One of the things I appreciate most about the team that I work with at Tablas Creek is the wide range of their interests and experiences. If you don't work at a winery, you might expect that those of us who do spend most of their time drinking their own wines, but in my experience, that's far from the case. Most people who find a career in wine do so because they find it fascinating, and that interest doesn't go away just because they've landed at a particular winery, even a winery that they love. And most people who work at wineries look at exploring other wines as an enjoyable form of continuing education.
This year, I asked our key people to share a wine that stuck with them from all the ones they'd tried in 2020. I wasn't sure what to expect, given the challenges that the year presented to all of us. Would it be the last wine that people enjoyed with friends before they learned the meaning of "social distancing"? A bottle that they enjoyed with a family unit? Something that reminded them of someone they lost? Some people couldn't find a wine that they wanted to remember, in a year they wanted to forget. And I get that. But there were plenty of reminders too that wine does serve to bring us together, and is still one of the best proxies for (and reminders of) travel that we have available to us.
Here's everyone's submission, in their own words and only very lightly edited, in alphabetical order (except mine, which is at the end):
Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
I couldn’t choose just one memorable wine this year, so I included a couple that stuck out for me. As I’m writing this, I realize both of these wines stick out likely because it was my first time ever to enjoy these varietals – which makes anything just a bit more special. The first wine that stuck with me is Meyer-Fonne Vieilles Vignes Pinot Blanc 2018. This wine hails from Alsace, a region that never seems to disappoint! Lovely white peach and honey resonate on the palate and lingers with a long elegant finish. My only qualm…. I wish I’d bought more! The second wine that immediately comes to mind is the 2019 (Tablas Creek) Bourboulenc. I was lucky enough to secure myself a single bottle this year, and enjoyed it with Thanksgiving dinner. What I loved most about the Bourboulenc was the texture of this wine, it has more body than I expected but still maintained a great amount of acidity that makes it quite lively. When I first tasted it, I thought “if Roussanne and Grenache Blanc had a baby, this would be it!” Such a treat… and I can’t wait for next year’s release!
Charlie Chester, Senior Assistant Tasting Room Manager
My most memorable wine of this year was just a few weeks ago. Saturday December 5th, the day before my fathers 80th birthday. My girlfriend Amber and I drove down to his house in Solvang, my sister and her husband, Matt drove up from Carpinteria and we cooked dinner for dad and his wife Diane. It was bound to be a great time that deserved a special wine. My sister, Kacey, was in charge of the main dish. She grilled a pork rib roast and it was delicious. I knew what was on the menu and I thought that the 2015 Esprit de Tablas would be nice with it so I got my hands on a magnum to compliment both the meal and the celebration. I think a magnum always boosts the level of celebration a bit and we were celebrating a monumental occasion and needed a bottle of size and quality to match. I brought a gold marker to let everyone sign and wish the dad a happy birthday. It was truly a great time with great company!
As you can see (right) I also got dad our new Tablas Creek Patagonia windbreaker and my sister's husband is a firefighter in Santa Barbara and styled him out with an SBFD hat and t-shirt.
Austin Collins, Cellar Assistant
Much of 2020 is a blur. Part of me still feels like it's March but, as I stare at the flickering lights on our Christmas tree I know that's not true. Another reminder is the upcoming new year and, for the first time I think most of us are celebrating the end of a year, not just the promise of a new one. In retrospect, it's statistically true that most of us drank a bit more this year! But, much like the year, a lot of the wines opened blend together in my head. So, two that I can remember are the 2017 Garance from Chateau de Bois Brincon (100% Pineau d'Aunis). Insane white pepper on the nose and a lovely rustic mouth with bright purple fruits. Secondly, a 2018 Gruner Veltliner from Hum Hofer. While not the best Gruner in the world I had it with my wife on our first wedding anniversary at the lovely eatery Bell's in Los Alamos. It also comes in a unique package: a 1000 mL bright green bottle topped with a crown cap. Here's to a better year ahead! Cheers!
Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
So many bottles have crossed our table through these trying times, it is hard to narrow it down. We opened a bottle of Ojai Vineyards Sans Soufre. On the table with a group of much more expensive wines, Sans Soufre was head and shoulders the wine of the night.
As is tradition we tasted many great wines at the harvest lunch table, for me one of the stand out wines was the Lone Madrone 2001 Il Toyon Nebbiolo. Christmas morning opening presents, fire in the grate a bottle of Albert Boxler Riesling from Brand, a stunning bottle. Lucky we are!
Ian Consoli, Media and Marketing
In SLO County in 2020 I think we had one week where we could eat in a restaurant. I’m exaggerating of course, but when the opportunity arose following previous shutdowns what restaurant do you think I chose to go to with my best wine drinking friends? Ember. Obviously. We took two bottles that both paired mind blowingly well with Chef Brian’s creations. A 2014 Chateau du Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape with a Duck Ragu and a 2016 Stephane Ogier Mon Village Côte-Rôtie with the filet. To be sitting inside a restaurant experiencing pairings that had me melting into my chair took me all the way back to 2019.
Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
My white wine of the year is Tablas Creek's 2014 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. It's not quite a tradition yet, but this will be a third Christmas Eve that I make Daniel Boulud's Onion Soup and follow his recommended pairing of Roussanne. When you taste the dense, slick, rooty, herbed broth and melted gruyere and salty crouton mixed in, you see why a low acid and equally rich viscous white like the Esprit Blanc is the ideal companion. 2014 was such a powerful vintage for Roussanne that I'm saving a couple bottles for the ten year mark.
My red wine of the year is The Other Right 2019 "Love Potion" Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia. Sulfite free Shiraz (the label says it's "Shiraz Juice") from a coastal site in a warm, drought affected vintage. The alcohol is moderate and the wine is full of power and energy - truly living wine. The whole clusters are fully integrated, likely aged in an old puncheon, and made with nearly zero electricity. I learned of the winemakers Alex and Galit on the excellent podcast Real Wine People out of Australia (very much worth a binge listening). Alex is a wine scientist at the Australian Wine Research Institute, and is jokingly the only wine scientist in the world to make natural wine. Plus who doesn't need a little Love Potion in a year like 2020?
Most years, the most memorable wine for me is the bottle that has been opened to mark a special occasion, whatever that may be. Granted, for special occasions, we typically pull out something that’s special to us! Domaine Tempier has been the go-to for my husband and me for the decade we’ve been married. Back in 2013 (photo above) we had the excellent fortune to go on one of the Tablas Creek cruises. One of the days on the cruise, we spent an afternoon visiting the domaine and fell even deeper in love with them. Many an anniversary has been marked with a bottle of red (or sometimes rosé!) from this winery.
August of this year, we welcomed the arrival of our daughter, Bohdi, which meant I spent a good deal of this year abstaining. The night we brought Bo home, my mom came over to cook us dinner and then left us to enjoy our first meal at home as a newly minted family of three (amazing, right?!). Since my mom made some ridiculously beautiful rib eyes, it was only fitting that we open a bottle of red that could stand up to them. We had a bottle of Pour Lulu (Lulu is the matriarch of Domaine Tempier, who passed away this October at 102) in our stacks and it was decided that a bottle that was made in homage to a strong and beloved woman was the perfect way to honor the arrival of our new strong, beloved little girl. It needed a few hours of decanting, but when those tight, muscular wings started to open up, it was an utter delight and a perfect accompaniment (right) to one of the most exciting nights of our lives.
Barbara Haas, Co-Founder and Partner
I had a fun experience the other day with a wine I hadn’t tasted in at least two years. I had prepared a nice braised chicken (with onions, garlic, herbs, and tomatoes), and I went downstairs to look for an appropriate wine. My guests were two old friends who refused to give me any guidance – even as to white or red. That was MY job, they said. They have had many bottles of Tablas here, particularly over this past year, so I wanted to offer them something different. But it didn’t seem fair to submit an old Burgundy to the acidity of the tomatoes in the dish. As I was scanning the wine rack, I noticed a 2016 Julienas. Most Beaujolais should be drunk young, I know, but this was a “cru” and so I hoped it was still in good form.
It was lovely! Clean and pure and very Beaujolais, and so different from our Rhone-style wines. The very specific and unique taste reminded me how fun it is to vary the wines one drinks, and how silly not to when one has the chance. The experience is like trying different kinds of foods, or listening to different styles of music. It wakes the senses, which in turn wakes the brain, and gives delight.
I vow to add more variety to my wine-drinking in 2021. I always have the comfort of knowing I have a good selection of Tablas wines, and I believe that tasting the other wines in the cellar will give me a deeper appreciation of what we make and how it fits in with its colleagues.
Pam Horton, Assistant Controller
There are two wines that come to mind when I think about 2020. First, is the Tablas Creek Vineyard 2019 Bourboulenc. I have to say that I was intrigued by the name as I had never heard of this grape before. What a wonderful wine! I know that I wasn’t the only one who loved it, because it was sold out in no time. I will be looking forward to the next release. My second favorite wine is from another Paso Robles winery, Tackitt Family Vineyard’s 2018 Willie Pete White. It is a really nice light Sauvignon Blanc which was wonderful to drink during the summer. Tackitt has two lines of wine, their Tackitt Family Vineyard and their EOD Cellars. Willie Pete White is part of the EOD Cellars line and all of the proceeds from the wine sold are donated to the EOD Warrior Foundation. So for me it’s a win-win as I’m purchasing a wine I love and also supporting a great cause.
Ray King, Tasting Room
I have a few wines that stood out and provided fun relief in 2020.
All of the wines I picked were all a part of a meal, or in preparation for a meal. I truly love when great wines come together with great cuisine.
1) 2016 Domaine de La Pirolette, Saint Amour, Le Carjot. This Gamay noir I picked up while in France in 2019 and it was delicious . I served this with Ratatouille Gratin and grilled tri-tip in my backyard.
