A Horizontal Retrospective Tasting of the 2014 Vintage at Age 10

One of the first things we do each year is take a comprehensive look at the wines we made ten years ago. One of the second things we do is share those highlights with our fans at a public tasting (which will this year be February 4th). Why a decade? It's enough time that all the wines have become something that they weren't upon release, without it being such a long horizon that we're worried many will be over the hill. It's also a reasonable enough amount of time that Tablas Creek fans are likely to still have some of this vintage of wines in their cellars. (A fun check on publicly available data is CellarTracker. According to a quick query there, 38% of the 2014 Tablas Creek wines ever entered into the platform are still in people's inventories.) Hopefully, our notes from this tasting will help people decide which wines they want to open, which they want to keep watching, and how they might want to think differently about what they lay down for aging in the first place. It also is an opportunity to revisit our vintage chart

So, it's always exciting for us to do this annual check-in. It was particularly exciting because 2014 was a vintage we all loved when it was young. In my Vintage Doppelgangers blog, here's how I described it:

Our third consecutive drought year plus a warm summer produced wines in the classic, juicy Californian style, with a bit less alcohol than those same wines we were making in the 2000s. We got good concentration with yields similar to 2013, though we needed to drop less fruit to get there. The wines are juicy and luscious, with enough structure to keep them balanced and pretty, high-toned red fruit flavors. Similar vintages: 2003, 2017.

My notes on the wines are below. I've noted their closures (SC=screwcap; C=cork) and, for the blends, their varietal breakdown. Each wine is also linked to its technical information on our website, if you'd like to see winemaking details, professional reviews, or our tasting notes at bottling. Because of its small production we never made a webpage for the Clairette Blanche, so if you have questions about that wine, leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer. I was joined for the tasting by our cellar team (Neil Collins, Chelsea Franchi, Craig Hamm, Amanda Weaver, Kaitlyn Glynn, and Austin Collins) as well as by Tasting Room Manager John Morris. The lineup:

2014 Retrospective Wines

  • 2014 Vermentino (SC): We're often surprised with how well Vermentino -- a grape that most people drink young, and is all about freshness and vibrancy -- ages. This vintage was no exception. A nose of oyster shell, lemongrass, flint, and pineapple core. The palate was surprisingly luscious with flavors of lemon curd and key lime pie, a creamy texture playing off bright acids and a long finish with more pineapple and mineral notes.
  • 2014 Clairette Blanche (SC): Our first-ever Clairette Blanche release (we made Clairette in 2013 but decided it wasn't exciting enough to be the grape's first-ever American example) and it was still in a nice place. Aromas of grilled pineapple with a little plasticky note (perhaps from the screwcap?) that blew off with time. The mouth was savory with flavors of melon rind and citrus leaf and a waxy texture. The finish was my favorite part of the wine, with lively acids and lingering orange creamsicle and beeswax notes.
  • 2014 Picpoul Blanc (SC): A classic Picpoul nose of pink peppercorn and juniper over white grapefruit. The mouth was both herby and bright, with flavors of verbena, papaya, and a refreshing note that Amanda described as "fresh mountain air". The finish was richer, with a lingering piña colada character I get from Picpoul in riper vintages. I don't think anyone would intentionally have kept this wine this long, but if you discover one, you're not going to be disappointed.
  • 2014 Grenache Blanc (SC): A classic Grenache Blanc nose showing both richness and brightness: kiwi, brioche, and lemon tart, down to the richness of the crust. The mouth is lovely, like preserved lemon and shortbread, baked golden delicious apple and a lovely little herby rosemary note. A little salty minerality comes out on the finish. Fresh, vibrant, and lovely. A treat.
  • 2014 Marsanne (C): Our first cork-finished wine of the tasting, and it was interesting trying to pull out what difference that made. The nose was explosive and appealing with notes of honey, dried apricot, and caramel apple. The mouth was quieter than the nose, like white tea, vanilla custard, and a little saline mineral note. There was a sweet spice character that combined with the wine's essential creaminess to remind us of eggnog, but dry. The finish showed notes of cinnamon, honey, poached pear, and lemongrass. It's easy to be duped by Marsanne's subtlety into thinking that it doesn't have the stuffing to age, but every time we open one after 10 years we love it, and this was no exception.
  • 2014 Roussanne (C): A dramatic nose of lemongrass, honey, and new lumber that Chelsea described as "honeysuckle on a fresh fence". The mouth showed oak-influenced sweet spice notes of cardamom and crushed vanilla bean with rich texture and Roussanne's classic lanolin note. The finish moves back into the honey realm, kept in check by a sweet green herbal element like fresh-cut grass. 
  • 2014 Patelin de Tablas Blanc (SC; 49% Grenache Blanc, 31% Viognier, 12% Roussanne, 8% Marsanne): Quiet on the nose, perhaps in part because of the screwcap, with subtle notes of lychee, pea shoot, and white flowers. The mouth is similar, with flavors of pineapple core, guava, and orange blossom, plenty of acid, and a peppered citrus peel finish with a little almond-like nuttiness.
  • 2014 Cotes de Tablas Blanc (SC; 42% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc, 23% Marsanne, 5% Roussanne): A nose with notable plushness and power in its notes of honeydew, sea spray, and creamy minerality. The palate shows peach pit, melon, and sweet straw notes, with rich texture and a briny mineral note keeping order on the finish. The wine didn't particularly speak of Viognier, having become more textural than fruity, but it made for a fascinating experience.
  • 2014 Esprit de Tablas Blanc (C; 72% Roussanne, 23% Grenache Blanc, 5% Picpoul Blanc): A nose of apple pie -- both baked apple and the buttery crust -- and honey. The mouth is lively with flavors of clove, candied orange peel, baked apple, and sweet green herbs. And yet it was dry, with a more open texture and less oak than the varietal Roussanne. John called it "stately" which spoke to its essential elegance. The finish showed notes of walnut and new honey. A very pretty wine in the middle of what seemed to us like likely to be a long peak.
  • 2014 Patelin de Tablas Rosé (SC; 80% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre, 3% Counoise): Our third-ever Patelin Rosé, with the most Grenache we ever used, was still a beautiful fresh color. It was initially quiet on the nose -- that screwcap, again -- then showed notes of watermelon and wild strawberry, complete with the green leafiness of the foliage. The mouth was remarkably good with flavors of pink grapefruit and tarragon, nice richness, and great acids. If you lost one in your cellar, go ahead and open it. We think you'll be pleasantly surprised. 
  • 2014 Dianthus (SC; 46% Mourvedre, 41% Grenache, 13% Counoise): Despite that Mourvedre-based rosés are supposed to have longer lifespans than those based on Grenache, we haven't particularly loved decade-old Dianthus in past tastings. But this year's was outstanding. The nose showed a cherry, slightly medicinal note that we variously described as Campari, spicy pink peppercorn, and red Life Savers candy. The mouth is holding up remarkably well, with flavors of cherry, wild herbs, and lemon zest. The vibrant acids create an appealing tension with the rich texture, and the finish of strawberry coulis was lovely. Unexpected and fun. 
  • 2014 Full Circle (C): Our fifth Full Circle Pinot Noir, from the warmest vintage we'd had to date. That showed in a nose that leaned toward cherry cola, dried fig, and cocoa powder. The mouth showed a little welcome mintiness to the chocolate notes with additional flavors of potpourri and black cherry. The finish was still fairly tannic, with cherry and chocolate notes. It was less evocative of Pinot Noir than we would prefer (perhaps unsurprising from such a warm vintage) but still in a nice place.
  • 2014 Counoise (SC): The first bottle we opened was badly sherried, which is unusual under screwcap, and made us worried for the whole batch. But the second bottle was outstanding, with a nose of crunchy cranberry, raspberry tea, loam, and redwood forest. The mouth showed dusty, brambly raspberry fruit with a refreshing wintergreen note. A salty minerality played with the wild, spicy berry character on the finish. 
  • 2014 Terret Noir (C): Only our second-ever Terret Noir. An interesting nose of strawberry fruit leather, oregano, Maraschino cherry, and rose petals. The palate is vibrant: cherry Jolly Rancher, black tea, leafy herbs, dried flowers, and chaparral. The grape's signature tannins are still very much in evidence, making for a fascinating textural experience. Would be fun to show to someone who likes cocktails with aromatic bitters. 
  • 2014 Mourvedre (C): A nose of black licorice, cocoa powder, black currant, and new leather. The mouth showed black plum and chocolate powder notes and a lovely saline minerality. Gorgeous and still youthful. One of my favorite showings of our varietal Mourvedre, which is one of our most reliable bellwethers of our greatest vintages. 
  • 2014 Syrah (C): A classic savory Syrah nose of iron, blood, and pine forest. When I asked the table if they could pull out any fruit on the nose, Chelsea replied "olives are a fruit". On the palate, more generous, with flavors of black raspberry, chalky mineral, and a lovely mouth-coating texture. The finish was nicely salty, with more black olive and dark fruit. Impressive, still young, and quintessentially Syrah.
  • 2014 Tannat (C): A nose that we spent too much time discussing whether it was more reminiscent of pancetta, guanciale, or pig trotters (so, yes, pork fat) along with dark cherry and mint chocolate. The palate showed Tannat's characteristic lively acids, which turn the fruit tone more to red cherry, with plenty of tannin and a spicy finish of brown butter, Mexican hot chocolate, and more of that meaty richness.
  • 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (C): From the two rows of Cabernet vines we have in our nursery, which most years gets tossed into our Tannat. An immediately recognizable Cabernet nose of graphite, juniper, and a sweet earthy note. The mouth showed blackcurrant and sweet tobacco flavors along with suede leather and a little kiss of sweet oak like toasted coconut. Unlike most California Cabernet, the limestone soils here give a translucency to the texture with nice acids that I really love, though it's a bit out of the mainstream. That said, if more California Cabernet had this approach, I'd probably drink it a lot more often.
  • 2014 Patelin de Tablas (SC; 55% Syrah, 29% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 6% Counoise): A nose of pork fat and blackberrry, with a little minty lift. The mouth was much juicier, with plum and dusty bramble notes. The finish was a little short, and this was likely at its peak a few years ago. Still, what a value for anyone who bought some of this at the $20/bottle this was on release. 
  • 2014 Cotes de Tablas (C; 44% Grenache, 36% Syrah, 12% Counoise, 8%Mourvedre): A nose of Worcerstershire sauce, plum compote, and spun sugar. In the mouth, like chocolate-dipped strawberries with nice chalky tannins and back to that Grenache-driven powdered sugar note on the finish. Seemingly right at its peak. 
  • 2014 En Gobelet (C; 34% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre, 15% Counoise, 5% Tannat): The nose is pretty, with dried cranberry and hibiscus notes over undertones of meaty richness and a clean earthiness Austin compared to walking through the forest when you're mushroom hunting. The mouth showed flavors of açai, chocolate truffle, and fresh coffee bean, with vibrant acids and a little appealing tannic grip. My favorite showing of En Gobelet at this stage that I can remember.
  • 2014 Esprit de Tablas (C; 40% Mourvedre, 35% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 5% Counoise): An absolutely classic Esprit nose of redcurrant and blueberry, new leather, meat drippings, and forest floor. Neil said "this smells like home". The mouth showed chocolate-covered cherry, more of that roasted meat drippings we found on the nose, sweet nutmeg spice, and a licorice note that seemed to bounce back and forth between red and black. Lovely, with a long life seemingly ahead of it.
  • 2014 Panoplie (C; 65% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache, 7% Syrah): A nose that to me evoked a plate set out with prosciutto, fresh figs, and a little drizzle of balsamic glaze, with a little sweet sarsaparilla note over the top. The mouth shows red currant and brown butter shortbread, chocolate-covered açai berry and a meaty appeal like herb-rubbed prime rib fresh out of the oven. Lovely.
  • 2014 Petit Manseng (C): A little nostalgic to taste as we've made the decision to discontinue our bottling of this classic southwest French grape known for maintaining great acids as it reaches high sugar levels. It showed a classic nose of pineapple, membrillo, graham cracker and lemongrass, along with something a little yeasty like buttermilk. The mouth showed flavors of sweet apricot and lychee, with great acids and a lovely crushed rock minerality. A nutty sunflower seed note played with the tropical fruit and mineral on the finish. Fun. 

