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A Guide to Making One-Minute Social Media-Friendly Cooking Videos for Wineries

By Nadia Nouri

I’ve always been passionate about demystifying the world of wine, especially for my fellow Gen Z friends who aren’t exactly sure where to start. One of the most commonly asked questions in our tasting room (especially for some of our more obscure varieties) is, “What food would you recommend pairing with this wine?” With cooking videos having taken over the internet, it seemed like a no-brainer to film and post the recipes we already have on our website so we can share how our wines can easily be paired with familiar dishes. While filming and cutting down a 20- to 40-minute recipe into a 1-minute video isn’t an easy feat, it’s well worth being able to share different ways of enjoying our wine – and we think more wineries should do the same. The benefits of creating cooking videos include:

Reach. Our average reach on Instagram is roughly doubled for recipe reels, compared to the average reach of our other reels. That reach allows us to connect with those who may not have otherwise discovered our wines. And this makes sense; short-form video has taken over the social media space, boosted by Instagram's algorithm and the natural appeal of video. Because, let’s be real, a photo of a bowl of soup can only have so much appeal — it’s got to be able to stop you mid-scroll. 

Durability. Not only do more people see our videos the first time they appear in their feeds, but our recipe videos get 8x more saves on average than our other videos, meaning people will come back to those particular videos, and may use them as jumping off points for more of our content. Plus, a one-minute video with actual process of how simple it can be to achieve a delicious wine pairing is shareable content for Tablas Creek fans and foodies alike. 

Approachability. These videos allow us to showcase our wines in a more approachable and accessible way. By pairing each wine with a recipe that customers can easily make at home, we can break down the perception that wine pairing is out of reach unless you're already a sophisticated wine drinker. Easy-to-follow recipes that have been bundled up into a short video are also a fantastic introduction to wine. Our goal is to create videos that are both informative and entertaining, making it easy for anyone to feel comfortable experimenting with wine and food pairings. 

If you haven't seen them on our feed, here's a recent video, pairing our Dianthus Rosé with a Spanish omelette:

A step-by-step guide to making cooking videos:

What You Need:

  1. Phone: videos on social media do not necessarily need to be high production, so any camera works!
  2. Tripod: having a steady picture will make a difference in the final product. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it is definitely worth investing in a tripod to have your hands free while cooking.
  3. Good lighting: Whether you’re using artificial lighting or natural light, it’s important that the videos are bright.
  4. Editing software: I use CapCut for editing all my videos, but use whatever platform you like and feel comfortable with.

Cooking Video Setup

How To Film And Edit A Cooking Video:

  1. Plan out your shots: The less you have to move your tripod around the better. Be prepared for every step in the recipe; think about transitions, close ups, what parts of the recipe are going to be the most appetizing or satisfying to watch.
  2. Film each part of the cooking process: If you have to chop up 4 carrots, you don’t need to film chopping every single one, but capture at least one of them. This will give you more choices of clips to choose from when editing. While it might seem daunting to film every single step, it will make the recipe easier to follow if each step is shown, even if for just 1 second.
  3. Film the finished product: Plate it, add garnishes, pour wine, and really set the scene.
  4. Take pictures: Having photos for a cover shot helps keep your feed looking consistent and clean.
  5. Import all clips into your editor: From here you can begin trimming down clips to find the best content to use for the final video.
  6. Add background music: Find sounds that are trending on Instagram or TikTok to add to the background of the video to give some interest. I like to import the sound into the editor so I can sync the clips to go along with the rhythm of the music. CapCut’s editor allows you to directly link your TikTok account to find trending sounds or saved sounds.
  7. Export and Share: Export the video at a quality that your chosen platform suggests. Then it is finally time to share your recipe with the world!


Recipe Video Shotlist

After making a dozen or so cooking videos, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Source recipes you know will pair well with your wine: We have a variety of recipes - some from renowned chefs, and others from the Tablas Creek cru. With the recipes that are on our website, we already know they’re tried and true, but we have tried new recipes with some of our wines before that didn’t work out. So be sure to test them!
  2. Ensure you have enough storage on your phone: While this might seem like a no-brainer, when your phone is full of Tablas Creek sheep content like mine, you might have to take a moment to clear out your camera roll before being able to film. 
  3. Take your time: Not only does the recipe have to taste good, but it has to look good for the camera. The recipe should be visually appealing, so be sure to keep that in mind during filming.
  4. Tell a story: The video should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. By the end of the video it should feel complete, not like something is missing.
  5. Keep it short and sweet: I like to keep our videos fast-paced and under a minute, which can be time-consuming in the editing process, but is well worth it.

Nadia in Kitchen

Happy cooking! 

Flowering 2023: So Far, So Good

This past weekend was the Paso Robles Wine Festival, our unofficial end to frost season. It was lovely and warm, and I dove into our pool as soon as I got home. And yet most of the questions that I got from guests at the festival were about our winter, along the lines of "how did you withstand the crazy rains this year?". That's a good reminder of the slow dissemination of news, as well as the staying power of striking video images. But we're well into the growing season, and things are moving fast in the vineyard. And so it was with anticipation that I took a walk around the vineyard yesterday afternoon. When I got to the top of our tallest hill, I found flowering in our Viognier:

