Veraison 2020 reflects our cool July and suggests a (gasp) normal start to harvest
Introducing Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC): Farming Like the World Depends on It

Tasting the Wines in the Fall 2020 VINsider Wine Club Shipments

Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club. In others, the club gets a first look at wines that may see a later national release. Before each shipment, we reintroduce ourselves to these wines (which, in some cases, we may not have tasted since before bottling) by opening the full lineup and writing the notes that will be included with the club shipments. Yesterday I sat down with Winemaker Neil Collins and we dove into this fall's collection. For what we found, read on:

Neil and Jason after shipment tasting

We base each year's fall shipments around the newest releases of the Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc, and this fall's shipment is no exception. But there's a lot more to this fall's shipment than these two wines. We have a couple of (we think, really terrific) varietal wines, one red and one white, and two other smaller-production blends, again one each red and white. We think it's one of the most compelling shipments we've ever put together. I'm excited to get them in our members' hands soon.  

The classic shipment includes six different wines:

Fall 2020 VINsider Classic Shipment

2019 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: The cool-then-warm 2019 growing season pushed yields a little below average, resulting in unusually small Grenache Blanc grapes that turned out to have both exceptional brightness and rich texture. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose lots that were fermented in stainless steel (for energy) and foudre (for roundness), blended them in May 2020 and bottled the finished wine under screwcap in June 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: An intense Grenache Blanc nose of lemon curd, sweet green herbs, and crushed rock. On the palate, like a lemon meringue pie with the hint of graham cracker underlying the bright, luscious lemon. The finish is lovely and long, with a little pithy Grenache Blanc tannin coming out at the end. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 860 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2019 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Viognier is always the lead grape in our Cotes Blanc, and we balance Viognier's lushness with the elegance of Marsanne and the brightness of Grenache Blanc. In 2019, the Viognier (44%) already had nice acidity, so we chose to use more Marsanne (29%) to bring elegance and minerality, and a relatively low percentage of Grenache Blanc (19%), leaving more Grenache Blanc for our varietal bottling in this relatively scarce Grenache Blanc year. 8% Roussanne rounds out the blend and provides structure. The selected lots were blended in May 2020, and the wine was bottled in June 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: An elegant nose, with Marsanne seemingly at the fore right now: nectarines, lemongrass, honeydew, and a rich, wheaty element that Neil described as clean straw. The mouth is lovely, with flavors of peach pit, tangerine, and newly-mown hay drying in the sun. Lovely acids and sweet green herbs come out on the long, balanced finish. Drink now and for at least the next five years.
  • Production: 1540 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2018 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: For the second year in a row we incorporated two of our newest white grapes into the Esprit Blanc blend. Of course, Roussanne (66%, fermented in a mix of oak of various sizes and ages) still takes pride of place, but the different higher-acid, more mineral varieties (21% Grenache Blanc, 8% Picpoul Blanc, 3% Picardan and 2% Clairette Blanche) all add citrusy acidity and saline freshness. As we have done since 2012, we returned the blend to foudre after it was assembled in April 2019 and aged it through the subsequent harvest before bottling it in December 2019 and letting it rest an additional 9 months in bottle before release.
  • Tasting Notes: A lifted nose of orange blossom, honeycomb, and spicy pine nut. On the palate, the signature clean, precise elegance of the 2018 vintage, with flavors of baked custard, marmalade, and saline minerality, deepened by a little sweet oak. Then lively and juicy on the finish like biting into a fresh pear, complete with the little hint of pear skin tannin. A balanced, elegant Esprit Blanc that we expect to go out two decades, gaining additional nuttiness and complexity with time in bottle.
  • Production: 2315 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2018 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: Grenache was one of the stars of the cool 2018 vintage, producing lots with lifted fruit, lots of peppery spice, and a little tannic bite that suggests it will produce wines that can age gracefully. For our varietal bottling we as usual chose lots that emphasized Grenache's freshness and avoided riper lots that tend toward higher alcohols. The lots were blended in June 2019 and aged in neutral 1200-gallon oak foudres until bottling in May 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A nose of wild strawberry, allspice, brambly briar patch, and sarsaparilla root. The palate is generous with vivid cranberry fruit and all the elements of plum pudding, from creamy richness to the tangy baked plum and the bursts of plum skin tannin. Bright acids and youthful grippy tannins provide balance to the juiciness on the finish. We suggest you wait a few months for the tannins to integrate, then drink in the next few years for a crunchy and vibrant experience or wait six to ten years for a deeper, softer profile.
  • Production: 1160 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2018 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: Our eleventh En Gobelet, a non-traditional blend all from head-trained, dry-farmed blocks, and mostly from the 12-acre block we call Scruffy Hill, planted in 2005 and 2006 to be a self-sufficient field blend. These lots tend to show more elegance and minerality than our closer-spaced irrigated blocks, although in 2018 the wine shows plenty of power and density. We chose a blend of 36% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 27% Syrah, 6% Counoise, and 3% Tannat. In this lifted, elegant vintage, we chose our highest-ever percentage of Syrah for this blend, giving the wine heft and Syrah's signature creamy, meaty density. The wine was blended in June of 2019, aged in foudre and bottled in May 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A explosively vibrant nose of boysenberry, blackcurrant, black pepper, and roasted meats. The mouth is juicy but firmly tannic, with flavors of cassis and black cherry, wood smoke, and cracked peppercorn. Syrah's signature creamy dark minerality comes out on the finish. Serious and built for the long term; wait six months if you can, and then drink any time over the next two decades.
  • Production: 860 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