A few concluding thoughts

In terms of vintage character, Chelsea's description of "plush but pure" seemed to sum it up pretty well. After a stretch between 2010 and 2013 where a combination of cool weather and our desire to move away from a style that we felt in the late 2000's had become too ripe and weighty had led to wines that leaned into a more open-knit, savory approach, 2014 was a bit of a course correction looking for both those savory elements and more fruit intensity. Looking at the progression from 2012 to 2013 to 2014, I can feel us coming to the approach we use today. That's exciting. 

At the time, we thought it was an outstanding red vintage and a good (maybe not great) white vintage. But I thought the whites really shined in the tasting, and the combination of increased intensity and vibrant acids made for a great balance. On the red side, both the fresher, generally early-drinking varieties (think Counoise, or Terret Noir) and the more traditionally ageworthy grapes (think Mourvedre or Syrah) were in appealing stages at age ten. That's a sign of an outstanding vintage overall.

It's worth noting that nearly all of the screwcapped wines improved in the glass, and I thought that most of them would have benefited from a quick decant. A lot of people don't think of decanting older whites, but I think it's often a good idea, and for any wine that has been under screwcap for more than a few years. There's a clipped character that most older screwcapped wines have that dissipates with a few minutes of air. It happens anyway in the glass, but a decant speeds the process.

When I asked everyone around the table to pick five favorites, 14 different wines received at least one vote, with the Counoise and the Mourvedre leading the way with six votes each. We ended up picking nine wines to share at our public retrospective tasting on February 4th. If you'd like to join us, we'll be tasting Grenache Blanc, Esprit de Tablas Blanc, Dianthus, Counoise, Mourvedre, Syrah, En Gobelet, Esprit de Tablas, and Panoplie. There are still a few spots left at the tasting, and we'd love you to join us.


Our Most Memorable Wines of 2023

As I have done the last few years, I asked our team to share a wine or two that stuck with them from all the ones they'd tried in 2023, and why. This is always one of my favorite blogs to put together. I love seeing the breadth of wine interests of the Tablas Creek team. More than that, I love seeing what inspired them. If you don't work at a winery, you might expect that those of us who do spend most of our time drinking our own wines, but in my experience, that's far from the case. Most people who find a career in wine do so because they find it fascinating, and that interest doesn't go away just because they've landed at a particular winery, even a winery that they love. And most people who work at wineries look at exploring other wines as an enjoyable form of continuing education.

This year, I tried to be more conscious of fostering that continuing education by opening some of the treasures left from my dad's cellar with our team. It was gratifying to see that some of those made people's year-end lists. But what stood out, as usual, was the degree to which the memorableness of a wine was tied to the occasion for which and the company with whom it was opened. As Neil said so well in his submission last year, it is "with food, company and occasion that great bottles become truly memorable ones."   

Here's everyone's submission, in their own words and only very lightly edited, in alphabetical order (except mine, which is at the end, with some concluding thoughts):

Charlie Chester, Senior Assistant Tasting Room Manager
Mine is not about just one wine; it was an experience.

Every year, an email from Jason marks a special occasion at Tablas—Francois and Cesar Perrin are in town to participate in the blending of the Esprit. I'm always excited when that Monday morning email arrives: "Gather the tasting room team; Cesar and Francois brought some wine they want to share." This time, it led to a midweek tasting featuring six vintages each of Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc and Chateau de Beaucastel Vieilles Vignes Roussanne. (The 2009 vintage of this was my favorite of the tasting.) So, on an ordinary Wednesday at 8:00 am, our tasting room team gathered for a session that was something to remember.

No formalities, just pouring and sipping. The Perrins, a dynamic father-son duo, brought in the good stuff, and we delved into twelve wines with zero fuss. These are the moments that remind me I work at a special place. It's not about unraveling complex tasting notes; it's about enjoying the laid-back journey through the evolution of these wines. More than just wine, it's team time that turns a regular Wednesday into a spontaneous celebration. Here's to those unexpected moments that become the most memorable sips of the year!

Most Memorable Wines of 2023 - Charlie

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
I am going to go with winery of the year as I believe it is a property that deserves some recognition. Marci and I were lucky enough to take a short backpack trip up the Loire valley. I made it a point to go and visit Domaine Grosbois outside of Chinon. The entire visit was a treat: farming in the best possible way and producing wines that I loved across the board. An absolute treat!!! If I was pushed to pick one it would be the Gabare. But I’ll take any of the lineup!!

Most Memorable Wines of 2023 - Neil

Ian Consoli, Director of Marketing
2023 was full of incredible wine experiences. Thanks to Jason opening up his father's cellar, I had some of the oldest wine I have ever tried. While those wines land on my list of best wines of 2023, I thought I would focus on the wines I will remember the year for: Barbaresco and Barolo. I was fortunate to spend a couple of weeks in the Piedmont region, where I received an education from vintners and wine shop owners. Two of those bottles were some of the most sought-after in Barolo. Vigna Rionda has established itself as one of the top sites of Barolo's new Grand Crus system. I tried a Vigna Rionda from the site's largest producer, Massolino, and the smallest producer, Guido Porro. Both of these wines were exceptional, serious drinking wines. The Guido was opened the day prior and the way it opened up was more floral than one might expect from a young Barolo. I left the region wholly sold on Nebbiolo, and I am already looking forward to my next glass.

Most Memorable Wines of 2023 - Ian

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
My most memorable wines of the year were served side by side with a good friend and a surreal appetizer, just before Christmas. 2018 Domaine Weinbach Cuvée Theo Riesling and 2017 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis paired with “Deep Fried Baby Crabs” at Goshi’s SLO. Dauvissat was in green apple, lemon oil and crushed oyster shell mode, righteously mid-weighted on the palate, whereas the Weinbach was as gingery as the slices themselves, with passion fruit, honey and lime, balanced acidity and a hint of sweetness: simply built for sushi. The crabs were, well, something that would’ve floored Salvador Dali and just what the menu said they were.

Most Memorable Wines of 2023 - Darren

Dusty Hannah, Tasting Room
I would not be surprised if my first two wines are not on anybody else's list because they were shared to the tasting room team at Tablas Creek, by Jason Haas, during one of our meetings. Perks of the job. Thanks Jason!

There is nothing like trying an old wine and these definitely did not disappoint! I can't help but think about all the facets that went into these and all the time that they were sitting in the bottle just to get to my glass. Incredible. This champagne was sent to me as part of my wine education. There was no way I was just going to try it by myself and when I let my buddy have some, he liked it so much he poured it for his pickup party! Although I have had these bottles many times before I shared these two with my parents for Christmas dinner. Paired beautifully with a ribeye. I'm lucky to have had these plenty of times, like I said, but they are very memorable to me. The 2017 still goes down as my all-time favorite wine at Tablas Creek. Happy New Year!

Ray King, Tasting Room
My most memorable wines of the year have been the gifts at various events over the past few weeks. Aged and beautiful. 

1) Chateau Pavie, Saint Emilion, 1970
2) Clos du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1978
4) Tablas Creek Vineyard, Founders’ Reserve, 2001
5) Tablas Creek Vineyard, Panoplie, 2003
6) Tablas Creek Vineyard, Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, 2010

Most Memorable Wines of 2023 - Ray

Jordan Lonborg, Viticulturist
My most memorable bottle of 2023 was a Desire Lines Shake Ridge Syrah. What made this bottle so memorable was the fact that the great Ann Kraemer, Owner and Vineyard Manager of Shake Ridge Vineyard, opened that bottle for both Neil Collins and myself as we overlooked her property, ate a beautiful dinner, and talked shop about the past, present, and future of grape farming. It was an unforgettable evening with a couple legends. 

