You aren’t hearing as much about the Rocks District as you should be. You might be surprised why.

I’m not sure there’s any American Viticultural Area (AVA) as aptly named as the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. Located in north-east Oregon just 15 minutes south of the city of Walla Walla, Washington, it’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to the look of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Vines grow in deep beds of basalt cobblestones, the product of ancient volcanic eruptions, rolled and smoothed as they were tumbled down from the nearby Blue Mountains by the Walla Walla River and then deposited on the valley floor in an alluvial fan. Adding to the region's allure, it sits at roughly the same latitude as the southern Rhone. A majority of the vines are Rhone-derived; more than 45% of the vineyard acres are planted to Syrah, with other Rhone grapes like Grenache, Picpoul, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne all represented too. In just a few short years, the Rocks District has built a reputation as a place to find some of the most interesting Rhone varieties in America.

Rocks District Vines - Closeup

Neil, Cesar Perrin, Nicolas Brunier and I had the pleasure of exploring this remarkable terroir with Delmas Wines’ Brooke Robertson while we were in town for the recent Hospice du Rhone celebration.

Jason  Neil  Cesar  and Nicolas with Brooke Robertson

If great wines are borne out of struggle, this region is destined for greatness. Not only do the vines have to navigate the rocks and the paltry twelve inches of rainfall, but they have to live through winter freezes so cold that most producers (including Delmas) now bury their vines every winter to provide insulation, and then unbury them in time to prune and start the growing season1. The 300 days of sun, the long summer days due to the northern latitude, summer daily high temperatures routinely in the 90s°F and not infrequently in the 100s°F, allow for enough ripening in the short season, which can end with a freeze any time after the calendar flips to October. And did I mention the rocks?

Rocks District Cobbles

At Hospice du Rhone, the wines from Rocks District fruit were among my highlights of the Grand Tasting, with as clear a signature as any AVA or appellation I can think of. The fact that it’s a small AVA (just 3,767 acres, or less than 1% of the acreage within the Paso Robles AVA) surely helps, along with its climatic uniformity, but I think that the rocks themselves play an important role. As in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, those rocks absorb and reflect the sun, warming the ripening clusters, producing rich, powerful wines with a distinctive umami flavor of baked loamy earth.

The AVA was created relatively recently, with work beginning in 2011 and formal recognition from the United States Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in 2015. There are now, according to the AVA’s website, 52 vineyards encompassing 640 acres. More than 50 wineries source fruit from these vineyards, although there are only five production facilities within the AVA’s boundaries. Many more facilities are just a few minutes away, in Walla Walla, the center for wine production (and wine tourism) in the area, and the namesake of the larger AVA in which the Rocks District is nested. And that distance, minor though it seems, provides one of the region’s biggest challenges.

In the federal regulations that govern the American Viticultural Area (AVA) system2, there’s a clause that I’d never noticed before this visit. It says that a wine may be labeled with a viticultural area appellation if it satisfies a series of criteria, one of which is that “it has been fully finished within the State, or one of the States, within which the labeled viticultural area is located”. This clause means that all the wineries with production facilities in Walla Walla (in Washington State) can’t label their Rocks District vineyards with its AVA because that AVA lies entirely in the state of Oregon. Delmas is one of those wineries, so their labels just say Walla Walla.

Neil, Cesar, Nicolas and I were frankly flabbergasted by this restriction when we learned about it. After all, what does a state boundary (or for that matter, where a production facility is located) have to do with viticultural distinctiveness? It seemed to me that this goes against the stated purpose of an AVA, which as explained on the TTB’s website, is:

“An AVA is a delimited grape-growing region with specific geographic or climatic features that distinguish it from the surrounding regions and affect how grapes are grown. Using an AVA designation on a wine label allows vintners to describe more accurately the origin of their wines to consumers and helps consumers identify wines they may purchase.”

That I never knew about this clause in the AVA regulations stems from California’s central place in the firmament of American wine. We’ve never seriously thought about getting fruit from other states. We’re excited, with the launch of our Lignée de Tablas program, to explore other California AVAs, and that’s no problem. But the fact that we can get fruit from the Sierra Foothills (6 hours away from Paso Robles) and use their AVA but Delmas can’t get fruit from their own vineyard, 15 minutes away from the winemaking facility they share with dozens of other local wineries, feels unfair.

The TTB in fact foresaw the challenge that the creation of this new Oregon AVA so close to the region’s winemaking nexus in Washington state would pose for producers. In the 2014 notice of proposed rulemaking for the Rocks District AVA, they solicit feedback on the topic:

“TTB is interested in comments from persons who believe they may be negatively impacted by the inability to use ‘The Rocks District of Milton– Freewater’ as an appellation of origin on a wine label solely because they use facilities located in Washington.”

The TTB must have received enough feedback to convince them that there was support for modifying their rules, because the next year they proposed a rule change to address it:

“The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is proposing to amend its regulations to permit the use of American viticultural area names as appellations of origin on labels for wines that would otherwise qualify for the use of the AVA name, except that the wines have been fully finished in a State adjacent to the State in which the viticultural area is located, rather than the State in which the labeled viticultural area is located. The proposal would provide greater flexibility in wine production and labeling while still ensuring that consumers are provided with adequate information as to the identity of the wines they purchase.”

I would have thought that the TTB’s proposed rule change would have been uncontroversial, but it ended up far from the case. Organizations that submitted letters in opposition included Napa Valley Vintners, Family Winemakers of California, the Washington State Wine Commission, and the California Wine Institute. Some included proposed changes that would satisfy their concerns, while others just requested that the proposed new rule be scrapped. Even the Oregon Winegrowers Alliance & Walla Walla Wine Alliance submitted a comment in opposition, although the change that they requested was minor. In every case, the stated reason for opposition was because the regional associations worried that state laws that modify the federal regulations overseeing wine production would be unenforceable in a neighboring state. A good example would be the Oregon requirement that to be varietally labeled, a wine must contain 90% of the listed grape, a more restrictive standard than the federal requirement that a varietal wine contain at least 75% of the named grape.

A few of the comments hinted at a second reason: that they were worried that if a cheaper nearby state could make wine from a prestigious appellation, there might be an exodus of jobs to that lower-cost (or less regulated) state, with economic damage to the established reason.

As typically happens when it receives conflicting feedback, the TTB backtracked and the proposed change was never made. This may have avoided the unintended consequences that the regional associations were worried about, but it leaves the producers in the Rocks District with the same challenge that the TTB identified back in 2014. Are they supposed to all build wineries in Oregon when they’re already established in Washington State? Or establish the reputation of their new AVA without the powerful tool of identifying the wines’ place of origin on their labels?

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the economic argument (made mostly by commenters from the Napa Valley) given that California is already so large, and with such different costs of production, that any negative damage would likely have already happened. Does Napa Valley’s economy suffer when a Paso Robles winery buys grapes and puts out a Napa Valley AVA wine? I don’t see it.3 And even if you did see it, given the size of California, that ship has sailed. 

The other objection, that state wine laws that try to ensure a higher quality product would be unenforceable out-of-state, doesn’t seem to me like an unsolvable problem. In fact, the Wine Institute proposed an elegant solution in their comment objecting to the proposed rule (their addition emphasized):

“(iv) In the case of American wine, it has been fully finished (except for cellar treatment pursuant to §4.22(c), and blending which does not result in an alteration of class and type under §4.22(b)) within the State the viticultural area is located in or an adjacent state, or for, a viticultural area located in two or more States, within one of the States in which the viticultural area is located, and it conforms to the laws and regulations governing the composition, method of manufacture, and designation of wines in all of the States where the viticultural area is located.

