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.


In which we get to try the world's only (?) other Vaccarese

In April, in conjunction with the wine's release, I wrote a blog wondering if we'd just produced the world's first-ever 100% Vaccarese. Before you scoff, I don't think that's impossible. At just 12 hectares (about 30 acres) in France as of 2012, it's scarce, and the majority of that is in Chusclan, a minor appellation in the Gard, where it is generally blended (at a maximum percentage of 20%) with Grenache to make rosés. And it's not like it was common historically; In Pierre Galet's 1990 ampelography Cépages et Vignobles de France, he reports just 40 hectares (100 acres) in France. Viala and Vermorel's 1901-1910 Ampélographie doesn't even have an entry for Vaccarese, instead listing it and a few alternate spellings in the index as "nonspecific names given to grape varieties in the Vaucluse". So, at least for the last century Vaccarese has never been widely planted, or been a lead grape where it was.

But that April blog did produce a lead. Joe Czerwinski, who covers the Rhone (and was named Editor-in-Chief this week) for Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, left a comment reporting that he'd tasted a special cuvee from Chateau des Fines Roches called "Forget Me Not" which he understood was made from Vaccarese. We did a little digging, found the wine's page on the producer's website, and reached out to its American importer, Bradley Cohen of Bradley Alan Imports. The wine isn't imported into the United States, as there were just 1000 bottles produced, but Bradley reached out to the proprietor Amelie Barrot and she was generous enough to include a bottle with their next United States-bound shipment. Bradley forwarded it on to us and we let it rest through harvest before convening yesterday to open it and see what we could learn. The guest of honor (left) alongside ours:

Vaccarese bottle with Forget Me Not

The Forget Me Not was showing beautifully. My tasting notes on it:

The nose is lovely, with cedary, warm earth and loam over brandy-soaked cherries. There is great vibrancy on the palate, bitter chocolate and more cherries, herbes de Provence, and a lovely sweet pungency like chocolate-dipped orange peel. Soft tannins. Good acids. Warm tones. Silky. 

By contrast, our version felt very spiky and young. My notes:

A nose of spicy purple fruit, grape and elderberry, lavender, mint, and black licorice. The mouth is younger, more tannins evident, with a tarter fruit profile like pomegranate seed and apple skin. The black licorice note comes back out on the finish. Cool tones. Somewhat tannic at this stage.

What did the two wines have in common? A feel and weight more than specific flavors. Good acids. Solid tannins. A mix of herbal, fruit, and earth characters. But I'm not sure that having tasted only our Vaccarese I would have identified the Forget Me Not as made from the same grape. I think I would have guessed Grenache if I'd had to (and their website does indicate that the wine is a blend of 90% Vaccarese and 10% Grenache). But I think I would have identified the wine as a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It's a testament to the power of terroir that an appellation can shine through this clearly even through the lens of a grape that's rarely even appears in small quantities there.

Our own wine felt cooler, crunchier, darker, and more tannic than theirs. That contrast was doubtless exacerbated by the fact it was three years younger, 2019 instead of 2016. But the observation, along with noting the difference in alcohol between ours (13%) and theirs (14.5%), made me wonder whether we might experiment with leaving at least a portion of our Vaccarese grapes on the vine a little longer, in the hopes of getting a little more of the silkiness that I found in the Chateauneuf.

In any case, we all ended the tasting wondering why, with its obvious charms, Vaccarese didn't become more popular at some point in its history. It is apparently quite susceptible to powdery mildew, which would have been a disincentive to plant it in an era where there weren't good tools to treat that malady. Research I've done has suggested that Picardan suffered a similar fate. But whatever its historical issues, we're convinced that Vaccarese's future is bright. We can't wait to try, in a few years, a future vintage of ours against the same vintage of Forget Me Not. When we do, I promise to report back on what we find.


What We'll Be Drinking with Thanksgiving 2021

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 thankfully largely uncommercialized. And it feels like this last year, for all its challenges, has given us plenty to be thankful for. My family has managed to stay safe and healthy. Our boys are back in school. Tablas Creek has emerged from our Covid challenges in good shape. And because vaccines have made a resumption of more-or-less normal life possible, we're going back to a big family gathering this year. For all these reasons, it feels like this is going to be a Thanksgiving celebration in a way last year's wasn't.

Last year's pairings were a little unusual too, because what was a family of four going to do with a turkey, anyway? Still, 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.