Flowering 2023 - Viognier 1

If you haven't seen grapevines flowering before, you can be excused for finding it underwhelming. It's not a showy process. Still, the tiny white fuzz-like flowers that appear on the clusters are the first stage of development of the berries. From this point on, if the berries are fertilized successfully, they'll grow in size and mass until veraison, at which point they stop growing but accumulate sugar and ripen the seeds within. As with all parts of the vineyard annual cycle, there are grapes that enter (and exit) flowering earlier and later, with the early grapes being Viognier, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, and Vermentino. They are followed shortly by Marsanne and Syrah, and finally, as much as a month after the early grapes, Roussanne, Counoise, and Mourvedre bring up the rear. And there is variation between vineyard blocks as well, with cooler, lower-lying areas a week or two behind the same grapes at the tops of our hills. The only other grape that I could find flowering in was Grenache from another top-of-hill block:

Flowering 2023 - Grenache 1

Flowering marks the rough quarter-pole of the growing season. There's a lot more year to come than in the rear-view mirror, but it's still a point at which you can start to make comparisons to other vintages. Doing so provides more support for our assessment that 2023 is looking like something of a throwback year, more like what we saw in the 2000's and early 2010's than what we've seen most of the last decade. Since the beginning of April we've had an above-average number of frost nights and days that don't get out of the 60s, and a roughly average number of days that top 90°F, and a below-average number of growing degree days (a rough number of hours that are warm enough for the grapevines to photosynthesize). The first 52 days of the growing season compared to the same dates the past dozen years:

Year Degree Days Days > 90°F Days < 70°F Nights < 32°F
2011 383 0 24 4
2012 496 5 15 3
2013 615 9 12 1
2014 553 5 16 0
2015 378 0 26 0
2016 494 2 14 0
2017 517 6 17 0
2018 454 0 21 1
2019 410 0 25 0
2020 500 2 20 2
2021 499 2 13 2
2022 554 6 13 3
Average 2011-2022 488 3.1 18 1.3
2023 470 4 21 4

As always, though, the devil is in the details. It was so chilly the first quarter of 2023 that the frost nights we saw this April came with low-lying vineyard blocks still dormant and therefore not at risk. That's great. The 90+ days were only barely into the 90s (top temperature: 93°F) and in every case the low the following night dropped into the 40s. That's great too. So the vines have had a good runway to catch up a bit after their late start, and in our estimate they have. From the roughly three weeks later than normal that we saw 2023's budbreak, we've probably made up half of that deficit.

Flowering is the second of the four viticultural markers that we use each year as markers: notable reference points that indicate where we are compared to other years. These are, in order:

  • Budbreak (typically beginning late March or early April, and lasting three weeks or so)
  • Flowering (typically beginning mid-May, lasting a month or so)
  • Veraison (typically beginning late July or early August, lasting as much as 6 weeks)
  • Harvest (typically beginning late August or early September, lasting two months or so)

You might notice that in the above list, the duration of each stage is longer than the previous one. That's because grapes start their growing cycle at different times, and also proceed at different rates. So, harvest stretches over a longer time than veraison, which takes longer than flowering, which takes longer than budbreak. Given we saw flowering begin the second week of May, we're likely to be enjoying the intoxicating scent of bloom until the sometime in mid-June.

What do we want now? We're hoping for consistent, sunny weather, with only limited wind and no rain. Cold, wet, or windy weather at this stage can produce incomplete fertilization, or shatter, where a cluster has a high proportion of unfertilized berries, looking snaggle-toothed and (often dramatically) reducing yields. Some varieties, most notably Grenache, are prone to shatter, while others are less so. The Paso Robles weather forecast suggests that we're entering a little cooldown that should last us through the work week, and then temperatures returning to normal levels in the upper 70s and low 80s by this coming weekend. There is no rain expected, or any unusual wind. That bodes well. 

So far, so good. Full steam ahead.

Flowering 2023 - Grenache 2

Francois and Cesar Perrin lead us through a vertical tasting of Beaucastel Blanc and Roussanne Vieilles Vignes

Last year, when Cesar Perrin was in town for blending and the Hospice du Rhone celebration, he made use of some of the extra bottles he had after pouring at their library tasting and some of what we had stashed here at Tablas Creek to host an impromptu vertical tasting of Beaucastel reds with the team here. It was a treat. So I was excited when he asked before his visit this year if I wanted to dive into a different part of the Beaucastel repertoire. When he suggested looking at Beaucastel's white wines, I jumped at the idea.

Beaucastel is rightly famous for its reds, but its whites are icons in their own rights. More than a decade ago, we hosted a producers-only symposium on Roussanne in which we dove into its history, growing, winemaking, and marketing. We began the three-day event by asking the 25-or-so producers there why they first set their sights on this famously difficult but lovely grape. Probably two-thirds of them mentioned having had Beaucastel's white as a formative moment in their appreciation of the Roussanne grape. And they weren't alone. No lesser authority than Robert Parker called Beaucastel's Roussanne Vieilles Vignes "a staggering wine of extraordinary complexity and richness" which "offers a nearly out of body wine tasting experience" while giving the 2009 vintage a perfect 100 point score.