It seems to me like this solution gives something to everyone. Appellations like the Rocks District get to build their reputation by appearing on wine labels. Winemakers get the flexibility to source grapes from diverse regions and tell consumers where they come from, without having to build new wineries across state lines. Grape growers are able to benefit from the reputation of the region they help establish. States retain the ability to enforce regulations designed to enhance quality or distinctiveness. And consumers get more clarity on where the wines they love come from. Let's hope that the TTB revisits this issue soon, with a more tailored approach.

Meanwhile, go out and do a little research on which Walla Walla AVA wines actually come from the Rocks District, and try to find a bottle or three. You won’t be disappointed.

Delmas Bottle

Footnotes:

  1. How cold? This January 13th, the low was -8°F and the high just 4°F.
  2. That would be the Federal Register Title 27 Chapter I Subchapter A Part 4 Subpart C § 4.25(e)(3)(iv) for anyone keeping score.
  3. I would also note that I think this argument raises commerce clause objections about a state using regulation to protect its businesses from competition from competing businesses in other states.

Other Wines We've Loved: 2007 Beaucastel

Last night, with my sister Janet in town, we decided to grill. I got a lovely two-inch-thick, two-pound boneless ribeye from our local butcher J&R Meats. I don't normally cook such thick steaks, but think I'm going to in the future. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and set it over a grill in a technique I've been using more and more, where I heat the briquettes and then pile them on the sides of the grill, leaving an area in the middle that's heated from two sides but doesn't have any briquettes there to flare up should fat drip onto them. I grilled the steak for about eight minutes on each side, over a hot but not scorching fire, and then pulled it off the coals to rest for five minutes when the internal temperature hit 135°F. 

To accompany the steaks, I sautéed up some mushrooms we'd gotten from our farm share with white wine, parsley, and garlic (working off an old Mark Bittman recipe), baked some potatoes, and made a salad. It was a meal that showed why the classics are the classics. The steak came out a perfect medium-rare, juicy and with excellent steaky flavor. The tanginess and umami of the mushrooms were a great foil for (or accompaniment to) each bite of steak. The potatoes were fluffy and soaked up the juices. And the salad, which we ate at the end in the French style, was refreshing and tasty. 

To accompany the meal, I wanted a wine with enough fruit and tannin to stand up to the robust flavors on the plate and enough complexity to add to the night's experience. I chose a 2007 Beaucastel, which I remember thinking was one of the greatest young wines I'd ever had when I tried it at a dinner in 2010. Our Controller Denise Chouinard remembered my talking about the wine when I came back to the winery, and got me a case of it later that year. Those bottles have been sitting in my cellar ever since. I decanted the wine to give it a bit of air:

2007 Beaucastel Bottle
 The wine was every bit as good as I'd remembered. I jotted down some notes as we were finishing the bottle:

Still a lovely dense purple-red. Nose of licorice and smoky chaparral and minty currant and black cherry. Flavors of bakers chocolate and black plum, graphite and baking spices. Still youthful and powerful at age 16, with plenty of tannins to go another two decades. 

The five of us finished every drop of wine, and every bite of food, and sat around the table talking for another hour. It was a great reminder of the magic of a great bottle of wine: that it brings people together, evokes past gatherings, reminds you of the traditions you're a part of even as you create new ones. I'm grateful I have several more bottles of this, and can't wait to be reminded of this meal the next time I open one.


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.


What the Tablas Creek team is drinking with our Thanksgivings in 2023

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It's brings extended family together for a day of cooking, eating, and reflecting on what we're grateful for. It's still largely uncommercialized. And it comes at a time of year where those of us who work at wineries are finally able to slow down and relax. Especially after this year's late, long harvest, that's something to be thankful for indeed.

Before diving into specific recommendations, it's worth going over some things that don't change. Try not to stress over your choices. Open a range of wines. Expect each of them to sing with a dish or two, coexist peacefully enough with another, and maybe clash with something. That can be fun, and instructive. Remember, and accept that it's OK, that nothing will pair particularly well with sweet potato casserole or roasted Brussels sprouts. Open a few more wines than you think you'll need, and don't feel bad about having wine leftovers, along with your food. You'll likely learn something, and have fun along the way. Remember that open bottles kept in the fridge should be fine for a week or more. And if you're still stressing after reading all these recommendations, I refer you to the 2016 piece on W. Blake Gray's blog where he set up a simple 5-question quiz to answer the question "is this wine good for Thanksgiving". I'm sure I haven't gone through every possible combination, but I've never gotten any answer other than "yes".

OK, now that I've told you any choice is perfectly fine, it's only fair that I acknowledge my own preferences. After all, there are wines that I tend to steer clear of, like wines that are powerfully tannic (which tend to come off even more so when they're paired with some of the sweeter Thanksgiving dishes), and wines that are high in alcohol (which tend to be fatiguing by the end of what is often a marathon of eating and drinking). But that still leaves you plenty of options. With a traditional turkey dinner, I tend to steer people toward richer whites and rosés, and fruitier reds relatively light in oak and tannin. Plenty of Tablas Creek wines fit these broad criteria, so if you want to stay in the family, you could try anything from Roussanne and Esprit Blanc to Dianthus Rosé to Counoise or Cotes de Tablas. Richer red meat preparations open up a world of Mourvedre-based reds young or old, from Esprit de Tablas to Panoplie to En Gobelet, which just (say it out loud) sounds like something you should be drinking at this time of year.  

Capon with Panoplie

But I'm just one person. As I've done the last several years, I reached out to our team to ask them what they were planning on drinking this year. This is super fun for me to see, and I'm hoping it will be as much fun for you. One thing I love is that while some will be drinking Tablas Creek, many (including me!) have made other choices. And that's normal. Those of us who work in wine usually do so part because we love its many facets, and there's an amazing variety of wine made around the world. Whether you choose an American wine for this quintessentially American holiday, or celebrate America as a melting pot by choosing wines from elsewhere, I refer you back to Blake Gray's article. You're not wrong.

My team's responses are below, in their own words, in alphabetical order.

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
I am such a traditionalist that I tend to reach for the same bottles of wine each year. Why fix something that isn’t broken, eh?! In our house we always roast a turkey with all the fixings, and my absolute favorite wines to pair with all the goodies are Tablas Creek Counoise, and Bourboulenc.  The Bourboulenc is a newer addition to our table because it is a relatively newer addition to TCV’s portfolio, but it is an absolute stunner!  There will be bubbles while playing board games, loads of charcuterie, and lots and lots of laughs! From my family to yours – Happy Holiday!

Charlie Chester, Senior Assistant Tasting Room Manager
This Thanksgiving, we're keeping things simple, delicious, and easygoing. On the menu: a classic turkey and, weather permitting, maybe a BBQ pork loin. To wash it down, we're opting for the Lone Madrone Carbonic Cinsault – a fruity red that plays well with turkey's savory goodness.

If we successfully get to fire up the grill, I plan on serving a 2020 TCV Grenache to complement both entrees. One of my "go-to" wines for its liveliness and versatility

Joining us at the table will be my sister's family and, of course, visiting from Long Island, Tennessee, and the coast of Oregon, my brand-new in-laws from Amber's side. We're looking forward to the laughs, stories, and shared joy that make Thanksgiving special. So, here's to good food, great company, and a couple of wines that promise to make it a Thanksgiving to remember. Cheers!

