from its youth. As you will see, in some cases it did, while in others, not so much. The lineup:

2012 Horizontal Tasting Wines

My notes on the wines are below. I've noted their closures (SC=screwcap; C=cork) and, for the blends, their varietal breakdown. Each wine is also linked to its technical information on our Web site, if you'd like to see winemaking details or the tasting notes at bottling. I was joined for the tasting by three-fifths of our cellar team (Neil Collins, Amanda Weaver, and Austin Collins) as well as by Neil's older son Jordan and Tasting Room Manager John Morris.

  • 2012 Vermentino (SC): Initially upon pouring, showed a screwcap-inflected nose of flint, which blew off to show a pithy, kaffir lime leaf note. On the palate, fresh and bright, green apple, citrus oil, salty and briny. Like a gin & tonic with extra lime. A plush mid-palate and then lots of great acid on the finish. In outstanding shape, still youthful, and a good reminder to let older screwcapped whites breathe a bit before judging them.
  • 2012 Picpoul Blanc (SC): A nose of oyster shells, pineapple skin, and blanched almond. The palate came off as rich compared to the Vermentino that preceded it, almost buttery, with flavors of limestone and white tea. The acids come back out at the end, with a finish of melon rind and wet rocks. Not that anyone would intentionally let a Picpoul age this long, but they'd have to be happy if they opened it and this was what they found.
  • 2012 Grenache Blanc (SC): A classic minerally nose that Amanda said "smells like rain". Underneath that mineral petrichor note I got some sweet anise and spicy bay. The palate showed lemon curd, rounder than we were expecting, but then firming up into a classic bite of Grenache Blanc tannins and white grapefruit pith. Finished clean and long, electric and still very much alive. A terrific showing for this grape that's known to oxidize young.
  • 2012 Viognier (SC): The nose was rich but spicy, pink peppercorn and dried apricot. The palate is fresher than the nose, like fresh apricot juice and mineral, orange blossom and Meyer lemon. Excellent acidity for a Viognier, with a finish like rose water and Middle Eastern spices. Exotic without straying into heavy or blowsy territory.
  • 2012 Roussanne (C): The first wine we tasted finished under cork, and clearly marked as such: deeper flavors of honey, peach liqueur, and spiced nuts. The palate showed lanolin, butterscotch, and preserved lemon, rich texture leavened by good acids, and then exotically spiced on the finish: ginger and graham cracker, but dry, with a little tannic bite. Delicious.
  • 2012 Patelin de Tablas Blanc (SC; 52% Grenache Blanc, 27% Viognier, 16% Roussanne, 5% Marsanne): A pale color that looked like it could have just been bottled. A nose of sea shells, peppermint, and something meaty that Neil identified as prosciutto. The palate is clean, with kaffir lime and lemongrass flavors. The finish shows notes of chamomile and wet rocks. Fresh and youthful. Like the Picpoul, we're guessing there's very little of this out there still. But if it's been stored well, it's still lovely.
  • 2012 Cotes de Tablas Blanc (SC; 34% Viognier, 30% Marsanne, 30% Grenache Blanc, 6% Roussanne): Initially the nose was closed and a little reduced, like a struck match. Then it opened to flavors of kiwi and plantain. The palate was lovely, with rich texture and flavors of brioche and peach pit, then brightening under Grenache Blanc's influence to show citrus pith and fresh peach juice. Saline and long. A treat.
  • 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc (C; 75% Roussanne, 20% Grenache Blanc, 5% Picpoul Blanc): So, so fresh on the nose, showing less age than the varietal Roussanne. Aromas of honeysuckle, pineapple, golden delicious apple and a little sweet oak. The palate showed honey, sweet herbs, and honeydew melon. A rich texture, but very clean. Candied orange peel and vanilla custard came out on the finish. Just beautiful, and right at peak, but with plenty of life left. John asked, "is 'wow' a flavor"?
  • 2012 Patelin de Tablas Rosé (SC; 75% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 5% Counoise): Our first-ever Patelin Rosé still had a pretty pale color, with a nose of watermelon rind, rose hips, and cherry skin. The palate was pretty, cherry and spicy bay leaf, then drier on the finish with cherry skin, sandalwood, and sweet spices. Maybe not a sipping wine on its own at this point, but seemed to be calling out for a charcuterie plate. No one would have intentionally kept this wine this long, but it's still sound. 
  • 2012 Dianthus (SC; 60% Mourvedre, 25% Grenache, 15% Counoise): A little rustiness in the color. The nose showed rhubarb and menthol, also showing some age. The palate is nicer, with flavors of plum and sweet tobacco, and a little Aperol-like bitterness. The finish shows strawberry fruit leather and mineral notes. Surprisingly less vibrant than the Patelin Rosé. Interesting at this stage, more than pleasurable. 
  • 2012 Full Circle (C): Our third Full Circle Pinot Noir from my dad's property in the Templeton Gap, and not our favorite showing. The nose had notes of cola and Fernet and baking chocolate and prunes. The palate was chewy, with some bittersweet chocolate, cedar, and root beer notes. Luxardo cherry came out on the finish, which was still fairly tannic. Felt like this might have been impacted by the warmth of the vintage, and that maybe we worked a little too hard on extracting flavors from it in the cellar. This was better when it was younger and had fresher fruit flavors to cloak the tannins.
  • 2012 Grenache (C): Warm and inviting on the nose, with flavors of strawberry compote, cola, and fig. The palate was soft and ripe, with flavors of milk chocolate and cherry, cedar and sweet spice. Pretty but we thought would have been better a few years ago. Drink up if you've got any.
  • 2012 Mourvedre (C): After the first two reds, both of which we thought were a little over the hill, the wine's cool vibrancy was dramatic. A nose of pine forest and loam, dark chocolate and redcurrant. The palate showed red cherry and plum, cocoa powder and juniper. The freshness just jumped out, with lively acids and still substantial tannins. The finish continued in the same vein, with leather and plum skin and Nordic spice.
  • 2012 Tannat (C): A nose that Neil described as "opaque", meaning that we kept describing it as dark rather than finding individual flavors. Eventually blackberry thicket and baker's chocolate, with both sweet (vanilla bean) and cool (menthol) spice. The palate is mouth-filling, with tobacco and chocolate flavors, a rich texture with plenty of tannin, and an undercurrent of sweet fruit like Medjool dates. Not a sipping wine but would be amazing with a spice-rubbed brisket. Probably right at peak.
  • 2012 Patelin de Tablas (SC; 53% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 18% Mourvedre, 2% Counoise): When we first poured this, showed a little matchstick-like screwcap character, but this blew off to show a lovely Grenache character of olallieberry, cinnamon, and cherry cola. The palate is bright, with raspberry and sarsaparilla notes, and tannins like powdered sugar and a texture like milk chocolate. The finish showed notes of graphite, cedar, and dried cranberry. Fun, in beautiful shape, and a screaming bargain for the $20 we sold it for at the time. 
  • 2012 Cotes de Tablas (C; 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 10% Counoise, 5%Mourvedre): While we usually love the Cotes de Tablas at age 10, we found this a little tired on the nose, with notes of coffee grounds, molasses, and figs. The palate is similar but a little fresher, with black cherry and orange oil notes, loamy and chocolatey. The finish shows its Grenache base with notes of anise and Chinese five spice. Probably a year or two past its peak. 
  • 2012 En Gobelet (C; 63% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 11% Syrah, 8% Counoise, 6% Tannat): Lively on the nose with notes of redwood forest, bittersweet chocolate, marzipan, and potpourri. The palate is lovely with sweet blackberry fruit and wood smoke, substantial tannins, and a long finish of chocolate-covered cherry and star anise. The first Grenache-led wine of the tasting that we really loved, and right at peak.
  • 2012 Esprit de Tablas (C; 40% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 21% Grenache, 9% Counoise): A nose of new leather and forest floor, currant and anise. On the palate, fresh and red fruit-dominated, redcurrant, cigar box, and sweet spice. The tannins are largely resolved. The finish shows flavors of licorice and cassis and sweet tobacco, deepened by a little savory Worcestershire note. This might not be one of our longest-lived Esprits, but it's drinking absolutely beautifully right now.
  • 2012 Panoplie (C; 70% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, 10% Syrah): A vibrant nose of mint chocolate, garrigue, and pancetta that then echoes between red and black fruit. The palate is concentrated without any sense of heaviness, flavors of blackcurrant, licorice, sweet earth and black tea. The tannins are substantial but largely resolved, leaving an impression of lusciousness and refinement. At peak, but no hurry.
  • 2012 Petit Manseng (C): Our third bottling of this classic southwest French grape known for maintaining great acids as it reaches high (and occasionally extremely high) sugar levels, which we make each year in an off-dry style. We tried a sweeter style in 2012, and it wasn't our favorite, with flavors of toasted marshmallow, lychee, and vanilla. The acids come out toward the finish, but it's still sweeter than what we've made in more recent years, and we all missed the bracing acids of those more modern vintages. 
  • 2012 Vin de Paille (C; 100% Roussanne): A treat to end the day. 2012's sunny, reliable harvest weather and plentiful Roussanne vintage allowed us to make our first Vin de Paille since 2006. The nose showed notes of flan and orange marmalade. The palate was very sweet but also showed lovely acids, with flavors of candied orange and chamomile, a luscious texture, and a finish of vanilla bean and orange blossom. Like many of the wines, also right at peak.