Beaucastel makes two white wines from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Their main Beaucastel Blanc is composed of 80% Roussanne for core depth, richness, and ageworthiness, 10% Grenache Blanc and Clairette Blanche which offer a balance of texture, freshness, and minerality, and 10% Picpoul, Bourboulenc, and Picardan for bright acids and spice notes. This is aged in mostly one- and two-year-old barrels. They also make a 100% Roussanne from a 3-hectare (7.5 acre) block planted in 1909 that they call Roussanne Vieilles Vignes (old vines), 50% in new oak and 50% in one-year-old barrels. The lineup:

Beaucastel Blanc Vertical

We tasted six vintages of each, starting with the Beaucastel Blanc. My notes from each are below. The links will take you to the wine's page on the Beaucastel website:

  • 2021 Beaucastel Blanc: A lovely luscious nose of honey and sweet spices. The mouth shows flavors of spun sugar and citrus pith, gingersnap and a hint of sweet oak, with appealing brightness emerging at the end and giving relief to all the rich flavors. From a cool vintage.
  • 2019 Beaucastel Blanc: A nose of lemon custard with notes of wet rocks and fresh pineapple. The mouth is clean, with flavors of preserved lemon and sweet spice, cracked pepper and mandarin. From a heat wave vintage but you'd never know it; the wine was so fresh.
  • 2017 Beaucastel Blanc: Starting to show a little age on the nose, with notes of peppered citrus and creme brulee. The texture is dense but still bright, with flavors of grilled pineapple, caramel, and a little pithy bite on the end. Concentrated and rich, from a dry, low-yielding year.
  • 2015 Beaucastel Blanc: Showing more savory notes on the nose than the three younger vintages: sage, spun sugar, and candied white grapefruit peel. On the palate, lanolin, cumquat, orange blossom, and pineapple core. In a lovely place, with both aged and youthful aspects. From a warm, dry, windy year.
  • 2013 Beaucastel Blanc: A nose of orange blossom, creme brulee, oyster shell, and fresh pineapple. Seemingly younger than the 15 and even 17. Beautiful focus on the palate with notes of fresh honey and sweet green herbs and a mandarin peel bite on the finish. From a wet, cool year.
  • 2011 Beaucastel Blanc: A nose of roasted nuts, menthol, honeycomb, and tarragon. The palate had sweet-but-not-sweet flavors of vanilla custard, drying hay, and crystallized ginger. The finish showed more nuts, mineral, and a lemongrass herby note. Beautiful.

Cesar then presented six vintages of the Roussanne Vieille Vignes, again from youngest to oldest:

  • 2020 Roussanne Vieilles Vignes: An intense nose of new honey, white tea, and honeydew melon. The palate shows sweet lemon custard flavors with a rich mineral character that combines with the wine's remarkable texture to create an experience Francois described as "salted butter". The finish shows more of that vanilla bean custard character held in check by a little pithy bite. From a year Cesar described as a "classic Provence vintage".
  • 2018 Roussanne Vieilles Vignes: A more savory nose of lacquered wood and petrichor, with a floral honeysuckle note emerging with time in the glass. On the palate, flavors of sweet orange and tarragon, honey, and a little sweet oak. Elegant and lingering, from a terribly wet year when they lost 60% of their crop to downy mildew after a summer monsoon. Amazing that what was left is so good. 
  • 2016 Roussanne Vieilles Vignes: A nose of honeydew, lime leaf, and sweet spices, with a complex prosciutto-like meatiness lurking underneath. On the palate, graham cracker and fresh melon, sweet cream butter and fresh almond notes. From a California-like vintage with warm, sunny days but unusually cool nights. 
  • 2014 Roussanne Vieilles Vignes: A nose of sweet spices: clove, candied pecans, and creme caramel. On the palate, flavors of salted caramel and citrus leaf, amazing rich, creamy texture but still fresh. The Perrins said this was amazing with sea scallops and I'm sure they're right. From a cool year which produced wines with good focus.
  • 2012 Roussanne Vieilles Vignes: A nose showing its decade of age in a pretty way: cedar, jasmine, menthol and poached pear. The mouth shows flavors of caramel apple, complete with the bite of apple skin. Clean and lingering on the finish with notes of juniper and creme brulee.
  • 2009 Roussanne Vieilles Vignes: We broke out of the every-two-vintages pattern because Cesar wanted to share the wine they made for the Roussanne block's 100-year anniversary. A nose of graham cracker and white pepper, spicy and rich. On the palate, vanilla custard and toasted marshmallow, satsuma and fresh tarragon, showing a lovely line of clarity amidst all the richness. The finish is long and clean, with a continued pithy note.

A few concluding thoughts:

  • The level of consistency across these wines was amazing. There were cool, wet years and warm, dry years represented, and yet the flavor profile was relatively consistent. The hot years still had freshness, while the cool years still had weight. That's a testament to the resilience of old vines, but also to the expertise of the Beaucastel vineyard and winemaking team. I feel like we get more vintage variation here at Tablas Creek.
  • The wines showed a very reliable, gentle aging curve that showed why Roussanne is famous for aging gracefully. The oldest wines we tasted were nearly 15 years old, and none felt even to middle-age, let alone toward the end of their lifespans. I've had Beaucastel Roussannes that were nearly three decades old. The character changes at that phase, losing much of the weight and gaining a lovely nutty mineral focus. That's wonderful too. If you're looking for a white that will reward your choice to lay it down, this is a great choice. 
  • The character of Roussanne just jumped out of the glass. That's probably not surprising given that the Vieilles Vignes was 100% Roussanne while the Beaucastel Blanc was 80%, but if you are wondering what heights the Roussanne grape can get to, I felt like any of these bottlings would give you a good sense. They're not easy to find, as whites represent just 7% of the acreage at Beaucastel, but they're worth the search. Who knows... it might even inspire you to start a winery.
  • Finally, what a treat to be led through this tasting by Francois and Cesar. My dad wrote an appreciation of the Perrin family back in 2014, when Jean-Pierre and Francois received Decanter's "Men of the Year" award, which I reread recently and felt encapsulated why we're so happy to be their partners. They're classic yet innovative, relentlessly focused on improving each year yet grounded by five generations of tradition and experience. What a great foundation for our work here at Tablas Creek.