Erin Mason, Regenerative Specialist
It was an occasion that brought me to my most memorable bottles of 2023. Just before the start of harvest, I celebrated the fourth anniversary of the Tribute to Grace tasting room opening with the winemaker and team. I’m lucky to be part of two amazing wine families in California—both Tablas Creek and Grace. Angela Osborne, the winemaker and Grenache devotee, has made it a tradition at major celebrations to do a semi-blind tasting of two wines. Only partially blind because we know it’s going to be Grenache… we know one is going to be a Tribute to Grace… and, typically, one Chateauneuf-de-Pape from Chateau Rayas—always the same vintage. This year, we were lucky enough to taste the 2011 Santa Barbara Highlands Grace alongside Rayas. I’ve never described a wine as “transformative,” but this was my second time tasting Rayas and there is truly nothing like it. Also exciting because of the comparisons made between 2011 to 2023 growing seasons in CA. If the Santa Barbara Highlands was any indication, we all have something amazing to look forward to from 2023. Bonne année!

Most Memorable Wines of 2023 - Erin

Monica O'Connor, Direct Sales Manager
My most memorable wine of 2023 was the Domaine Matrot Meursault-Blagny 1er Cru 2019.

This wine was so perfectly balanced, I just savored each sip. The mouth was full of preserved lemon, with soft mineral, subtle hazelnut and a whisper of anise and bright chervil. What made it extra special too is that I visited Beaune over the summer and cycled through Meursault!

We enjoyed the wine on Christmas Eve with a creamy polenta and mushroom dish. It was exquisite!

...And As for Me
I was lucky enough to have my wine of the year -- the stunning 1990 Chave Hermitage -- twice in 2023. The first time was for my birthday in June, at home, with just Meghan and Sebastian as Eli was away spending a month working with the Perrins. I then opened it a second time as part of a collection I brought to supply my table at the amazing Paso Purpose event that raised nearly $2,000,000 to support must! charities in August. It takes a special wine to shine at both an intimate dinner and a bustling outdoor function with hundreds of people. And this was the sort of event where everywhere you looked there was something extraordinary being opened. But Paso Robles, you have to remember, is a relatively young wine region. The wineries who started must! charities were all founded this century, and they're all of my generation. So while there were amazing wines on every table, the 1990 Chave still stood out. It was fully mature, quintessentially Syrah with its chocolate and pancetta flavors, but with all the rough edges smoothed away by time. Instead there were lingering flavors of cedar, dried flowers, and loamy earth. Just a treat, and an amazing opportunity to think about how cool it is that we can drink a wine made from the same place by the same family for 16 generations.

Most Memorable Wines of 2023 - Jason

A few concluding thoughts:
I did my best to link each wine to a page with information about it, should you want to research details. But I don't think replicating a specific wine is necessarily the right goal. If there's one thing that I've learned from writing these end-of-year appreciations for a decade now, it's that it really is the confluence of wine and occasion that makes for the most memorable experiences. Wine, after all, is the ultimate social beverage. The size of a bottle means it's something that you share with others. The fact that wine is ephemeral, that each bottle is a reflection of particular grapes grown in a particular place in a particular vintage, means that each one is different and also a unique reflection of time and place. Add in the human element, where the winemaker or winemakers are taking (or not taking) actions based on what they see, smell, and taste, and you have what is in essence a time capsule that comes with the added benefit of helping you enjoy a meal and bring insight into the flavors it contains. What a perfect starting point for a meaningful evening.

I also noticed the extent to which many of people's most memorable wines were older. It is for sure a challenge to cellar wines. It requires resources: space, patience, and the ability to buy wine in enough quantity that you can enjoy some in its youth while still having enough to open later. And there's always the risk that by the time you open your bottle it might be corked, or you might have missed its peak. But reading these memories highlights that the rewards can be marvelous. One hack: it's often surprisingly affordable to buy older wines online. Sites like Wine Searcher put older vintages at your fingertips in a way that would otherwise require major investment. For example, a few minutes' search found me this 30-year old bottle of Beaucastel for $109

I wish you all memorable food and wine experiences in 2024, and even more than that, the opportunity to share them with people you love.


A lovely Vermont summer dinner of lamb, tomatoes, potatoes, and old Beaucastel

My family and I spent most of July in Vermont. I grew up there, and each year we try to go back and give our kids the chance to discover the streams and forests, fields and ponds I spent my childhood exploring. My sister and her family make their home next door, and my mom still spends half the year there, in the house I grew up in. I know that the setting hasn't changed much in the last 50 years. It probably hasn't changed much in a century:

Vermont House

When we go back, we're a group of nine, five adults and (this year) kids aged 18, 15, 13, and 9. Everyone likes to eat, and a many of our most memorable moments of each trip are spent around the table. To keep it from being too much of a burden on any one person, we share out the tasks of cooking, setting, and washing each evening, and always designate a few people each evening to be Riley (think "life of...") so they can relax without guilt. If you're in a rut on your vacation meal planning, I highly recommend this system.

As our time in Vermont wound down, my mom and I were signed up to cook one night, and we decided to make a meal that would allow us to explore some of the treasures my dad accumulated in the wine cellar there. Earlier in the trip we'd opened some old Burgundies and a few old Tablas Creeks, but this time decided to dive into the stash of Beaucastel. That stash included two of my favorite vintages: 1981 and 1989. To pair with the wines, we decided on racks of lamb (sadly, not Tablas Creek, since we were on the other coast, but delicious racks from the local co-op grocery). My mom cooked them according to this favorite David Tanis recipe in the New York Times, where the racks are rubbed with a blend of mustard, garlic, anchovy, salt, pepper, and herbs. These racks are then roasted over par-cooked potatoes, which have been boiled then crushed. As everything roasts in the oven, the potatoes absorb the juices and flavors of the lamb and its rub. As a side dish I made a variation on roasted tomatoes from a favorite Barbara Kafka recipe, where small tomatoes are rubbed in olive oil and salt, then roasted whole at high temperature with peeled cloves of garlic scattered around. When they're removed from the oven, you scatter some strips of basil over the top. A few photos, starting with the lamb, which turned out perfectly:

Vermont Dinner - Lamb Racks

The potatoes were meltingly delicious:

Vermont Dinner - Potatoes

I love roasted tomatoes with lamb, because their brightness helps cut the richness of the meat. The garlic pieces are great for spreading on crusty bread.

Vermont Dinner - Tomatoes

And finally, the wines, which were definitely worthy of all this fuss. The cool, damp underground cellar where the wines have spent the last four decades is great for the wines' evolution, but (as you can see) less than ideal for their labels:

Vermont Dinner - Wines

As for the two wines that night, both were excellent, and the 1989 truly outstanding. My sense was that the 1981 was a little past its peak, and starting a graceful decline, while the 1989 is still at the top of its game:

  • 1981 Beaucastel. A nose of truffle and balsamic, sage, graphite, leather and a little juniper. On the older side but still quite present and intense. On the palate, still intense and firm, with good acids, flavors of meat drippings and plum skin, coffee grounds and pencil shavings. The finish is still persistent.
  • 1989 Beaucastel. Plusher and more powerful on the nose, aromas of mocha, black cherry, mint chocolate, and soy marinade. The mouth is fully mature but still has lovely fruit: cherry and currant fruit, new leather, meat drippings, sweet baking spices, and chocolate covered cherries. Long and luscious but still somehow weightless. 

It was a fitting conclusion to a wonderful three weeks. And I couldn't help thinking that my dad must have been smiling down at us all witnessing it.


The Fall 2023 VINsider "Collector's Edition" Shipment: Drought Vintages Shine a Decade Later

Each summer, I taste through library vintages of our Esprit and Esprit Blanc to choose the wines for the upcoming VINsider Wine Club Collector's Edition shipment. We created the Collector's Edition version of our VINsider Wine Club back in 2009 to give our biggest fans a chance to see what our flagship wines were like aged in perfect conditions. Members also get a slightly larger allocation of the current release of Esprits to track as they evolve. This club gives us a chance show off our wines' ageworthiness, and it's been a great success, generating a waiting list each year since we started it.

Each of our flagship wines goes through different stages of life. I'll start by giving a quick summary of those phases and where each of the two wines that we'll be sending out this year fit in.

For the Esprit de Tablas Blanc, there are really three (sometimes four) phases each vintage goes through. In its youth, within a few years of bottling, you get lush fruit, medium-body and texture, and tropical notes, with underpinnings of mineral and cedary structure. The current release (our 2020 Esprit Blanc) is showing in that phase, as is the 2021 that we're releasing this fall. After a few years, the tropical, fruity notes mellow into something more honeyed, the texture becomes richer, and the mineral and savory structural notes become more pronounced. This is usually the phase the Esprit Blanc is in when we send it out to Collector's Edition members. Then there's a phase (for some, not all vintages) where the honey flavors caramelize and the color deepens, but the texture is still rich and the structure evident. This is a phase that can be intellectually interesting but isn't usually the most pleasurable because it can come across as a touch oxidative, and we note it on our vintage chart as "Hold - Closed Phase". Then finally the wine emerges out the other side, the texture and color lighten, the oxidative notes resolve into something more like roasted nuts, and the minerality comes to the fore. We've never been able to wait long enough to release an Esprit Blanc to Collector's Edition members in this phase... until this year. Please welcome the 2013 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. This wine is just at the beginning of its current stage and should sail on another decade or more, gaining nuttiness and complexity with time.

The Esprit de Tablas has a similar multi-stage evolution. Within a few years of release the wines are robust, with lots of fruit, plenty of structure and tannin, and sweet spice notes. Then there's a stage where the fruit calms down, the tannins start to soften, and you start to notice more of the loamy, earthy Mourvedre-driven savoriness as well as the saline minerality that we get from our calcareous soils. That's the stage that the 2015 Esprit de Tablas is in right now. The wine has greater complexity and elegance than it did when it was young, but the primary impression of the fruit is of freshness, not age. There will likely be two more stages to come. First will likely (though not for certain, given the elegance of the 2015 vintage from the get-go) come a point where the wine's fruit becomes secondary to the structural and mineral elements and the wine might come across as a little hard. If I had to guess when this would happen, it would be sometime in 2026-27, but that's just a guess for now. And it might not happen. But whether or not it does, there's sure to be a further stage after where the meaty, leathery side of these grapes comes to the fore, the fruit goes from fresh to more compote, the sweet spice deepens to something like mocha, and the tannins become supple. That can last for another 10-15 years before the wine finally fades.  