A few concluding thoughts

This tasting confirmed my opinion that 2012 was not, by our standards, an aging vintage. Some wines that are usually peaking at around a decade (like Grenache, or Cotes de Tablas) felt already a few years past their primes. Others that tend to still be youthful a decade out (like Tannat, or En Gobelet) felt right at their peaks. It also was not our favorite vintage for Grenache, and as we got toward wines that showed higher percentages of Syrah and Mourvedre, the wines felt firmer and more structured. I think we made a good call with the Esprit that year to displace some Grenache for more Syrah, even though it meant we didn't have any Syrah left to form a varietal bottling.

That said, the whites were across the board excellent. We weren't expecting much from the first three wines, and ended up having to argue over which of them was most deserving to make its place into the public tasting we'll be holding of the highlights in March. And it wasn't just the wines under screwcap; the Roussanne and Esprit de Tablas Blanc were both wonderful. It's worth noting that nearly all of the screwcapped wines improved in the glass, and I thought that most of them would have benefited from a quick decant. A lot of people don't think of decanting older whites, but I think it's often a good idea, and for any wine that has been under screwcap. There's a clipped character that most older screwcapped wines have that dissipates with a few minutes of air. It happens anyway in the glass, but a decant speeds the process.

The tasting also drove home the value of our blending process. The top wines (Esprit, Esprit Blanc, and Panoplie) were all outstanding, and showed the best of the vintage without also carrying its weaknesses. To have the flexibility to reconfigure these wines when the vintage dictates is invaluable, and seeing the results a decade later was affirming. This is why we don't blend to a formula. The raw materials are different each year. I was proud of the process that produced those wines.

We have high hopes that we'll be able to hold an in-person horizontal tasting of the highlights from this tasting. We'd originally scheduled it for Sunday, February 6th, but we pushed it back a month to Sunday, March 6th in the hopes that this will let the surge in Covid Omicron cases subside. If you'd like to join us, we'll be tasting the following 10 wines: Vermentino, Roussanne, Cotes de Tablas Blanc, Esprit de Tablas Blanc, Mourvedre, Patelin de Tablas, En Gobelet, Esprit de Tablas, Panoplie, and Vin de Paille. I can't wait. For more information, or to join us, click here


An assessment of winter 2021-22 after our wettest December since 2004

It seemed like a good omen for this winter when we got several inches of rain in late October. Typically, winters where there's significant early rain (like 2004-05, 2009-10, or 2016-17) end up being drought-breakers, the sorts of years where you replenish aquifers and set your vineyard up for at least a couple of vintages. But then we had an almost-entirely-dry November, which combined with the moderate la nina conditions in place this year, suggested below-average rain. So it was with relief that the storm door opened the second week of December and directed a series of weather systems at the California coast. We got measurable rain twelve of the final nineteen days of the month for a total of 11.06 inches. That puts us at something like 175% of normal rainfall to date:

Rainfall by Month Winter 2021-22

With the storm door closed at the moment, it seemed like a good time to step back and take a look at what this rain means for the winter, and more relevantly this upcoming harvest's prospects. After two dry years, it's wonderful to see how incredibly green the vineyard is, grass growing fast now that the sun is out:

Tall grass and animal enclosure

After moving them to shelter during the biggest storm, both for their own safety and so they didn't compress the wet soil too much, the sheep are back in the vineyard enjoying all the new grass:

Sheep in nursery block

The early rain, and the cover crop growth it produced, allowed us to make a full rotation through the vineyard already. It's pretty cool walking through vineyard blocks and seeing the sheep manure from just a few weeks ago already nearly obscured by regrown grass:

Tall grass and sheep manure

The water we received, despite its volume, nearly all soaked in and saturated the absorbent limestone clay layers, with only a tiny fraction percolating into our watershed. Las Tablas Creek is flowing, but it's hardly a raging torrent:

Las Tablas Creek

Evidence of the abundance of moisture at the surface is provided by new growth of water-loving plants like mushrooms (left) and miner's lettuce (right):

Mushrooms Miners Lettuce

A little break of sun is welcome at this point. It will give the recent rain a chance to penetrate deeply and will super-charge the growth of the cover crop. We're hoping to get the sheep through two more full rotations through the vineyard before we have to move them out for budbreak, and it seems likely we'll be able to given the abundance of food.

