There are two ways that we try to work systematically through the collection of wines in our library. At the beginning of each year, we taste every wine we made ten years earlier. These horizontal retrospectives give us an in-depth look at a particular year, and a check-in with how our full range of wines is doing with a decade in bottle. I wrote up the results from our 2013 retrospective tasting back in January. And then each summer we conduct a comprehensive vertical tasting of a single wine, where we open every vintage we've ever made and use that to assess how the wine ages and if we want to adjust our approach in any way. This also serves as a pre-tasting for a public event in August at which we share the highlights.
This year, we decided to dive into our En Gobelet, the wine that we make each year exclusively from our head-trained, dry-farmed vineyard blocks. We created this wine back in the 2007 vintage because we noted something distinctive about the wines that came from these blocks. From the blog in which we announced the new wine:
As we've had a chance to get some of these blocks into production, we're noticing they seem to share an elegance and a complexity which is different from what we see in the rest of the vineyard. Perhaps it's the areas where they are planted (generally lower-lying, deeper-soil areas). Perhaps it's the age of the vines and a comparative lack of brute power. But, whatever the reason, we believe that these lots show our terroir in a unique and powerful way.
Our profile on the En Gobelet has changed a couple of times over the years, as we've gotten more dry-farmed blocks (and grapes) in production and as we've had a chance to refine our thinking about how it should fall with respect to our other blends. Because it's not a wine we sell nationally, it's not one I open all that often myself. So it was with anticipation that our winemaking team and I dove into the 14 different En Gobelets we've made to date, from our first-ever 2007 to the 2021 that we just bottled. Note that there was not a 2008, as we didn't see enough differences in the head-trained blocks that year to feel it made sense to make the blend.
My notes on the wines are below, as well as each year's blend. I've linked each wine to its page on our website if you want detailed technical information, professional reviews, or our tasting notes from when the wines were first released.
- 2007 En Gobelet (48% Mourvedre, 47% Grenache, 5% Tannat): A nose of chocolate and black cherry, notably ripe, but with a nice little spicy, peppery note giving lift. On the palate, milk chocolate with a little minty lift, powerful red fruit, still quite rich and luscious. Tobacco and kirsch on the finish. The ample density and ripeness are signatures both of that year and of an era when we were making riper wines, but it still carried enough freshness to be pleasurable.
- 2009 En Gobelet (56% Mourvedre, 23% Tannat, 21% Grenache): Blacker on the nose than the 2007, balsamic glaze and teriyaki, pepper, olive tapenade, and roasted meat. The mouth shows nice lift, with cedar and blackberry notes as well as cigar box and graphite. Still quite tannic, with licorice and crushed rock notes coming out on the finish. Definitely leaning harder into Tannat's character compared to previous wines, maybe in retrospect a little more than was necessary in this already-structured year.
- 2010 En Gobelet (37% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 13% Syrah, 12% Counoise, 10% Tannat): Sweet earth and licorice, bay, mocha and blackberry on the nose. The mouth is similar, with a dusty cocoa character over black raspberry fruit. A nice balance between the friendliness of the 2007 and the cool freshness and tannic grip of the 2009.
- 2011 En Gobelet (29% Mourvedre, 27% Grenache. 26% Tannat, 18% Syrah): A nose with sweet/savory notes of sarsaparilla, charcuterie, eucalyptus, black olive, and undergrowth. The palate is cool and minty, with sweet tobacco, black plum, and a lovely pencil shaving mineral note. Tannins are rich but not drying, leaving a lingering note of milk chocolate. An outstanding showing from our coolest-ever year.
- 2012 En Gobelet (63% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 11% Syrah, 8% Counoise, 6% Tannat): A quieter, simpler nose than the 2011 but elegant, with a much redder tone to the fruit than any wine since 2007: currant and sour cherry, with a nice loamy earth element. On the palate, pie cherry with an almost piney redwood note, vibrant acids, fine-grained tannins with thyme and baking spice notes coming out on the finish. Pretty and in a good place. This wine was an outlier, from a vintage where Grenache surprised us with its productivity. In that era we were co-fermenting our entire Scruffy Hill block, and ended up with five times as much Grenache as Mourvedre or Syrah despite roughly similar acreages.
- 2013 En Gobelet (34% Grenache, 31%Mourvedre, 19% Syrah, 11% Counoise, 5% Tannat): A meaty nose of new leather and minty blueberry, with complex notes of chalky minerals, red flowers, and spice. The mouth is full and youthful, with fresh plum and wild strawberry notes, good acids, well-integrated tannins, and a lingering red apple character that lingers on the finish.
- 2014 En Gobelet (34% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre, 15% Counoise, 5% Tannat): A nose equally balanced between red and black, with red plum and brambly black raspberry, juniper, potpourri, and the meaty, minerally Syrah character that my wife Meghan once described as "butter in a butcher shop". The mouth is lovely: sweet fruit, chocolate-covered cherry with bright acids and nice tannic grip. The finish showed a meaty fruitiness like duck breast with cherry sauce. One of my favorite vintages, from the first year where we didn't co-ferment Scruffy Hill and instead chose the lots to include in En Gobelet.