While most of our vintages of Esprit go through similar stages, the vintage that creates each wine is unique. The library wines in this year's selection both came from vintages marked by our 2012-2016 drought:

  • 2013 was still in the early stages of the drought, and while the vines set a large crop, we expended a lot of effort reducing crop levels to make sure we didn't overextend the vineyard knowing it had limited water to draw on. That was followed by a classic, warm Californian summer that combined with our reduced yields (2.66 tons/acre in the end) for our earliest-ever finish to harvest on October 7th. [You can read my recap of the 2013 vintage here.]
  • By 2015, the vines were really struggling, and crop levels started low and were further reduced by a very cold May, which led to a very light fruit set in our earlier grape varieties like Viognier and Syrah. The year continued in a whipsaw between significantly warmer-then-normal and cooler-than-normal months, both of which can slow ripening, and despite the low yields and a very warm October we didn't finish picking until October 29th. Our overall yields were some of the lowest we've ever seen at 2.01 tons/acre. [My recap of the 2015 vintage can be found here.]

Despite their differences, the two vintages manifested in related ways. 2013 was more classic than blockbuster. It produced wines with pure, well-defined flavors, medium density, and lots of spiciness and minerality. 2015 produced some of the most ethereal wines we've made, with noteworthy minerality, high-toned elegance, and intense flavors with no sense of weight. That said, both 2013 Esprit Blanc and 2015 Esprit showed a lovely balance of fruit and mineral, structure and openness, and richness and elegance when we tasted them yesterday. The pair:

Collectors Edition Wines 2023

My tasting notes:

  • 2013 Esprit de Tablas Blanc: Still a youthful pale gold color. A savory nose of nuts, flinty mineral, lanolin and lemongrass, with sweeter notes of baked apple emerging slowly with time. The mouth is creamy and textural, like salted custard with notes of citrus pith and dried pineapple. Very long on the finish with notes of grilled, salted lemon. Still shows lovely lift and brightness around that savory, textural core. 71% Roussanne, 21% Grenache Blanc, and 8% Picpoul Blanc. Would be amazing with a chicken simply roasted with lemon and herbs.
  • 2015 Esprit de Tablas: An appealing nose of black cherry, cocoa powder, sweet applewood, black pepper, and meat in a soy marinade. The mouth is clean and pure, with vibrant notes of black raspberry and chalky mineral, meat drippings and a salty umami note. The tannins are present and firm but not aggressive. The finish shows notes of boysenberry and salty dark chocolate. 49% Mourvedre, 25% Grenache, 21% Syrah, 5% Counoise. Would shine with anything from a simple roasted rack of lamb to duck to a savory pasta with wild mushrooms.

The complete Collector's Edition shipment is awfully exciting, at least to me, between the combination of the library vintages, all the 2021s -- which I'm convinced will go down among our best vintages ever -- and the debut of a new wine and new program for us, which I'll be sharing information about in a couple of weeks:

  • 2 bottles of 2015 Esprit de Tablas
  • 1 bottle of 2013 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 3 bottles of 2021 Esprit de Tablas
  • 2 bottles of 2021 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 1 bottle of 2021 En Gobelet
  • 1 bottle of 2021 Grenache
  • 1 bottle of 2022 Patelin de Tablas Rosé
  • 1 bottle of 2022 Lignée de Tablas Windfall Farms Grenache Blanc

We will be adding to the Collector's Edition membership, subject to available space, in the next month. If you're on the waiting list, you should be receiving an email with news, one way or the other, of whether you've made it on for this round. We add members, once a year, in the order in which we received applications to the waiting list. If you are currently a VINsider member and interested in getting on the waiting list, you can upgrade to the Collector's Edition online or by giving our wine club office a call. And if you are not currently a member, but would like to be, you can sign up for the VINsider Wine Club Collector's Edition, with all the benefits of VINsider Wine Club membership while you're on the waiting list.

Those of you who are members, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  And thank you, as always, for your patronage. We are grateful, and don't take it for granted.


Deep Roots: Tasting Every Tablas Creek En Gobelet, 2007-2021

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.

En Gobelet Vertical June 2023

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.

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.


Looking back with a decade's perspective on 2013: a "Goldilocks" vintage at a transitional moment for Tablas Creek

I'm not sure we've ever had consecutive years with as many similarities as 2012 and 2013. Both were warm, reliably sunny vintages with about 70% of normal rainfall. Both featured benign spring weather without frost damage. And both saw us produce wines that had early appeal and showed more red than black fruit character. The major differences were twofold. First, by 2013 we were two years into what would become a five-year drought, which somewhat reduced the vines' vigor and productivity. Second, we felt we'd been caught by surprise in 2012 by high yields in some blocks, which we thought had resulted in some lots and wines with less concentration and paler colors than we wanted. This experience made us more proactive in 2013 in thinning the crop to give us what we felt the vines and the vintage could handle. These two factors combined to reduce our yields from around 3.7 tons per acre in 2012 to around 2.8 in 2013.

The relatively dry second half of the 2012-13 winter (we received just two and a half inches of rain after January 1st) meant that the 2013 growing season got off to an early start, about 10 days ahead of our average to that point. The summer proceeded without any extended heat spikes (just eight days topped 100F) or cool-downs, and we began harvest roughly that same week-and-a-half earlier than normal, on August 25th. The weather the next six weeks turned consistently warm (lots of upper 80s and low-to-mid 90s) though never hot enough to force us to stop picking or to engage the grapevines' defense mechanism of shutting down photosynthesis, so we raced through harvest in just 44 days, nearly two full weeks shorter than the year before. Our October 7th finish stood alone as our earliest-ever completion of harvest until we tied it this past year.

When we got to blending we were excited to see that we'd achieved what we'd hoped: we'd captured the freshness and brightness we liked from the 2013 vintage while layering in more depth and tannic structure. We blended the wines that we always make and made several varietal wines, including our first-ever examples of two new grapes, Terret Noir and Clairette Blanche. And the 2013 wines have often been favorites over the last decade when we've included them in horizontal tastings. So it was with interest that I approached the opportunity to taste through the entire lineup of wines that we made in 2013 this past week.

This horizontal retrospective tasting is something we do each year, looking at the complete array of wines that we made a decade earlier. It offers us several opportunities. First, it's a chance to take stock on how the wines are evolving, share those notes with our fans who may have them in their cellars, and keep our vintage chart up to date. There are wines (like the Esprits, and Panoplie) that we open fairly regularly, but others that we may not have tasted in six or seven years. Second, it's a chance to evaluate the decisions we made that year, see how they look in hindsight, and use that lens to see if there are any lessons to apply to what we're doing now. Third, it's a chance to put the vintage in perspective. Often, in the immediate aftermath of a harvest and even at blending, we're so close to this most recently completed year that it can be difficult to assess its character impartially. Plus, the full character of a vintage doesn't show itself until the wines have a chance to age a bit. Finally, it's when we choose the wines that will represent the vintage in a public retrospective tasting, which this year we'll be holding Sunday, February 5th. The lineup:

2013 Retrospective Wines

My notes on the wines are below. I've noted their closures (SC=screwcap; C=cork) and, for the blends, their varietal breakdown. Each wine is also linked to its technical information on our Web site, if you'd like to see winemaking details, professional reviews, or our tasting notes at bottling. Because of their scarcity we never made a webpage for the Clairette Blanche or Terret Noir, so if you have questions about that leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer. I was joined for the tasting by our cellar team (Neil Collins, Chelsea Franchi, Craig Hamm, Amanda Weaver, and Austin Collins) as well as by Viticulturist Jordan Lonborg, Regenerative Specialist Erin Mason, Biodynamicist Gustavo Prieto and Director of Marketing Ian Consoli.