Even better, this moisture came without any significant negative impacts. Because of the absorbency of our soils, we don't worry much about erosion in the vineyard. But I was pleased to see the impact of the erosion mitigation measures  we took to keep our roads in good shape. The photo below shows one of these: straw bales that we put in drainage areas to divert the water into the vineyard, where it could soak in, rather than continuing down roadsides:

Erosion mitigation

Overall, I'm feeling like we've gotten the beginning of winter we all were hoping for. We're ahead of schedule for water, already having exceeded the full-winter totals we've seen in recent years like 2013-14, 2014-5, and (most importantly) 2020-21, with more than half the rainy season still to come. We've already booked 13 below-freezing nights, which means that the vineyard is fully and truly dormant. The cover crops look like they're in for an outstanding year. 

What would an ideal second half of winter look like? A few weeks of sun, then a resumption of more rain in the second half of January. Continued periodic storms and frosty nights in February and March. And come early April, a smooth transition to more benign weather with no more frost, so budbreak can proceed uninterrupted. Can we do it? Time will tell. But we're off to a great start.


Our Most Memorable Wines of 2021

As I have done the last few years, I asked our team to share a wine that stuck with them from all the ones they'd tried in 2021, and why. In the rush of the holidays -- and with some key members of our team out with new babies -- there were some familiar faces who didn't send in an entry this year. But still, this was one of my favorite blogs to put together. I love seeing the breadth of wine interests of the Tablas Creek team. More than that, I love seeing what inspired them. In a year with as many ups and downs as 2021, it's not surprising that it was the moments or memories that a special bottle of wine marked that stood out. It was a great reminder of how wine brings people together, whatever the times or the challenges. 

Here's everyone's submission, in their own words and only very lightly edited, in alphabetical order (except mine, which is at the end):

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
Sometimes the most memorable wine is not just because of the wine, but because of the moment. My family lost a wonderful man in January, but we were fortunate to spend the last few weeks with my father-in-law at his home. He deeply appreciated my cooking and always loved the wines I offered him.  In his last days he requested braised lamb shank (said with his English accent) that he had a “hankering” for it. I had been saving my oldest vintage of Panoplie in my collection for the perfect moment, and this was indeed the perfect moment. It was the last wine I was ever able to share with him, but I will never forget his response as he enjoyed every sip; “Janelle, this is excellent!” He passed a few days later but that moment lives on, and that 2015 Panoplie will always remind me of him. 

Cheers to a New Year, may everyone be Happy, Healthy, and Humble.

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
Rather than a single bottle I would like to share a wine experience that I found particularly inspiring. Marci, Boo and myself were heading to Portland to meet up with Jordan and Amanda, we were about to hike the Mount Hood Timberline trail, another tale altogether. I have been intrigued by the farming practices of Antiquum Farm for some time so took this opportunity to go and pay them a visit. At Antiquum they farm using many species in an intense grazing program, having set up the vineyard to be able to graze all year round. We were lucky enough to sit and taste with Stephen Hagan the owner and farmer, as well as spending time with Andrew the wine maker and apparently many wearer of many other hats. The whole experience was really a treat. Stephen is passionate and articulates that passion with an ease that is rare. The wines were unique and excellent across the board. The Pinot Noirs really display a character that speaks of the place and the people and creatures who tirelessly farm the land and make the wines. If you can you should go, if you cannot, buy some wines and read their story. Happy New Year to you all!!!! Neil..

Ian Consoli, Director of Marketing
This year, I existed in two worlds that exposed me to incredible wines. The first was when I started attending school at Sonoma State University, which has allowed me to connect with wine professionals in both the Napa and Sonoma regions and, through them, their wines. The most memorable wine thus far has been a Chardonnay from Hanzell Vineyards. It was a wine that stopped everything around me and demanded my focus. I think about that moment often.

The second world is as the producer of our Facebook Live show, Tasting with Neil. Sitting alongside Winemaker Neil Collins while he opens bottles from legendary producers all over California exposed me to some incredible wines. In April, Randall Graham joined the show, and I got to share one of the first wines ever produced from his Popelouchum project. It was a Grenache, picked from vines that only produced one cluster per vine, fermented in a food-safe 15-gallon garbage can, and aged in a 15-gallon barrel. That was the wine’s entire production! It was unique, with beautiful red fruit and an earthiness reminiscent of the old world. [If you missed the conversation, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking the image below.]

Randall Grahm on Tasting with Neil

Terrence Crowe, Tasting Room
The years just keep on flying by and yet another one bites the dust. One of the pure joys of working at Tablas Creek involves consuming unabashedly obscure ‘varieties‘ (Morris, 2021) like Terret Noir, Bourboulenc, Picardan and Vaccarese in unfettered 100% format. Where else can you find a pristine example of these rare gem stones? Precisely. Then there is the 2021 love affair with my girl Marcie. Marcie, also known as Marsanne 2019 to those in the know has become my favorite everyday drinking companion. As 2022 approaches she will soon vanish forevermore like dust in the wind so let her know how you feel while that flame still burns bright. Thanks for the memories.

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
Darren's WOTY 2021One morning during harvest, I added a couple cases of wine to my humble Morro Bay storage space at Toobs Bodyboards. I pulled an aged gem from the foam covered stash and headed to the winery to host an afternoon tour. I put the bottle of 2010 Domaine Gros Noré Bandol Rouge in my computer bag to save it from the heat of my parked car, and as I waltzed up the crush pad, I noticed the winemaking team doing their celebratory harvest lunch with wines. Neil Collins saw me and barked “What’s in the bag?” Turns out it was everyone’s lucky day, and after nine years at Tablas Creek, I was finally offered a seat at the holy production table, beneath the sweating destemmer, and I revealed the bounty. Neil has been to Gros Noré, and on first whiff he proclaimed “I feel like I’m there. Right now.” In this era of limited travel, it’s a blessing how great wines can transport you to a far off place through your senses. As a collector, cracking this Mourvédre based red at 11 years of age caught this once tannic beast at a moment of resolved, concentrated greatness.

A solid runner up would be the Herve Souhart 2018 La Souteronne, which is a rare Gamay from the Northern Rhone, recommended to me by Patrick at San Diego’s Vino Carta. Like a cool climate, minerally Syrah and bright Gamay combined, I’ve bought this juicy rarity at every shop I’ve since seen it at this year. Happy Holidays!

