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 2020, 2021, and 2022 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 challenging year of 2020 keeps surprising us. Far from the simple, juicy wines you might expect from such a hot year, as we get to late releases of our most ageworthy reds it's the structural scaffolding and deep spice of these more tannic reds that stands out.
- This tasting only confirmed my opinion that 2021 will go down as one of our best vintages ever, with a combination of mouth-filling texture, intense flavors, and great focus. Even better, it seems to be equally strong for reds and whites.
- With only a couple of wines, it's early to generalize about 2022, but the Vermentino and Dianthus show creamy textures and luscious fruit without sacrificing brightness. It's a promising start.
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 and Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi, so these notes are a compilation of our thoughts. Maybe you can tell that we were excited with what we'd tasted...
The Classic Shipment includes six different wines:
2021 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 the outstanding 2021 vintage, when all the grapes had good focus and freshness, we chose a somewhat higher percentage of Viognier (44%) than in most recent years, and added Grenache Blanc (32%) for brightness and pithy bite, Marsanne (14%) for elegance, and Roussanne (10%) to round out the blend and provide structure. The selected lots were blended in May 2022, and the wine was bottled in June 2022.
- Tasting Notes: A lovely Rhonish nose, very aromatic, of jasmine, clementine pith, ripe peach, petrichor, and sweet green herbs. The mouth shows both richness and brightness, with flavors of nectarine and mint, rich texture, and a persistent wet stone minerality. The wine's acids come out on the long, clean finish, leaving flavors of mango and creamy minerality. Drink now and for at least the next five years.
- Production: 1215 cases.
- List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28
- Production Notes: Although our yields on our whites were very low in 2022, yields on reds rebounded a bit, which allowed us to increase our production of Dianthus slightly. Named after a family of flowering plants with deep pink blooms, Dianthus is always led by Mourvedre (45% this year), for rich texture and watermelon and plum fruit, with Grenache (38%) for bright strawberry fruit and refreshing acidity and Counoise (16%) for spice and cherry fruit. I'm not sure we can isolate what the 1% Cinsaut adds, but we're excited to have it and look forward to incorporating more in future years. The fruit spent 24-36 hours on the skins, giving it a deeper color and more texture than many rosés, and then it completed its fermentation in stainless steel before bottling in January 2023.
- Tasting Notes: A lovely deep peach color. On the nose, complex aromatics of strawberry hard candy, newly cut grass, watermelon rind and sweet mint. The mouth is both lush and vibrant, with flavors of red cherry, pepper spice, and chalky minerals. But it was the texture that we found most noteworthy, mouth-filling and serious, with a saline edge and a lingering finish with salted watermelon and yellow rose petal notes. A rosé to convert people who don't think pink wines can be serious. Drink before the end of 2024.
- Production: 860 cases
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
2021 PATELIN DE TABLAS
- Production Notes: Our Patelin de Tablas, blended from a selection of local vineyards planted to our clones, is always based on the dark fruit and mineral notes of Syrah (43%) with additions of Grenache (28%) for generosity and openness, Mourvedre (23%) for texture and meatiness, and Counoise (6%) for spice and vibrancy. The lovely 2021 vintage produced one of our favorite Patelins ever, with immediate juicy appeal and the structure to age over the medium term. It was blended in May of 2022 and bottled in August of that same year, and has been resting in bottle at the winery since.
- Tasting Notes: A nose of licorice, both red and black, new leather, black cherry, pomegranate reduction, and black pepper. The mouth is bright with cranberry fruit and a chaparral-style wild herbiness, and deeper flavors of baking spices, sweet tobacco, and plum skin. The finish is deep and long, with chalky tannins that suggest there's more to be revealed with time in bottle. Drink now and over the next decade.
- Production: 3568 cases
- List Price: $28 VINsider Price: $22.40
- Production Notes: Our nineteenth 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. We ferment Tannat in open-top fermenters to keep it exposed to oxygen and start the softening process, then move it to neutral oak foudre where it ages for nearly 2 years. It was bottled in April 2022 and has been aging the last 10 months waiting for its release.
- Tasting Notes: An exuberant nose of teriyaki spice and plum, leather and Tannat's signature wild lupine florality. On the palate, richly tannic with flavors of black cherry and charcuterie, grilled meat and chaparral spice. The finish is loaded with dark red fruit, sweet anise spice, and chalky tannins. A serious wine to pair with rich foods now or age for up to two decades if you're looking for a more refined experience.
- Production: 963 cases
- List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36
2020 LE COMPLICE
- Production Notes: The fifth vintage of our newest red blend, which celebrates the kinship between whole cluster Syrah (77%) and the wildly interesting grape Terret Noir (8%). 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 (15%) for mid-palate richness. The wine was blended in June of 2021 and aged in foudre until its bottling in December 2022.
- Tasting Notes: A classic savory Syrah nose of rare steak, black olive, green peppercorn, and chalky minerals. The mouth is more of the same, with notes of carne asada, dried herbs, blackberry fruit, and a little minty lift. The finish shows more crushed rock minerality with a grilled berry note and plenty of tannic richness. Still youthfully tight; give this six months if you can, then drink over the next two decades.
- Production: 900 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 2021. Mourvedre, as always, represents the largest percentage (59%) of Panoplie. In this year when Syrah was particularly compelling, we included more of it in the blend than usual (28%, for black fruit, density, and tannic richness) and just two lots of our most expressive Grenache (13%, for sweet spice and vibrancy). The wine was bottled in July 2022.
- Tasting Notes: A deep nose of cassis and spruce forest, warm spices like clove and star anise, with a dry-aged umami meaty note lurking underneath. The palate shows ripe plum, melted chocolate, licorice root, and plenty of chalky tannins. The finish is balanced between sweeter blueberry flavors and more savory chaparral spice, with creamy texture and a finish laced with cocoa powder and redcurrant notes. This is appealing now, but should also develop additional layers of meatiness and loamy earth with time. Enjoy over the next two decades, perhaps longer.