  • 2013 Vermentino (SC): A great start to the day, with a nose of peppered citrus pith, wet rocks, and a slight petrol note showing the only real hint at the wine's decade of age. The mouth was vibrant, the same citrus and mineral notes that the nose hinted at except with more richness, like preserved lemon and oyster shell. The wine retained the electric acids it had at bottling, and would be a great discovery for anyone who finds a bottle in their stash.
  • 2013 Picpoul Blanc (SC): A nose of dried pineapple, mandarin orange, and sweet green herbs like lemongrass. The palate shows more pineapple, but with a smoky grilled note, and creamy texture. Picpoul doing its best piña colada impression, even after a decade. The finish showed more green herbs, passion fruit, and sea spray minerality, with lively acids and lingering richness. A treat.
  • 2013 Grenache Blanc (SC): A classic aged Grenache Blanc nose of petrol, green apple, potpourri, and crushed rock. The palate is both lush and electric with sweet spice that reminded me of crystallized ginger and cinnamon, kaffir lime and ripe apple, with creamy texture and a nice pithy bite cleaning up the long finish.
  • 2013 Viognier (SC): The nose was Viognier's classic jasmine florality and peaches and cream, cut by a lemongrass herbiness and a petrichor minerality. The palate was a little less exciting than the nose, at least to me, with flavors of fresh pear and kneaded butter, rainwater and soft texture. I think we were all missing the vibrant acids of the three previous wines; Erin called it "a mist of a flavor". I've always been an advocate of drinking Viognier young, and this did nothing to change my mind.
  • 2013 Marsanne (SC): Just our third-ever Marsanne, after we took 2012 off because we didn't think it showed enough focus. Outstanding on the nose, with grilled lemon, honeycomb, quince, and the distinctive sweet straw note I look for in the grape. The palate is also exciting, with salted honeydew and papaya flavors, and a fresh-ground cornmeal note, complex but fresh. The long finish showed notes of honeysuckle, grilled bread, creme brulee, and cardamom. A gorgeous wine in a gorgeous stage. 
  • 2013 Clairette Blanche (C): We only made one barrel from our first-ever Clairette Blanche harvest, and when we got ready to release it we found it a little thin and unexciting, not compelling enough to introduce a new grape to our audience. So we stashed it hoping it would become something more interesting. It never did. In this tasting, we found a nose showing some oxidation: scotch tape, hazelnut and bruised apple. The palate was better, like a fino sherry: salted nuts, strawberry, and red apple. The wine thinned back out on the finish, with more of that bruised apple character. In future years we'd bottle it under screwcap, which I think was a good idea, but we were hoping that the cork would enrich the wine. It didn't, or at least not enough. In retrospect, we should have included it in a blend rather than bottling it on its own.
  • 2013 Patelin de Tablas Blanc (SC; 54% Grenache Blanc, 25% Viognier, 13% Roussanne, 8% Marsanne): Pretty on the nose, with gooseberry, fresh sage, chalky mineral, and newly-cut grass aromas. The palate was fresh, with sweet mango and fresh apricot flavors, gingersnap and candied orange peel depth, and a long, soft finish with sweet spices and fresh herbs. This was meant to be opened and drunk young, but if anyone has any around, it's still going strong.
  • 2013 Cotes de Tablas Blanc (SC; 39% Viognier, 29% Grenache Blanc, 20% Marsanne, 12% Roussanne): A very appealing nose of oyster shell, fresh mandarin, meyer lemon, honeysuckle, and white pepper. A slight hint of petrol is the only sign of its age. The palate is round and luscious, like baked honeycrisp apple and lemon drop. Outstanding length, balance, and tenacity on the palate. A treat at this age.
  • 2013 Esprit de Tablas Blanc (C; 71% Roussanne, 21% Grenache Blanc, 8% Picpoul Blanc): A nose of toasted marshmallow, graham cracker, coconut, golden delicious apple, and lacquered wood. The mouth is luscious, with flavors of pears in syrup, butterscotch, toasted almond, and white pepper. The finish is long with flavors of marzipan and poached pear cut by fresh herbs and butter mint. But for all these sweet descriptors, the wine is dry and precise. Seemingly right at its peak.
  • 2013 Roussanne (C): A nose of warm honey and crushed shells, and lots of intriguing herbal notes: chamomile, pine resin, and gin botanicals. On the palate, deep and soft with flavors of creme brulee and salted caramel, but finishing dry with citrus pith and nice tannic pithy bite. Delicious.
  • 2013 Patelin de Tablas Rosé (SC; 73% Grenache, 22% Mourvedre, 5% Counoise): Our second-ever Patelin Rosé was still a beautiful pale color. A little plasticky screwcap-influenced nose at first blew off to show salter watermelon and wild strawberry aromas. The palate was in outstanding shape: strawberry preserves, rhubarb compote, green herbs and a sour cherry finish. No one would have intentionally kept this wine this long, but it was showing better than any 10-year-old rosé could reasonably expect. 
  • 2013 Dianthus (SC; 57% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache, 15% Counoise): A little rustiness in the color. The nose showed Campari, dried rose petal, and orange bitters aromas. The mouth continued our cocktail-like descriptors: a note of singed citrus peel over gardenia flower and a salty umami note. It didn't speak much of a rosé at this stage, but could be a cool gastronomic wine with something like grilled quail or rabbit. 
  • 2013 Full Circle (C): Our fourth Full Circle Pinot Noir from my dad's property in the Templeton Gap, and the first vintage that I thought really was showing well at a decade. The nose had notes of bay, new leather, black cherry, baker's chocolate, and sweet clove. On the palate, black plum, sarsaparilla, and a little sweet oak with cooling notes of juniper and sandalwood. Seemingly right at its peak, complex yet fresh.
  • 2013 Terret Noir (C): Only slightly darker than the Dianthus. The nose showed a hard candy note over molasses and wet leaves. The palate was a little medicinal with cherry cough syrup notes over tree bark, then a short finish. The wine has lost the minty, herby notes that made it fascinating when it was young, without replacing them with anything similarly rewarding. I feel good about our recent decision to put Terret Noir under screwcap and think it should probably be drunk within 5 years of vintage, despite its tannic grip. 
  • 2013 Grenache (C): A nose of sugarplum, black licorice, coffee grounds and cherry fruit leather. The mouth is pretty, fully mature, soft and luscious like a flourless chocolate cake with raspberry reduction poured over it. The finish shows a little oxidation, with flavors of hoisin and stewed strawberry and a little tannic bite. Time to drink up if you have any; it feels like this is about to start on the downslope.
  • 2013 Mourvedre (C): A nose of cassis, mocha, dry-aged meat and iron. The palate is chocolate and cherry with a little minty spice and a grilled portobello earthiness. The finish was classic Mourvedre: loam and plum skin and salty dark chocolate. In a nice place, if without the mouth-filling intensity of our best Mourvedre vintages. 
  • 2013 Syrah (C): A dark, spicy nose of graphite, black licorice, blackberry and crushed rock. The palate is similar, youthful black fruit and dense texture, lots of dark tannin and chalky mineral. The finish showed luxardo cherry and persistent crushed rock minerality. Syrah at its essence, in a good place but with plenty left in the tank.
  • 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (C): From the two rows of Cabernet vines we have in our nursery, which most years gets tossed into our Tannat. An immediately recognizable Cabernet nose of eucalyptus, blackberry, black olive, and pencil shavings. The mouth was outstanding: blackcurrant and new leather, salty dark chocolate and firm tannic bite. A cedary oak note came out on the finish. Absolutely on point for the grape, and fun to taste since we make it so rarely.
  • 2013 Tannat (C): A gamey nose of pork fat and plum skin, wood smoke and brambly fruit. The palate is juicy with blackcurrant and cola flavors and full body. The finish is lushly tannic with notes of teriyaki, blackberry, venison jerky and salted caramel. I've always liked how the 2013 vintage treated Tannat, giving it some needed elegance, and this showing confirmed that it's one of my favorite Tannat's we've ever done.
  • 2013 Patelin de Tablas (SC; 45% Syrah, 29% Grenache, 22% Mourvedre, 4% Counoise): Surprisingly, as the only screwcap-finished red in the tasting, the nose on this was on point as soon as it was poured: spicy and meaty like soppresata, chaparral, black raspberry and dried herbs. The palate showed muddled blackberry flavors and nicely resolved tannins with black licorice and herbes de Provence accents. Soft, pretty, and what a value for anyone who bought and stashed a case at the $20/bottle this was on release. 
  • 2013 Cotes de Tablas (C; 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Counoise, 5%Mourvedre): The nose was lovely: dried roses, kirsch, sugarplum, and a little gamey umami lurking underneath. The mouth is lively and light on its feet, with flavors of strawberry preserves, sweet star anise spice, and a little tannic powdered sugar bite. Thankfully, after a 2012 rendition that was starting to tire at age 10, this felt right at peak. 
  • 2013 En Gobelet (C; 34% Grenache, 31% Mourvedre, 19% Syrah, 11% Counoise, 5% Tannat): A nose of creamy red raspberry fruit, coffee grounds, leather, and candied violets. The mouth is like salty raspberry preserves, with sweet/spicy notes of Mexican hot chocolate, butter pastry, and Spanish chorizo. There's a nice tannic bite on the finish. Seemingly right at peak too.
  • 2013 Esprit de Tablas (C; 40% Mourvedre, 28% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 10% Counoise): The nose was showing more age than we were expecting, with aromas of soy sauce, dried meat, pomegranate reduction, and bread pudding. The mouth had flavors of chocolate-covered cherry, with a chorizo-like meatiness and a nice salty note coming out on the richly tannic finish. When a wine shows a disconnect like this between the nose and the palate, I often take it as a phase that it's going through. I tend to think that's the case here and will look forward to checking back in a few times over the next year. Meanwhile, build in time to give this a bit of a decant if you're drinking in the short term.
  • 2013 Panoplie (C; 75% Mourvedre, 15% Grenache, 10% Syrah): An exuberant nose of cassis and new leather, an alpine foresty spice, dark chocolate, and crushed rock. The palate is lovely, poised between red and black currant, black tea, white pepper, and candied violet. A little cedary oak and more dark chocolate come out on the long finish. In an outstanding place.
  • 2013 Petit Manseng (C): Our fourth bottling of this classic southwest French grape known for maintaining great acids as it reaches high (and occasionally extremely high) sugar levels, which we make each year in an off-dry style. After making this both drier (in 2011) and sweeter (in 2012) we triangulated to a style that I think was just right in 2013. It showed a nose of grilled pineapple (or pineapple upside-down cake, if you prefer), golden raisin and cumquat. The palate is sweet and lush but with electric acids, showing flavors of pistachio and lychee, smoky and wild with a lively lemon-drop finish. A great way to reawaken the palate at the end of the tasting. 

A few concluding thoughts

In terms of vintage character, there were a lot of non-fruit descriptors that transcended red, white, and even rosé categories. These included saline/mineral notes like oyster shell, sea spray, flint, or crushed rock, and woodland descriptors like sandalwood, cedar, and juniper. This was not a vintage for people who wanted (or want) maximum fruit concentration, but instead one where fruit elements were in balance with more savory elements. After a series of vintages in the late-2000s where we got outstanding fruit intensity but in retrospect felt that we'd let the ripeness pendulum swing too far toward jam, and three years starting in 2010 where a combination of weather and a hands-off approach to our vineyard gave us wines that (again, in retrospect) had good savory elements but tended to be a bit shy in concentrated fruit, 2013 was our opportunity to set a middle course. I felt like I saw a clearer path between the wines from the 2013 vintage to those we're making today than I'd been able to in any of our previous horizontal tastings. That's exciting. 