- 2015 En Gobelet (39% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 18% Syrah, 11% Counoise, 3% Tannat): A slightly reductive, very Old World nose of roasted meat, brambly spice, and chaparral. The palate was quite different than the nose in a fun way: lovely focus and lift to crunchy red raspberry fruit, with notes of savory green herbs. Intense without any sense of weight. A great reflection of the unusual 2015 vintage.
- 2016 En Gobelet (39% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 8% Counoise, 3% Tannat): A deep nose of briny mineral, black olive, grape jelly and fresh fig, with a little minty lift. The mouth is youthful and focused, with great richness and purity to the boysenberry fruit. Notes of new leather, licorice, and chalky minerals add savoriness and depth. Beautiful and a consensus favorite.
- 2017 En Gobelet (38% Mourvedre, 34% Grenache, 11% Syrah, 11% Tannat, 6% Counoise): Meaty elements dominate on the nose with notes of soy marinade, bay, and spiced plum. The palate is youthful, luscious, and inviting: dried cherry and new leather, salted caramel and baker's chocolate, licorice and baked apple. Then the tannins kick in, suggesting that the best is yet to come. All the pieces are here for something amazing, but it didn't feel like it had totally come together yet.
- 2018 En Gobelet (36% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 27% Syrah, 6% Counoise, 3% Tannat): Redder in tone than the 2017 despite its higher percentage of Syrah: cherry, rose petals, mint chocolate, bay flower, and soy. The mouth is inviting with flavors of juniper berry, red licorice, plum skin, and cocoa powder. Crunchy and fresh, with vibrant acids. Almost Pinot Noir-like in its expression; Neil suggested it would be amazing with a piece of grilled salmon and we all agreed.
- 2019 En Gobelet (37% Grenache, 33% Mourvedre, 20% Syrah, 8% Counoise, 2% Tannat): A dark nose of gunpowder-like mineral and road tar, which blows off to reveal sage, blackberry, and chaparral. The mouth is pure with currant fruit, chalky and powerful tannins, with lingering notes of cedar and graphite, black olive and baker's chocolate. Still quite tight. Hands off for now, though the long-term outlook is exciting.
- 2020 En Gobelet (37% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, 22% Syrah, 11% Counoise, 5% Tannat): Quiet on the nose right now, with notes of strawberry preserves and leafy thyme spice, and fresh cranberry. On the palate, sweet fruit with lots of youthful tannins. Its red tones suggest it's on a similar track to the 2018, but it needs a couple of years to unwind.
- 2021 En Gobelet (39% Grenache, 29% Mourvedre, 16% Syrah, 11% Counoise, 5% Tannat): The nose is lovely, so juicy and fresh with notes of raspberry, balsamic, olive tapenade, and red apple skin. The palate is lovely as well, with flavors of caramel apple, rhubarb compote, sweet baking spices and salty minerals. Nice chalky tannins, but coated by the fruit. Only in bottle for a couple of months, this is on an outstanding track.
A few concluding thoughts:
- The En Gobelet reflects the character of the vintage maybe more clearly than any other wine we make. Perhaps this is unsurprising. After all, unlike in the Esprit and Panoplie, which are chosen from dozens of lots each year, the En Gobelet has only a handful of possible options. Plus, the dry-farmed blocks have no choice but to reflect the vintage, as we don't have one of our most powerful tools (irrigation) to mitigate a vintage's extremes. So if you want to feel the tannic structure of 2009 or the ethereal character of 2015 or the athletic intensity of 2021, the En Gobelet is a great wine to choose as your mirror.
- The overall quality of the wines was exceptionally high. I asked everyone around the table to pick four favorites, and 11 of the 14 vintages got at least one vote. Top vote-getters included 2012 (4), 2015 (4), 2016 (7), and 2021 (5). I was pleased that there were favorites among our oldest and youngest wines, and everything in between.
- Our choices for what to include in En Gobelet has evolved as we've gotten more dry-farmed blocks in production. At the beginning (2007-2009) we were making En Gobelet out of the few head-trained blocks we had, and it was over half Mourvedre. Next (2011-2013) it became an expression of a single vineyard block, as we decided to co-ferment Scruffy Hill, and because of Grenache's productivity, that meant the wines leaned more heavily into Grenache's high-toned expressiveness. Since 2014 we've been selective about the blocks that are chosen for En Gobelet at the same time as we've had many more choices. Even as we've selected outstanding head-trained, dry-farmed lots for Esprit and Panoplie in recent years, the quality of the En Gobelet has continued to increase. We've settled on a blend that leans slightly heavier into Grenache than Mourvedre or Syrah which we think gives us a balance of redder and darker fruit and lots of the salty mineral character we love in our dry-farmed blocks.
- Don't forget the vintage chart. We update this chart several times a year based on the results of tastings like these, wines we open in the normal course of life, and feedback we get from customers and fans. It's there whenever you want it.
- Sound fun? Join us on August 13th! We will be hosting a version of this event that is open to the public, and Chelsea and I will be leading the discussion and sharing insights into how the wines came to be the way they are. The vintages we have tentatively chosen to share are 2007, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2021. You can read more about the event, and get your tickets, here.