Amanda Collins, Cellar Assistant
Thanksgiving is one of the most unpredictable holidays in my opinion. I never know where we are going, who’s going to be there, or what’s going to be served until the last few days before. I know that probably puts me in a severe minority here…. 

That being said, this usually means grabbing wines that can be paired with just about anything! So this year I’m going with our Clairette Blanche and our Counoise. Clairette is light crisp and a bit shy so as to not overwhelm the palate, she’s pretty without being boastful. Then we have counoise that carries its light spice quality on the back of lovely juicy notes that tend to lift the holiday spirits and compliments a variety of dishes! I hope I chose correctly!!! Either way, we are sure to be surrounded by good people, good food, and many fun wines! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Austin Collins, Cellar and Vineyard
After a long hard harvest Thanksgiving will be a welcome reprieve from work madness. The same as every year I believe it important to drink 2023 Beaujolais Nouveau from several producers. It drinks so very fresh and lightens up the heavy thanksgiving dishes. It is also likely that we will open a few bottles of Esprit de Tablas Blanc, vintages yet to be chosen, but I am leaning toward the 2021, as it is very lively right now. Finally, to cap it all off I will be opening a 2014 Domaine Berthet-Bondet Vin Jaune. I love Vin Jaune, especially for this time of year, and especially from Chateau Chalon. Happy Thanksgiving.

Neil Collins, Director of Winemaking
What wines will be on our Thanksgiving table this year?

We will certainly be opening a 2022 Lone Madrone Wirz Riesling, Cienega Valley, planted in 1964, as it was recently released and we're all excited about it, perfect for the day. I also have been saving a bottle of Reyneke Chenin Blanc, a natural wine, Demeter biodynamic certified from South Africa. I am generally not especially a fan of natural wines as they are often a bit funky for me, often tasting like everything I spend my life trying to avoid, but when in the right hands and well-made they can be very special. This bottle was a gift from my friend Tommy Oldre, he konws my taste well so I trust that it will be fun. As always there will be an Esprit Blanc and an Esprit Red present, There will surely be Bristols Cider lurking in the ice box. In a wine focused family it is always fun to see what shows up on the table.

Enjoy a great table of food, wine and great company. When the three align it makes for something truly special!!!!!

Ian Consoli, Director of Marketing
I am looking at a smaller group around the table this year, so I won't open as many bottles as usual. That being the case, I need to make sure they're the good stuff! We'll start with some Champagne from Delamotte. Then, I have a bottle of Condrieu, a Cinsaut from Sandlands, and a few red Burgundies to choose from in my cellar. The Cinsaut is the one I am most curious to try. I feel Cinsaut (like Counoise) should have a lot of success with Thanksgiving dinner.

Terrence Crowe, Tasting Room
Tis the season to be thankful. Thankful for for family, friends and the creek of Tablas. The wines for this years thanksgiving feast are as follows:

The wines are a representation  of my ‘thanksgiving’ to an organization that is a true pillar of the community. An authentic, forerunner and leader in a town undergoing much recent change. 

TributDarren Delmore, National Sales Manager
My family will be deep in the oyster lands of West Marin County on the holiday, so I'm packing my last bottle of 2020 Laurent Tribut Chablis AC to accompany some raw Kumamotos if all goes well. Tribut is a classic and hard to find longtime Vineyard Brands small production gem. When I had this vintage a couple months back, it tasted like lemon zest and oyster shells itself, with the ripeness of the year smoothing out the producer's hallmark austerity.  

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
After so many jokes that Harvest 2023 was going to end sometime in 2024, I’m incredibly grateful to get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my little family without worrying about breaking up the day with fermentation cap management; we’re finished in the cellar and are slowly assimilating back into society! This year, my husband, daughter and I will be heading to Mexico for some much-needed (and appreciated) post-harvest bonding time. While Mexico does produce wines, I’ll likely be focusing on cervezas and tequila/mezcal based cocktails to pair with the local fare. Wherever and however you are celebrating, I hope your glass is filled with something that elevates the experience and brings immense joy!

Eddie Garcia, Logistics
After a several year hiatus of not traveling for Thanksgiving… this year I’m packing my bags and hitting the road to Phoenix. But, I’m making sure that I’m not leaving empty handed and bringing a taste of Paso with me . I have two wines that I’m excited to share with my family this year. The first is a 2020 Le Cuvier Zinfandel. A solid choice to introduce Paso Zinfandel to a couple family members I found out recently have never tasted a Zin! And my second choice is a 2020 “The Dance” Cabernet Sauvignon from Barton Family Wines. A solid west side Cab. that I’m bringing for the family members who like hearty reds… *my hand is raised*.   

Most importantly though taking time to be thankful for the chance in spending time with family, my kids being healthy/happy and being part of the TCV family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Kaitlyn Glynn, Cellar Assistant
This Thanksgiving we will be starting the day with some autumn cocktails before moving on to the wines. First up will be an easy drinking 2022 Grenache Pet Nat from Dreamcote which will pair nicely with the football we will be watching that day! Next we have a lineup of 2021 Tablas Creek Esprit Blanc, the 2021 Hot Blooded Counoise from Barton Family Wines, and the 2021 Lapsus from Benom to enjoy throughout the day and with our feast. Happy Thanksgiving!

Craig Hamm, Assistant Winemaker
This Thanksgiving came up real quick on me. Having just pressed of most of the grapes in the cellar, I haven’t had much time to think about the upcoming holidays. Our Thanksgiving dinner will be held at my brother’s house. I will be opening a 2022 Patelin Rosé as my mother would like to have a glass of a rose with her meal. We opened a few different Turley wines at harvest lunches and they have been amazing, so I will stop by and pick up a bottle of something they are pouring in there tasting room on Vineyard Drive. Nice perk when living in wine country! I will bring a bottle I made from Velo Vineyard Syrah in 2018. There has to be a Grenache on the table so Tablas Creek 2021 Grenache will definitely be there. Cheers and Happy holidays.

Dusty Hannah, Tasting Room
This year I am looking forward to having a traditional type Thanksgiving with some close friends. Friends that are very special to me and because of that I want to share some special bottles. Therefore, I couldn't think of anything better than Tablas Creek.

1997 Tablas Creek Rouge. I was fortunate enough to land one of these bottles as a gift from Neil Collins, and I even got to sample another bottle a few months ago and it still has plenty of life! Really looking forward to it!
 
2019 Tablas Creek Counoise. Before I discovered this wonderful grape, my Thanksgiving wine was a Cru Beaujolais, but Counoise has now taken over as my mainstay for Thanksgiving. It has soft tannins, wonderful notes of red fruit and good acidity, which is something that is needed to pair with my wide range of dishes on my table.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Cheers.

Ray's WinesRay King, Tasting Room
My family and I will enjoy a small traditional Thanksgiving here in Paso Robles. We will be enjoying:

2018 Haliotide, Extra Brut Rosé, 100% Pinot Noir. San Luis Obispo County. 12.2 abv 
2020 Bico Amarelo, Vinho Verde, Portugal. 11.5 abv
2021 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Mourvèdre. ROC & CCOF certified. 13.0 abv. 
 
Simple and delicious. 

Jordan Lonborg, Viticulturist (sent in from vacation)
A magnum of 2018 Esprit Rouge for the family this year! 