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
Six Test KitchenPost 2020, nearly every wine we enjoyed with people we love felt overwhelmingly special.  But among this year of stand-out experiences, where we’ve learned that it’s always a good time to bring out the good stuff, there were a few moments that rose to the top.  Back in March, our friends Dan and Gail treated us to a dinner at Six Test Kitchen here in Paso Robles.  Every single moment of that dinner was completely over the top –  the company and conversation, the food, the plating, the setting, and of course, the wine.  Each pairing that was presented was an absolute delight and an utter experience.  The restaurant gained its first Michelin Star a few months ago (none of us can get over how cool it is that we have a Michelin starred restaurant down the street!) and after our incredible evening there spent being treated like honored guests, it’s easy to see why. 

In a year like this, where no interactions are taken for granted, it was the time spent with cherished friends that was the centerpiece while incredible wines helped to punctuate the occasion.

Ray King, Tasting Room
For me, there were so many fun and different wine this year. It was a difficult task to come up with the most memorable, but here are a few that were stellar.

Domaine Castéra, Jurancon sec (Petit Courbu & Gros Manseng), 2019.
Chateau Marcadis, Lalande de Pomerol, 2019
Ulysses, 2016
Tablas Creek, Marsanne, 2019
Tablas Creek, Mourvèdre, 2019
Txomin Etxaniz, Getaria Rosé, Txakolina, 2019
Chateau Raymond-La-Fon, Sauternes, 2002
Chateau Moulin, Canon Fronsac, 2015
Erste-Neve, Alto Adige, Lagrein, 2019
Ulloa Cellars, Verdejo, 2020
Nelle, Pinwheel (GB, R, Vio), 2018
Alban Vineyards, Reva, Syrah, 2002, 2005, 2008
Mathilde et Yves Gangloff, Saint Joseph Blanc, 2011
Agree, Txakolina, 2019
Paix Sur Terre, Ugni Blanc, 2020
 
Like I said, this is a few of the most memorable wines in my 2021. 

Gustavo Prieto, Biodynamic Lead
Gustavos Wine of 2021My wine of the year is a Castell D’Age 100% Grenache, or Garnacha in Spain, with no sulfites added. The wine had a nice earthiness and some brettyness on the nose, dense and a very dark color. Castell D’Age is a special place in the Penedes region of Spain and I had the privilege of visiting the winery a few years ago. In addition to being certified organic and biodynamic, the winery is owned by three generations of women. 

Jim Van Haun, Tasting Room
I've had a lot of really nice wines this year but the Tablas Creek 2020 Vermentino stands out. My first experience with Vermentino, called Rolle in France, was on a 3 week vacation to the Rhone in 2015. Vermentino is one of those wines that has bright acidity and crispness that reflects the low PH. The Tablas Creek 2020 version is especially so and reminds me of a perfect Summer day. It's wine's version of a really good limey gin and tonic!

...And As for Me
Most summers, we go back to Vermont to spend at least a few weeks in the house in which I grew up, where my mom still spends half the year, and where my sister and her family live too. 2020 interrupted that tradition, so once we'd gotten ourselves and our boys vaccinated we decided to spend a full month back east in 2021. And there are always rewards. Green grass and forests, nonchlorinated bodies of water for swimming, and the chance to reinforce those connections with family and friends who we didn't get to see the year before. For my family, that means lots of long meals around the dinner table. We always share the cooking and washing up so it's not a chore for anyone, and not every meal is a fancy one. But we do try to pull out all the stops a few times, and decided one afternoon to build a meal for which we could open a couple of legendary wines from the era when my dad was the exclusive American importer for a few of the top Bordeaux houses.

The meal itself was lovely: roasted racks of lamb, gratin dauphinois, sautéed zucchini (the year’s first from the garden) and a tomato salad. The wines were a 1961 Lafite and a 1970 Petrus, and both were in outstanding shape. The Petrus was round and lush, the Lafite a bit more spicy and angular. Tannins were pretty well resolved in both. Just a lovely occasion to taste and appreciate two magical wines that we have a personal connection to, and be thankful for my dad's judgment and foresight. It wasn't an otherwise meaningful day (not a birthday or an anniversary) but the meal made it meaningful. If there's one conclusion I've come to over the pandemic, it's that you've got to make your own celebrations when you have the opportunity. 

JCH Wines of the Year 2021

A few concluding thoughts:
One of the things I appreciate most about the team that I work with at Tablas Creek is the wide range of their interests and experiences. If you don't work at a winery, you might expect that those of us who do spend most of their time drinking their own wines, but in my experience, that's far from the case. Most people who find a career in wine do so because they find it fascinating, and that interest doesn't go away just because they've landed at a particular winery, even a winery that they love. And most people who work at wineries look at exploring other wines as an enjoyable form of continuing education. So it wasn't a surprise to me that while some wines were Tablas Creek, most were not. But whatever the wines that were chosen, it stood out to me how wine can help provide a memory of a person or place, or punctuation for a moment that helps bring connection.

As we settling into our third pandemic year, making the most of these opportunities for connection is one of my own goals. I wish you all memorable food and wine experiences in 2022, and even more than that, new connections and a greater sense of community. May we all find more to celebrate next year.


Tract Home Guerilla Winemaking - The Sequel

By Darren Delmore

(For those of you who didn’t read part one about how you can make wine from a single vine, I once made 2.5 bottles of varietally correct and quaffable Roussanne from my mom's oceanside vine, hand bottled and labeled in time for Mother’s Day.)

As harvest 2021 was ripening along, my mother kept texting me photos of the crazy Roussanne vine taking over her backyard. At random hours, spaced out among days, sometimes well after 2 am, a photo would come through, often with a simple question mark, or “I think these grapes are going bad," even the simple "HELP.” The main complaint used to be that the vine, purchased in a pot at Tablas Creek back in 2007, had blossomed to prolific proportions and obstructed the ocean view from her bathroom window. At 74 years of age, she still runs the oldest Italian restaurant in SLO County, yet the backyard vine seemed to be of a much higher importance. 

Big vine
Roussanne grapes

Then a texted photo came my way, showing a big Roussanne cluster with some bunch rot happening in its center, so I stopped by her gated community by the beach and had a look. A second vine that I’d put in the ground in 2009, from a simple hard pruning, was having its Coachella moment. Thirty gorgeous clusters raging beneath a healthy green, head trained canopy. I hadn’t sprayed the vines with sulfur or done anything but a timely winter pruning, and perhaps the dryness of this vintage kept the coastal mildew and rot mostly at bay. “Yes mom, we are going to have a vintage!” I announced. Together, my mother and I pulled bird netting over the vines and tied it to the trunks. The clusters on the original vine were already showing the classic gold and rust-spotted freckles of Roussanne, and I cut off the cluster that had the documented rot, leaving the rest to ripen.