Thanksgiving Capon

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
I love Thanksgiving, and I love tradition so my wine choice doesn’t vary all that much from year to year because why change a good thing?!  So, again this year I am opening the Tablas Creek Counoise. It is my Thanksgiving staple and I doubt that will ever change!  If you haven’t had the Counoise with Thanksgiving dinner, you absolutely must.  In addition to the Counoise, I’m bringing a bottle of the 2019 Full Circle Pinot Noir from Tablas…. What a fantastic vintage this Full Circle is… absolutely stellar. For the white wine I’ve decided on a Domaine Weinbach Reisling from Alsace – also a Thanksgiving staple in my house.

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
It is a big one for us as we celebrate our first Thanksgiving with a grandchild, Finnegan Aldous Collins. Now that is something to be thankful for. No doubt we will get the pre-game rolling with the Lone Madrone Pet–Nat of Chenin Blanc, some bubbles to excite. Moving on to a bottle that I have never actually tried, a Reichsgraf Von Kesselatatt, Saar Riesling Kabinet, 2018. There is a bit of a family Riesling thing going on at present so this bottle will be much anticipated. We have been exploring wines of the Jura for many years, they are a family favorite, hence we will indulge that interest with an Arbois Pupillin, Chardonnay ‘la Marcette’ 2019, Cellier Saint Benoit. To keep the Chardonnay company we have another Jura, the Trousseau Grevilliere from Domaine Dugois, Arbois, 2018. After we made a family circumnavigation of mount Hood on the Timberline Trail this year we rewarded ourselves with a visit to the family favorite, Brickhouse, where we tasted and picked up a couple of Magnums of 2018 Ribbon Ridge Gamay Noir with this meal in mind. Lastly (likely not a true statement) we will open a 2017 Cavallotto Barolo, Bricco Boschis. I say likely not true as there is a probability that other bottles will find their way to table, as they do! Oh and there will doubtless be Cider about!!!

Have a great day, eat and celebrate family, friends and all that you have to be thankful for. Cheers, the Collins family.

Ian Consoli, Director of Marketing
This year I'll have two Thanksgivings thanks to a fun Friendsgiving this past weekend. To that meal I brought a magnum of 2015 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. Meals of 10+ people are the perfect excuse to bring out a magnum! It paired nicely with the turkey, mac, stuffing, and everything else. For Thanksgiving with my family, which will be four of us, I have chosen a nice rose. Mas de Gourgonnier Rose from 2020 is a direct press blend of Grenache, Cabernet, and Mourvedre from the famed organic producer. I'm looking forward to seeing how it pairs.

Terrence Crowe, Tasting Room
Ah the sound of a cracklin’ fire and warm company abound. This Thanksgiving I am proud to say I will be highlighting some outstanding Collector's Edition options for turkey day 2021. Both the 2013 Esprit Rouge and 2015 Esprit Blanc will be thirst quenching table side options. Nothing like two outstanding Tablas Creek bottles with a few years on them. Picardan 2020 will also be holding a place at this years feast. I hope everyone has a wonderful time at their gathering and plenty of thought provoking wine to keep conversations interesting. 

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
The world of wine again proves that there are new discoveries around the world to keep my curiosities alive. I was so late to the Cru Beaujolais game that it's a bit embarrassing. Being a fan of wines that are naturally fermented, artisan in aromas and textures, and full of bright, non-manipulated fruit, it's wild to think that it took until 2021 to discover the village of Morgon. With that said, Domaine Lapierre Morgon 2019, which I've consumed a half a case of easy this year, will be on the table, as will the Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas Blanc 2014, with its florals and riches on show.  

Eddie Garcia, Logistics
This Thanksgiving is one that I have a lot to be thankful for. I just completed my one year anniversary here at Tablas Creek in September, and cannot be more excited for what is to come. My family continues to be healthy, happy and safe, even with this new round of the pandemic. But most importantly, I’ve been blessed with having a new sibling in my life. My sister Sandy and I met for the first time this summer, and we’ve become close in such a short time. Looking forward to her coming out from Arizona next year for a visit and getting to share with her our amazing Central Coast, and definitely some tastings will be lined up. 