Erin Mason, Regenerative Specialist
This is the first Thanksgiving in a long time that I don’t have some specific wine in mind for the table. American wines always feel right for this holiday, though. So if I’m drinking and sharing what I have (and love) that fits the theme…then I’ll be opening a 2021 Desire Lines Massa Vineyard Riesling, a 2021 Sandlands Red Table Wine, and a 2019 Hirsch Vineyard Block 8 Pinot Noir. But I might just be drinking gin and tonics! 

Joanna Mohr, Harvest Intern
I’m a last minute everything so my Thanksgiving wines are yet to be bought, but I can’t get enough of our current release Grenache so that will absolutely be enjoyed. I can never choose between pairing turkey with white or red because I think both are equally as fun. I had a great Muscadet Sur Lié the other day that I think will pair great. And a Chinon almost always makes an appearance!

John Morris, Tasting Room Manager
For me the key to Thanksgiving is to keep it simple.  Unless you’re hosting a group of wine geeks, getting too caught up in the perfect pairing can seem a bit much with all that’s going on with both food and guests.  Most writers will relay the same basic info:  choose, low-tannin, moderate-alcohol reds, or richer whites with minimal to no oak.  Fortunately, if you’re choosing Tablas Creek wines, there’s no shortage of options!  Counoise, Grenache, and Côte de Tablas are great choices for reds, while, Marsanne, Bourboulenc, and Côtes de Tablas Blanc are great white choices.  Or maybe an Esprit de Tablas Blanc if you really, really (and I mean really) like your guests.  This year however, I stopped by Wines on Main in Templeton, which was just opened by Jennifer Baeza, a long-time Tasting Room  host here at Tablas Creek, and picked up a 2018 Zyme Valpolicella from Veneto in Northern Italy as the main wine for the meal.  Although I haven’t had this wine, I love Valpolicellas for their medium weight, floral aromas, and subtle fruitiness that is often countered by a touch of bitterness.  Let’s see how it turns out!

Gustavo Prieto, Bidynamicist
Like most years I like to start with bubbles and I’m opening a Cremant de Loire Amirault N/V, from a great producer and it is biodynamic!

For the dinner table, as always I love to have one of my favorites whites from Tablas, a 2004 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, a powerful vintage that will go well with all the different flavors. For reds, a pretty 2005 Esprit the Beaucastel from a great vintage year, also we’ll have on the table a great producer from Cornas, France, Alain Voge, 2019 Chapelle Saint-Pierre. This is a 100% Syrah, with beautiful earthy notes, made from biodynamic grown grapes.

Sarah Schultz, Harvest Intern
Getting to see my family is one of the many reasons why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Our Thanksgiving is an all day affair with food, games, and of course, wine. This year as our family from Lakeport, CA, cannot make it, we have decided to drink wines from Lake county that way they are celebrating with us in spirit. We will start the morning with a light breakfast and Boatique Brut Bubbles. (Pomegranate or orange juice optional) Appetizers include my moms signature spinach dip and popping open a bottle of Brassfield 2021 Pinot Gris. Our dinner is a traditional smoked turkey dinner cooked by my dad this year being served with 2017 Writers Block Syrah. Happy Thanksgiving!

And as for me...
Typically, my choice is to open the largest bottle I have to hand at Thanksgiving gatherings. There's usually a story behind a big bottle, and the randomness of "just open it" adds a certain amount of pleasurable discovery to the gathering, as well as the festivity that large bottles bring. But for the first time in more than 15 years, I'm spending Thanksgiving in Vermont where I grew up, and my dad really didn't collect large-format bottles. So we did the best we could by buying a magnum of Domaine Tempier Rosé from our lovely local wine shop Meditrina, and we'll open some of the lovely old Burgundies that my dad laid down. Here are some of the options:

Wines from outside cellar

We'll probably want a white as well, and my go-to is Esprit Blanc with some -- but not too much -- age. Maybe the 2012 that has been so pretty recently. We'll probably also break into a dessert wine, because if not with a meal like this, when you have a crowd around the table and aren't expected to do anything beyond play games and watch football, when?!? Beyond that, we'll have to see! 

Wherever you are, however you're celebrating, please know that we are thankful for you. May your celebrations be memorable, the wines you open outstanding, and the company even better.


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.


A Regenerative Organic Certified Vineyard Tour of the North Coast

By Ian Consoli

As the vineyard that participated in the Regenerative Organic Alliance's pilot program and the first Regenerative Organic Certified® vineyard in the world, we at Tablas Creek have kept a watchful eye on the growth of wineries pursuing and achieving ROC® status (For more info on ROC, start with this blog post from our viticulturist Jordan Lonborg). Their current membership is 15 vineyards from around the world. That number includes wineries in California, Oregon, Chile, and Argentina, with 15-20 more applications from wineries in Austria, Japan, Italy, Chile, and California. I recently had an excuse to stay on the North Coast (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino) for a week, and I thought, "What would my perfect wine trip look like?" The answer is one composed of all ROC vineyards. After looking at the ROA's directory, I found five on the North Coast (four with tasting rooms and one without), and the four with tasting rooms line up to form a perfect one or two-day wine trip.

I took notes on my experience to share it here and encourage you to take the same trip. Here they are in the order in which I visited each of the four ROC wineries, with a bonus vineyard visit at the end:

ROC Tasting Room Roadtrip

Donum Estate

Donum Estate is an absolutely stunning 200-acre estate in Carneros. The property went through two significant revolutions since its original planting in 1990. First, when it was purchased by art collectors Allan and Mei Warburg in 2008, who adorned the estate with a globally renowned sculpture collection. Secondly, when they hired Director of Winegrowing Tony Chapman in 2019, and he made the ambitious decision to pursue biodynamic and, eventually, regenerative organic agriculture. These two passions combine to make one of the most memorable vineyard experiences in the world.

Tony Chapman and Derek Holmgren at Donum Estate

Tony and Associate Winegrower Derek Holmgren were my guides when I visited Donum. These guys both worked at Tablas Creek in 2013-2014 and witnessed the start of our animal program. What they are doing at Donum is extraordinary, from composting to on-site biochar production, a beneficial insect habitat program, and multi-species grazing with sheep, chickens, and ducks. Their cover crop included insectary rows of flowers like bachelor buttons, farewell to springs, California native poppies, and yarrow to attract beneficial insects that combat mealy bugs. They create compost teas from on-site biodynamic preparations. They even have their own Huglkultur site. Combine these practical, beautiful applications of regenerative agriculture with the world's most extensive accessible private sculpture collection, and you have one of the most beautiful vineyards I have ever seen. Donum has 340 acres over four properties with 160 acres under vine in Carneros, the Russian River Valley, and Sonoma Coast, all certified ROC, with a recently purchased 52-acre estate in Anderson Valley that they plan to convert over.

Donum specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with other small plantings of Merlot and Pinot Meunier. I tried their Rose of Pinot Noir, White Barn Pinot Noir, and West Slope Pinot Noir. One Pinot showed lovely bright yet intense fruit, while the other showed an earthy, serious character. You can find their wines and book your visit on their website. Their first ROC vintage is 2023, so expect to see the seal on their wine labels over the next year or two.

Grgich Hills

Grgich Hills Vineyard at Rutherford
Grgich Hills was founded by Napa pioneer, Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, who happens to be celebrating his 100th birthday this year! Happy birthday Mike. The pioneer of California wine is also a pioneer of organic and biodynamic agriculture. Our history with Grgich goes back over a decade. It was after a visit to Grgich that Robert Haas took back in March of 2010 that we decided to pursue biodynamics. So it was no surprise to hear Grgich joined ROC earlier this year.