Cut to the third week of October, and after taking my son to a gymnastics session in SLO, I had one hour to spare, so I hauled down to Shell Beach with shears and two buckets.  I texted from her driveway: “I’m here for the grapes." She came out into her backyard five minutes later adorned with new fabric gloves, a hat, shades and even sunscreen on, to pick these mere two vines. We pulled the netting off and saw that the extra hang time allowed the second vine’s fruit to catch up. “This is the best these have looked in years,” I said.

“Look at these grapes, Darren!” She was excited.

“You take that vine, mom, I’ll get this one.”

Roussanne - Mom - Harvest

We filled two buckets and a tote with coastal Roussanne, tidied up the netting for next year, and I sped off to pick up kids and prepare my lower back for “the fun part” of making small batch white wine at home.

I’ve met avid home winemakers in Paso Robles with all kinds of custom contraptions to make the pressing process easier, but perhaps the stubborn, hard working side of my mother is fully alive within me, and I chose to hand crush and press in the buckets, till a good portion of the juice was visible, then poured the buckets nearly upside down, holding the skins in, through an appropriate pasta screened funnel, into a glass carboy.

Crushing Roussanne

I’m sure drilling holes into the bottom of one bucket and pressing downward over a second bucket or larger funnel is probably the smarter way to go. But in the dark in my backyard, sweating, grunting, cussing, promising never to do this again, and surely raising suspicions from my new neighbors, I filled a 3 gallon carboy and part of a one gallon growler, putting on the plastic air locks and tucking them away in the garage. The skins went into the green waste bin. My wife thought I was insane. 

One gallon

Days later, the tell tale “Bloop bloop bloop” sounds from the corner of the garage proclaimed that natural fermentation had begun.

After a few weeks, the bubbling stopped, and a thick layer of white sediment had formed at the bottom of each glass container. I elevated the glass up on some cases of wine to settle overnight, then the next morning, using a simple food grade hose, I siphoned the clear wine into a clean 3 gallon carboy, and chucked the sediment. There was a small amount of the wine in the hose, so I drained it into a glass and tentatively smelled it, expecting a bouquet of formaldehyde and kerosene at best. But lo and behold, there was honeysuckle and some ginger… it was Roussanne all right!

Mama Del Old Vines Estate Roussanne 2021 was happening.

As temperatures were forecasted to dip to 27 degrees on December 11th, I added a pinch of sulfur to the wine and put the glass carboys of wine outside on a towel. Cold stabilization done the natural way. The cold temps would in theory precipitate some crystals out of the wine to cling to the glass, hopefully adding a touch of clarification.

December 13th, using the hand corker I’d bought years ago at Doc’s Cellar in SLO, I hand corked 10 bottles of my mom’s Roussanne, labeling the back accordingly. Just in time for her 75th birthday on December 16th.

Rouss bottle

The big reveal came at the Madonna Inn, where we took her for dinner. I pre chilled the first bottle and agreed to a corkage fee that was a bit flattering for such a homemade wine. The server poured it into the inn's trademark goblets. I watched my mom for her reaction. 

“What grape is this again?” she asked, swirling the white wine and looking a bit concerned.

“It's still Roussanne.”

She swirled it again, put her glasses on, and studied the custom back label. Then she lowered her nose in the glass. “It’s oaky, isn’t it?”

“Impossible. Do you like it?”

“It’s… it’s... I don't know." She sipped it and scowled. Maybe I'd rushed things. The acids were omnipresent, though it still smelled varietally sound. Besides, here it was, the fruit of her backyard vine, turned into a clear, packaged and labeled wine in less than two month's time.

"It's... it's different, Darren." 

"Different?"

"I don't know."

I shotgunned the entire glass and resigned myself over the Gold Rush Steakhouse menu.


Yes, it does get cold in Paso Robles.

[Editor's note: With this blog, we introduce Austin Collins to the Tablas Creek blog audience. Cellar Assistant here at Tablas Creek since the beginning of 2019, Austin's history here on the property goes much further back than that, as our long-time Winemaker Neil Collins is his dad and he grew up here on property. Now with Neil having moved to town Austin is back living on-site, and I am very excited for you to get to see Tablas Creek through his eyes!]

By Austin Collins

Before I give you what you really want I feel that I am obliged to introduce myself. My name is Austin Collins, but most people refer to me simply as "Boo". While I am officially titled as a Cellar Assistant my role at Tablas Creek Vineyard was graciously expanded last year. I now have the unique honor of living on premises with my growing family as property caretaker. Because of this I get to spend a lot of time walking vine rows and spending some quality time with my Vitis neighbors. 

Most people know the undeniable heat that bears down on the soils of Paso Robles, but that's summer. This is winter. Along with the drop in temperature we have been blessed with a decent start to the rainy season. This week we had our second substantial rain event, which was immediately followed by a hard freeze. This combination transformed the land into a tundra like setting, frost gripping every surface before melting and dropping to the earth with the sun's first rays:

Image_50407937

It may seem like a shocking change for the vines to endure, and it is. But, that's something that makes the Paso Robles AVA so special. The buds for next year's vintage need a certain amount of chilling time to allow a timely and healthy budbreak in the spring:

IMG-2154

While the vines are entering their hibernation phase they are not the only ones out in the cold. Our cover crop, an essential cog in our farming system, is also battling the frost. We use a frost-hardy seed blend to allow plenty of time for our "coworkers", including this pea plant, to do their job for the soil:

Image_50739969

In the rows where cover crop is not seeded, native grasses hold claim. Unlike December of 2020 we already have a substantial growth of these native grasses covering the property:

Grass

With the native grasses and cover crops growing, our thoughts move to the 2022 growing season. But the past harvest still sits fresh in our minds. In fact the vineyard still hangs on as well. A few last second-crop clusters, left unpicked because they were unripe at harvest time, remain clutched to the canes:

Second

For this last photo I bring you to a special spot in the vineyard, one that I always find myself returning to. A lone willow tree that sits in one of the lowest parts of the vineyard. This Salix, a family of trees that thrive in riparian zones, is an indication of the moisture present underground even in our often-arid region:

Willow

Although it is a quiet time for viticulture work in the vineyard we cannot forget the work of the vines themselves. Storing intracellular energy to support the upcoming vintage, these cold times are vital to the wine that ends up on your table. Until spring comes I sit here on my stoop with my wife and newborn son on my lap -- the third Collins generation to live on this property -- enjoying the rain and hoping for more. We care for this land, and it is our purpose to do so. 


Fruit Snacks, Organic Wine, and the Dilemma of "Made With"

This Welch's Fruit Snacks box is a great example of why I find the US National Organic Program (NOP) wine standard problematic. Seem like a leap? Bear with me.

Welchs Fruit Snacks

These fruit gummies say “Made With Real Fruit”. And they are! But also a lot of other stuff, like corn syrup, artificial flavors, and Red 40. The phrasing "made with" is pretty clear in this case. This product contains real fruit. It's (in this case) the first ingredient, though it doesn't need to be. But the clear implication is that there are other ingredients. And there are, 17 in all, in these fruit snacks. 