I was hoping that the balance that the 2013s have had all their lives would mean that they'd hold up well in bottle, and generally, they did. There were only a couple of wines that were tasting like they were past their prime, and the wines that are usually peaking at around a decade (like Grenache, or Cotes de Tablas) felt squarely in their sweet spots. But unlike with some earlier tastings, we didn't find any wines that weren't yet ready to go. Even the wines that I suspect will be the longest-lived, like Syrah, Tannat, and Panoplie, all seemed to offer outstanding drinking right now.

The whites were across the board excellent. From the high-acid screwcapped wines that we suggested people drink in the first few years to the richer Roussanne- and Marsanne-based wines, every one but the Clairette was pretty and vibrant. It's worth noting that nearly all of the screwcapped wines improved in the glass, and I thought that most of them would have benefited from a quick decant. A lot of people don't think of decanting older whites, but I think it's often a good idea, and for any wine that has been under screwcap for more than a few years. There's a clipped character that most older screwcapped wines have that dissipates with a few minutes of air. It happens anyway in the glass, but a decant speeds the process.

When I asked everyone around the table to pick their three favorites, 14 different wines received at least one vote, with the Roussanne and Cotes de Tablas red leading the way with five votes each. That diversity is a testament to the quality of the vintage. The very strong showing of the Cotes de Tablas wines (both received more favorite votes than the Esprits did in this showing) was interesting. I felt like it spoke to our process, which gives each of our blends a different lead grape and helps us identify lots in blending that are right for each wine, not just a simple hierarchy of good-better-best. It also means that you shouldn't sleep on our "lesser" red blends if you want to lay down some bottles, and maybe that we should stop thinking of them as "lesser" at all. After all, even the Patelin red was outstanding in this tasting.

We're very much looking forward to sharing the vintage's highlights with guests at our public retrospective tasting on February 5th. If you'd like to join us, we'll be tasting the following ten wines: Marsanne, Roussanne, Esprit de Tablas Blanc, Syrah, Tannat, Patelin de Tablas, Cotes de Tablas, Esprit de Tablas, Panoplie, and Petit Manseng. I can't wait. For more information, or to join us, click here


Our Most Memorable Wines of 2022

As I have done the last few years, I asked our team to share a wine or two that stuck with them from all the ones they'd tried in 2022, and why. This is always one of my favorite blogs to put together. I love seeing the breadth of wine interests of the Tablas Creek team. More than that, I love seeing what inspired them. If you don't work at a winery, you might expect that those of us who do spend most of our time drinking our own wines, but in my experience, that's far from the case. Most people who find a career in wine do so because they find it fascinating, and that interest doesn't go away just because they've landed at a particular winery, even a winery that they love. And most people who work at wineries look at exploring other wines as an enjoyable form of continuing education. So it wasn't a surprise to me that while some of the selections were Tablas Creek, most were not. But what stood out, as usual, was the degree to which the memorableness of a wine was tied to the occasion for which and the company with whom it was opened. As Neil said so well in his submission, it is "with food, company and occasion that great bottles become truly memorable ones."   

Here's everyone's submission, in their own words and only very lightly edited, in alphabetical order (except mine, which is at the end, with some concluding thoughts):

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
MaineThe most memorable wine for 2022 was a bottle shared with friends on the beach in Maine this last June. Our friend and former TCV co-worker Dani wanted us to try a local wine. So we opened a Bluet, Maine Wild Blueberry Sparkling Wine and shared it on the beach. It was interesting, something new, and a little different. Sharing wine with friends makes it even that much more memorable.

Austin Collins, Cellar and Vineyard
I do not always possess the sensory or photographic memory that I wish did. Often, I drink delicious wines without taking a photo of them and they can be lost amongst the heap of labels and flavors piling up in my brain. But, every so often a wine is just too enjoyable to be forgotten. That wine for me this year was the 2020 Silice Rouge from Maison des Ardoisières. This is a wine of 100% whole-cluster fermented Mondeuse, coming in at a cool 10.5% alcohol! It immediately took me to a forest of Eastern France, on the slopes of the Alps.

I do have one honorable mention for the list this year. We all know that a bottle of wine can be made by the company and/or setting it is enjoyed in. The setting: sitting with my wife on the balcony of a roof-top restaurant at the King George hotel in Athens, Greece. The wine: a 2020 Mandilaria from Venetsanos Winery in Santorini. The wine was decent, the view of the Acropolis was amazing, the woman sitting across from me, stunning! Happy Holidays, please enjoy those around you along with what is on the table.

Neil's wines 2022Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
Those that know me or have read some previous “memorable bottle” blogs will know that I believe the great wines are of course great by themselves, but it is at the table with food, company and occasion that great bottles become truly memorable ones.

So, this year there was a clear and obvious choice for me. The whole Collins family, both kids along with their brides and young Finnegan our grandson, were heading up Big Sur to celebrate Finn’s first birthday. Now, it has become evident that it is a physical impossibility for one of us Collins to drive by Nepenthe without stopping for lunch, so all of us? Lunch it is! Our good friend Alicia was running the floor and brought the menus, including the magnum list. My eye was drawn immediately to a magnum of 2017 Domaine Tempier Pour Lulu, Bandol. This wine was released in recognition of Lulu Peyraud's 100th birthday. Tempier is always a favorite. Recognizing Lulu’s 100th whilst celebrating Finn’s 1st , pretty special. Nepenthe and its people, a magnum of Tempier with Steak frites all round, Collins heaven!!! And yes the wine was true to the producer, very special. Enjoy the holidays all!!

Three of Ian's top wines from 2022Ian Consoli, Director of Marketing
I had a very active wine year, making it difficult to narrow down my choices. I experienced my first trip to France (Champagne and Paris) and shared bottles with classmates in my Wine EMBA program. Also, every year at Tablas Creek offers opportunities to try unicorn wines. The year started with one of those unicorn wines when Jason Haas shared a bottle of 1990 Chave Hermitage, a selection from his father’s cellar he opened with dinner the previous night. National Sales Manager Darren Delmore and I were mind-blown by the opportunity to try this older vintage from a historic producer. In Champagne, the standout was Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2011. It had a brioche character with the softest bubbles I have ever experienced. I highly recommend it for any bubbles lovers. I remember this Chignin Bergeron blowing everyone’s mind at a dinner in Reims. It was fun to expose other wine lovers to the glory of Roussanne. Finally, everyone in my class shared one of their favorite bottles from the winery they worked at. This To Kalon Fume Blanc from Robert Mondavi stood out and changed how I think about Sauvignon Blanc. It was a fun year of outstanding wines; I can’t wait to see what wines come my way in 2023.

Terrence Crowe, Tasting Room
The most memorable wine I opened this year was a 2003 Tablas Creek Vineyard Roussanne. Liquid silk personified. Guests are often shocked when we discuss “age-able” white wines. This 2003 Roussanne was in immaculate condition and was a fine example of the lasting power Tablas Creek wines hold.  

A shout out to my distinguished lady Marcy as always. Loving my 2019 Tablas Creek Marsanne releases right now. Really lovely stuff. 

Beaucastel

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
My most memorable wine of 2022 was 2010 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge. As employees of Tablas Creek we get access to the other wines of the Perrin portfolio. In December 2012, with a new baby in tow and a negative wine budget, I made the wise call to buy a 6 pack wooden case of this and set it and forget it in my wine storage space in Morro Bay. I remember Robert Haas and Jean Pierre Perrin saying that 2010 Beaucastel was a vintage you could drink straight away or in twenty years. I picked the in-between, and on a family getaway to the desert a couple weeks ago, we enjoyed the first bottle from the case over two days. On night one, it seemed a touch older than it should have, more of a secondary state with maple and mushroom flavors more than fruit, then on night two, all the elements were together, and the garrigue-scented dusty strawberry aromas, and rich CdP palate were fully in line. Turns out that second day was a fruit day on the biodynamic calendar, not a root day, as the first day had been.

Ray's wines 2022Ray King, Tasting Room
These are my most memorable wines of the year.

6) Tablas Creek Antithesis, Chardonnay, 2003 (no link for 2003 but here's one for the 2005)

Erin Mason, Regenerative Specialist
There are three bottles that come to mind for different reasons. The first is the 2020 Slamdance Kooperative Red Table Wine. There is something really special about drinking a young winemaker’s first wine and this one hits all the right spots for me. Daniel Callan’s earnest approach to making a wine of historical relevance from vineyards on the fringe is inspiring. Hand harvested, basket-pressed, native ferment, hand bottled… that’s a wine made with painstaking love. The packaging is sick, and the wine is completely yummy. I drank it with one of my good friends outside the Mission San Juan Bautista from plastic cups. Another is the 2018 Tzum Aine Grenache from the folks at Hiyu Farms up in Oregon. It was one of the most dynamic examples of domestic Grenache I’ve ever had—and I drink a lot of Grenache. It was paired with a cheese course that included Hoshigaki made on the farm, and the whole experience was lovely. Lastly, the 2021 Margins Assyrtiko from the Paicines Ranch vineyard where I worked. It was the first harvest ever from that vineyard. Awesome to see the potential of alternative approaches to viticulture and Assyrtiko from California.

John Morris, Tasting Room Manager
I didn’t have to think too much about this one. The most memorable wine for me this year was unquestionably a 2019 Roussanne Vieilles Vignes from Chateau de Beaucastel, graciously brought by the tasting room by all-around-nice-guy and noted wine nerd John Seals. John was in the process of relocating to Paso Robles, stopping by tasting rooms to introduce himself, tasting, scoping out the right place to work, and more to the point, sharing fabulous wines. The Vieilles Vignes was as Roussanne should be, rich, unctuous, layered, spicy, very long, and just plain delicious. It was an unexpected treat on what was already a perfect spring day in Paso Robles. Thanks John!

Nadia Nouri, Marketing Assistant
Some of my most memorable wines of 2022 are attached to memories with some of my favorite people. One night, a group of my friends and I hosted a 20’s themed murder mystery dinner party where everyone brought a bottle of wine to share, and I brought a bottle of one of my go-to’s, Donati Family Vineyard 2018 Ezio Cabernet Sauvignon. It was so fun to see what everyone else brought (as a group of college students, it was a mixed bag!) Throughout the night, we got to try everyone else’s picks as we attempted to discover who the killer was. Everyone was in character the whole night, and it turned out to be a huge surprise who the culprit was. I will never forget that night! A few of my other most memorable wines are Tablas Creek wines, of course. When I started working at Tablas Creek, I got to bring home more obscure single varietal wines like our 2021 Picardan and 2020 Terret Noir to this same group of wonderful people, who loved discovering new wine, and I am so grateful I got to share my world with them.