I visited Grgich Hills' American Canyon vineyard, one of their five ROC vineyard sites. My hosts were the Head of Regenerative Organics, Bernat Sort Costa, Marketing Director Sally Camm, and Digital Marketing Specialist Luke Jeramaz. The site is stunning. There are beneficial flower plantings all along the road. They have begun experimenting with row hedges, where they sacrifice four rows of vines to plant a beneficial flower habitat that never gets mowed. They are one of fifteen wineries participating in a bird monitoring experiment with UC Davis. Each winery has multiple birdhouses staged to attract specific native birds. The houses track habits and collects feces to determine what birds eat what bugs. They graze hens, ducks, and Guinea fowl along with their sheep. They also built permanent beehives to home bees within their vineyards.

After touring the vineyard, Luke took me to their tasting room on Highway 29 to try some wine. An incredibly friendly and inviting staff was there to greet me near their closing time. I very much appreciated the experience. I tried multiple wines from their estates with standouts like the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville Old Vine and 2018 Zinfandel. Their wines showed why they are Napa classics that I could go back to repeatedly.

You can purchase their wines and book a visit to their tasting room on their website. They also received ROC in 2023 and will put the seal on their bottles starting with the 2023 vintage.

 Medlock Ames

Medlock Ames co-founder Ames Morrison

Medlock Ames was established in 1998 by college friends Chris Medlock James and Ames Morison. Ames grew up on his father's organic farm but was really pursuaded by the value of organic farming when he was stationed in Guatemala with the Peace Corps. He saw how unsustainable crop planting led to a need for synthetic inputs and limited farmers on what they could do. So when Ames and Chris bought their vineyard, they knew they would farm and certify organic. More recently, Ames heard individuals he admired in the wine industry talking about regenerative viticulture. Their team visited Tablas Creek shortly after we became ROC, and they jumped into the certification process. They have a tasting room in Healdsburg with more immersive experiences at their Bell Mountain Ranch location. I met with Ames and their Head of Sales Operations, Isabella Bandeira de Mello, at the Bell Ranch location.

Their property is 338 acres, of which only 44 are planted to vines, all farmed ROC, and straddles the line between Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley appellations. Their practices include on-site composting, cover crops, and grazing sheep within vine rows. I joined Ames on a tour he gave to guests thrilled by the pillars and concepts of regenerative agriculture. Ames took the time to emphasize the importance of the Social Fairness pillar in regenerative agriculture. This pillar is one we see overlooked as the term "regenerative" is used increasingly, so seeing the founder of Medlock Ames' emphasis on it was what I would expect from a Regenerative Organic Certifed brand.

The wines at Medlock Ames are absolutely fantastic. I have seen their labels multiple times and, for whatever reason, their contents haven't made their way into my glass. It almost happened on this visit as well because I spent so much time absorbing the property I had to run to my next appointment. Luckily, I stopped into the tasting room on my way out for a splash of 2019 Bell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and 2019 Fifty Tons Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are different in character, despite being made with the same grape. Bell Mountain is almost refreshing on the palate, with bright fruit flavors and soft tannins. Fifty Tons shows more of the new oak it was aged in with a robust palate. Their flavor lingered on my palate even as I ran off to my next visit.

You can purchase their wines and book a visit on their website. I highly recommend the Bell Mountain Ranch experience.

Truett-Hurst

Truett-Hurst Winery was co-founded by the late Paul Dolan. A true pioneer in organic, biodynamic, and regenerative agriculture, his recent passing was felt deeply by many in the wine industry. Paul was instrumental in establishing the Regenerative Organic Alliance by serving on its board and recruiting Executive Director Elizabeth Whitlow to run the organization. The Truett-Hurst winery is a tangible piece of his lasting legacy in viticulture, nestled along Dry Creek. Their tasting room is beautiful, serene, and a must-see experience.

Seating at Truett Hurst

The Truett-Hurst estate underwent revitalization after they purchased the land in 2007. It had been farmed conventionally for decades, and the process of converting to organic, biodynamic, and ROC was a challenge they were happy to accept for the sake of the land and the wine. They focused on the soil, creating on-site compost from pomace and organic cow manure, cover cropping, biodynamic applications, and grazing their goats and sheep during the dormant season. They utilize their property to help with Dry Creek's restoration, which reflects their appreciation for life and the land. Their estate stands as an example for conventional farmers interested in ROC but hesitant because of the road ahead. Truett-Hurst proves that the conversion can be done, and the results are worth every effort.

In addition to what they grow on their estate, they source exclusively from organic and biodynamic vineyards. I wanted to try all of their ROC wines, so the tasting room attendant was kind enough to pour me their 2019 Estate Zinfandel, 2019 Estate Petite Sirah, and 2019 Dark Horse GPS from Paul's home vineyard in Ukiah. All were rich and delicious.

You can buy the wines and book your visit on their website. You won't see the ROC seal on their bottles anytime soon because they use a custom crush facility for making their wines. It brings up a hurdle for smaller producers who go ROC in their vineyards but don't have a wine production partner willing to certify their facility organic.

Bonterra

Bonterra Organic Estates, formerly Fetzer Vineyards, is the bonus winery on this list. They do not currently have a tasting room, but I was invited to visit their estate in Mendocino County, the old Fetzer property called The McNab Ranch. In 1985 the Fetzer family built a food and wine center on this property, and the then-CEO of Fetzer Vineyards, Paul Dolan, inspired the company to pursue organic grape growing and establish the brand Bonterra in 1993. Bonterra grew to become one of the world's largest wine producers to exclusively utilize organic grapes. Their decision to pursue ROC is huge for the certification and wine industry. With about 850 acres Regenerative Organic Certified, they have the power to make wines with the ROC seal on their labels commercially and readily available. Their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon bearing the seal have already hit shelves nationwide. I met with their winemaker, Jeff Cichocki.

Bonterra Winemaker Jeff Cichocki

The McNab Ranch location is around 200 acres in Mendocino County. It is a beautiful place with beneficial flowers planted throughout and a creek running through the center of the property. Bonterra was an early adopter of biodynamics, and they continue to utilize biodynamic preparations and techniques. They limit their tillage, plant cover crop, and work with a local sheepherder to bring in around 3000 sheep to graze the property. Jeff showed a marked enthusiasm for ROC because of its benefits to the soil and how well consumers respond to the three pillars in the market. We were both in agreement that brands like ours still have a long way to go in communicating what makes regenerative agriculture important, but the Regenerative Organic Alliance developed a valuable platform for helping a broad range of consumers understand why regenerative agriculture matters to them.

As I mentioned above, Bonterra already released their ROC Chardonnay and Cabernet into the market. They currently sell them as a two-pack on their website for $40! Delicious and accessible, the opportunity to get great ROC-certified wines around $20 will open up the ROC world to a whole new audience of consumers.

Conclusion:

It was evident from my trip that enthusiasm for ROC is at an all-time high. We have already heard from multiple wineries in the process of going Regenerative Organic Certified. It is exciting to feel what early pioneers of organic viticulture must have felt as they educated an entire generation of wine drinkers on the importance of organic grapes. I hope you'll take the time to visit these wineries and support everything this new age of pioneers is working towards.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!


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.


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.