2018 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Although the Esprit is based as always on the red fruit and meatiness of Mourvedre (40%), in this vintage noteworthy for its lift and minerality we found that the darkness and density provided by Syrah (27%) was essential and we needed a little less of the bright spiciness of Grenache (23%). Counoise (10%) rounds out the blend with brambly notes and sweet spice. The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for Esprit, blended in June 2019 and aged a year in foudre before bottling in July 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep brooding Mourvedre nose of loamy redcurrant and roasted meats, new leather and black plum. The mouth shows spicy licorice and nutmeg lift over baked plums and Mourvedre's signature plum skin tannin maintaining balance with the wine's mouth-coating texture. The long, richly tannic finish, with lingering flavors of wood smoke, roasted meat, and crushed rock, promises more rewards to come with cellar aging. The wine was showing beautifully despite only having been in bottle one week when we tasted it; we recommend that you drink either between now and 2023 or again starting in 2026 any time over the subsequent two decades.
  • Production: 4325 cases
  • List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48

Two additional wines joined the Cotes de Tablas Blanc, Grenache Blanc, and Esprit de Tablas Blanc in the white-only shipment (we doubled up the Esprit Blanc):

Fall 2020 VINsider White Shipment

2019 BOURBOULENC

  • Production Notes: Our first ever bottling of Bourboulenc, from our first-ever harvest of this relatively obscure Rhone white. Bourboulenc is known in France to make wines with citrus aromatics and a distinctive smoky character, with fairly good acids and relatively low alcohol. As we have no road map for this wine, never having harvested or fermented it before, we treated it gently, fermenting with our signature native yeasts in a mix of stainless steel and neutral oak barrels. It had a distinctive orange color (not that different from Roussanne) coming out of the press, and while much of that settled out in fermentation, it's still a lovely rich gold. We used our entire production in this 135-case varietal bottling, put into bottle in June 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: Medium gold color. A nose of lychee and wet rocks, lightly floral, with an unusual and appealing fresh almond note. On the palate, richly textured and softly mineral, with pineapple fruit and a little mintiness, pretty and delicate and lovely. We have no idea how this will age, but suggest you drink it over the next few years.
  • Production: 135 cases
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2017 PETIT MANSENG

