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. Most of these (including four of the six wines in the classic shipment and most of the additional wines we added to the Red Wine Selection and White Wine Selection shipments) are made in quantities of less than 1,000 cases. In others, the club gets a first look at a wine that may see a later national release. At least a month 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 (or our last pre-bottling check-in) on 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 2021, 2022, and 2023 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 wines from 2021 continue to demonstrate that this was an outstanding year across the board, from early-drinking whites to ageworthy reds. The wines all show concentration and structure, yet with purity and expressiveness. A candidate for our greatest-ever vintage.
- Although 2022 was our hottest year ever, the wines don't taste like you'd probably expect. Instead, there's a freshness and openness to both reds and whites that gives confirmation that we were able to keep up with the year's pressures and get the grapes off the vine in good shape.
- With only the first few wines, it's early to generalize about 2023, but the Vermentino and rosés show unusually intense flavors with great acids to balance them. This is what we'd hope we'd see from our coolest year in more than a decade, which resulted in exceptionally long hang-times.
I'll go through the six wines in the VINsider Classic (Mixed) Shipment and then move on to the additional wines we chose to include in the Red Wine Selection and White Wine Selection shipments. I was joined for the tasting by most of our cellar team, so these notes are a compilation of our thoughts. The Classic Shipment includes six different wines:
- Production Notes: The two issues that affected our white production in 2022 (a spring frost in one block and the heat wave that hit the first week of September) both largely left the Viognier unscathed. We don't plant any Viognier in the low-lying section that got frosted, and the season had been warm enough that the early-ripening Viognier was already mostly picked by the time it hit. That left us with both reasonable production and excellent vibrancy in Viognier, and we loved the varietal bottling we made, which balances the grape's classic stone fruit and honey flavors with brighter-than-usual acids. The Viognier lots were whole cluster pressed and fermented in a mix of 600-gallon foudres and stainless steel, then the chosen lots blended in April 2023 and bottled in June.
- Tasting Notes: A charming nose of honeysuckle and Haribo peach. The palate is long, pure, and textured, with more stone fruit and a tarragon-like note of sweet green herbs. Rich texture is balanced by some structural weight and unusually good acids for Viognier. Drink now and for at least the next five years.
- Production: 706 cases.
- List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36
2023 PATELIN DE TABLAS ROSÉ
- Production Notes: We're excited to share both our rosés with VINsiders this shipment. The Provencal-style, Grenache-based Patelin de Tablas Rosé is as always led by Grenache (71% this year), which provides both bright fruit and refreshing acidity, while as usual rich, floral Mourvedre (20%) comprises the second-largest portion. Vermentino (a traditional component of many Provencal rosés under its French name Rolle) makes up 8%, with 1% of spicy, electric Counoise to round out the blend. 90% 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. The components were blended and fermented in stainless steel until bottling in January 2024.
- Tasting Notes: A pretty peach color, a touch deeper than most recent vintages. On the nose, vibrant aromatics of fresh nectarine, wild strawberry, and jasmine. The mouth is rich with fruit but dry and bright, with flavors of strawberry tart and salted watermelon, vibrant acids, and a mouth-watering finish with notes of yellow raspberry and rose petals. Drink over the next 18 months.
- Production: 5247 cases
- List Price: $28 VINsider Price: $22.40
- Production Notes: Better yields on reds allowed us to make a more normal amout of Dianthus in 2023. Named after a family of flowering plants with deep pink blooms, Dianthus is always led by Mourvedre (51% this year), for rich texture and watermelon and plum fruit, with Grenache (38%) for bright strawberry fruit and refreshing acidity and Counoise (8%) for spice and cherry fruit. 3% Cinsaut rounds out the blend with more brambly fruit and sweet spice. The fruit spent 24 hours on the skins, less than usual because of the year's deep colors, and then it completed its fermentation in stainless steel before bottling in January 2024.