- Production: 807 cases
- List Price: $105 VINsider Price: $84
Four additional wines (2022 Vermentino, 2021 Marsanne, a library release of the 2013 Roussanne, and 2 bottles of the 2021 Roussanne) will join the 2021 Cotes de Tablas Blanc in the White Wine Selection shipment:
- Production Notes: Our twenty-first bottling of this traditional Mediterranean variety, 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 young (January 2023, this vintage) under screwcap. Vermentino yields in 2022 were painfully low (off by half compared to most recent years) but the fruit we got was lovely.
- Tasting Notes: A classic Vermentino nose of all parts of a lime, from blossom to leaf to pith to juice, deepened by an herby lemon verbena note and briny sea spray minerality. The palate is fresh and juicy yet with a surprisingly creamy texture for the usually lighter-bodied Vermentino, with flavors of key lime, lemon custard, and sweet green herbs. The finish shows more saline minerality with yellow grapefruit and chamomile notes. 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: 575 cases
- List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28
- 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 2021 vintage produced some of our favorite Marsanne ever, which we fermented in 600-gallon foudres to emphasize its texture and give it a hint of oak. Because we thought it so classic and pretty, we reserved a little more than usual for a varietal expression at blending in March of 2022. The wine was bottled that June.
- Tasting Notes: A vibrant nose of lychee, wildflower honey, white tea, and lemongrass. The mouth is soft and lovely with flavors of white peach and honeydew melon, chamomile and Meyer lemon pith. The finish is clean and long, with fresh pear and clean straw notes, and a little pithy bite. 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: 254 cases
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
- Production Notes: Roussanne yields continued their downward trend in 2021, reduced by the lack of rainfall and the accumulated stress of growing in Paso Robles. But the Roussanne lots that we got were uniformly outstanding. Our varietal bottling came roughly 55% from foudre, 35% from neutral oak puncheons, and 10% in small new barriques. The selected lots were blended in April 2022 then aged in foudre through the subsequent harvest before bottling this past December.
- Tasting Notes: A spicy nose of honeysuckle and baked apple, honeycomb and cinnamon. On the palate, poached pear and clove notes, chalky minerals, rich texture, and a lingering lanolin note that is quintessentially Roussanne. The finish shows waxy texture and lingering flavors of Meyer lemon pith, saline minerality, and a little hint of sweet oak. 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: 517 cases
- List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36
- Production Notes: The 2013 vintage, which featured lively fruit and outstanding balance, was one where we felt we might get something exceptional if we were to stash some of our Roussanne for a few years. And we did! Bottled in February 2015 and aged in our cellar ever since, the 2013 Roussanne shows what we love about this unusually ageworthy white grape at around a decade old. Still fresh, the honey notes have caramelized and the expression is one of lushness. If you've never tried aged Roussanne you're in for a treat.
- Tasting Notes: A pretty mature Roussanne nose of creme brulee and marzipan. ripe pear and sweet straw. On the palate, vanilla custard, apple pie, tarragon, and a little pithy sweet quince note like membrillo paste. Luscious and nearly decadent, just held in check on the finish by a little pithy bite. Drink now and over the next few years.
- Production: 700 cases
- Library Price: $65 VINsider Price: $52
Two additional reds (the 2021 Cotes de Tablas and 2020 Syrah) join the 2020 Panoplie, 2020 Le Complice, 2020 Tannat, and 2021 Patelin de Tablas in the Red Wine Selection shipment:
2021 COTES DE TABLAS
- Production Notes: Grenache always plays lead in the Cotes de Tablas, and in the outstanding Grenache year of 2021 it represents an above-average 47% of the blend. 30% Syrah adds darker fruit and minerality, while 15% Counoise (for vibrancy and spice) and 8% Mourvedre (for earth and complexity) complete the wine. The Cotes de Tablas was blended in June 2022 and aged in 1200-gallon neutral oak foudres until its bottling in February 2023.
- Tasting Notes: An immediately appealing nose of sugarplum and wild strawberry, herbes de Provence and charcuterie. The mouth shows notes of milk chocolate and red cherry, deepened with olive tapenade and sweet green herbs. Some youthful Grenache tannins come out on the long, juicy finish. This will only have been in bottle for a month or so by the time you receive this wine, so give it a few months if you possibly can, and then enjoy any time over the next decade.
- Production: 1125 cases
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
- Production Notes: Syrah was one of the standouts in our blending trials of the 2020 reds, and it was exciting that we were able to make a varietal bottling in decent quantity as well as using it in all our key blends. We ferment our Syrah in open-top fermenters, punched down twice daily, then move it to barrel to complete fermentation. For our varietal bottling we selected a mix of lots from newer and older oak, then blended them in June 2021 and aged the wine together in one 1200-gallon oak foudre until bottling in April 2022.
- Tasting Notes: An inviting nose of black licorice and black raspberry, dark chocolate and dried herbs. On the palate, blackcurrant fruit, mocha notes and mouth-filling tannins, absolutely characteristic of what we love about Syrah, with enough plum skin brightness to keep the wine fresh. The finish shows notes of grilled blackberry and an iron-like mineral note with plenty of tannin to keep this going for two decades or more.
- Production: 474 cases
- List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40
If you're a wine club member, we've got a few different ways you can try these wines. We are hosting a live in-person pickup party here at the winery on Sunday, April 2nd. Neil, Chelsea, and I will also be hosting another virtual pickup party the evening of Friday, March 24th, 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 March 17th and April 9th the opportunity to choose their shipment wines as their tasting flight. All the details are up 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 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.