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 a wine that may see a later national release. About six weeks before the club shipments will be sent out, we open them all to write the tasting and production notes that will be included in the club shipments. In many cases, this tasting is our first post-bottling reintroduction to wines that we'll come to know intimately in coming months and years. I always think it's fun to give followers of the blog a first look at these notes. The wines:
The shipments that will be going out in March include wines from the 2019, 2020, and 2021 vintages. Tasting three vintages together is a great way to get a handle on their relative personalities, and typically my first chance to do a personality assessment on the newest vintage, which we haven't even started blending trials on yet. My quick thoughts, after the tasting, are these:
- The 2019s show a lovely combination of density and balance, with concentration reminiscent of a year like 2014 or 2017, but slightly higher acids and more overt minerality than either. It's a vintage that is serious and ageworthy, without being austere. An outstanding years for both reds and whites.
- I had originally thought that the warm weather that marked the summer and harvest of 2020 might produce wines with a soft, luscious profile, but I don't find that to be true. Instead, there is plenty of plush fruit but also lively acids and excellent balance. The wines are crowd pleasers without the simplicity that this might imply.
- Finally, 2021, as much as one can tell from tasting two wines, seems electric. The combination of mouth-filling texture, intense flavors, and bright acids makes tasting the wines a memorable experience. Buckle up.
I'll go through the six wines in the VINsider Classic (Mixed) Shipment, and then move on to the additional wines that we chose to include in the Red Wine Selection and White Wine Selection shipments. I was joined for the tasting by Executive Winemaker Neil Collins, so these notes are a compilation of our thoughts.
The Classic Shipment includes six different wines:
2020 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. Because of the somewhat softer profile of 2020, to the Viognier (38%) we added a higher-than-normal percentage of Grenache Blanc (32%) for brightness and pithy bite, bumping down the percentage of Marsanne (22%, for elegance), and preserving a little more Marsanne for our varietal bottling. 8% Roussanne rounds out the blend and provides structure. The selected lots were blended in May 2021, and the wine was bottled in June 2021.
- Tasting Notes: A lovely nose of peach pit and honeysuckle, fresh apricot and lemongrass . The mouth shows both richness and brightness, with flavors of fresh pear and apple skin and rich texture. Grenache Blanc comes out in the finish, asserting order with bright acids and a little pithy bite, leaving a long finish of gardenia flower and stone fruit. Drink now and for at least the next five years.
- Production: 1257 cases.
- List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24
- Production Notes: Roussanne yields were down sharply in 2020, reduced by both the lack of rainfall and the unrelenting summer. But you wouldn't have known it from the Roussanne lots that we tasted during blending, which showed freshness and balance. We chose lots for our varietal bottling that came roughly 55% from foudre, 35% from neutral oak puncheons, and 10% in small new barriques. The selected lots were blended in April 2021 then aged in foudre through the subsequent harvest before bottling this past December.
- Tasting Notes: An appealing nose of anise, brioche, beeswax, petrichor and jasmine, instantly recognizable as Roussanne. The palate is pretty, showing flavors of ripe pear and chalky minerals, lighter on its feet than many vintages of Roussanne, with a finish of wildflower honey, a sake-like sweet minerality, and a little hint of sweet oak. The wine has only been in bottle for a few months, but it's already drinking well. Drink in the next 3 or 4 years for a pure expression of Roussanne's honey and pear flavors, or hold it for 8-15 years for a flavor profile of caramel, wet rocks, and hazelnut.
- Production: 940 cases
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
2021 PATELIN DE TABLAS ROSÉ
- Production Notes: With yields low in 2021, we reduced our production of Dianthus, which opened up an opportunity to share with VINsiders our Patelin Rosé, the Provencal-style dry rosé that we base on Grenache and source primarily from other vineyards with our grapevines in the ground. Always led by Grenache (79% this year), which provides both bright fruit and refreshing acidity, the wine also includes additions of rich, floral Mourvedre (15%) and spicy, electric Counoise (6%). More than 80% of the fruit was direct-pressed upon arrival at the winery, with the balance destemmed and let soak for a single work day, then pressed off after about 12 hours.
- Tasting Notes: A pretty light peach color. On the nose, explosive aromatics of pink grapefruit, fresh nectarine, cherry blossom, and chalky minerals. The mouth is lovely and lively like the nose, with flavors of yellow raspberry and peach juice, vibrant acids, and a mouth-watering finish with notes of passion fruit and white flowers. Electric. Drink now and over the next year.
- Production: 3300 cases
- List Price: $28 VINsider Price: $22.40
- Production Notes: Our eighteenth bottling of this traditional grape from South-West France, famous for its intense fruit, spice, and tannins that produce wines capable of long aging. Tannat is known principally in the Pyrenees foothills appellation of Madiran, but originally native to the Basque region. Easy to grow and ferment, we mostly put Tannat in open-top fermenters to keep it exposed to oxygen and soften it somewhat. We then moved the wine to neutral oak foudre and aged it for nearly 2 years before bottling it in April 2021, and then aged it another 10 months in bottle before release.