- Tasting Notes: A lovely deep peach color. On the nose, a powerful combination of blood orange and juniper, spiced plum and smoky minerality. The mouth is rich with raspberry and rhubarb fruit, creamy texture, and a vibrant line of acidity that leaves a lingering impression of plum skin, rose petals, and briny sea spray. A rosé to convert people who don't think pink wines can be serious. Drink before the end of 2025.
- Production: 1396 cases
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
2021 LE COMPLICE
- Production Notes: The sixth vintage of our blend that celebrates the kinship between whole cluster Syrah (59%) 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 a higher percentage than usual of Grenache (32%) for mid-palate richness in this structured, powerful year, as well as our first-ever harvest of Muscardin (1%) which seems similar to Terret in character. The wine was blended in June of 2022 and aged in foudre until its bottling in April 2023.
- Tasting Notes: A gorgeous nose of sugarplum and gumdrop, sweet tobacco, pine forest, and dark chocolate. The mouth is vibrant, with flavors of cocoa powder, a tangy fruit note like red apple skin, an iron-like mineral note absolutely classic for Syrah, and a wild sage herbiness adding complexity. The finish goes back to sweeter notes of cola, baking spice, and (it is Syrah, after all) rendered pork fat. An unusually approachable Le Complice at this stage, without sacrificing any of its complexity. Drink over the next two decades.
- Production: 882 cases
- List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48
- Production Notes: Our twentieth 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 2023 and has been aging the last 10 months waiting for its release.
- Tasting Notes: An appealing nose of raspberry candy, violets, cassis, teriyaki, and blueberry pie. The mouth is mostly red-fruited at this stage, with flavors of plum and currant, a nice saline mineral note, and a note that was both woodsy and mineral that Amanda described as pencil shavings. Tannat's signature combination of chewy tannins and bright acids keeping things fresh. Pair with rich foods now or age for up to two decades if you're looking for a more refined experience.
- Production: 732 cases
- List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40
- 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 2022. Mourvedre, as always, represents the largest percentage (54%) of Panoplie. Roughly equal parts Grenache (24%, for sweet spice and vibrancy) and Syrah (22%, for black fruit, density, and tannic richness) complete the blend. The wine was bottled in July 2023.
- Tasting Notes: A densely packed nose of pipe tobacco, red and black fruit, menthol, new leather, and sweet spice. The palate shows related flavors of fruit on the boundary of red and black: currant and black raspberry, with chalky minerality and chewy tannins that suggest lots more will be revealed with time. The long finish has notes of cherry compote, chaparral, and black licorice. Hold for six months if you can, and then enjoy over the next two decades, perhaps longer.
- Production: 822 cases
- List Price: $105 VINsider Price: $84
- Production Notes: Our twenty-second 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 2024, this vintage) under screwcap. Vermentino yields in 2023 were better than 2022 but still 30% below our historical averages, and combined with long hang-times to produce remarkable intensity.
- Tasting Notes: A classic Vermentino nose of key lime, ripe pear, citrus leaf, lemongrass, white flowers, and chalky mineral. The palate is powerful and richly textured, with flavors of salted pineapple, lemon custard, and a focused saline mineral note that lingers into the long finish, underpinning additional notes of tropical fruit and sweet green herbs. One of the most intense Vermentinos we've ever made. Drink now and over the next five years.
- Production: 713 cases
- List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28
2022 PATELIN DE TABLAS BLANC
- Production Notes: Patelin is French slang for "neighborhood" and the Patelin de Tablas Blanc is our white Rhone-style blend sourced from seven great neighboring Rhone vineyards: Derby, Windfall Farms, New Creations, Duas Terras, Nevarez, Creston Ridge, and Rails Nape, with a 3% addition of Tablas Creek fruit. We base the wine on the richness and acidity of Grenache Blanc (49%), with Viognier (22%) providing lush stone fruit and floral notes, Marsanne (10%) and Roussanne (4%) adding minerality and texture, and three bright grapes finishing the blend: Vermentino (10%) and Picpoul (3%), which we've never been able to source before, plus a little Bourboulenc (2%). The wine was fermented entirely in stainless steel and then bottled in screwcap in May 2023 to preserve its freshness.