Francois and Cesar present Beaucastel Blanc

Thanks, Francois and Cesar. What a treat.

Unpacking a Potential Wine Scam

A little more than a decade ago, I got a scam email that was a fairly sophisticated attempting to cheat us out of thousands of dollars in shipping charges. I posted it on this blog, breaking down why it was a scam and what would have happened had I followed through, and heard from dozens of other members of the wine community that they'd received the same email and in researching its validity ended up at my blog. In a few cases I heard from people on the verge of wiring money to the fraudsters. And as versions of that scam email kept circulating over the subsequent decade the blog, I and other commenters kept updating the details until it became a kind of evolving archive of scam attempts and the names that the scammers were using. 

So, in that spirit, I'm sharing the following scam email I received a couple of weeks ago:

From: TONY NOVICK [mailto: [email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2023 10:51 AM
Subject: TOUR

Dear Sir/Madam,

How are you? I hope this mail meets you well and in good health. I"m writing to make an inquiry.

I am one of 20th members in a private wine club in the United Kingdom that we call "TERROIR ELITE CLUB". 20 of us are going to visit your place and we are staying in a house around your area.

From there we will travel around and see different places and especially we are going to see some wineries, estates, cellars, Vineyards, breweries, distilleries, Museums and extra virgin oil facilities so we wonder if it's possible to visit your facility on FRIDAY, 25TH OF AUGUST, 2023 and maybe taste some of your wines, beer, spirits, extra virgin oil or any other of your regional products?

However, We are also free to undertake in any other kind of tours, guided tours, visits, leisure experiences or adventurous activities.

If you will be available on the requested date, urgently send us your quotation and total cost for the 20 persons coming to your facility for "TOUR" or "VISIT" on FRIDAY, 25TH OF AUGUST, 2023.

Finally, if our date is not suitable for you, get back to us since our date of visitation is still flexible.

Thanks in advance

Yours Faithfully,

Mr. Tony Novick.

ADDRESS: 33 Great Queen St, London
United Kingdom
EMAIL: [email protected]

NB: All replies and correspondence to be forwarded to "[email protected]

As I did last time, I'll break down why it's tempting, what gives it away as a scam, and what might have happened had I followed through.

Why it works
Like most scams, the note plays on a winery's desire to believe that their profile is high enough that people they don't know will search them out. And we do get inquiries to visit from people and groups that we don't know all the time. Getting 20 visitors who are members of a private wine club in the United Kingdom seemingly offers a pretty good chance of a substantial sale. And unlike many scams the written English in the email is believable. Not flawless, but believable. And there's no hard ask here... no request for money or banking information, nothing even that seems suspicious. That might encourage someone to reply, thinking that they have little to lose and allowing the scammers to make further contact with someone they know is potentially interested.

Why it's a fake
First, there is no mention of the name of the winery or even more suspiciously the town or region in the letter. If you're going to try to reach out to Tablas Creek to schedule a visit, wouldn't you mention Paso Robles in the note? Second, it's pretty clear they're casting a wide net. They're interested in visiting not just cellars, estates, wineries, breweries, and distilleries, but Museums? Apologies to our adorable Pioneer Museum, but no one comes to Paso Robles to go to museums. And also open to other sorts of "tours, guided tours, visits, leisure experiences or adventurous activities"? Stretches credibility. Third, there was no visible "to:" address, and my address was in the hidden "bcc:" field, presumably because this was sent to many hundreds or thousands of emails hoping one or more would bite. Fourth, when I plug the address that Mr. Novick gives into Google Maps it returns a barbershop, Ted's Grooming Room. Fifth, the return address is a address, a Russian domain not widely used in the UK. And sixth, how many people named Tony Novick are likely to have their actual email be "[email protected]"?

What would happen if I followed through
There is a tremendously informative Facebook post by Bacchus Winery in Virginia, from January of 2020. They share a nearly identical letter, though at that time it was purportedly from a Gabriel Dawney, and the name of the club was "Bacchus Klaus". Bacchus's owner replied to the note quoting a modest tasting fee and received a check for more than £3,500, or over $5,000: 

In his notes, he reports that if he'd deposited the check he'd have given routing information to the fraudsters. I don't think that's right, especially if (as I'm sure is the case) the check is fraudulent. Instead, what seems likely is that the purported visitors would ask that the overpay be returned to them in some non-cancellable form like a wire transfer or a Western Union payment. If the business resists, they would likely become more and more insistent and eventually threatening about repayment. When your bank rejects the fraudulent check, you'd be out whatever you'd refunded for their "overpayment". The fraudsters, probably in Russia given their email address, face little risk of enforcement.

It's not clear that there's anything that the American authorities can do about this. Relations between the United States and Russia are far from cordial at the moment, and a report of petty crime is unlikely to be pursued, let alone lead to any action against perpetrators. Plus, email addresses are easy to spoof, and at relatively small sums law enforcement usually doesn't even bother to try. So, Tony Novick, or Gabriel Dawney, or whoever you are, you'll have to make do without a visit to our winery, estate, cellar, vineyard, brewery, distillery, and/or museum. Seller beware.