So, why, if you look on a shelf in the "organic" section of your local wine shop or supermarket, do most of the wines there say “Made With Organic Grapes” on the label? After all, based on American labeling laws, the implication is that there’s other stuff in there, maybe even things that aren’t grapes. But it's one of the only options for wines, as dictated by the NOP standard.

This disconnect comes down to a long-standing (and in my opinion overblown1) fear of sulfites. Sulfur has been used for centuries in winemaking because adding it in small amounts slows the process of oxidation and inhibits the action of vinegar-causing bacteria. But as I wrote early this year, how this got added to and then maintained in the organic regulations is a quirk of history and marketing from an unusual coalition of anti-alcohol interests, natural wine purists, and sulfite-free wineries: all parties with a vested interest in making organic wine hard to achieve.

Most other countries set a limit for sulfites for organic wines around 100ppm. That seems reasonable to me. But not the NOP. If you add any sulfites at all you can’t call your wine organic. You can't use the NOP organic seal. Instead there is a specific line in the NOP standards that says "Any use of added sulfites makes the wine only eligible for the “made with” labeling category; may not use the USDA organic seal." There is a specific meaning to the "Made With" claim in the NOP organic regulations. It's for products that are at least 70% but less than 95% organic. Think pasta sauce "Made With Organic Tomatoes" but including non-organic onions, spices, etc. By contrast, the "Organic" standards require that 95% or more of the finished product be from organic sources. Those products can use the organic seal. A wine from an organic vineyard with 100ppm sulfites is 99.99% organic. But it's not eligible for the organic seal. 

This may seem an esoteric worry. But the fact that American organic wine is forced to be sulfite-free makes many of them short lived and unstable. That implies to consumers that organic farming makes unreliable wine and reduces incentives for wineries to farm organically. It's probably not a coincidence that the percentage of wine grapes in California has lagged that in France, Spain, and Italy. It also makes American organic wine  less competitive with international organic wines. That's at least three clear negative outcomes.

Supporters of the NOP standards (and wineries who have built a market with sulfite-free wines) say that wineries should embrace the “Made With Organic Grapes” phrasing. But one look at that fruit snacks box should make it clear why that option comes with its own baggage.

Footnote:

  1. Why overblown? Many people attribute to sulfites the "red wine headache" that is more likely a sensitivity to histamines, found naturally in grapes. Sulfite allergies can be serious, but such sensitivities are very rare, and usually manifest in respiratory symptoms. It is (purportedly) for people with these sensitivities that wines that add it carry a “Contains Sulfites” warning. But given that there are many other products including including dried fruit, frozen potatoes, frozen shrimp and many condiments that contain much higher sulfite levels and don't have to carry a warning label, I don't find that particularly convincing.

In which we get to try the world's only (?) other Vaccarese

In April, in conjunction with the wine's release, I wrote a blog wondering if we'd just produced the world's first-ever 100% Vaccarese. Before you scoff, I don't think that's impossible. At just 12 hectares (about 30 acres) in France as of 2012, it's scarce, and the majority of that is in Chusclan, a minor appellation in the Gard, where it is generally blended (at a maximum percentage of 20%) with Grenache to make rosés. And it's not like it was common historically; In Pierre Galet's 1990 ampelography Cépages et Vignobles de France, he reports just 40 hectares (100 acres) in France. Viala and Vermorel's 1901-1910 Ampélographie doesn't even have an entry for Vaccarese, instead listing it and a few alternate spellings in the index as "nonspecific names given to grape varieties in the Vaucluse". So, at least for the last century Vaccarese has never been widely planted, or been a lead grape where it was.

But that April blog did produce a lead. Joe Czerwinski, who covers the Rhone (and was named Editor-in-Chief this week) for Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, left a comment reporting that he'd tasted a special cuvee from Chateau des Fines Roches called "Forget Me Not" which he understood was made from Vaccarese. We did a little digging, found the wine's page on the producer's website, and reached out to its American importer, Bradley Cohen of Bradley Alan Imports. The wine isn't imported into the United States, as there were just 1000 bottles produced, but Bradley reached out to the proprietor Amelie Barrot and she was generous enough to include a bottle with their next United States-bound shipment. Bradley forwarded it on to us and we let it rest through harvest before convening yesterday to open it and see what we could learn. The guest of honor (left) alongside ours:

Vaccarese bottle with Forget Me Not

The Forget Me Not was showing beautifully. My tasting notes on it:

The nose is lovely, with cedary, warm earth and loam over brandy-soaked cherries. There is great vibrancy on the palate, bitter chocolate and more cherries, herbes de Provence, and a lovely sweet pungency like chocolate-dipped orange peel. Soft tannins. Good acids. Warm tones. Silky. 

By contrast, our version felt very spiky and young. My notes:

A nose of spicy purple fruit, grape and elderberry, lavender, mint, and black licorice. The mouth is younger, more tannins evident, with a tarter fruit profile like pomegranate seed and apple skin. The black licorice note comes back out on the finish. Cool tones. Somewhat tannic at this stage.

What did the two wines have in common? A feel and weight more than specific flavors. Good acids. Solid tannins. A mix of herbal, fruit, and earth characters. But I'm not sure that having tasted only our Vaccarese I would have identified the Forget Me Not as made from the same grape. I think I would have guessed Grenache if I'd had to (and their website does indicate that the wine is a blend of 90% Vaccarese and 10% Grenache). But I think I would have identified the wine as a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It's a testament to the power of terroir that an appellation can shine through this clearly even through the lens of a grape that's rarely even appears in small quantities there.

Our own wine felt cooler, crunchier, darker, and more tannic than theirs. That contrast was doubtless exacerbated by the fact it was three years younger, 2019 instead of 2016. But the observation, along with noting the difference in alcohol between ours (13%) and theirs (14.5%), made me wonder whether we might experiment with leaving at least a portion of our Vaccarese grapes on the vine a little longer, in the hopes of getting a little more of the silkiness that I found in the Chateauneuf.

In any case, we all ended the tasting wondering why, with its obvious charms, Vaccarese didn't become more popular at some point in its history. It is apparently quite susceptible to powdery mildew, which would have been a disincentive to plant it in an era where there weren't good tools to treat that malady. Research I've done has suggested that Picardan suffered a similar fate. But whatever its historical issues, we're convinced that Vaccarese's future is bright. We can't wait to try, in a few years, a future vintage of ours against the same vintage of Forget Me Not. When we do, I promise to report back on what we find.