- Tasting Notes: A nose equally balanced between Grenache Blanc's mineral and citrus and Viognier's stone fruit and white flowers, with additional notes of petrichor and peppery spice. On the palate, luscious flavors of stone fruit and lemon custard lifted by persistent chalky minerality and vibrant acids. The long finish brings back notes of white grapefruit, jasmine, and a briny sea spray minerality. Drink now and over the next few years.
- Production: 4141 cases
- List Price: $28 VINsider Price: $22.40
2022 GRENACHE BLANC
- Production Notes: The 2022 vintage was our third year of drought, and Grenache Blanc was also hit by our May frost, leading to our smallest harvest of the variety in two decades. We used some in the Esprit Blanc, but sacrificed the Cotes de Tablas Blanc this vintage so we'd have at least small varietal bottlings of our core grapes. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose mostly lots fermented in stainless steel (for energy), with a smaller addition from foudre (for roundness). The lots were blended in May 2023 and bottled under screwcap the next month.
- Tasting Notes: A pretty nose of peaches and cream, crushed rock, and lemongrass. The mouth has Grenache Blanc's signature mouth-filling texture and white grapefruit flavors, bright acids, chalky minerality and a little pithy bite of green apple skin tannin on the finish. Drink now and over the next few years.
- Production: 339 cases.
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
Three additional reds (the 2022 Cotes de Tablas and 2022 Counoise, as well as the 2021 Syrah) join the 2021 Panoplie, 2021 Le Complice, and 2021 Tannat in the Red Wine Selection shipment:
2022 COTES DE TABLAS
- Production Notes: Grenache always plays lead in the Cotes de Tablas, and in 2022 the grape's bright fruit is on full display. We chose 44% Grenache and added 33% Syrah for darker fruit and minerality, while 19% Counoise (for vibrancy and spice) and 4% Mourvedre (for earth and complexity) complete the wine. The Cotes de Tablas was blended in June 2023 and aged in 1200-gallon neutral oak foudres until its bottling in February 2024.
- Tasting Notes: A vibrant nose of fruitcake and fig, chocolate-dipped strawberries and sweet spice. The mouth has black cherry and wild strawberry fruit, cocoa powder, and a crunchy brightness like bursts of pomegranate seeds. The finish shows a briary, herby note over cherry cola and clove-studded orange. Grenache at its most high-toned and appealing. Enjoy any time over the next decade.
- Production: 1160 cases
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
- 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 them 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 2023 and bottled in February 2024, under screwcap to preserve the wine's freshness.
- Tasting Notes: A lovely translucent garnet color. The nose is surprisingly powerful, showing brambly raspberry, baking spices, and a little minty top note. The mouth is pretty, with flavors of red plum juice (imagine the inside, without the skin), creamy texture, flinty minerality, and a nice, long finish of red licorice and wild herbs with some lightly dusty tannins keeping order. Enjoy it lightly chilled any time in the next four to six years.
- Production: 380 cases
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
- Production Notes: All the conditions lined up to make great Syrah in 2021, from the mild winter that preceded the growing season to the warm first half of the year to the cooler weather in August and September, and we had plenty of top-rated Syrah to both use in our blends and make up this varietal bottling. 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 2022 and aged the wine in neutral oak until bottling in April 2023.
- Tasting Notes: A dark, quintessentially Syrah nose of iodine, black licorice, blackberry and white pepper. The mouth is classic too, with flavors of blackcurrant and cedar, iron filings and dry-aged beef. The tannins are substantial but not hard, with black fruit and mineral notes reemerging on the long finish. A lovely Syrah that should age effortlessly for two decades.
- Production: 381 cases
- List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44
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 7th. Neil, Chelsea, and I will also be hosting another virtual pickup party the evening of Friday, March 29th, 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 15th and April 6th the opportunity to choose their shipment wines as their tasting flight.
If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, we'd love to have you join while there's still a chance to get this spring shipment. Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club.