  • Production Notes: Our eighth bottling of this traditional grape from southwest France, Petit Manseng is best known from the appellation of Jurançon, where it has made admired sweet wines for centuries that you rarely hear about in America. Petit Manseng achieves sufficient concentration and sugar content -- and maintains its acids sufficiently -- to make naturally sweet, balanced wines without botrytis. Harvested at 28° Brix and a pH of 2.99, we fermented it in barrel, and stopped its fermentation when it had about 62 grams/liter of sugar left and sat at an alcohol of 14.4%. The high acidity makes it taste much drier than the sugar reading would suggest. The wine was aged on its lees in barrel and bottled in June 2018.
  • Tasting Notes: Medium gold. An exotic nose of lemon marmalade, briny mineral, citrus leaf, and lemongrass. In the mouth, the wine is a roller-coaster, first sweet like candied orange peel, then lemon drop acids assert themselves, and finally the finish relaxes to a combination of clementine orange, sea spray minerality, and citrus blossom. A little sweeter and more intense than but reminiscent of a demi-sec Vouvray, for anyone with that as a reference point. Drink now or age for up to another decade for a nuttier character.
  • Production: 170 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

Two additional reds joined the Grenache, En Gobelet and Esprit de Tablas in the red-only shipment:

Fall 2020 VINsider Red Shipment

2018 FULL CIRCLE

  • Production Notes: 2018 is the ninth vintage of our Full Circle Pinot Noir, grown on the small vineyard outside the Haas family's home in Templeton, in the cool (for Paso) Templeton Gap AVA. Its name reflects Robert Haas's career: from a start introducing America to the greatness of Burgundy, through decades focusing on grapes from the Rhone, one of his last acts was to plant Pinot at his home and oversee our first few vintages. The grapes were fermented in one-ton microfermenters, half de-stemmed and half with stems for a more savory profile, punched down twice daily by hand. After pressing, the wine was moved into year-old Marcel Cadet 60-gallon barrels, for a hint of oak.  The wine stayed on its lees, stirred occasionally, for 10 months, before being blended and bottled in August 2019. We've aged the wine in bottle for an additional year since then.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty nose of cherry cola, Chinese five spice, teriyaki, and black tea. The mouth is medium-bodied, soft, and generous, with raspberry fruit, a little sweet oak, and a lightly tannic finish with sarsaparilla and wild strawberry notes. Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 475 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2018 MOURVEDRE

  • Production Notes: Mourvedre is the one red grape that we try to bottle on its own each year, because we think it is a wonderful grape that too few people know, and one we feel worthy of some proselytizing. The cool 2018 vintage produced a very Old World style of Mourvedre, with loamy, meaty elements just as strong as the red-fruited notes we typically see at the fore here in Paso Robles. All our Mourvedre lots were fermented in large wooden tanks and moved to neutral barrels to await blending. The chosen lots were blended in the spring of 2019, then aged in foudre until bottling in May 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A very Old World style of Mourvedre, with loam at the front, then pie cherries and meaty note reminiscent of a rosemary-rubbed leg of lamb. The mouth is more generously fruited than the nose suggests, with flavors of plum and redcurrant fruit, new leather, and some chewy tannins that come out on the finish and reassert a loamy, juniper forest note. It seems like time in the cellar will be well rewarded, but feel free to drink any time over the next 15 years.
  • Production: 640 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

The tasting was a great way to hone in on the character of our two most recent vintages. 2018 shows a cool climate signature with vibrant, expressive, spicy wines with elegance and the potential to age. 2019 is a blockbuster vintage, combining rich textures with lively acidity and powerful varietal characters. I can't wait to get these wines in our club members' hands and find out what they think.

If you're a wine club member, you're probably aware that we're not going to be hosting a traditional wine club pickup party because of COVID, but we've come up with a few ways to give members the chance to experience the wines. These include the option of "shipment flights" should members come for a distanced patio tasting in September and October, a virtual tasting party the evening of Friday, October 15th for which we'll be putting together tasting packs that include half-bottles of the two 2018 Esprit de Tablas wines, and the newest season of Chelsea & the Shepherd, which we'll be debuting around the time the shipment goes out. We have details on all this on our VINsider News & Updates page.

If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join us while there's still a chance to get this fall shipment? Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club

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