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Tasting the wines in the Fall 2013 VINsider Club shipment

Every six months, we send out a six-bottle shipment of wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  The fall shipment is the showcase for our signature wines, and is highlighted by the newest vintages of our Esprit and Esprit Blanc.  That's no different this year.  What is different is that the Esprits aren't Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, but Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc.  If you missed the explanation of why we changed the names of our flagship wines, you can read that blog post here.

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

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

VINsider Fall 2013 Shipment


  • Production Notes: Our eleventh bottling of this traditional Mediterranean varietal, known principally in Sardinia, Corsica, and Northern Italy. It is also grown in the Mediterranean parts of France (particularly Côtes de Provence) where it is known as Rolle. The Vermentino grape produces wines that are bright, clean, and crisp, with distinctive citrus character and refreshing acidity. To emphasize this freshness, we ferment and age Vermentino in stainless steel, and bottle it in screwcap.
  • Tasting Notes: Incredibly pale color, with powerfully mineral aromas of broken rocks, citrus leaf, and peppered citrus peel.  In the mouth, the wine shows vibrant citrus fruit, not at all sweet, suggesting kumquat or yuzu, then turns richer on the finish, peaches and cream and lingering minerality, with great acids. Just 12.5% alcohol: classic Vermentino. Drink now and for the next 2-3 years.
  • Production: 1300 cases
  • Press: 90 points Galloni ("rich, layered and exceptionally beautiful")
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60


  • Production Notes: The productive, consistently high quality 2012 vintage allowed us to produce our first Viognier since 2006. Viognier, known more from the northern Rhone than the area around Chateauneuf du Pape, sprouts first of all our grapes, making it the most prone to frost, but was spared in 2012 and thrived in the warm days and cool nights. It was whole cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel, then blended and bottled in August 2013 in screwcap, to preserve its brightness. 
  • Tasting Notes: For a Viognier, its nose is more savory than fruit or floral driven at this stage, with peppered mango and preserved lemon, grilled bread and exotic herbs.  In the mouth it's rich, long and broad, with flavors of citrus peel, lemongrass and Chinese five spice.  The richness is held in check by good acidity, and the texture is marvelous. Let this age for a few months if you can, then drink between 2014 and 2018. It's possible it will go longer, too, but with Viognier, you never know.
  • Production: 550 cases
  • Press: 88-90 points Galloni ("hugely promising")
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24
  • Production Notes: Although 2011’s spring frosts largely spared the notoriously late-sprouting Roussanne, yields were still low and these low yields combined with the unusually cool growing season to produce structured Roussanne with good acidity, suitable for aging. We blended 64% Roussanne (fermented primarily in foudre) with 26% Grenache Blanc and 10% Picpoul Blanc to provide floral aromatics and lift on the palate, then finished aging the blend for a year in foudre before bottling in August 2012 and aging it an additional year in bottle before release.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic Esprit Blanc, with aromatics dominated by non-fruit descriptors: mineral, sea spray, grilled bread and a hint of non-toasted oak. The mouth is dramatically rich and broad, with the vintage's acidity showing in the front palate, rich Roussanne in the mid-palate, and a hint of tannin from the Grenache Blanc on the long, nutty finish. A fascinating combination of rich and very dry.  Still a baby, this is a serious white to age for up to 15 years or more.
  • Production: 2480 cases
  • Press: 92-95 points Rhone Report ("full-bodied, perfectly balanced"); 92 points, Tanzer's I.W.C
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32


  • Production Notes: 29% Mourvedre, 27% Grenache, 26% Tannat and 18% Syrah. Our fourth En Gobelet, a non-traditional blend all from head-trained, dry-farmed blocks, and mostly from the 12-acre block we call Scruffy Hill and planted in 2005 and 2006 to be a self-sufficient field blend. We co-fermented the components from Scruffy Hill, then blended in Tannat from our head-trained section near the middle of the vineyard for its dark color, smoky, spicy flavors and firm tannins. It was then aged in foudre, and bottled in May 2013.
  • Tasting Notes: A dramatic, dark nose showing a meaty, iron-like aroma that reminded me of newly-carved, rare grilled steak. This mingles with fruit aromatics that shift between black and red (blackcurrant and black cherry) and a minty, chocolatey note. In the mouth it's rich and robust with meaty flavors darkened by notes of espresso and cocoa bean, and powerful but refined tannins coming out at the end. The finish shows more grilled meat and a hint of saline minerality. Spectacular, and Neil and I thought it our best En Gobelet ever. Drink over the next two decades.
  • Production: 750 cases
  • Press: 92 points Galloni ("fabulous depth and richness"), 91-94 points Rhone Report
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36


  • Production Notes: Like all the 2011 reds, the components that went into the Esprit de Tablas were concentrated by the vintage's spring frosts and then given acidity by one of the coolest years in our history. This results in a medium-weight wine of great intensity of flavor and excellent freshness. Esprit is as usual based on the red fruit, earth and mocha of Mourvèdre (40%), while Grenache (30%) brings rich mouthfeel, glycerin and a refreshing acidity, Syrah (20%) provides black fruit and mineral and Counoise (10%) adds vibrancy and brambly fruit. The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for the Esprit, blended and aged a year in foudre before being bottled in June 2013.
  • Tasting Notes: The nose shows exuberant freshness, with Mourvedre's signature currant, black tea and roasted meat aromas, given lift by a tangy, winey note showing rosemary and mineral. The mouth is long, fine and balanced, lusher than the nose suggests, with flavors of licorice, spice, meat drippings and clove, mid-weight now (relatively soon after bottling) but with every expectation of deepening over coming months.  We recommend that you hold the 2011 Esprit for a few months, then drink either between 2014 and 2016 or 2020-2040.
  • Production: 4000 cases
  • Press: 93-95 points Rhone Report ("beautifully full-bodied and elegant")
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44