...And As for Me
Most summers, we go back to Vermont to spend at least a few weeks in the house in which I grew up, where my mom still spends half the year, and where my sister and her family live too. After we were unable to come back in 2020 we decided in 2021 to spend a full month back east, and loved it so much that we repeated the longer visit in 2022, soaking in all the lovely green of Vermont and the unhurried time with family. It's also a chance to dive into the amazing cellar my dad accumulated in his decades as a wine importer, and each summer we try to pick a meal where we pull out all the stops and just go for it. This year, we chose three treasures from great vintages and classic regions, and a meal designed to show them off: steaks grilled with herb butter, a gratin of summer squash, and garlic scapes from the garden. We also had corn on the cob, because it was Vermont in the summer.

JH Summer Meal

The two wines we opened to start were a 1961 Lafite, a legendary vintage from the era when my dad was the chateau's exclusive American importer, and a 1981 Beaucastel. The Lafite was still chewy and complex. Savory with flavors of tobacco and earth and mocha, still layered, a wine to dive into. The Beaucastel was friendlier, cherry skin and loam and meat drippings, lighter on its feet, translucent and lovely. Both were fully mature but very much alive. Those two wines were so good that we didn’t end up opening the Clos des Lambrays, which gives us something to forward to on our next visit. Just a lovely occasion to taste and appreciate two magical wines that we have a personal connection to, and be thankful for my dad's judgment and foresight.  

JH most memorable wines of 2022

A few concluding thoughts:
I did my best to link each wine to a page with information about it, should you want to research details. But I don't think replicating a specific wine is necessarily the right goal. If there's one thing that I've learned from writing these end-of-year appreciations for a decade now, it's that it really is the confluence of wine and occasion that makes for the most memorable experiences. Wine, after all, is the ultimate social beverage. The size of a bottle means it's something that you share with others. The fact that wine is ephemeral, that each bottle is a reflection of particular grapes grown in a particular place in a particular vintage, means that each one is different and also a unique reflection of time and place. Add in the human element, where the winemaker or winemakers are taking (or not taking) actions based on what they see, smell, and taste, and you have what is in essence a time capsule that comes with the added benefit of helping you enjoy a meal and bring insight into the flavors it contains. What a perfect starting point for a meaningful evening.

I wish you all memorable food and wine experiences in 2023, and even more than that, the opportunity to share them with people you love.


If you liked 2007, try 2021: a quarter-century of vintage doppelgangers at Tablas Creek

It's hard to believe, but 2021 was our 25th harvest here at Tablas Creek. What began as a simple model to make two wines, one red and one white, in the style of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, has blossomed into nearly thirty wines each year, across three colors, nineteen grapes, and a range of inspirations. We've had hot years (like 1997, 2009, 2016, and this year). We've had cold years (like 1998, 2010, and 2011). We've had "goldilocks" vintages where we hit the sweet middle ground. And yes, every vintage is different. But with a quarter century under our belt, and in response to the questions I get regularly trying to put our recent vintages in context, I thought it would be fun to dive in and talk a little about the vintage character of each of our 25 vintages, and try to give some comps for people who might have worked through their favorite and be looking to restock.

Flagship red vertical

So, from the top. Note that I didn't put anything in for 2022, since we don't know what the wines' characters are like yet from this vintage, though as you'll see there is a year that has some eye-opening echoes to how this vintage is shaping up:

  • 1997: A juicy, appealing vintage that showed surprising depth given that it came from vines at most five years old. Also the warmest year of the 1990s, with weather that is more common now, which led to a mid-August start to harvest. These wines are at the end of their lives at this point, but the red is still sound if well stored. Similar vintages: 2003, 2013.
  • 1998: Pretty much the polar opposite to 1997, with persistent on-shore flow, regular cloud cover all summer, and an October start to harvest. A relatively austere vintage in its youth, it has aged surprisingly well, and both red and white have shown well in recent tastings. Similar vintages: 2010, 2011.
  • 1999: Powerful, rambunctious wines that were the product of a warm, dry year. Whites were good from the get-go, while reds were notably tannic in their youth, though with the fruit to carry it. These wines aged well, and the red was still excellent in a recent tasting. Similar vintages: 2005, 2009.
  • 2000: The first vintage that I think we started to approach the model that we use now, including the debut of the Esprit de Beaucastel. The white showed what a lovely year it was for Roussanne, soft and appealing. The reds were earthy and meaty. Both red and white were ringers for Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Similar vintages: 2005, 2013, 2018.
  • 2001: A year with great promise and ample winter rainfall was derailed by April frosts that cost us nearly half our production and led to us declassifying most of our red production into Cotes de Tablas. An outstanding year for whites, though. The low yields and warm summer led to a relatively short hang-time, producing reds with modest concentration and a bit of a tannic edge. Similar vintages: no true comps (thankfully!) though 2009 is probably the closest overall.
  • 2002: A collector's vintage, with dense, ageworthy red wines and powerfully textured whites. The product of the first year in a drought cycle, which typically makes outstanding wines with a balance of concentration and freshness thanks to the vines' stored vigor and the intensifying effect of low rainfall. Similar vintages: 2006, 2016, 2019.
  • 2003: A joyous vintage that we underestimated at the time because it was so appealing and friendly that we thought it wouldn't have the stuffing to age. Then for 15 years we kept picking 2003 out as among our very favorites in vertical tastings. The wines are maybe not among our longest-lived, and are starting to tire a bit, but what a ride they've had. Similar vintages: 2008, 2014, 2020.
  • 2004: A vintage that I remember Francois Perrin calling "square": precise, tidy, well-structured, and classic. Very long ripening cycle, with some rain in October that delayed the picking of our latest-ripening grapes. The wines have generally aged well, and I think of them as being precisely on point for what we were going for at the time. Similar vintages: 2013, 2019.
  • 2005: A juicy, luscious, exuberant vintage in which I feel like you could taste the health of the vineyard, which got 40+ inches of rain after three years of drought. We dodged frosts, had a moderate summer and a long, beautiful fall. The grapes spent an extra month on the vines, and the vineyard was healthy throughout. We saw high yields but excellent concentration and quality. These wines have aged in outstanding fashion, gaining meatiness to balance their fruit, spice, and tannin, and the 2005 Esprit de Beaucastel is the wine I pick right now when I'm trying to show off. Similar vintages: 2007, 2017.
  • 2006: Similar overall conditions (ample rainfall, no frost) to 2005, but a later spring and a hotter summer led to wines with a bit more structure and a little less vibrancy. That seriousness meant it was a little overshadowed by the blockbuster vintages around it, and so it was a little bit of a surprise when it produced our first wine (the 2006 Esprit de Beaucastel) to be honored in the Wine Spectator's "Top 100". The low acids meant that while it has turned out to be an outstanding red vintage, it was a less strong white vintage. Similar vintages: 2002, 2016.  
  • 2007: A blockbuster year, with ample fruit, structure, spice, and meaty/earthy richness. This was a product of the previous winter, which was the coldest and driest in our history. The resulting small berries and small clusters gave outstanding concentration to everything, and the moderate summer meant that the grapes retained freshness. The reds from this year got some of our highest-ever scores, and many of these are still youthful. The whites were good but at the time we were picking riper than we do now, and I find their elevated alcohols have meant that they aged less well than the reds. Similar vintages: 2005, 2021. 
  • 2008: A challenging growing season, bookended by frosts in both April and October, led to wines that didn't have the obvious early juicy appeal of 2007. But they've turned out to be beautiful over time, with whites showing both texture and lift and reds a lovely chocolate note. This is consistently one of Winemaker Neil Collins' favorite vintages in our vertical look-backs. Similar vintages: 2015 and especially 2018.
  • 2009: The apex of the concentrated power we saw in the 2000s, with low yields a product of our third straight drought year and a damaging frost in April. Then the growing season alternated between warm and cold months until a severe heat spike in September brought many of our grapes tumbling in. We were mostly harvested when an early atmospheric river storm dumped 10 inches of rain here on October 13th, though the three weeks of warm, dry weather that followed allowed us to bring even those grapes in. The wines were so dense that it took me most of a decade for them to feel approachable, but they're shining now. Similar vintages: none, though these conditions sound a lot like what's happening in 2022.
  • 2010: An outlier vintage for us in many ways, unlike anything we'd seen in the previous decade. Ample winter rainfall and no spring frosts combined to produce a very healthy vineyard and good yields. A very cool summer followed, with harvest less than half complete on October 15th. Warm, sunny weather in late October and early November saved the vintage, and our November 13th last-pick was exceptionally late. The wines showed that coolness in their youth in minty, high-toned flavors, though we were still able to get good ripeness thanks to the friendly late-fall weather. An exceptionally good white vintage. Reds I'm less enchanted by, as they're tasting a little tired right now. I'm hopeful that this is just a stage. Similar vintages: 1998. 
  • 2011: Another outlier, just as cool as 2010 (and much chillier than any vintage since) but with low yields thanks to hard frosts April 8th and 9th. That combination of low yields and cool-vintage character made intensely savory wines, much more reminiscent of the northern Rhone than the south. The wines have aged well, too, while preserving the savory character they had when they were young. Similar vintages: none, though choose 1998, 2010, or 2015 if you want the cool-vintage character, or 2001 or 2009 if you want the concentrated structure.
  • 2012: A friendly, juicy vintage with big yields and modest concentration and structure, as one block after the next came in heavier than we'd estimated, even though rainfall was only about 70% of normal. The accumulated vigor from two previous wet winters and the limited demands on the vines' resources in the frost-reduced 2011 crop meant that it didn't act like a drought year. The wines were friendly and open from day one, and while the ageworthy reds have deepened in tone a bit, they're still medium-bodied and a touch on the simple side, and seem to be on a faster aging curve. Whites are lovely. Similar vintages: 2013 for reds, 2010 and 2014 for whites.
  • 2013: Similar growing season and similar wines as 2012, but we learned from our experience the previous year and proactively reduced our crop levels both to increase concentration and to reduce the stress on our vines in this second year of drought. A moderate summer (very few days over the low 90s) maintained lift and translated into a leafy, herby note on top of the fruit. Warm weather during harvest and low yields led to an early start and our earliest-ever finish to harvest, as we made sure that we picked early enough to maintain freshness. Similar vintages: 2012 (but with a bit more concentration), 2018. 
  • 2014: Our third consecutive drought year plus a warm summer produced wines in the classic, juicy Californian style, with a bit less alcohol than those same wines we were making in the 2000s. We got good concentration with yields similar to 2013, though we needed to drop less fruit to get there. The wines are juicy and luscious, with enough structure to keep them balanced and pretty, high-toned red fruit flavors. Similar vintages: 2003, 2017.
  • 2015: A lovely, ethereal vintage that produced wines with intense flavors but no sense of weight. With the drought at its most severe, yields were already low and further reduced by a cold, windy May that particularly impacted our early grapes. The summer alternated between warmer than normal (June, August, October) and cooler-than-normal (May, July, September) months, and resulted in a slow, extended harvest, with many of our late grapes coming in with tremendous expressiveness at low sugar levels. My dad called the vintage "athletic", which I thought was a nice way of getting at its weightless power. Similar vintages: none, really, though 2008 and 2013 have some traits they share.
  • 2016: Even though we were still in the drought, rainfall was a bit better than the previous years, and the vineyard healthier under our new Biodynamic protocols. Yields recovered a bit from 2015 levels. A warm summer produced intense wines, both reds and whites, with dark colors and the structure to age. Similar vintages: 2002, 2006, 2019. 
  • 2017: We felt like we saw a replay of 2005, where 40+ inches of rainfall broke the drought with a bang and the vineyard tried to do three years of growing in one. We dodged frosts, had a moderate summer before a dramatic heat spike in late August, but just as things got critical it cooled in September and finished under perfect conditions in October. Good yields but outstanding concentration and colors, juicy early appeal but the structure to age. Similar vintages: 2003, 2005, 2021.
  • 2018: As played out a decade earlier, a strong vintage that was overshadowed by blockbuster years on either side, producing elegant wines that were easy to underestimate. The growing season was slightly cooler than average except for a scorching midsummer (July through mid-August). Things cooled back down for harvest, and we picked with outstanding acids and solid concentration. This appears to be one of our greatest white vintages, and a strong red vintage though maybe not with the long aging of our best years. Similar vintages: 2008, 2013.
  • 2019: A classic vintage for us, strong for both reds and whites, a product of good rain the previous winter, a cool first two-thirds of the ripening cycle, then consistently warm last third that accelerated the late grapes. The resulting compressed harvest had slightly above average yields, high quality across the board, pronounced varietal character, and good structure on the reds. A classic vintage for cellaring. Similar vintages: 2004, 2016, 2017. 
  • 2020: A year that many of us would like to forget, but which looks like it produced wines we’ll want to remember. The growing season was challenging, with below-average rain, a cool early summer followed by record-breaking heat in early August and mid-September, wildfires to our north and south, and, oh, a pandemic. The heat produced an early, compressed harvest. Whites turned out to be outstanding, with a lusciousness bolstered by good acids. We're still getting to know our reds, but they appear strong as well, with intense fruitiness and good tannic bite. Similar vintages: 2003 and 2014.
  • 2021: It's our most recent vintage, so take this with a grain of salt, but I think 2021 has produced wines that rival the best we've seen in our history. Yields were reduced by a dry, chilly winter, with 13 of the 16 inches of rain coming in one January storm. The summer was lovely except for a July heat spike, and harvest unfolded in ideal conditions, with each warm stretch followed by a cool-down to give the vines (and us) some time to recover. The resulting wines have concentration and freshness, juicy appeal but structure, and (as we often see in our best years) well defined varietal character. Seemingly equally strong for both whites and reds. Similar vintages: 2017, 2019, and especially 2007. 

