Veraison two weeks early suggests a late-August beginning to harvest
In Anticipation of Cruising the Rhone River

Tasting the wines in the fall 2014 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.  But this is the first shipment we've sent out entirely made up of wines from the classic, generous 2012 and 2013 vintages.  And if my pre-tasting of these wines is any indication, everyone is in for a treat.

The 2012 Esprit de Tablas and 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc are joined in this shipment by two varietal wines: the 2013 Vermentino, particularly bright and crisp this year, and the 2012 Grenache, with its classic freshness and high-toned, spicy fruit.  Finally, we included the remarkable 2012 En Gobelet made entirely from head-trained, dry-farmed vineyard blocks of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise and Tannat. Note that there are only five different wines because club members get two bottles of the 2012 Esprit de Tablas.

I 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 22nd. Readers of the blog, as usual, get a preview.

Fall 2014 classic shipment


  • Production Notes: Our twelfth 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: a zesty, citrusy nose that also includes the fresh green herbs and pronounced minerality characteristic of Vermentino. In the mouth, an initial impression of richness quickly turns crisp, with great acids, just a hint of tropical fruit, and a long, bright, meyer lemon/key lime finish. Classic Vermentino. Drink now and for the next 2-3 years.
  • Production: 900 cases
  • List Price: $27 VINsider Price: $21.60


  • Production Notes: 2012 provided a warm contrast to the cold vintages of 2010-2011, giving Roussanne generous fruit to go with its spice, structure and flavors of honey and pear skin.  This unusual friendliness allowed us to use more Roussanne than usual in our Esprit Blanc, adding just enough Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc to lift the aromatics and the acidity slightly, and bring in a hint of sweet spice.  We blended 75% Roussanne (fermented primarily in foudre) with 20% Grenache Blanc and 5% Picpoul, then for the first time let the blend age in foudre through the next harvest before bottling it in December and aging it an additional 10 months in bottle before release.
  • Tasting Notes: An inviting nose of preserved lemon, panna cotta, green pear, buttered toast, anise and wet rocks. The mouth is rich but dry, with flavors of butterscotch, apple pie, marmalade, candied pineapple and ginger, and gentle acids keeping things clean. The long finish is luscious and spicy with lingering flavors of peach pit, gingersnap and mineral. Absolutely delicious now, so don't feel bad about opening one soon. But it you want to age it, we expect it to go out 15 years or more and to gain nuttiness and complexity with time.
  • Production: 2465 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36


  • Production Notes: 2012's generous crop levels and warm temperatures combined to produce Grenache that tends toward red fruit and sweet spices, but the unusually large diurnal temperature shifts also provided long hangtime, gradual ripening and good acidity.  Harvested between late September and late October, Grenache lots were fermented in upright wooden and closed stainless steel fermenters, then moved to neutral barrels. The lots were selected and blended in May 2013, aged a year in a mix of foudre and stainless steel, and bottled in May 2014.
  • Tasting notes: A clear garnet color, with a clean, minty, lifted nose of mineral and wild strawberries. In the mouth it shows both richness and freshness, with flavors of cherry and red licorice, crushed rock, and sweet spice. Vibrant acids and Grenache's classic front-palate tannins keep the long finish fresh, with lingering flavors of cherry pit and cocoa powder. Drink now or for the next fifteen years.
  • Production: 1050 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32


  • Production Notes: Our fifth 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.  In this warm, dry year, our head-trained Grenache thrived, and in fact produced more fruit than the rest of the acreage combined, producing a blend of 63% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 11% Syrah, 8% Counoise and 6% Tannat.  We co-fermented the components from Scruffy Hill, then blended in head-trained Tannat from near our tractor barn for its dark color, smoky, spicy flavors and firm tannins. It was aged in foudre and bottled in July 2014.
  • Tasting Notes: An exuberantly appealing nose: minty, meaty and spicy, with strawberry and red currant, tobacco and sweet spice. In the mouth it is rich, tangy and mouth-filling, darker than the nose suggests, with chewy tannins, chocolate and grape flavors, and good grip. The finish is exceptionally long, with chalky minerality and dark red fruit. Delicious now, but with the stuffing and balance to age. Drink now and for the next two decades.
  • Production: 950 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36


  • Production Notes: Like all the 2012 reds, the Esprit de Tablas shows the results of the vintage's classic combination of healthy yields, warm temperatures, high diurnal variation, and beautiful weather at harvest.  The generous fruit character of the Mourvedre and Grenache resulted in us using more of the dark, smoky, savory Syrah grape than we have in years, to bring structure and seriousness to the resulting blend. Still, Esprit is as usual led by the red fruit, earth and mocha of 40% Mourvèdre, with additions of 30% Syrah, 21% Grenache and 9% Counoise. The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for the Esprit, blended and aged a year in foudre before being bottled in July 2014.
  • Tasting Notes: The nose is winey and serious, with aromas of blackberry, mint chocolate, aged balsamic, Worcestershire and red licorice. The palate is long and complex, with flavors of black raspberry, plum compote and leather, and Mourvedre's signature flavors of cassis, black tea and roasted meat. The wine's tannins come out on the long finish. We recommend that you hold the 2012 Esprit for a few months, then drink either between 2015 and 2017 or 2020-2040.
  • Production: 4600 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44