With so much to be thankful for, I’ve held onto a bottle that I cannot wait to open: a 2017 Interpretation from Full Draw. This Tempranillo was amazing when I sampled it a few months ago at the winery, and cannot wait to open and get reacquainted. I’ll also be bringing some of our great Tablas wines, including a 2018 Grenache (my last one!), and 2019 Cotes de Tablas. Hope everyone has a healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Jody Gomes, Accounts Payable & Compliance
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, not just because of the delicious food but because of the wine pairings. This year, my fiancé and I will be sharing Thanksgiving with his family during the day and with my family in the evening, that means … double the wine! Since the festivities will begin about noon, we will most likely start with a bottle of 2020 Gewurztraminer from our good friends at Tackitt Family Vineyards. During the meal my fiancé and I plan to open a bottle of 2019 grenache that we made together in our home winery aka garage, we like to call it our ‘Garage Grenache’. Thanksgiving round two will start at my parent’s house about 4:00pm, my 95-year-old grandfather will be joining us at the table this year so the house will be filled with laughter and great conversation. The men like to begin every dinner with a glass of Tanqueray over ice while my Mom and I will open a bottle of our favorite sparkling wine from Domaine Carneros, Le Reve Blanc de Blancs. My Mom and I have made it a tradition for the last couple of years to open that bottle on Thanksgiving, we look forward to it all year long! At dinner we like to open a variety of bottles to cater to everyone’s pallets. For the last several years a staple on our table is a bottle of Tablas Creek Counoise, if any wine was made for Thanksgiving, this is the one! For the wine drinkers who like a bolder wine, we usually open a Syrah or Zinfandel. Staying local to Paso Robles, we will open a Syrah from Caliza and a Zinfandel from the Ueberroth Vineyard at Turley. I am certainly thankful to share a beautiful Thanksgiving with family and friends. Cheers!

Ray King, Tasting Room
This Thanksgiving will be a traditional meal spent with my mother, sisters, and our other close relatives. So for the traditional meal I am bringing three different wines that will fit in perfectly.

1) Txomin Etxaniz,  Rose Txakoli 2019, a fun and refreshing Basque wine.
2) Domaine De Fa, Beaujolais 'En Besset’ 2019. Lovely Gamay is always welcome at a Thanksgiving table.
3) Tablas Creek, Mourvèdre 2019. Simply my current favorite red wine from Tablas Creek and, it too, will be fantastic with a Thanksgiving dinner.

Haydee McMickle, Tasting Room
I’ll start with a Clairette de Die Brut, Domaine Archad-Vincent it’s delightful and a wonderful starter. I like to open several wines for the main meal. Esprit Blanc is a favorite friend , the 2017, or more interesting is the 2015. It goes great with the turkey, the leek & mushroom gratin or the cornbread sausage stuffing. I also like to switch to a light red, this year a Moulin-a-Vent Vielles Vignes Beaujolais Cru, which is tasty with the same foods but goes really well with sweet potatoes. These are engaging with the meal yet keep me light on feet so I can play a family game of Catan or Telestrations.  

Bon Appetit and best wishes to all. 

Monica O'Connor, Direct Sales Manager
Thanksgiving this year is going to be a new experience, and one I am greatly looking forward to. While I’m missing my son and daughter-in-law, I’ll be spending the day with new friends who truly feel like family.  And because one is French, I feel a particular responsibility to make it special for her! So we will toast with a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve, our gratitude for family, friends, health, and all the blessings we enjoy.

I have two special bottles to share with them. The first is a 2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges Village "Les Plateaux", which I’ve come to know as a perfect wine for celebrating a special occasion, and also one to savor and stimulate thought. The other is the beautiful Tablas Creek 2017 Le Complice. It is the definitive balance of earth, fruit, herbs and spice. It has depth and finesse and charm – it will surely integrate all the flavors and textures of our Thanksgiving feast.

All this beauty - family, friends, abundance in kindness and caring at work and at home - is a powerful reminder of all we have to be grateful for.

Lisa Rainey, Tasting Room
In October of 2018 we bought a ten-acre property on Willow Creek Road.  The property contains almost three acres of vines, which had been severely neglected.  We’ve been working since that time on building a new home on the site and bringing the vines back to health.  With AmByth Estates and Tablas Creek Vineyard as role models for farming practices, we have been dry farming and farming using mostly biodynamic practices.  The first wine from our property was released this year, AmByth Rainey Rose.  This year, even though our house isn’t complete, we plan to have our dinner at our new property.  It seems incredibly fitting that we enjoy a bottle of AmByth Rainey Rose.  We also plan to open a Lone Madrone wine, from the Old Oak Vineyard – one of our Willow Creek neighbors. 

Randy Thurman, IT and Facilities Manager
We saved a magnum of 2018 Esprit Blanc to have with some smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, and a rum pumpkin cheesecake while spending time with family.