2022 Red Blending: The Big Three Grapes Shine and the Vintage Surprises with Its Combination of Structure and Vibrancy

On Tuesday we finally got to sit down and taste the sixteen (!) red wines from the 2022 vintage we'd built around the blending table over the past two weeks. The tasting showed all the promise that we'd hoped in assembling the wines. From the vibrant sweet spice and brambly cherry flavors of the Counoise to the salty minerality, loamy earth, and pure raspberry of Mourvedre, the dark soy and blackcurrant depth of the Le Complice, and the reverberating red and black fruit and licorice of the Esprit, each wine was both deep and focused, expressive and pleasurable. And what a relief. 2022 was one of our most challenging vintages, with the cumulative impacts of a three-year drought, two spring frosts, two punishing heat waves, unexpected rain, and a compressed harvest season. The white blending that we finished a month ago was so constrained by low yields that there were several wines we couldn't make, and the Roussanne so scarce that we had to blend an Esprit Blanc unlike any other we've done before. While I think the white wines we made will be excellent overall, I don't think it's a great white vintage. But on the red side? I think this will go down with some of the best vintages in our history. 

For the first time in a decade, we had the pleasure of having both Cesar and Francois Perrin join us around the blending table. Together, they bring five decades worth of vintages at Beaucastel, and dozens of weeks spent evaluating lots and making blends here. And their perspective is always valuable, bringing deep experience with these grapes and outside opinion unbiased by previous knowledge of the year. But while their voices are always heard and their opinions noted, these are not "flying winemakers" coming in to make pronouncements on our direction and then leave us to execute their wishes. Instead, like the Perrins' own system at Beaucastel, we take the blending process in steps and build consensus rather than relying on one or two lead voices to determine the wines' final profiles. After all, when you have nine family members involved in a multi-generational business, as they do at Beaucastel, it's a good policy and good family relations to make sure everyone is on the same page before you go forward. The same is true with a partnership like Tablas Creek where both founding families have equal ownership. More importantly, we're also convinced it makes better wines. And the discussions around the lunch table after each day's critical tasting are wonderful:

Blending 2022 Reds - Lunch Table

We began the first two days by tasting the 62 different red lots. On Monday we tackled Grenache, Counoise, Cinsaut, Tannat, and our trace varieties: Terret Noir, Vaccarese, Muscardin, and our tiny Cabernet lot. Tuesday we dove into the more tannin-rich grapes: Mourvedre, Syrah, and Pinot Noir. We keep our different harvest lots separate until they've finished fermentation so we can assess their quality and character before we have to decide which wines they fit best in. After all, a Mourvedre lot could potentially go into any of six wines: Panoplie, Esprit, En Gobelet, Cotes, Patelin, or the varietal Mourvedre. So our goal at this first stage of blending is to give each lot a grade that's reflective of its overall quality, and to start to flag lots that we think might be particularly suited to one wine or another. This component tasting is also an opportunity for us to get a sense of which varieties particularly shined or struggled, which helps provide direction as we start to brainstorm about blends.

We grade on a 1-3 scale, with "1" being our top grade (for a deep dive into how we do our blending, check out this blog by Chelsea from a few years back). We also give ourselves the liberty to give intermediate "1/2" or "2/3" grades for lots that are right on the cusp. For context, in a normal year, for every 10 lots we might see three or four "1" grades, five or six "2" grades and one "3" grade. As you can see from my notes, this year we saw a lot of "1" grades and very few "3" grades:

Blending 2022 Reds - Notes

How I graded each variety, in the order in which we tasted them:

  • Cinsaut (3 lots): Our third vintage of Cinsaut, and the largest quantity to date, nearly double what we got in 2021. Overall pretty and medium-bodied, with nice fruit and vibrant acids. I gave two of the lots "2" grades and one with more fruit and density a "1".
  • Counoise (7 lots): Many of these lots were notably pale, with lifted red fruit character, good acids, and nice salty minerality. But there weren't any obviously Esprit-level lots with the darker blueberry fruit and richer texture. Plenty of the pretty spicy Gamay-style juiciness that our varietal Counoise bottling typically reflects. The lack of lots with greater density made it a challenge to identify top lots, but I gave out two "1" grades to the lots with the most intense fruit, four "2" grades, and one "3" that came across a touch medicinal.
  • Grenache (15 lots): Grenache is often a challenge in this first tasting, as it is slow to finish fermentation and some lots are just rounding into form. But this was a strong showing, with plenty of richly fruited, spicy lots with the density to carry that fruit. I gave nearly half the lots (seven in total) "1" grades, with two others getting "1/2" and my hopes that they would form the core of our varietal Grenache. Two "2" lots, two "2/3" lots, and one "3" (which I felt a little guilty giving out, since even it felt like it was going through a stage) rounded a strong Grenache showing. 
  • Muscardin (1 lot): It was exciting that we finally had a barrel of Muscardin to blend, but I wasn't a huge fan of the wine. Last year's was pale but carried a minty/herby/juniper note that reminded us of Terret Noir along with great acids and salty minerality. This year's was just as pale but didn't have the same vibrancy, with gentle watermelon flavors and a short finish. I gave it a "2/3" and we agreed it wasn't distinguished enough to release as our first-ever varietal bottling. It will end up, like last year, in Le Complice.
  • Terret Noir (2 lots): Like the Muscardin, we felt we wanted more from Terret this year. Typically it's been pale but had high-toned wild strawberry fruit, herby lift, and grippy tannins. Not for everyone, but distinctive and interesting. This year's felt tamer, missing the herbiness and tannic grip from past years. I gave both lots "2/3" grades, flagging one lot with more structure as likely ideal for Le Complice
  • Vaccarese (1 lot): Compared to the ethereal nature of the previous two wines, the darker color and powerful aromatics of the Vaccarese stood out like a rocket. This tasting served as a reminder of why we're so excited about this grape, and I felt fortunate that we had enough to both include in Esprit and make into a varietal bottling. I gave it a "1".
  • Tannat (3 lots): Dense, yet with the vibrant acids that always surprise me in such a powerful grape. Not a lot of decisions to be made here, except for how much Tannat we feel is the right addition to En Gobelet. I gave two lots "1" grades and another, in which I found a little oxidation, a "2".
  • Cabernet (1 lot): Typically, the few rows of Cabernet in our old nursery block go into our Tannat, but we always taste it and have a few times decided to bottle it on its own when we had enough to make that viable and it showed such well-defined Cabernet character that we couldn't bear to blend it away. In 2022 we only had one barrel, so even though we loved its classic flavors and dusty minerality we didn't have enough for a solo bottling. It will go into Tannat and be happy. 

