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Tasting Room, Then and Now

Getting "Personal" With Tablas Creek Wines

By Chelsea Magnusson

The last time we sat down to go through the 2010 reds in the cellar, winemaker Ryan Hebert commented that the vintage was like a Batman movie.  And the funny thing?  That was a perfect descriptor for what we had tasted and I was blown away at the accuracy of the comparison.  For the most part, the reds in the cellar were dark, deep, sinister, powerful and brooding.  It doesn't hurt that Batman has always been my favorite superhero (as a result, I'm now especially partial to the 2010 vintage...)

This was not the first time we've described our wines using something akin to character traits.  In fact, that's typically how we talk about wines in our cellar - as if they are actually people.  While it may be an endless source of laughter and entertainment for us, when you really get down to it, I'm not actually sure we are joking.  For the most part, we've got most of the varietals (as well as some of the blends) pegged in terms of personification.  However, if asked to describe a wine I'm not familiar with, I'll give the standard response: breaking it down systematically and running through descriptors for mouthfeel, balance, aromatics, flavor profiles, etc.  And how is that any different than describing a good friend versus a casual acquaintance?

My younger brother, who is just getting interested in wines, asked me to describe the Cotes de Tablas Rouge.  Talking wine with someone like him, I would like to keep it on a level that he can relate to, and one thing I want to avoid at all costs when discussing wine is pretension.  So I told him something like this: imagine the Cotes de Tablas as a person.  A girl, in fact.  The perfect girl.  This is a wine that is naturally pretty - no makeup (or oak) is necessary to make it more attractive.  This wine can be effortlessly casual, but can get dressed up and fit into any situation with ease and grace.  This is a wine you'll want to introduce to your parents (and if we're lucky, you'll also introduce it to your friends and coworkers!) 

It's always fun blending or moving wine, too, when the cellar fills with the aromatics of a varietal, which prompts a discussion about "who" that varietal is.  The following is a rundown of some of our most recognizable characters in the cellar:

Grenache Noir

For me, the Grenache in our cellar is the kid in high school who struggled when asked to do the following: sit completely still, focus on what was going on, or understand that sometimes you need to get things done in a timely manner - and yet, that kid was adored because they were extraordinarily affable and full of charisma.  And that's how it goes here, too.  Grenache tends to take its sweet time finishing fermentation (sorry, no pun intended) and has a character that, when young, can be flighty and unfocused.  However when that wine is given time to mature a little (or is blended with the proper mate), the piquancy and friendliness remain, and audacity, depth, soundness and sureness of self emerge that are dazzling and unforgettable.  Imagine meeting that wine at your ten year high school reunion; my, how things can change, eh?

Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge

This wine conjures an image of masculine old Hollywood glamour - always impeccably dressed and charmingly debonair with an air of implied importance, distinction, and eminence.  Yet, there's a glimmer in its eye that hints of something unknown.  The Esprit carries a shadow of divergence from its polished and lush exterior.  This is a wine with secrets - there is not cut and dry, no black and white with this wine.  There's something about this wine that draws me back to it again and again in an effort to unearth whatever that mystery may be.

Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc

This wine, like its red counterpart, conveys a timeless elegance.  The Esprit Blanc personification comes from old money.  Probably from a well-known and established European family, which means it has grace, refinement, and allure running through its veins (and perhaps an enthralling accent?).  I always imagine this wine in a classic Chanel suit and pearls - beautiful, aristocratic, clever and infallible.  And again, like the Esprit Rouge, this wine has the ability to surprise me with something new each time I meet it, giving me an infinite number of reasons to love this wine.

This presentation of our "family" of wines just grazes the surface - the stories and personalities behind the wines are ever evolving and changing.  My only hope is that I was general enough so as not to seem completely crazy.  But keep in mind, winemaking is a creative process.  So I guess this is our normal.  And now you're privy to it; so... welcome to our world.