Amanda Weaver, Cellar Assistant
A slightly more normal Thanksgiving this year, getting to see more of the family and not having as much trepidation. Additionally, there is one big change this year that everyone is excited about…. We have a wee little one!! My boyfriend’s brother and his wife had a sweet little boy a week ago and everyone cannot wait to celebrate with him! That being said, I predict many wines at the table. As far as what I am going to contribute… that is still keeping me up at night. On the chopping block are 2014 Hitching Post Valdiguie, 2019 Story of Soil Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 Tablas Creek Couniose, plus everything that is sitting in the wine fridge that I have yet to raid (I think there are some forgotten gems in there). I also underestimate the lure of popping into the local wine shop for a last minute gander which will surely gain me a few new bottles! Anyhow, I hope everyone has a happy, healthy and safe 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. And with a full complement of adults this year, that's a lot more appealing than it would have been for three adults last year. I believe we have a magnum (from the late 1990s) from an old Central Coast Wine Classic "Classic Cuvee" that we did along with Bob Lindquist when he was at Qupe. So, that's one wine. I know we'll also want some Beaujolais, maybe the Clos de la Roilette Fleurie that my mom and I split a case of last year. I'm also itching to open the 2019 Cinsaut, our first-ever from Tablas Creek, which I think will end up being a perfect Thanksgiving partner. For whites, maybe a Semillon from Bedrock Wines that I've been saving. Going with an old-school California blend seems appropriate for this quintessentially American holiday. Plus, it's got both richness and brightness, which a white needs to go with the Thanksgiving meal. And almost certainly some older Roussanne, though I'll have to dig around in my stocks to see what I have. One of the most memorable tastings I had this year was when we opened the first-ever Roussanne, from 2001, as a part of an exploration of the beginnings of our varietal wine program. I'd love to share that experience with the rest of my family. 

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


Other Wines We Love: Edmunds St. John 1993 Durell Vineyard Syrah

The next in an occasional series of our non-Tablas Creek wine discoveries.

We are fortunate that so many of the founding fathers of the American Rhone movement are still not just active but making some of their best-ever wines. I've written about how much I admire what Bob Lindquist is doing now. Randall Grahm may have sold his interest in Bonny Doon, but he's still involved there and also developing one of the most ambitious and fascinating vineyards in California at his Popelouchum estate. Bill Easton is making dynamite Syrahs and Rhone blends at his Domaine de la Terre Rouge that demonstrate the potential for Rhones in the Sierra Foothills. Same with Adam Tolmach at The Ojai Vineyard in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Gary Eberle won the Wine Enthusiast "American Legend" Wine Star Award in 2020 and can still be found (or could, pre-Covid) dishing out barbecue to guests at his tasting room on weekends.

And from his unlikely urban location in Berkeley, Steve Edmunds just keeps doing his thing at Edmunds St. John. Since 1986 he's made wines, mostly Rhones, from vineyards located from Sonoma to Paso Robles and all over the Sierra Foothills. His wines are a little like the man behind them: understated and thoughtful, reserved but expressive. His wines are lovely young, with freshness and balance. But give them some years and they become something even more profound. Steve's motto is "la terre parle" (the earth speaks) and it's rare in California to find the earth speaking as clearly as it does in an older Edmunds St. John wine.

On Friday, we opened a bottle of Edmunds St. John 1993 Durell Vineyard Syrah. I don't actually know how I came into possession of this wine, although I'm guessing it might have been from Steve himself when he came to visit for our 30th Anniversary party back in 2019. It was one of three older bottles, all from the early 1990's, that were sitting in my wine fridge inviting me to dive in.

We paired the wine with some delicious steaks that we served with a homemade Provencal herb butter from an Ina Garten recipe, the year's first asparagus, and one of our favorite potato recipes, a simple but delicious Barbara Kafka preparation of them roasted with garlic and rosemary. The meal was one of the best we've cooked this year. The steaks were juicy and flavorful, enhanced by the umami flavors of the anchovies, capers, and lemon zest in the butter. The asparagus was tender and sweet. The potatoes were crunchy and gently piney, the garlic sweet and aromatic squeezed onto good local bread. A snapshot I got at the meal's outset:

Edmunds St John bottle

And the wine? It was amazing. Mature but still very much alive as it approaches three decades old. My quick notes were "a nose of iodine, soy marinade, flinty mineral, and meat drippings, still well-delineated and fresh. The mouth shows black licorice and Worcestershire sauce, black plum and dark chocolate-covered cherries. Most of the tannins have resolved, but the wine is still fresh. Long and expressive on the mocha and black cherry finish.

Syrah can be a challenge young, often so tannic and muscle-bound that it impresses rather than charms. But a great Syrah turns that muscle into an attribute, allowing the grape's signature black fruit to unwind slowly, all underpinned by a mineral note that depending on the soils can be chalky or flinty or saline. Through this wine, and these decades, it really did happen. The earth spoke.