2) Hot summer evenings, while grilling, I would enjoy a slightly chilled 2018 Tablas Creek Counoise. While eating the dinner I grilled, usually a Ribeye served with Humboldt Fog cheese on top, I would enjoy the 2017 Tablas Creek Tannat. This combo made for great hot summer evenings.
3) Hot summer days, enjoying a cocktail in the afternoon. Aperol Spritz made with 2016 Caudrina Romano Dogliotti “La Selvatica”. This sparkling Asti is sweet and only 7% alcohol. This wine brought a nice, and new, twist on a classic summer cocktail.
4) 2018 Tablas Creek Marsanne. I drank this wine and used it in the cooking of my Grilled Chicken, Red Bell Pepper, Fettuccine Alfredo. The Marsanne added a nice kick of acid to this lovely, and rich, dish.
Misty Lies, Tasting Room Team Lead
When it comes down to picking my favorite bottle of wine for the year it will actually be a toss up for three bottles all shared between friends at an afternoon bbq. Before the world went crazy we had the pleasure of traveling to Melbourne Australia to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in 33 years and new ones that were met along the way because of him. We had a great bbq one afternoon and did some sharing of wines. I brought down a bottle of our 2010 Tannat that went up against a 2001 Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a 2015 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz. All three were fun wines and everyone was happy to finally try the Tannat I have been telling them about for a few years now. During the year with all the ups and downs, I have come back to this afternoon and appreciated every minute of that day. Wines have a way of making meals a little bit more special and as always are best shared around a table of good friends.
John Morris, Tasting Room Manager
My favorite wine of 2020? I haven’t enjoyed it yet, but I’ll let you know on New Year’s Eve! I can’t let it go unmentioned that I’ve had the unique opportunity to taste the singular, spectacular 2017 Esprit de Tablas Blanc most days this year. This wine has gotten wide and much-deserved praise, and special attention in our blog published recently. It really is a knockout. And the 2017 Esprit de Tablas (red) is pretty special in its own right, perhaps my favorite vintage yet. We’re super lucky to taste these wines on a regular basis. But as for my yet-to-be most delicious wine of 2020, I plan to head down to 15C in Templeton and ask for the best Champagne under $100, pop it 30 seconds after I walk in the door, raise a toast, and say good-bye to this most difficult year. Here’s to 2021!
Rumyn Purewal, Tasting Room Team Lead
It is hard to believe that this year started out like many others. And it started with my favorite wine of the year. I went to dinner with my fellow pals, also Tablas Creek family, Leslie and Ian, at local eatery Heirloom. We got the food to go and had a picnic in the Adelaide with one of those pairings that takes you to a magical place. With all locally grown and sourced food prepared by amazing people and chefs we paired the meal with a Portuguese wine recommended by Darren Delmore, a Humus Vinho Regional Lisboa. A natural wine made with indigenous Portuguese grapes. It was an incredible experience that stuck with me throughout the year. I hope everyone has a happy and healthy New Years. Cheers!
The first was the 2017 Thacher Cinsaut. A very unique and balanced wine full of character! A nerdy wine to say the least.
The second was the 2017 La Encantada Pinot Noir from Decroux/TH Estate. The vineyard really really makes this wine. Very expressive of terroir and captures the delicacy and complexity of Pinot Noir. I could go on and on about this wine!
And third is none other than the 2012 Esprit de Tablas Rouge (pictured right). Not to toot our own horns too much but, wow! So soft, so powerful, so many layers of clean vigorous personality. After 40 minutes in a decanter, it opened and gave one of the cleanest softest drinking wines I've had from Paso in a while! Paired amazing with the ribeye from McPhee's too!
My mom is building a new house. As a part of that construction, earlier this summer we had to move a wine fridge that was inconveniently positioned in her garage right where a door needed to be cut. So, Meghan, the boys and I spent a few hours one afternoon in June emptying that wine fridge, moving the wines that were there into different storage, and identifying some bottles that were ready to open. One that I "rescued" was a bottle made by Jacques d'Angerville, the Burgundy proprietor who was my dad's closest friend in the region that made his reputation as an importer.
The wines from Domaine Marquis d'Angerville always speak to the elegant side of Pinot Noir. The bottle we opened was a Volnay Caillerets from 1979, reputed as a good but not great vintage, but the wine was sublime, with minerality and tension, crunchy red fruit even at age 40+, and the lovely loamy earth character I find so distinctive in mature Burgundy. It turned the meal of a simple roast chicken into one of the highlights of our dining year. In a year marked by losses and absences, I felt my dad's presence strongly that night. Wines have the ability to preserve a conjunction of place, time, and people. The Volnay evoked all that, while also being a testament to my dad's vision and foresight, and a lasting legacy to Jacques's genius, nearly two decades after his death.
A few concluding thoughts:
As you might expect, this was an eclectic list. Some wines are Tablas Creek, but most are not. Many were older, which says that for all the challenges of storing and being patient with wines, the rewards can be marvelous. But the thing that stood out most for me was the extent to which wines help mark and commemorate milestones our lives, or give regular moments additional depth and meaning. I have high hopes for 2021. May your food and wine experiences be memorable, and may we all find more to celebrate next year.