This marked the end of day one. If I'd had to give a grade at this point, it would have been a B/B+. We saw some very nice Grenache lots, but also some weaker ones. Tannat was strong, but it's always like that. Cinsaut and Counoise came across as pretty but not particularly serious. The trace varieties were a mixed bag. But then came day two:

  • Mourvedre (12 lots): Given the mixed results from the day before and the comparatively pale colors, I wasn't prepared to be blown away by Mourvedre. Typically, in lighter-weight vintages, it's Syrah that shines. But the Mourvedre lots went from strength to strength, and at one point I gave five lots in a row "1" grades. Overall the wines had intense varietal character, with deep red fruit, lovely leathery, loamy notes, and good structure. Six lots got "1"s from me, with three others getting "1/2", three "2"s and nothing lower than that. The best Mourvedre showing I can ever remember at this stage.
  • Syrah (12 lots): Syrah at this stage is easy to appreciate, with its plush dark fruit, spice, and powerful structure. Given that consistency, our main goals are to evaluate the different winemaking choices we made (too much or not enough stems? too much or not enough new oak?) and decide which lots feel like they can play well enough in Mourvedre- or Grenache-based wines to be blending partners. I gave out five "1"s, five "1/2" grades (these included most of those lots with notable stem or oak character, as I felt they weren't necessarily slam dunks for Esprit or Panoplie), and just two "2" lots that in another year could have been graded higher.
  • Pinot Noir (5 lots): From the small vineyard in the Templeton Gap that my dad planted outside the house he and my mom built in 2007, where we live now. It's planted to a mix of different Pinot Noir clones, and while we ferment each clone separately most years, they all always end up in the Full Circle Pinot Noir. So in this tasting we're just making sure there aren't lots that might cause issues in the blend, and evaluating the percentage of stems and whole-cluster. All five felt on point, and the total of about one-quarter whole cluster provided nice herbal lift. It should make a compelling 2022 Full Circle.

So while day one was a mixed bag, we all were ecstatic about day two. We finished the day with our normal round-table discussion about what we wanted to try in the next day's blending of Panoplie and Esprit and came to the conclusion that it probably wasn't a year to lean heavily into the more minor grapes and that we should start the blending trials with three test blends, each one leaning a little heavier into one of the big three of Mourvedre, Grenache, and Syrah, and see where that took us. In terms of quantity, while yields on reds had recovered a bit from the punishingly low 2021 vintage, we were still constrained by supply, and if we wanted enough different varietal wines to send out to the wine club we needed to cap our Esprit production around 3000 cases and our Cotes production around 1200. 

Wednesday morning we reconvened to work out our two top blends, starting with the Panoplie. As always, we tasted our options blind, not knowing what was in each glass. Panoplie is always overwhelmingly Mourvedre (typically around 60%) and typically more Grenache than Syrah, because Syrah's dominance often threatens to overwhelm the Mourvedre. This dynamic held true in our first three-wine trial, with the Panoplie with the most Syrah (29%) being no one's favorite, the one with the most Grenache (31%) the consensus second choice, and the glass with the most Mourvedre (67%) and roughly equal parts Grenache (18%) and Syrah (15%) receiving every first place vote but one. As sometimes happens when we have such overwhelming consensus in an early wine, we spent a while discussing around the table whether there was anything we could do to make the wine better, but couldn't come up with anything more compelling than that first blend. Done, and done.

Panoplie decided, we moved on to the Esprit. Like the Panoplie, we started off with a high-Grenache/low-Syrah option, a high-Syrah/low-Grenache option, and one that had them in roughly equal proportions. Unlike with the Panoplie, instead of near-universal agreement around the table, we were able to eliminate one Esprit option (the one with the most Grenache, which was pretty but didn't carry the density of the other two options) but split between the other two. After talking through what we liked in each, and encouraged by the Perrins who both chose it as their clear favorite, we ended up deciding on the blend that leaned into Mourvedre (40%) with Grenache (28%) and Syrah (22%) playing roughly equal roles, and smaller amounts of Vaccarese (4%), Counoise (3%), and Cinsaut (3%). That choice was less overtly powerful than the option with less Mourvedre and Grenache but 31% Syrah, but also more expressive, with a lithe energy that we thought would broaden into lovely depth and richness over the next year-plus in foudre.

On Thursday we tackled our remaining wine club blends, starting with En Gobelet. It seems we often don't have a ton of options with this wine. In the early years, we just didn't have many head-trained, dry-farmed lots to choose from. Now, we have more, but we also used some of our favorite head-trained lots in Esprit and Panoplie, leaving only a few options for Mourvedre, Grenache, and Syrah. So the big question was how much Tannat and Counoise we wanted to add to the core made by our "big three" Rhone reds. We ended up settling on the least Counoise (6%) and the middle amount of Tannat (also 6%) as the right complements to the expressiveness of the Grenache (43%), Mourvedre (27%) and Syrah (18%). Too much Tannat and it started to stick out, and too much Counoise thinned the wine down too much.