What We'll Be Drinking with Thanksgiving 2021

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It's brings extended family together for a day of cooking, eating, and reflecting on what we're grateful for. It's still thankfully largely uncommercialized. And it feels like this last year, for all its challenges, has given us plenty to be thankful for. My family has managed to stay safe and healthy. Our boys are back in school. Tablas Creek has emerged from our Covid challenges in good shape. And because vaccines have made a resumption of more-or-less normal life possible, we're going back to a big family gathering this year. For all these reasons, it feels like this is going to be a Thanksgiving celebration in a way last year's wasn't.

Last year's pairings were a little unusual too, because what was a family of four going to do with a turkey, anyway? Still, before diving into specific recommendations, it's worth going over some things that don't change. Try not to stress over your choices. Open a range of wines. Expect each of them to sing with a dish or two, coexist peacefully enough with another, and maybe clash with something. That can be fun, and instructive. Remember, and accept that it's OK, that nothing will pair particularly well with sweet potato casserole or roasted Brussels sprouts. Open a few more wines than you think you'll need, and don't feel bad about having wine leftovers, along with your food. You'll likely learn something, and have fun along the way. Remember that open bottles kept in the fridge should be fine for a week or more. And if you're still stressing after reading all these recommendations, I refer you to the 2016 piece on W. Blake Gray's blog where he set up a simple 5-question quiz to answer the question "is this wine good for Thanksgiving". I'm sure I haven't gone through every possible combination, but I've never gotten any answer other than "yes".

OK, now that I've told you any choice is perfectly fine, it's only fair that I acknowledge my own preferences. After all, there are wines that I tend to steer clear of, like wines that are powerfully tannic (which tend to come off even more so when they're paired with some of the sweeter Thanksgiving dishes), and wines that are high in alcohol (which tend to be fatiguing by the end of what is often a marathon of eating and drinking). But that still leaves you plenty of options. With a traditional turkey dinner, I tend to steer people toward richer whites and rosés, and fruitier reds relatively light in oak and tannin. Plenty of Tablas Creek wines fit these broad criteria, so if you want to stay in the family, you could try anything from Marsanne and Esprit Blanc to Dianthus Rosé to Counoise or Cotes de Tablas. Richer red meat preparations open up a world of Mourvedre-based reds young or old, from Esprit de Tablas to Panoplie to En Gobelet, which just (say it out loud) sounds like something you should be drinking at this time of year.  

But I'm just one person. As I've done the last several years, I reached out to our team to ask them what they were planning on drinking this year. Their responses are below, in their own words, in alphabetical order.

Thanksgiving Capon

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
I love Thanksgiving, and I love tradition so my wine choice doesn’t vary all that much from year to year because why change a good thing?!  So, again this year I am opening the Tablas Creek Counoise. It is my Thanksgiving staple and I doubt that will ever change!  If you haven’t had the Counoise with Thanksgiving dinner, you absolutely must.  In addition to the Counoise, I’m bringing a bottle of the 2019 Full Circle Pinot Noir from Tablas…. What a fantastic vintage this Full Circle is… absolutely stellar. For the white wine I’ve decided on a Domaine Weinbach Reisling from Alsace – also a Thanksgiving staple in my house.

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
It is a big one for us as we celebrate our first Thanksgiving with a grandchild, Finnegan Aldous Collins. Now that is something to be thankful for. No doubt we will get the pre-game rolling with the Lone Madrone Pet–Nat of Chenin Blanc, some bubbles to excite. Moving on to a bottle that I have never actually tried, a Reichsgraf Von Kesselatatt, Saar Riesling Kabinet, 2018. There is a bit of a family Riesling thing going on at present so this bottle will be much anticipated. We have been exploring wines of the Jura for many years, they are a family favorite, hence we will indulge that interest with an Arbois Pupillin, Chardonnay ‘la Marcette’ 2019, Cellier Saint Benoit. To keep the Chardonnay company we have another Jura, the Trousseau Grevilliere from Domaine Dugois, Arbois, 2018. After we made a family circumnavigation of mount Hood on the Timberline Trail this year we rewarded ourselves with a visit to the family favorite, Brickhouse, where we tasted and picked up a couple of Magnums of 2018 Ribbon Ridge Gamay Noir with this meal in mind. Lastly (likely not a true statement) we will open a 2017 Cavallotto Barolo, Bricco Boschis. I say likely not true as there is a probability that other bottles will find their way to table, as they do! Oh and there will doubtless be Cider about!!!

Have a great day, eat and celebrate family, friends and all that you have to be thankful for. Cheers, the Collins family.

Ian Consoli, Director of Marketing
This year I'll have two Thanksgivings thanks to a fun Friendsgiving this past weekend. To that meal I brought a magnum of 2015 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. Meals of 10+ people are the perfect excuse to bring out a magnum! It paired nicely with the turkey, mac, stuffing, and everything else. For Thanksgiving with my family, which will be four of us, I have chosen a nice rose. Mas de Gourgonnier Rose from 2020 is a direct press blend of Grenache, Cabernet, and Mourvedre from the famed organic producer. I'm looking forward to seeing how it pairs.

Terrence Crowe, Tasting Room
Ah the sound of a cracklin’ fire and warm company abound. This Thanksgiving I am proud to say I will be highlighting some outstanding Collector's Edition options for turkey day 2021. Both the 2013 Esprit Rouge and 2015 Esprit Blanc will be thirst quenching table side options. Nothing like two outstanding Tablas Creek bottles with a few years on them. Picardan 2020 will also be holding a place at this years feast. I hope everyone has a wonderful time at their gathering and plenty of thought provoking wine to keep conversations interesting. 

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
The world of wine again proves that there are new discoveries around the world to keep my curiosities alive. I was so late to the Cru Beaujolais game that it's a bit embarrassing. Being a fan of wines that are naturally fermented, artisan in aromas and textures, and full of bright, non-manipulated fruit, it's wild to think that it took until 2021 to discover the village of Morgon. With that said, Domaine Lapierre Morgon 2019, which I've consumed a half a case of easy this year, will be on the table, as will the Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas Blanc 2014, with its florals and riches on show.  

Eddie Garcia, Logistics
This Thanksgiving is one that I have a lot to be thankful for. I just completed my one year anniversary here at Tablas Creek in September, and cannot be more excited for what is to come. My family continues to be healthy, happy and safe, even with this new round of the pandemic. But most importantly, I’ve been blessed with having a new sibling in my life. My sister Sandy and I met for the first time this summer, and we’ve become close in such a short time. Looking forward to her coming out from Arizona next year for a visit and getting to share with her our amazing Central Coast, and definitely some tastings will be lined up. 