Beautifully done, Steve.


Our Most Memorable Wines of 2020

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.

This year, I asked our key people to share a wine that stuck with them from all the ones they'd tried in 2020. I wasn't sure what to expect, given the challenges that the year presented to all of us. Would it be the last wine that people enjoyed with friends before they learned the meaning of "social distancing"? A bottle that they enjoyed with a family unit? Something that reminded them of someone they lost? Some people couldn't find a wine that they wanted to remember, in a year they wanted to forget. And I get that. But there were plenty of reminders too that wine does serve to bring us together, and is still one of the best proxies for (and reminders of) travel that we have available to us. 

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
I couldn’t choose just one memorable wine this year, so I included a couple that stuck out for me. As I’m writing this, I realize both of these wines stick out likely because it was my first time ever to enjoy these varietals – which makes anything just a bit more special. The first wine that stuck with me is Meyer-Fonne Vieilles Vignes Pinot Blanc 2018.  This wine hails from Alsace, a region that never seems to disappoint! Lovely white peach and honey resonate on the palate and lingers with a long elegant finish. My only qualm…. I wish I’d bought more!  The second wine that immediately comes to mind is the 2019 (Tablas Creek) Bourboulenc. I was lucky enough to secure myself a single bottle this year, and enjoyed it with Thanksgiving dinner.  What I loved most about the Bourboulenc was the texture of this wine, it has more body than I expected but still maintained a great amount of acidity that makes it quite lively.  When I first tasted it, I thought “if Roussanne and Grenache Blanc had a baby, this would be it!” Such a treat… and I can’t wait for next year’s release!

Charlie Chester, Senior Assistant Tasting Room Manager
Charlie DadMy most memorable wine of this year was just a few weeks ago. Saturday December 5th, the day before my fathers 80th birthday. My girlfriend Amber and I drove down to his house in Solvang, my sister and her husband, Matt drove up from Carpinteria and we cooked dinner for dad and his wife Diane.  It was bound to be a great time that deserved a special wine. My sister, Kacey, was in charge of the main dish. She grilled a pork rib roast and it was delicious.  I knew what was on the menu and I thought that the 2015 Esprit de Tablas would be nice with it so I got my hands on a magnum to compliment both the meal and the celebration. I think a magnum always boosts the level of celebration a bit and we were celebrating a monumental occasion and needed a bottle of size and quality to match.  I brought a gold marker to let everyone sign and wish the dad a happy birthday. It was truly a great time with great company!

As you can see (right) I also got dad our new Tablas Creek Patagonia windbreaker and my sister's husband is a firefighter in Santa Barbara and styled him out with an SBFD hat and t-shirt.

Austin Collins, Cellar Assistant
Much of 2020 is a blur. Part of me still feels like it's March but, as I stare at the flickering lights on our Christmas tree I know that's not true. Another reminder is the upcoming new year and, for the first time I think most of us are celebrating the end of a year, not just the promise of a new one. In retrospect, it's statistically true that most of us drank a bit more this year! But, much like the year, a lot of the wines opened blend together in my head. So, two that I can remember are the 2017 Garance from Chateau de Bois Brincon (100% Pineau d'Aunis). Insane white pepper on the nose and a lovely rustic mouth with bright purple fruits. Secondly, a 2018 Gruner Veltliner from Hum Hofer. While not the best Gruner in the world I had it with my wife on our first wedding anniversary at the lovely eatery Bell's in Los Alamos. It also comes in a unique package: a 1000 mL bright green bottle topped with a crown cap. Here's to a better year ahead! Cheers!

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
So many bottles have crossed our table through these trying times, it is hard to narrow it down. We opened a bottle of Ojai Vineyards Sans Soufre. On the table with a group of much more expensive wines, Sans Soufre was head and shoulders the wine of the night.

As is tradition we tasted many great wines at the harvest lunch table, for me one of the stand out wines was the Lone Madrone 2001 Il Toyon Nebbiolo. Christmas morning opening presents, fire in the grate a bottle of Albert Boxler Riesling from Brand, a stunning bottle. Lucky we are!

Ian Consoli, Media and Marketing
In SLO County in 2020 I think we had one week where we could eat in a restaurant. I’m exaggerating of course, but when the opportunity arose following previous shutdowns what restaurant do you think I chose to go to with my best wine drinking friends? Ember. Obviously. We took two bottles that both paired mind blowingly well with Chef Brian’s creations. A 2014 Chateau du Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape with a Duck Ragu and a 2016 Stephane Ogier Mon Village Côte-Rôtie with the filet. To be sitting inside a restaurant experiencing pairings that had me melting into my chair took me all the way back to 2019.