What We're Drinking with Thanksgiving 2022

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It's brings extended family together for a day of cooking, eating, and reflecting on what we're grateful for. It's still largely uncommercialized. And it comes at a time of year where those of us who work at wineries are finally able to slow down and relax. After the ten-week sprint that is harvest, that's something to be thankful about indeed.

Before diving into specific recommendations, it's worth going over some things that don't change. Try not to stress over your choices. Open a range of wines. Expect each of them to sing with a dish or two, coexist peacefully enough with another, and maybe clash with something. That can be fun, and instructive. Remember, and accept that it's OK, that nothing will pair particularly well with sweet potato casserole or roasted Brussels sprouts. Open a few more wines than you think you'll need, and don't feel bad about having wine leftovers, along with your food. You'll likely learn something, and have fun along the way. Remember that open bottles kept in the fridge should be fine for a week or more. And if you're still stressing after reading all these recommendations, I refer you to the 2016 piece on W. Blake Gray's blog where he set up a simple 5-question quiz to answer the question "is this wine good for Thanksgiving". I'm sure I haven't gone through every possible combination, but I've never gotten any answer other than "yes".

OK, now that I've told you any choice is perfectly fine, it's only fair that I acknowledge my own preferences. After all, there are wines that I tend to steer clear of, like wines that are powerfully tannic (which tend to come off even more so when they're paired with some of the sweeter Thanksgiving dishes), and wines that are high in alcohol (which tend to be fatiguing by the end of what is often a marathon of eating and drinking). But that still leaves you plenty of options. With a traditional turkey dinner, I tend to steer people toward richer whites and rosés, and fruitier reds relatively light in oak and tannin. Plenty of Tablas Creek wines fit these broad criteria, so if you want to stay in the family, you could try anything from Marsanne and Esprit Blanc to Dianthus Rosé to Counoise or Cotes de Tablas. Richer red meat preparations open up a world of Mourvedre-based reds young or old, from Esprit de Tablas to Panoplie to En Gobelet, which just (say it out loud) sounds like something you should be drinking at this time of year.  

But I'm just one person. As I've done the last several years, I reached out to our team to ask them what they were planning on drinking this year. Their responses are below, in their own words, in alphabetical order.

Charlie Chester, Senior Assistant Tasting Room Manager
This year for Thanksgiving we are going non-traditional and skipping Turkey. We will be having an apple cider brined pork loin. I was thinking of roasting it in the oven but the weather looks too good to pass up some time with the Webber! In addition to the pork, we will have some bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts, a yet-to-be-chosen potato dish, and my sister will bring an undisclosed vegetable dish and dessert of some kind. I am sure Amber mentioned other sides that will be made but I can’t remember them now. A very mysterious menu I know. For the wines I am thinking of opening:

  • My last bottle of the sold-out TCV 2021 Vermentino (while I man the grill)

With dinner:

I am sure we may get excited about and open other wines we have on hand but that will be determined as the day progresses. Happy “Turkey Day” everyone!

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
Jordan instigated Lone Madrone's first Riesling in 2021, dry farmed and head trained, from the Wirz Vineyard, planted in 1964, located in the Cienega Valley. This will be a good place to start. I have a couple of bottles left of 2010 Madeline Cabernet Franc which should be showing wonderfully, coincidentally also from the Cienega Valley. I have been attempting to organize my cellar and have some older Tablas Creek wines to enjoy. Perhaps a 2016 Le Complice and a 2006 Esprit Rouge. As always there will be a Bristols Cider in the mix as it is so perfect for the occasion, currently I am enjoying the NC2. That should be a good line up, but as always we reserve the right to pull wine that feels right at the moment!! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!!

Thanksgiving 2022 - Champagnes from Ian's tripIan Consoli, Director of Marketing
I look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with my mother, father, brother, two neighbors, and my mother’s friend visiting from England. She came out to experience her first American Thanksgiving and enjoys wine, so I am planning an array to choose from. We’ll start the meal with a Champagne I picked up this past May. I traveled to Champagne as part of my EMBA program through Sonoma State. I brought back five favorites from the wineries we visited, and Ayala Brut Majeur feels right for this occasion. We will open an Anderson Valley Chardonnay from FEL, a wine my friend made that happens to be on the same Gayot “13 Best Thanksgiving Wines of 2022” list as our 2020 Esprit Blanc. I still need to decide on the rose, but A Tribute to Grace’s is the frontrunner. I have a few French wines lined up for reds: A Savigny-Les-Beaune 1er Cru Les Narbantons 2017 and Xavier & Agnes Amirault St Nicolas de Bourgueil, Les Clos Le Quarterons VV 2015. Finally, Tablas Creek Counoise completes any Thanksgiving meal. Wishing everyone the best this Thanksgiving!

Terrence Crowe, Tasting Room
This year's Thanksgiving festivities will be elevated by a curated selection of spectacular white wines. The following wines will adorn the table with graceful aplomb:

2016 Maison Les Alexandrins Hermitage Blanc 
2019 Tablas Creek Vineyard Marsanne
2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit De Tablas Blanc

Gobble gobble!

Thanksgiving Darren Delmore WhitethornDarren Delmore, National Sales Manager
After carousing most of America's Southwest for the last three months selling wine, my family is kicking back in Templeton this year. I have one bottle left of the 2020 Roussanne, which I confess nipping on while it was sitting in its French Oak oval during élevage. Autumnal in character, rich but light on its feet, it should be an excellent starting and ending point. My Thanksgiving red was chosen for me, signed on the label actually for Thanksgiving consumption, by the first winemaker I ever worked harvest for. Whitethorn Winery 2007 Pinot Noir Demuth Vineyard Anderson Valley, which should bring the cranberry, cherry, pennyroyal holiday waves. Happy Thanksgiving.

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
Any time we’re able to get the family together is a cause for celebration, and celebrations beg for bubbles!  We’ll start (and continue…?) the day with a bottle of J. Lassalle Cachet Or Champagne. We’ll be up in Mammoth, so whether it will be opened carefully in the kitchen or sabered out in the snow with a ski is a decision yet to be made.

In our family, we don’t typically do the traditional Thanksgiving Day turkey, but this year we’re giving it a go.  I’ll be packing a bottle of Domaine Lapierre Morgon in the wine bag, along with the new release of the Carbonic Grenache from our neighbors at Alta Colina.  And no celebration of thanks would be complete without making it clear how much I love my coworkers and job; so a bottle of the 2019 Esprit Blanc will most certainly make an appearance.  Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season!

Eddie Garcia, Logistics
Excited to get together with family this Thanksgiving 2022. Being able to share stories of what we are thankful, enjoy the time together, and being able to share wines we are excited for. My family usually gets together pretty early to start watching the football games. So, I have a couple bottles of 2021 Dianthus Rosé to start the day’s festivities. Who says you can’t Rosé all day, while watching the NFL?

For the dinner table, I  have some pretty diverse palates in my family, so I have a couple bottles that can satisfy. Earlier this year, I managed to “trade” for a 2014 Dry Farmed Cabernet Sauvignon from Venteux Vineyards. I’ve always been a huge fan of this Templeton winery, and am excited to be reacquainted with this varietal from them.  And for those that have a palate for hearty reds, I have a Caliza 2019 Reserve Syrah that checks the box in that category and was very tasty when I did a tasting earlier this year.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!!

Ray King, Tasting Room
This year’s Thanksgiving will be with my family, of which most live in the area. We celebrate a traditional turkey dinner, of which my mother and three sisters handle in spectacular fashion. I simply bring wine, enjoy family and the holiday. I will be bringing a host of wines to intrigue and enjoy with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. 