- Tasting Notes: A lovely juicy blackcurrant and sweet licorice nose, given lift and definition with spicy juniper and alpine forest notes. On the palate, mouth-filling flavors of black cherry, sweet tobacco, and dark chocolate, lots of chalky tannic structure but the friendliness and fruit to carry that even in its youth. A long, plushly tannic finish of bittersweet chocolate and brambly blackberry completes the experience. A Tannat to make new friends and converts for the grape. Drink any time over the next two decades.
- Production: 1179 cases
- List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36
2019 LE COMPLICE
- Production Notes: Just the fourth vintage of our newest red blend, which celebrates the kinship between whole cluster Syrah (67%) and the wildly interesting grape Terret Noir (6%). Le Complice means, roughly, "partner in crime". Although Syrah is dark and Terret light, both share wild herby black spice, and Terret's high acids bolster Syrah's tendency toward stolidity. We added some Grenache (27%) for mid-palate richness. The wine was blended in June of 2020, aged in foudre, bottled in April 2021, and has been aging in our cellars since.
- Tasting Notes: A savory, umami-rich nose of iodine, soy, wintergreen, and graphite. The mouth is juicier than the nose suggests, with sweeter-toned flavors of licorice, star anise, baking chocolate, plum skin, and bay. The finish is more generous yet, with the predominant notes being Chinese five spice and loamy earth. Plenty of tannic richness. A wine to pair in its youth with rich, flavorful meats, which we suspect will age for two decades or more.
- Production: 793 cases
- List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44
- Production Notes: Panoplie is selected from the top 3% of the year's lots, chosen for their richness, concentration and balance, giving pride of place to Mourvedre's lovely dark red fruit and distinctive combination of loam, earthiness, and meat. Each lot was fermented individually before being selected, blended and moved to foudre to age in July 2020. Mourvedre, as always, represents the largest percentage (62%) of Panoplie. In this year when all our major red grapes excelled, we chose a relatively equal proportion of Syrah (22%, for black fruit, density, and tannic richness) and Grenache (16%, for sweet spice and vibrancy). The wine was bottled in July 2021 and has been aging in our cellars since then.
- Tasting Notes: A pretty nose, just hinting at what's to come, with aromas of sweet loam and redcurrant, milk chocolate and new leather. The mouth is a blockbuster, with both red (raspberry) and black (cherry) fruit, a teriyaki-like umami element, then a wash of serious tannins that promise decades of fascinating evolution. The finish, like the rest of the wine, vibrates between red and black (licorice, in this case), sweet earth, and savory herbs. A serious wine to wait on for a year or two, if you possibly can, then to enjoy over two decades or more.
- Production: 820 cases
- List Price: $95 VINsider Price: $76
Four additional wines (2021 Vermentino, 2020 Marsanne, and two library selections, the 2017 Roussanne and 2017 Esprit de Tablas Blanc) will join the 2020 Cotes de Tablas Blanc and 2020 Roussanne in the White Wine Selection shipment:
- Production Notes: Our twentieth 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 bottled it young in January 2022 under screwcap. Vermentino yields in 2021 were painfully low (off by half compared to most recent years) but the fruit we got was classic and showed beautiful balance.
- Tasting Notes: A classic Vermentino nose of all parts of a lime, from leaf to pith to juice, deepened by an herby lemongrass note and briny sea shell-like minerality. The palate is electric and juicy, with key lime and yellow grapefruit notes, sweet white flowers and briny sea spray, and a long, vibrant finish. Tastes like summer at the beach, or like what a gin and tonic wishes it could be. Drink now and over the next few years.
- Production: 537 cases
- List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24
- Production Notes: Marsanne is best known from the northern Rhone, particularly the famed appellation of Hermitage, where it produces wines of legendary elegance and ageworthiness. The 2020 vintage, for whatever reason, produced some of our favorite Marsanne ever, which was a bit of a surprise since we think of it as a grape that prefers cooler years. We fermented it in 600-gallon foudres to emphasize its texture and give it a hint of oak, then chose the lots for our varietal bottling and bottled it in June 2021.
- Tasting Notes: A quintessential Marsanne nose of honeydew melon, honeysuckle, and straw drying in the sun. The mouth is pretty, showing notes of fresh honey, Golden Delicious apple, citrus blossom, and a gentle, chalky minerality. The long, gentle finish shows white flowers and melon, rainwater and dried grass. Moderate acids, but enough to keep things together. Like our 2019, it's so appealing now that I'm guessing a lot of it will get drunk young, but it should evolve in an interesting way for a decade at least.
