By John Morris
Last week I hosted a Reserve Tasting for a unique group, which included a long time, fervid VINsider and three of her friends, as well as a couple who’d never visited before and didn’t know much about Tablas Creek. It was a terrific tasting, one I think I enjoyed as much as our guests. As the tasting room has grown, I’m less apt to find myself pouring for guests, as I have to focus on other things, but this was a reminder of why I came to work here in the first place, and what’s special about Tablas Creek.
[For some background, we began offering a seated Reserve Tasting in our private room just over a year ago. It seemed a perfect opportunity to show off some of the library wines we’d been saving, and an answer to the queries we'd begun receiving for an elevated experience. We offer this twice daily, at 11:30 and 3:00 every day except for Saturday, when we offer it at 10:00 only. We encourage appointments, as we can accommodate a maximum of eight guests per tasting, but are happy to take walk-ins if space is available. We have details, including cost and how to reserve, on the Visiting Us section of our Web site.]
My favorite part of this format, aside from the opportunity to taste older wines, is the leisurely pace. Watching guests truly get the wines in a way they might not without the vertical nature of the tasting is a huge kick.
The first order of business was introducing the two parties as they seated themselves at the bar, out of the bustle of the main tasting room. We find this makes it easier to speak to the group as a whole, and people often become fast friends by the end of this tasting. Our proud club member was delighted to take the newcomers under her wing and sing the praises of Tablas Creek, which made my job fun.
The focus is on our flagship wines, with both current and library Esprit whites and reds shown and discussed. The tasting this day included our 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc, 2005 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, 2012 Esprit de Tablas, 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel, 2006 Esprit de Beaucastel, and a special treat, the 2011 Panoplie. In addition to these wines, we encourage guests to choose a couple of other wines to round out the tasting.
This day was quite warm, an early indication of the summer ahead, so I suggested we all start with the crisp 2014 Vermentino and follow with 2014 Dianthus Rosé before getting to the main event. Everybody was on board with this suggestion, so I opened fresh bottles of these two wines to whet the palate for what was to come. I've always loved the Vermentino for summertime drinking, and this vintage is no exception, crisp and fresh but with a little extra lushness characteristic of the 2014 vintage. Enjoying the wine sparked a discussion of why we have Vermentino planted here, which led me into the story of Tablas Creek, the search for the proper site, and how we imported clones from Chateau de Beaucastel. We next tasted the remarkable Dianthus Rosé, perhaps my favorite vintage to date, which we savored as we continued the discussion.
The first wine on our list for the day, the magnificent 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc, was showing beautifully, with the early promise of beeswax, honey and a gorgeous salinity. Sometimes it's difficult to convince guests that this wine will age and evolve for many years, but the silence that came over everyone as we next tasted the 2005 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc left no doubt that the point was well made here.
And so it went as we tasted through three red Esprit vintages, starting with the youthful 2012 and watching secondary characteristics arrive and flavors deepen with the 2010 and 2006, and then finally the Panoplie, appreciating the wines that the Haas' and Perrins came here to make, comparing and contrasting, discussing the merits of the different vintages, and thoroughly enjoying each other’s company.
We hope you have the opportunity to treat yourself and take advantage of this special experience on one of your visits. With questions, or to reserve your seat for this tasting, please contact [email protected] or call 805.237.1231 x45. We have some corks we’d like to pull with you.
John Morris has been Tablas Creek's Tasting Room Manager since 2007