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
Love Potion My white wine of the year is Tablas Creek's 2014 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. It's not quite a tradition yet, but this will be a third Christmas Eve that I make Daniel Boulud's Onion Soup and follow his recommended pairing of Roussanne. When you taste the dense, slick, rooty, herbed broth and melted gruyere and salty crouton mixed in, you see why a low acid and equally rich viscous white like the Esprit Blanc is the ideal companion. 2014 was such a powerful vintage for Roussanne that I'm saving a couple bottles for the ten year mark. 

My red wine of the year is The Other Right 2019 "Love Potion" Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia. Sulfite free Shiraz (the label says it's "Shiraz Juice") from a coastal site in a warm, drought affected vintage. The alcohol is moderate and the wine is full of power and energy - truly living wine. The whole clusters are fully integrated, likely aged in an old puncheon, and made with nearly zero electricity. I learned of the winemakers Alex and Galit on the excellent podcast Real Wine People out of Australia (very much worth a binge listening). Alex is a wine scientist at the Australian Wine Research Institute, and is jokingly the only wine scientist in the world to make natural wine. Plus who doesn't need a little Love Potion in a year like 2020?

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
Cruise at Tempier

Most years, the most memorable wine for me is the bottle that has been opened to mark a special occasion, whatever that may be.  Granted, for special occasions, we typically pull out something that’s special to us! Domaine Tempier has been the go-to for my husband and me for the decade we’ve been married.  Back in 2013 (photo above) we had the excellent fortune to go on one of the Tablas Creek cruises. One of the days on the cruise, we spent an afternoon visiting the domaine and fell even deeper in love with them. Many an anniversary has been marked with a bottle of red (or sometimes rosé!) from this winery. 

Trevor with BohdiAugust of this year, we welcomed the arrival of our daughter, Bohdi, which meant I spent a good deal of this year abstaining. The night we brought Bo home, my mom came over to cook us dinner and then left us to enjoy our first meal at home as a newly minted family of three (amazing, right?!).  Since my mom made some ridiculously beautiful rib eyes, it was only fitting that we open a bottle of red that could stand up to them.  We had a bottle of Pour Lulu (Lulu is the matriarch of Domaine Tempier, who passed away this October at 102) in our stacks and it was decided that a bottle that was made in homage to a strong and beloved woman was the perfect way to honor the arrival of our new strong, beloved little girl.  It needed a few hours of decanting, but when those tight, muscular wings started to open up, it was an utter delight and a perfect accompaniment (right) to one of the most exciting nights of our lives.

Barbara Haas, Co-Founder and Partner
I had a fun experience the other day with a wine I hadn’t tasted in at least two years. I had prepared a nice braised chicken (with onions, garlic, herbs, and tomatoes), and I went downstairs to look for an appropriate wine. My guests were two old friends who refused to give me any guidance – even as to white or red. That was MY job, they said. They have had many bottles of Tablas here, particularly over this past year, so I wanted to offer them something different. But it didn’t seem fair to submit an old Burgundy to the acidity of the tomatoes in the dish. As I was scanning the wine rack, I noticed a 2016 Julienas. Most Beaujolais should be drunk young, I know, but this was a “cru” and so I hoped it was still in good form.

It was lovely! Clean and pure and very Beaujolais, and so different from our Rhone-style wines. The very specific and unique taste reminded me how fun it is to vary the wines one drinks, and how silly not to when one has the chance. The experience is like trying different kinds of foods, or listening to different styles of music. It wakes the senses, which in turn wakes the brain, and gives delight.

I vow to add more variety to my wine-drinking in 2021. I always have the comfort of knowing I have a good selection of Tablas wines, and I believe that tasting the other wines in the cellar will give me a deeper appreciation of what we make and how it fits in with its colleagues.

Pam Horton, Assistant Controller
There are two wines that come to mind when I think about 2020. First, is the Tablas Creek Vineyard 2019 Bourboulenc. I have to say that I was intrigued by the name as I had never heard of this grape before. What a wonderful wine! I know that I wasn’t the only one who loved it, because it was sold out in no time. I will be looking forward to the next release. My second favorite wine is from another Paso Robles winery, Tackitt Family Vineyard’s 2018 Willie Pete White. It is a really nice light Sauvignon Blanc which was wonderful to drink during the summer. Tackitt has two lines of wine, their Tackitt Family Vineyard and their EOD Cellars. Willie Pete White is part of the EOD Cellars line and all of the proceeds from the wine sold are donated to the EOD Warrior Foundation. So for me it’s a win-win as I’m purchasing a wine I love and also supporting a great cause.