For Le Complice, which celebrates the kinship we feel Terret Noir shows with whole cluster Syrah, we needed to decide how much Terret Noir we wanted in this relatively simple Terret year, how much Syrah we felt we could put in without it just tasting like Syrah, and how heavily we wanted to lean into the stemmy character we get from whole cluster fermentation. Like with the Panoplie, there was near-total consensus around the table around an option that included our most Syrah (67%) and least Terret (5%) along with 25% Grenache and 3% Muscardin. That wine felt the longest and most structured, but still had a pretty herbal lift that differentiated it from the straight Syrah lots we'd tasted. I think it's the best Le Complice we've ever made, and it should be a pleasure to watch evolve in the cellar. 

At this point, with the Perrins headed back to France, we took a couple of days off to catch up on other work. But on Monday we reconvened to build the Cotes de Tablas and check back in on some of our previous week impressions. As is usually the case at this stage in the blending, we were down to a handful of Counoise and Mourvedre lots, making the central question on Cotes de Tablas blending the ratio of Grenache and Syrah. We generally prefer the blends that have more Syrah to those that have less, but there's also a tipping point where the wine stops tasting like Cotes de Tablas and starts tasting like Syrah. This year, that point came whenever we increased the blend to more than one-third Syrah. Final blend: 44% Grenache, 33% Syrah, 19% Counoise, and 4% Mourvedre.

The final choice that we had to make was on the lots we'd flagged for possible declassification into Patelin. One two-barrel Terret Noir lot was an easy choice, but we were uncertain as to the rest of the Terret that didn't go into Le Complice, and on a two-barrel Counoise lot to which most of us gave a "3" grade. Tasting the Terret again gave us confidence that it would do well as a 75-case varietal bottling, and tasting the two Counoise barrels revealed that one was pretty and could go into our varietal Counoise, while the other would be declassified. Those decisions made, all that was left was to taste the varietal wines from the lots we hadn't blended, and to taste the blends against them to make sure everything slotted where we wanted. We don't want, for example, a Grenache-dominated wine like Cotes de Tablas to taste too much like our varietal Grenache, or the Esprit and Panoplie, both of which are based on Mourvedre, to feel too close to each other or our varietal Mourvedre. That was Tuesday's work. The wines:

Blending 2022 Reds - Wines

My quick notes on each of the sixteen wines we made, and their rough quantities: 

  • Counoise (380 cases): Vibrant with sweet spice and plum skin on the nose. Clean, pure, and bright on the palate with flavors of cherry juice, white pepper, more sweet spice, and a little brambly wildness on the finish. Fresh and appealing, like a glass of springtime.
  • Cinsaut (150 cases): A nose of fruitcake, new leather and olallieberry, plush and spicy. The mouth is more lifted than the nose suggests, with flavors of elderberry and red plum, a sprinkling of dusty tannins, and a spicy blueberry note on the finish.
  • Terret Noir (70 cases): A nose of watermelon and mint, sweet green herbs and a little menthol spiciness. The mouth is similarly lifted, like all the parts of a wild strawberry (fruit, flower, leaves), a little fresh oregano herbiness, and a clean finish with notes of sagebrush and cranberry and a little tannic bite. A tamer version of Terret than in the past, but clean, pretty, and fun.
  • Full Circle (285 cases): A serious, obviously Pinot nose of cherry cola, leather, eucalyptus and a little sweet oak. The mouth shows cherry skin, bittersweet chocolate, and sweet cola. The finish is long, with some noteworthy tannic grip. Maybe the most impressive and (I think) ageworthy Full Circle we've made. 
  • Mourvedre (330 cases): Medium color, with a nose that leaps from the glass with redcurrant, new leather, black plum and mocha notes. The mouth is lovely: salty minerals, black raspberry, loamy earth, and cocoa powder. The finish is long, and I expect this to continue to gain depth with time in barrel.
  • Syrah (630 cases): A nose with all black and mostly savory elements: iron, soy, blackberry, and pepper steak. The mouth is juicier than the nose first suggests, with flavors of blackberry and minty spice, more of the iron-like mineral note, and some serious tannins at the end. Very young, but with tons of potential.
  • Vaccarese (165 cases): Notes on the nose of licorice, grape candy, soy marinade, and tobacco leaf. The mouth is vibrant with flavors of blackberry and sweet butter, good acids, plenty of tannin, and a finish full of brambly spice. After using all our Vaccarese in the 2021 Esprit, it will be great to have this as a varietal bottling again.
  • Tannat (720 cases): A generous nose of black cherry and blueberry, sweet thyme and cocoa powder. The mouth shows more dark berries and a rich, earthy mocha note. The finish shows Tannat's characteristic good acids, grippy tannins, and a lingering rose petal floral note.
  • Grenache (890 cases): A high-toned nose of cherry candy, tarragon, and strawberry shortcake, from the fruit to the buttery biscuits to the whipped cream. The mouth is pretty and medium-bodied, with sweet flavors of strawberry jam and meringue, vibrant acids that reminded me of blood orange, and lots of chalky minerality on the finish.
  • Lignee de Tablas Grenache Hahn Vineyard (1300 cases): Dark for Grenache. Initially a bit reduced on the nose (after all, this hasn't had to be blended and was pulled straight out of tank) but that opened up to savory notes of meat drippings, ripe plum, and potpourri. The mouth is generous with flavors of black pepper and licorice, purple olallieberry fruit, and some tannic grip. A smoky, floral note like rose hips comes out on the finish. Very different than our estate Grenache, which was fun. More on this wine soon. 
  • Patelin de Tablas (4500 cases): A somewhat quiet nose right now, savory with notes of black olive, dried strawberry, white pepper, and leather. The mouth seems evenly balanced between Grenache's red plum and Syrah's blackberry fruit. There's nice mouth-filling texture and a finish showing some youthful tannic grip and lingering savory notes of soy, iodine, and black raspberry. It's exciting that we were able to make this much of this wine. The blend ended up 54% Syrah, 29% Grenache, 13% Mourvedre, 3% Counoise, and 1% Terret Noir.
  • Cotes de Tablas (1160 cases): An impressive nose, both juicy and spicy, with a little minty lift over notes of strawberry hard candy and sweet leather. The mouth shows tangy salty raspberry fruit, red licorice, and milk chocolate. The finish brings out a nice bite of tannin reminiscent of plum skin and more sweet, minty spice.
  • Le Complice (790 cases): A nose both dark and inviting, with notes of leather, soy, blackcurrant liqueur and black licorice. The palate is a blockbuster, with lovely black fruit, a little sweet oak, and a clean mineral note like wet stone. The long finish shows both sweet and savory herbs, and significant tannic grip cloaked in waves of black fruit. Memorable and impressive.
  • En Gobelet (800 cases): A pretty Mourvedre-inflected nose of redcurrant, new leather, loamy earth and wild herbs. The mouth is generous, with raspberry and plum fruit, sweet spices, chalky minerals, and a Grenache-like combination of strawberry compote and red licorice on the finish. Elegant and expressive.
  • Esprit de Tablas (3050 cases): A deep nose poised between red (redcurrant and red licorice) and black (black plum and cracked black peppercorn) with an additional loamy earth element that felt very Tablas Creek. The palate is mouth-filling with flavors of sugarplum and black raspberry, cocoa powder and newly-turned earth. The long, youthfully tannic finish with a hint of sweet oak suggests there's more to come both in barrel and in bottle. A serious, delicious Esprit
  • Panoplie (800 cases): A dense nose of plum compote and baker's chocolate, forest floor and juniper spice. The mouth is more open and higher toned, featuring flavors of red plum and chalky minerality, with notes of mocha and sweet spice. Good vibrancy on the palate and Mourvedre's characteristic chewy tannins complete the picture. This should be a great Panoplie to lay down, though it may be so tasty that it will be hard to keep away from it in its youth.   