One of the most fun things about what I get to do is to come to know wines (and years) almost as people, with personalities and life journeys that add depth to the things we perceive on first impression. Opening an older vintage can be like revisiting an old friend, and sometimes it makes me realize that years have what are in essence sibling relationships with other years. Of course, not every year has a comp. There are some years like 2001, 2009, and 2015 whose unusual combination of factors leads to vintages we just haven't seen before or since. Perhaps that will change when we have a half-century of  years under our belt. I'll report back. Meanwhile, I hope that some of you found this helpful, or at least interesting. If this just raises new questions, leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer. 


Tasting the wines in the 2022 VINsider "Collector's Edition" shipment

Each summer, I taste through library vintages of our Esprit and Esprit Blanc to choose the wines for the upcoming VINsider Wine Club Collector's Edition shipment. We created the Collector's Edition version of our VINsider Wine Club back in 2009 to give our biggest fans a chance to see what our flagship wines were like aged in perfect conditions. Members also get a slightly larger allocation of the current release of Esprits to track as they evolve. This club gives us a chance show off our wines' ageworthiness, and it's been a great success, generating a waiting list each year since we started it.

This year, our selections will be the 2014 Esprit de Tablas and the 2016 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. Although both vintages were during our 2012-2016 five-year drought, the growing seasons proceeded quite differently.

2014 was in the middle of the drought, but that manifested itself mostly in a growing season that shifted early; both budbreak and harvest were among our earliest on record. The vineyard held up well, with crops just slightly below our long-term averages at 2.78 tons/acre and producing wines with a classic Californian style. These wines had lushness at the forefront but plenty of structure and minerality to back that up. [You can read my recap of the 2014 vintage here.]

2016 actually showed some recovery after the punishingly dry 2015 vintage, and the ~20 inches of rain we got was, while still below our long-term average, the most we'd seen since 2011. The growing season saw a very warm beginning, then an extended cool-down in August and the first half of September, and then when it got warm again, it didn't break until after we'd finished harvesting on October 8th, our earliest concluding harvest ever. The result was that the early-ripening grapes came in with good brightness and focus, while later-ripening grapes showed deep, dense flavors. Overall yields were right at our long-term average, at 2.97 tons/acre. [My recap of the 2016 vintage can be found here.]

In the end, despite their different conditions, the two vintages had more similarities than differences in how they manifested their flavors. Both showed good lush profiles, with backbone and acids to provide balance. Within those broad similarities, 2014 produced wines with a little more open, juicy personality, while 2016 showed a bit more density and tension. Both 2014 Esprit and 2016 Esprit Blanc showed beautifully when I tasted them today, with the first signs of maturity but plenty left in the tank for people who'd like to age them further. The pair:

2022 Collectors Edition Wines

My tasting notes:

  • 2016 Esprit de Tablas Blanc: Still a youthful pale gold color. Rich and powerful on the nose, immediately Roussanne in character, with an oyster shell minerality under the vanilla custard, beeswax, and tarragon notes. The palate is both rich and vibrant, with crème brulée and poached pear flavors, a lovely spine of preserved lemon acidity, and a long, broad finish of citrus zest, mandarin, and wet rocks. This vintage tied for our most Roussanne ever in the Esprit Blanc, and it was in full evidence today: 75% Roussanne, 18% Grenache Blanc, and 7% Picpoul Blanc. Lovely now, but should age in classic fashion if you'd prefer to lean into the butterscotch and roasted nuts character of aged Roussanne.
  • 2014 Esprit de Tablas: A complex nose of fruitcake, chaparral, teriyaki, and warm baking spices. On the palate, evenly balanced between redder and darker notes, with baker's chocolate, ripe plum, minty herbs, and sarsaparilla flavors. The finish lingers with moderate tannic grip, playing off flavors of black licorice, cherry skin, baking spices and a little minty juniper lift. This is just starting to show secondary flavors, and those who want more of the meaty truffly character of aged Mourvedre should feel comfortable holding this for another decade at least. 40% Mourvedre, 35% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 5% Counoise.

So how have the wines changed? The flavors in the Esprit Blanc have shifted slightly in tone, deepening from new honey to something more like vanilla custard, while retaining the minerality and acid balance of the vintage. The flavors in the Esprit have shifted from more red-fruited to something poised between red and black, and the texture has smoothed out. Both are still youthful enough that anyone who loved them when they were young will feel like they're visiting an old friend, but yet a friend who has gone on to do interesting things with their life. And, of course, they've got plenty of evolving still to do; if collectors prefer a fully mature profile they should feel safe letting them sit another decade. 

The complete Collector's Edition shipment is awfully exciting, at least to me, between the combination of the library vintages and the variety of new wines. We've been thrilled with how the 2020s have been showing, and I'm convinced the 2021 whites will go down among the best we've ever made:

  • 2 bottles of 2014 Esprit de Tablas
  • 1 bottle of 2016 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 3 bottles of 2020 Esprit de Tablas
  • 2 bottles of 2020 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 1 bottle of 2020 En Gobelet
  • 1 bottle of 2020 Grenache
  • 1 bottle of 2021 Patelin de Tablas Blanc
  • 1 bottle of 2021 Grenache Blanc

We will be adding to the Collector's Edition membership, subject to available space, in the next few weeks. If you're on the waiting list, you should be receiving an email soon with news, one way or the other, of whether you've made it on for this round. We add members, once a year, in the order in which we received applications to the waiting list. If you are currently a VINsider member and interested in getting on the waiting list, you can upgrade to the Collector's Edition online or by giving our wine club office a call. And if you are not currently a member, but would like to be, you can sign up for the VINsider Wine Club Collector's Edition, with all the benefits of VINsider Wine Club membership while you're on the waiting list.

Those of you who are members, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  And thank you, as always, for your patronage. We are grateful, and don't take it for granted.