Ray King, Tasting Room
I have a few wines that stood out and provided fun relief in 2020.

All of the wines I picked were all a part of a meal, or in preparation for a meal. I truly love when great wines come together with great cuisine.

1) 2016 Domaine de La Pirolette, Saint Amour, Le Carjot. This Gamay noir I picked up while in France in 2019 and it was delicious . I served this with Ratatouille Gratin and grilled tri-tip in my backyard.

2) Hot summer evenings, while grilling, I would enjoy a slightly chilled 2018 Tablas Creek Counoise. While eating the dinner I grilled, usually a Ribeye served with Humboldt Fog cheese on top, I would enjoy the 2017 Tablas Creek Tannat. This combo made for great hot summer evenings.

3) Hot summer days, enjoying a cocktail in the afternoon. Aperol Spritz made with 2016 Caudrina Romano Dogliotti “La Selvatica”. This sparkling Asti is sweet and only 7% alcohol. This wine brought a nice, and new, twist on a classic summer cocktail. 

4) 2018 Tablas Creek Marsanne. I drank this wine and used it in the cooking of my Grilled Chicken, Red Bell Pepper, Fettuccine Alfredo. The Marsanne added a nice kick of acid to this lovely, and rich, dish.

Misty Lies, Tasting Room Team Lead
Aussie afternoonWhen it comes down to picking my favorite bottle of wine for the year it will actually be a toss up for three bottles all shared between friends at an afternoon bbq. Before the world went crazy we had the pleasure of traveling to Melbourne Australia to visit  a friend I hadn’t seen in 33 years and new ones that were met along the way because of him. We had a great bbq one afternoon and did some sharing of wines. I brought down a bottle of our 2010 Tannat that went up against a 2001 Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a 2015 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz. All three were fun wines and everyone was happy to finally try the Tannat I have been telling them about for a few years now. During the year with all the ups and downs, I have come back to this afternoon and appreciated every minute of that day. Wines have a way of making meals a little bit more special and as always are best shared around a table of good friends.

John Morris, Tasting Room Manager
My favorite wine of 2020?  I haven’t enjoyed it yet, but I’ll let you know on New Year’s Eve! I can’t let it go unmentioned that I’ve had the unique opportunity to taste the singular, spectacular 2017 Esprit de Tablas Blanc most days this year.  This wine has gotten wide and much-deserved praise, and special attention in our blog published recently. It really is a knockout. And the 2017 Esprit de Tablas (red) is pretty special in its own right, perhaps my favorite vintage yet.  We’re super lucky to taste these wines on a regular basis. But as for my yet-to-be most delicious wine of 2020, I plan to head down to 15C in Templeton and ask for the best Champagne under $100, pop it 30 seconds after I walk in the door, raise a toast, and say good-bye to this most difficult year. Here’s to 2021!

Rumyn Purewal, Tasting Room Team Lead
It is hard to believe that this year started out like many others. And it started with my favorite wine of the year. I went to dinner with my fellow pals, also Tablas Creek family, Leslie and Ian, at local eatery Heirloom. We got the food to go and had a picnic in the Adelaide with one of those pairings that takes you to a magical place. With all locally grown and sourced food prepared by amazing people and chefs we paired the meal with a Portuguese wine recommended by Darren Delmore, a Humus Vinho Regional Lisboa. A natural wine made with indigenous Portuguese grapes. It was an incredible experience that stuck with me throughout the year. I hope everyone has a happy and healthy New Years. Cheers! 

Troy Tucker, Tasting Room
Troy bottles of the yearSo I have 3 wines that stood out to me this year the most.

The first was the 2017 Thacher Cinsaut. A very unique and balanced wine full of character! A nerdy wine to say the least.

The second was the 2017 La Encantada Pinot Noir from Decroux/TH Estate. The vineyard really really makes this wine. Very expressive of terroir and captures the delicacy and complexity of Pinot Noir. I could go on and on about this wine!

And third is none other than the 2012 Esprit de Tablas Rouge (pictured right). Not to toot our own horns too much but, wow! So soft, so powerful, so many layers of clean vigorous personality. After 40 minutes in a decanter, it opened and gave one of the cleanest softest drinking wines I've had from Paso in a while! Paired amazing with the ribeye from McPhee's too!

Me
My mom is building a new house. As a part of that construction, earlier this summer we had to move a wine fridge that was inconveniently positioned in her garage right where a door needed to be cut. So, Meghan, the boys and I spent a few hours one afternoon in June emptying that wine fridge, moving the wines that were there into different storage, and identifying some bottles that were ready to open. One that I "rescued" was a bottle made by Jacques d'Angerville, the Burgundy proprietor who was my dad's closest friend in the region that made his reputation as an importer.