With so much to be thankful for, I’ve held onto a bottle that I cannot wait to open: a 2017 Interpretation from Full Draw. This Tempranillo was amazing when I sampled it a few months ago at the winery, and cannot wait to open and get reacquainted. I’ll also be bringing some of our great Tablas wines, including a 2018 Grenache (my last one!), and 2019 Cotes de Tablas. Hope everyone has a healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Jody Gomes, Accounts Payable & Compliance
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, not just because of the delicious food but because of the wine pairings. This year, my fiancé and I will be sharing Thanksgiving with his family during the day and with my family in the evening, that means … double the wine! Since the festivities will begin about noon, we will most likely start with a bottle of 2020 Gewurztraminer from our good friends at Tackitt Family Vineyards. During the meal my fiancé and I plan to open a bottle of 2019 grenache that we made together in our home winery aka garage, we like to call it our ‘Garage Grenache’. Thanksgiving round two will start at my parent’s house about 4:00pm, my 95-year-old grandfather will be joining us at the table this year so the house will be filled with laughter and great conversation. The men like to begin every dinner with a glass of Tanqueray over ice while my Mom and I will open a bottle of our favorite sparkling wine from Domaine Carneros, Le Reve Blanc de Blancs. My Mom and I have made it a tradition for the last couple of years to open that bottle on Thanksgiving, we look forward to it all year long! At dinner we like to open a variety of bottles to cater to everyone’s pallets. For the last several years a staple on our table is a bottle of Tablas Creek Counoise, if any wine was made for Thanksgiving, this is the one! For the wine drinkers who like a bolder wine, we usually open a Syrah or Zinfandel. Staying local to Paso Robles, we will open a Syrah from Caliza and a Zinfandel from the Ueberroth Vineyard at Turley. I am certainly thankful to share a beautiful Thanksgiving with family and friends. Cheers!

Ray King, Tasting Room
This Thanksgiving will be a traditional meal spent with my mother, sisters, and our other close relatives. So for the traditional meal I am bringing three different wines that will fit in perfectly.

1) Txomin Etxaniz,  Rose Txakoli 2019, a fun and refreshing Basque wine.
2) Domaine De Fa, Beaujolais 'En Besset’ 2019. Lovely Gamay is always welcome at a Thanksgiving table.
3) Tablas Creek, Mourvèdre 2019. Simply my current favorite red wine from Tablas Creek and, it too, will be fantastic with a Thanksgiving dinner.

Haydee McMickle, Tasting Room
I’ll start with a Clairette de Die Brut, Domaine Archad-Vincent it’s delightful and a wonderful starter. I like to open several wines for the main meal. Esprit Blanc is a favorite friend , the 2017, or more interesting is the 2015. It goes great with the turkey, the leek & mushroom gratin or the cornbread sausage stuffing. I also like to switch to a light red, this year a Moulin-a-Vent Vielles Vignes Beaujolais Cru, which is tasty with the same foods but goes really well with sweet potatoes. These are engaging with the meal yet keep me light on feet so I can play a family game of Catan or Telestrations.  

Bon Appetit and best wishes to all. 

Monica O'Connor, Direct Sales Manager
Thanksgiving this year is going to be a new experience, and one I am greatly looking forward to. While I’m missing my son and daughter-in-law, I’ll be spending the day with new friends who truly feel like family.  And because one is French, I feel a particular responsibility to make it special for her! So we will toast with a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve, our gratitude for family, friends, health, and all the blessings we enjoy.

I have two special bottles to share with them. The first is a 2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges Village "Les Plateaux", which I’ve come to know as a perfect wine for celebrating a special occasion, and also one to savor and stimulate thought. The other is the beautiful Tablas Creek 2017 Le Complice. It is the definitive balance of earth, fruit, herbs and spice. It has depth and finesse and charm – it will surely integrate all the flavors and textures of our Thanksgiving feast.

All this beauty - family, friends, abundance in kindness and caring at work and at home - is a powerful reminder of all we have to be grateful for.

Lisa Rainey, Tasting Room
In October of 2018 we bought a ten-acre property on Willow Creek Road.  The property contains almost three acres of vines, which had been severely neglected.  We’ve been working since that time on building a new home on the site and bringing the vines back to health.  With AmByth Estates and Tablas Creek Vineyard as role models for farming practices, we have been dry farming and farming using mostly biodynamic practices.  The first wine from our property was released this year, AmByth Rainey Rose.  This year, even though our house isn’t complete, we plan to have our dinner at our new property.  It seems incredibly fitting that we enjoy a bottle of AmByth Rainey Rose.  We also plan to open a Lone Madrone wine, from the Old Oak Vineyard – one of our Willow Creek neighbors. 

Randy Thurman, IT and Facilities Manager
We saved a magnum of 2018 Esprit Blanc to have with some smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, and a rum pumpkin cheesecake while spending time with family.

Amanda Weaver, Cellar Assistant
A slightly more normal Thanksgiving this year, getting to see more of the family and not having as much trepidation. Additionally, there is one big change this year that everyone is excited about…. We have a wee little one!! My boyfriend’s brother and his wife had a sweet little boy a week ago and everyone cannot wait to celebrate with him! That being said, I predict many wines at the table. As far as what I am going to contribute… that is still keeping me up at night. On the chopping block are 2014 Hitching Post Valdiguie, 2019 Story of Soil Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 Tablas Creek Couniose, plus everything that is sitting in the wine fridge that I have yet to raid (I think there are some forgotten gems in there). I also underestimate the lure of popping into the local wine shop for a last minute gander which will surely gain me a few new bottles! Anyhow, I hope everyone has a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving!

And as for me...
Typically, my choice is to open the largest bottle I have to hand at Thanksgiving gatherings. There's usually a story behind a big bottle, and the randomness of "just open it" adds a certain amount of pleasurable discovery to the gathering, as well as the festivity that large bottles bring. And with a full complement of adults this year, that's a lot more appealing than it would have been for three adults last year. I believe we have a magnum (from the late 1990s) from an old Central Coast Wine Classic "Classic Cuvee" that we did along with Bob Lindquist when he was at Qupe. So, that's one wine. I know we'll also want some Beaujolais, maybe the Clos de la Roilette Fleurie that my mom and I split a case of last year. I'm also itching to open the 2019 Cinsaut, our first-ever from Tablas Creek, which I think will end up being a perfect Thanksgiving partner. For whites, maybe a Semillon from Bedrock Wines that I've been saving. Going with an old-school California blend seems appropriate for this quintessentially American holiday. Plus, it's got both richness and brightness, which a white needs to go with the Thanksgiving meal. And almost certainly some older Roussanne, though I'll have to dig around in my stocks to see what I have. One of the most memorable tastings I had this year was when we opened the first-ever Roussanne, from 2001, as a part of an exploration of the beginnings of our varietal wine program. I'd love to share that experience with the rest of my family. 

Wherever you are, however you're celebrating, please know that we are thankful for you. Thank you for helping get us through the last year. May your celebrations, small or large, be memorable, and the wines you open outstanding.