To start the evening:
Bristols Cider- Mangelwurzel
Amirault Crémant de loire 

For the meal: 
Tablas Creek 2021 Patelin Rose
Terrassen Gamay Noir 2019 (Finger Lake region)
Tablas Creek 2018 Mourvèdre
Tablas Creek 2017 Esprit Rouge

This is a solid line up for a solid Thanksgiving meal. 

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving 

Jordan Lonborg, Viticulturist (sent in from vacation)
Mezcal margaritas and shrimp tacos in Bacalar Mexico!!

Erin Mason, Regenerative Specialist
Regardless of the holidays, I seek to enjoy wines that feel like they fit into the holistic context of my life. Ones that intrinsically reflect the people and places from which they are born. Eyrie Vineyards in the Willamette Valley is always this for me, and I’ll be opening a bottle of their 2015 Muscat Ottonel this Thanksgiving day. Bone-dry, savory perfection—not your typical Muscat. It’s almost impossible for me NOT to drink Grenache at any occasion and this year I have two to savor. The first, a 2021 Tribute to Grace from the Santa Barbara Highlands and Vie Caprice vineyards in Santa Barbara county—Angela Osborne’s first ever 100% whole cluster creation; the other is a special bottle I acquired while working in the Columbia River Gorge this past winter: a 2019 Tzum Aine from the folks at Hiyu Wine Farm. This was one of the most compelling wines I tasted all year and look forward to the revisit. Of course, the day is not complete without giving thanks for all the amazing experiences I’ve had this year—specifically becoming part of the vineyard team at Tablas Creek—literally a dream come true. I’m opening a 2019 Esprit de Tablas Blanc to celebrate because the whites from this estate have always been exceptional, and the Esprit blend is one of the best examples of them.

Haydee McMickle, Tasting Room
This year about 24 are gathering. Family ages from 90 to 2 years. It will be loud, for the 90-year-old to hear and loud because of the 2-year-olds. It will be a casual all day affair, so we can all catch-up. Some will enjoy Cremant de Loire, others a Paloma cocktail (nephew’s assignment).  The wines for dinner will include a selection:

Esprit Blanc 2018
Terret Noir 2020
En Gobelet 2018

Happy Thanksgiving.

Nadia Nouri, Marketing Assistant
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and I am grateful that I get to go back to the Bay Area to spend it with my close family and friends. My family hasn’t had the opportunity to try much Tablas Creek wine since I joined the team this year, so it is only fitting to have an array of Tablas wines on the Thanksgiving table. I am looking forward to introducing my family to Picardan, as well as sharing the newest vintage of Esprit de Tablas Blanc and Cotes de Tablas - my tried and true. I’m excited to see how they pair with our Thanksgiving dishes!

Westin Reynolds, Tasting Room
We are very excited to bring a magnum of 2015 Esprit de Tablas to Thanksgiving! It is our first large family gathering since Covid started, so there is a lot to celebrate and magnums are always sure to excite. I also loved the 2015 vintage so I’m excited to see how it has aged. It is currently packed very carefully in a suitcase that we are planning to check, so wish me luck with that! We’ll also be sharing a 2021 Carbonic Grenache from Alta Colina where my wife Ivey works, and a 2022 Pet Nat from our friends in Walla Walla as a celebration of our son Jessee’s first Thanksgiving! 

Amanda Weaver, Cellar Assistant
This year I am looking forward to Martinelli's Sparkling Cider! Hah! Unfortunately/fortunately I will have to abstain from the fun and beautiful bottles that will adorn our Thanksgiving table due to the small human I am growing. However, what I lack in wine consumption I look forward to making up in food consumption! Even though I cannot participate I will be bringing a 2019 Tablas Creek Roussanne, per my mother’s request, and most likely a Cab Franc from the Loire by Domaine Xavier & Agnes Amirault, to keep the husband happy, and possibly a bottle of bubbles to keep everyone refreshed and feeling celebratory! This will be a very thankful Thanksgiving in our home this year! May all your tables be filled with good wine and good company! Happy Thanksgiving Day!

And as for me...
Typically, my choice is to open the largest bottle I have to hand at Thanksgiving gatherings. There's usually a story behind a big bottle, and the randomness of "just open it" adds a certain amount of pleasurable discovery to the gathering, as well as the festivity that large bottles bring. But there will only be six of us around the table this year, and only four adults. That means that a big bottle will limit the diversity of what we can open. So we'll stick to little (ok, normal) bottles. One will for sure be our 2020 Marsanne. Marsanne is a quiet grape, gently elegant, with honey and lightly floral aromatics and low alcohol. It won't elbow for attention at the table, and at a table that's so full of assertive flavors, that sounds nice. My mom loves Beaujolais, so we'll crack open a bottle of the Clos de la Roilette Fleurie. I'd love also to open an old-school California field blend, which seems appropriate for this quintessentially American holiday. Maybe one of the Ridge Lytton Springs that I've been saving, or maybe something from Bedrock. I'll have to dig around in my stocks to see what I have. After that, we'll have to see! 

Thanksgiving 2022 - Capon

Wherever you are, however you're celebrating, please know that we are thankful for you. May your celebrations, small or large, be memorable, and the wines you open outstanding.


Our Most Memorable Wines of 2021

As I have done the last few years, I asked our team to share a wine that stuck with them from all the ones they'd tried in 2021, and why. In the rush of the holidays -- and with some key members of our team out with new babies -- there were some familiar faces who didn't send in an entry this year. But still, this was 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. In a year with as many ups and downs as 2021, it's not surprising that it was the moments or memories that a special bottle of wine marked that stood out. It was a great reminder of how wine brings people together, whatever the times or the challenges. 

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

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
Sometimes the most memorable wine is not just because of the wine, but because of the moment. My family lost a wonderful man in January, but we were fortunate to spend the last few weeks with my father-in-law at his home. He deeply appreciated my cooking and always loved the wines I offered him.  In his last days he requested braised lamb shank (said with his English accent) that he had a “hankering” for it. I had been saving my oldest vintage of Panoplie in my collection for the perfect moment, and this was indeed the perfect moment. It was the last wine I was ever able to share with him, but I will never forget his response as he enjoyed every sip; “Janelle, this is excellent!” He passed a few days later but that moment lives on, and that 2015 Panoplie will always remind me of him. 

Cheers to a New Year, may everyone be Happy, Healthy, and Humble.

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
Rather than a single bottle I would like to share a wine experience that I found particularly inspiring. Marci, Boo and myself were heading to Portland to meet up with Jordan and Amanda, we were about to hike the Mount Hood Timberline trail, another tale altogether. I have been intrigued by the farming practices of Antiquum Farm for some time so took this opportunity to go and pay them a visit. At Antiquum they farm using many species in an intense grazing program, having set up the vineyard to be able to graze all year round. We were lucky enough to sit and taste with Stephen Hagan the owner and farmer, as well as spending time with Andrew the wine maker and apparently many wearer of many other hats. The whole experience was really a treat. Stephen is passionate and articulates that passion with an ease that is rare. The wines were unique and excellent across the board. The Pinot Noirs really display a character that speaks of the place and the people and creatures who tirelessly farm the land and make the wines. If you can you should go, if you cannot, buy some wines and read their story. Happy New Year to you all!!!! Neil..