- Production: 193 cases
- List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28
- Production Notes: In a vintage where most grapes showed higher-than-normal yields, Roussanne was the exception. But the year's ample rainfall produced Roussanne fruit with bright acids and vibrant flavors. We fermented the Roussanne lots that were selected for our varietal bottling roughly 55% in foudre, 35% in neutral oak puncheons, and 10% in small new barriques, blended them in April 2018, returned them to foudre to age another six months, and bottled the wine that December. Because of the vintage's unusual vibrancy, we stashed a couple of pallets for a later release, and have enjoyed watching the deeper, more caramel-tinged flavors emerge over the last few years.
- Tasting Notes: A deep, classic Roussanne nose of lacquered wood, vanilla custard, lanolin, and quince. The mouth is still lively, with flavors of graham cracker and tangerine, candied orange peel and melon rind, and a finish that shows a little pithy bite that keeps the developing caramel tones fresh. Drink any time over the next decade.
- Production: 1050 cases
- Library Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36
2017 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC
- Production Notes: In 2017 we incorporated two of our newest white grapes into the Esprit Blanc blend for the first time. Still, Roussanne (68%, fermented in a mix of oak of various sizes and ages) was the leading contributor, but the different higher-acid, more mineral varieties (17% Grenache Blanc, 7% Picpoul Blanc, 4% Clairette Blanche, and 4% Picardan) all added citrusy acidity and saline freshness. After the blend was chosen and assembled in April 2018 we returned it to foudre to age another six months before bottling it in December 2018. Like with the Roussanne, we stashed some away for a (slightly) later release, when some of its more mature flavors would have developed.
- Tasting Notes: A nose balanced between sweeter and more savory elements, candied green apple and Werther's caramel aromas given depth and seriousness by laquered wood and lemongrass notes. On the palate, similarly sweet and savory, with flavors of lemon meringue, chalky mineral, creme brulee and melon rind. Notes of sweet hay and dried herbs tilt the balance toward savory for me, at least right now. The long finish shows pear skin and beeswax, minerality and citrus pith. In the middle of what promises to be a long, interesting life. Drink now or age up to another two decades for additional notes of hazelnuts and butterscotch.
- Production: 2250 cases
- Library Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44
Two additional reds (the 2020 Counoise and 2020 Cotes de Tablas) join the 2019 Panoplie, 2019 Le Complice, and two bottles of 2019 Tannat in the Red Wine Selection shipment:
- Production Notes: Valued as a blending grape in France because of its spiciness, its fresh acidity, and its low alcohol, Counoise is rarely seen on its own. But we love being able to share one, and suggest you enjoy it much as you might a Cru Beaujolais: slightly chilled, with charcuterie or as an aperitif. We tend to ferment our Counoise lots in stainless steel to protect it from oxidation, and to age it in neutral oak to avoid weighing down its bright fruit flavors. The lots that we chose for our varietal Counoise were selected and blended in June 2021 and bottled in February 2022, under screwcap to preserve the wine's freshness.
- Tasting Notes: A lovely translucent garnet color. Very fresh on the nose, with aromas of raspberry, rose petals, and savory chaparral, spicy and lifted. The palate is juicy, herby, and lively, reminiscent of the whole wild strawberry experience, from fruit to leaves, with sweet sarsaparilla spice, light tannins, and refreshing acids. A pretty and intriguing wine that should be endlessly flexible with food. Enjoy it lightly chilled any time in the next six to eight years.
- Production: 240 cases
- List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28
2020 COTES DE TABLAS
- Production Notes: Grenache always plays lead in the Cotes de Tablas, and 2020 (where it represents 43%) was no exception. But during our blending trials we realized we had enough top-notch Syrah left to make a more serious, savory Cotes than we often do, and included 33% in the blend. 20% Counoise (for vibrancy and spice) and 4% Mourvedre (for earth and complexity) rounded out the wine, which was blended in June 2021 and aged in 1200-gallon neutral oak foudres until its bottling in February 2022.
- Tasting Notes: A serious nose of brambly spice, red apple skin, wild grape jelly, and bay. The palate is poised evenly between savory and sweeter elements, with plum skin and cola deepened by dried herbs and cocoa powder. A little chalky minerality comes out along with some fairly substantial tannins on the finish. This will be delicious young, with excellent complexity for this bottling, but should also age gracefully a decade or more.
- Production: 1200 cases
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
If you're a wine club member, we've got a few different ways you can try these wines. We are planning to host a live, outdoor, in-person pickup party here at the winery on Sunday, March 27th. Neil and I will also be hosting another virtual pickup party the evening of Friday, April 8th, with the opportunity to order 187ml tasting kits from us so you can taste along. And we'll again be offering club members who visit between mid-March and mid-April the opportunity to choose their shipment wines as their tasting flight. Consider this a "save the date"; we will be putting details on all this on our VINsider News & Updates page and announcing them via email soon.
If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join up, while there's still a chance to get this spring shipment? Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club