A few concluding thoughts. 

  • What a treat to have both Cesar and Francois around the blending table, and to see their excitement with what we were tasting. That's one of the benefits of having them participate: their combination of outside observer and experienced partner gives us a great check on our own reactions. Although we taste each flight blind, we still come into the blending week with preconceptions about what we think the vintage is like. The Perrins haven't mostly been here to develop those biases, and so their reactions are uninfluenced by things like knowledge of the vintage's weather or how tired we were in mid-October. It's not that they always agree with each other (they don't, both because each has his own preferences and because blind tasting is inherently difficult) but seeing their excitement as the vintage comes together, and getting their feedback on things we think we know is so welcome, and so valuable.
  • It's amazing how one day can chance your feeling about an entire vintage. I think it's fair to say that after our experience of the white blending and our first day where some of the less-structured grapes were a mixed bag, we thought we had the narrative on 2022. Then we tasted some of the best Mourvedre and Syrah ever to come off the Tablas Creek property, and maybe the best Pinot Noir ever to come off the Haas Vineyard, and we were suddenly in a different place. I guess this is a positive "don't count your chickens before they hatch" moment, and a good reminder to wait until we have the full picture before coming to conclusions.
  • If there's a defining character of the vintage, it's the combination of intense structure, ample fruit, and powerful spice and mineral notes. Some vintages bring two or three of those, but having all four is rare. 2021 did. So did 2019, 2016, 2009, 2007, and 2005. There are other vintages that came close (I felt bad leaving out 2017 and 2003) but it's a great sign. I think this will be a vintage that will produce wines that will have great early appeal, but will really shine with time. At least I feel that with wines that are based on Mourvedre and Syrah. It's probably a slightly less strong Grenache vintage, and mixed on the trace varieties. But for those grapes that we rely on to make cellar-worthy wines, and the wines that are based around them, this will be a vintage to seek out.
  • Last year I wrote a blog post diving into vintage comps. I didn't include 2022 because we hadn't tasted the wines yet, but I speculated that what we were seeing reminded me of 2009, the last year we were impacted by both frost and drought. Then, as we blended the whites, I was leaning more toward 2015. Now, with the reds, I'm back to 2009. The wines we're making now are a bit different in style than they were then, a little less ripe, a little more elegant. But the intense structure and concentrated fruit of 2022 is reminiscent of the 2009 vintage. I'm hoping (and expecting) that the evolution in our own approach will make wines that I will be able to enjoy earlier than I did the 2009s. But if structured, intense wines with powerful aromatics and spice notes are your thing, 2022 should make you happy.

I'll let Chelsea have the last word, as I thought she summed up the experience we had during blending perfectly: "They're just so intensely structured, but honestly the balance is surprising given it was such a hot, weird year. They're wonderful. And I don't mean to sound so surprised, but it's been a pleasant surprise."