Ian Consoli, Director of Marketing
This year, I existed in two worlds that exposed me to incredible wines. The first was when I started attending school at Sonoma State University, which has allowed me to connect with wine professionals in both the Napa and Sonoma regions and, through them, their wines. The most memorable wine thus far has been a Chardonnay from Hanzell Vineyards. It was a wine that stopped everything around me and demanded my focus. I think about that moment often.

The second world is as the producer of our Facebook Live show, Tasting with Neil. Sitting alongside Winemaker Neil Collins while he opens bottles from legendary producers all over California exposed me to some incredible wines. In April, Randall Graham joined the show, and I got to share one of the first wines ever produced from his Popelouchum project. It was a Grenache, picked from vines that only produced one cluster per vine, fermented in a food-safe 15-gallon garbage can, and aged in a 15-gallon barrel. That was the wine’s entire production! It was unique, with beautiful red fruit and an earthiness reminiscent of the old world. [If you missed the conversation, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking the image below.]

Randall Grahm on Tasting with Neil

Terrence Crowe, Tasting Room
The years just keep on flying by and yet another one bites the dust. One of the pure joys of working at Tablas Creek involves consuming unabashedly obscure ‘varieties‘ (Morris, 2021) like Terret Noir, Bourboulenc, Picardan and Vaccarese in unfettered 100% format. Where else can you find a pristine example of these rare gem stones? Precisely. Then there is the 2021 love affair with my girl Marcie. Marcie, also known as Marsanne 2019 to those in the know has become my favorite everyday drinking companion. As 2022 approaches she will soon vanish forevermore like dust in the wind so let her know how you feel while that flame still burns bright. Thanks for the memories.

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
Darren's WOTY 2021One morning during harvest, I added a couple cases of wine to my humble Morro Bay storage space at Toobs Bodyboards. I pulled an aged gem from the foam covered stash and headed to the winery to host an afternoon tour. I put the bottle of 2010 Domaine Gros Noré Bandol Rouge in my computer bag to save it from the heat of my parked car, and as I waltzed up the crush pad, I noticed the winemaking team doing their celebratory harvest lunch with wines. Neil Collins saw me and barked “What’s in the bag?” Turns out it was everyone’s lucky day, and after nine years at Tablas Creek, I was finally offered a seat at the holy production table, beneath the sweating destemmer, and I revealed the bounty. Neil has been to Gros Noré, and on first whiff he proclaimed “I feel like I’m there. Right now.” In this era of limited travel, it’s a blessing how great wines can transport you to a far off place through your senses. As a collector, cracking this Mourvédre based red at 11 years of age caught this once tannic beast at a moment of resolved, concentrated greatness.

A solid runner up would be the Herve Souhart 2018 La Souteronne, which is a rare Gamay from the Northern Rhone, recommended to me by Patrick at San Diego’s Vino Carta. Like a cool climate, minerally Syrah and bright Gamay combined, I’ve bought this juicy rarity at every shop I’ve since seen it at this year. Happy Holidays!

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
Six Test KitchenPost 2020, nearly every wine we enjoyed with people we love felt overwhelmingly special.  But among this year of stand-out experiences, where we’ve learned that it’s always a good time to bring out the good stuff, there were a few moments that rose to the top.  Back in March, our friends Dan and Gail treated us to a dinner at Six Test Kitchen here in Paso Robles.  Every single moment of that dinner was completely over the top –  the company and conversation, the food, the plating, the setting, and of course, the wine.  Each pairing that was presented was an absolute delight and an utter experience.  The restaurant gained its first Michelin Star a few months ago (none of us can get over how cool it is that we have a Michelin starred restaurant down the street!) and after our incredible evening there spent being treated like honored guests, it’s easy to see why. 

In a year like this, where no interactions are taken for granted, it was the time spent with cherished friends that was the centerpiece while incredible wines helped to punctuate the occasion.

Ray King, Tasting Room
For me, there were so many fun and different wine this year. It was a difficult task to come up with the most memorable, but here are a few that were stellar.

Domaine Castéra, Jurancon sec (Petit Courbu & Gros Manseng), 2019.
Chateau Marcadis, Lalande de Pomerol, 2019
Ulysses, 2016
Tablas Creek, Marsanne, 2019
Tablas Creek, Mourvèdre, 2019
Txomin Etxaniz, Getaria Rosé, Txakolina, 2019
Chateau Raymond-La-Fon, Sauternes, 2002
Chateau Moulin, Canon Fronsac, 2015
Erste-Neve, Alto Adige, Lagrein, 2019
Ulloa Cellars, Verdejo, 2020
Nelle, Pinwheel (GB, R, Vio), 2018
Alban Vineyards, Reva, Syrah, 2002, 2005, 2008
Mathilde et Yves Gangloff, Saint Joseph Blanc, 2011
Agree, Txakolina, 2019
Paix Sur Terre, Ugni Blanc, 2020
 
Like I said, this is a few of the most memorable wines in my 2021. 

Gustavo Prieto, Biodynamic Lead
Gustavos Wine of 2021My wine of the year is a Castell D’Age 100% Grenache, or Garnacha in Spain, with no sulfites added. The wine had a nice earthiness and some brettyness on the nose, dense and a very dark color. Castell D’Age is a special place in the Penedes region of Spain and I had the privilege of visiting the winery a few years ago. In addition to being certified organic and biodynamic, the winery is owned by three generations of women. 

Jim Van Haun, Tasting Room
I've had a lot of really nice wines this year but the Tablas Creek 2020 Vermentino stands out. My first experience with Vermentino, called Rolle in France, was on a 3 week vacation to the Rhone in 2015. Vermentino is one of those wines that has bright acidity and crispness that reflects the low PH. The Tablas Creek 2020 version is especially so and reminds me of a perfect Summer day. It's wine's version of a really good limey gin and tonic!

...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. 2020 interrupted that tradition, so once we'd gotten ourselves and our boys vaccinated we decided to spend a full month back east in 2021. And there are always rewards. Green grass and forests, nonchlorinated bodies of water for swimming, and the chance to reinforce those connections with family and friends who we didn't get to see the year before. For my family, that means lots of long meals around the dinner table. We always share the cooking and washing up so it's not a chore for anyone, and not every meal is a fancy one. But we do try to pull out all the stops a few times, and decided one afternoon to build a meal for which we could open a couple of legendary wines from the era when my dad was the exclusive American importer for a few of the top Bordeaux houses.

The meal itself was lovely: roasted racks of lamb, gratin dauphinois, sautéed zucchini (the year’s first from the garden) and a tomato salad. The wines were a 1961 Lafite and a 1970 Petrus, and both were in outstanding shape. The Petrus was round and lush, the Lafite a bit more spicy and angular. Tannins were pretty well resolved in both. 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. It wasn't an otherwise meaningful day (not a birthday or an anniversary) but the meal made it meaningful. If there's one conclusion I've come to over the pandemic, it's that you've got to make your own celebrations when you have the opportunity. 

JCH Wines of the Year 2021

A few concluding thoughts:
One of the things I appreciate most about the team that I work with at Tablas Creek is the wide range of their interests and experiences. If you don't work at a winery, you might expect that those of us who do spend most of their time drinking their 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 wines were Tablas Creek, most were not. But whatever the wines that were chosen, it stood out to me how wine can help provide a memory of a person or place, or punctuation for a moment that helps bring connection.

As we settling into our third pandemic year, making the most of these opportunities for connection is one of my own goals. I wish you all memorable food and wine experiences in 2022, and even more than that, new connections and a greater sense of community. May we all find more to celebrate next year.