The wines from Domaine Marquis d'Angerville always speak to the elegant side of Pinot Noir. The bottle we opened was a Volnay Caillerets from 1979, reputed as a good but not great vintage, but the wine was sublime, with minerality and tension, crunchy red fruit even at age 40+, and the lovely loamy earth character I find so distinctive in mature Burgundy. It turned the meal of a simple roast chicken into one of the highlights of our dining year. In a year marked by losses and absences, I felt my dad's presence strongly that night. Wines have the ability to preserve a conjunction of place, time, and people. The Volnay evoked all that, while also being a testament to my dad's vision and foresight, and a lasting legacy to Jacques's genius, nearly two decades after his death. 

Roast Chicken and Volnay

A few concluding thoughts:
As you might expect, this was an eclectic list. Some wines are Tablas Creek, but most are not. Many were older, which says that for all the challenges of storing and being patient with wines, the rewards can be marvelous. But the thing that stood out most for me was the extent to which wines help mark and commemorate milestones our lives, or give regular moments additional depth and meaning. I have high hopes for 2021. May your food and wine experiences be memorable, and may we all find more to celebrate next year.


What We're Drinking with Thanksgiving 2020

I am, in normal times, a big fan of Thanksgiving. It's a holiday that brings extended family together for a day of cooking, eating, and reflecting on what we're grateful for. Of course, 2020 is not a normal year. This year, family gatherings will (really should!) be smaller. If you're not traveling to help curb the spread of Covid, thank you. It's a sacrifice. Traditions are important markers in our lives, and choosing to break a tradition that is meaningful is hard. But it's also essential this year, with case rates already surging around the country and a vaccine coming in the not-too-distant future. We've made it most of the way through this marathon. Let's not stumble on the home stretch.

Because of the smaller gatherings, some of the traditional Thanksgiving meals are likely to be less common. What's a family of four going to do with a turkey? In some ways, that is likely to make pairing easier. 2020 Thanksgiving meals are likely to be less sprawling, with only a few side dishes rather than the near-dozen I know we've had in recent years. And really, no wine goes particularly well with sweet potato casserole or brussels sprouts. But if arriving at a perfect pairing isn't a realistic goal in even a normal Thanksgiving, it's definitely not the point in 2020. I loved Dave McIntyre's Thanksgiving column in the Washington Post that suggested this year you open a wine that had meaning not because of what it tasted like, or what you spent on it, but because of a memory you have about how it came to you. That's also a good reminder not to be too precious about the pairing. 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. Don't feel bad about having wine leftovers, along with your food. You'll likely learn something, and have fun along the way. 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.

Roast Chicken with Volnay

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
As we approach Thanksgiving this year, I am reminded how fortunate my family is to be able to share this day together. As many people across the globe have endured such hardship in 2020, my gratitude for a healthy family is immense. People are spending this holiday season quarantined, and possibly without loved ones by their side. If anyone reading this has endured hardship this year, my thoughts and heart are with you all. On our table for the very first time I get to enjoy my rare (and only) bottle of Tablas Creek Bourboulenc!  When I tasted the wine for the first time last spring I thought it would be great for Thanksgiving. In addition to the Bourboulenc, I decided on a Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes Côte de Brouilly, Beaujolais. Whether you are enjoying the holiday surrounded by family, or laughing with family via Zoom, I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving.

Charlie Chester, Senior Assistant Tasting Room Manager
In these weird times my Thanksgiving day plans have been up in the air. I am pretty sure Brandon and I are traveling down to Carpinteria to spend time with my sister and my 9 and 11 year old nephews. It should be a good time watching the kids play.  We most likely will not go through too much wine because it will be just my sister and I drinking because my brother in law will be working at the fire station and my dad has opted out due to COVID and will be playing it safe with his wife and her 95 year old mother. I am thinking of bringing two bottles, 2012 Esprit Blanc, my favorite vintage of this wine. I remember Roussanne shining through with its wonderful honey characteristics.  And just to balance things out I will bring a 2016 TCV Grenache another one of my recent favorites.

COVID sucks and family gatherings are not what they used to be.  Don't get me wrong, a mellow Turkey Day is fine with me and seeing my four and a half year old son bonding with/tormenting his older cousins is something I am looking forward to indeed.

Austin Collins, Cellar Assistant
Due to the "complexities" of this year the holidays bear a somewhat hollow feeling. Nonetheless, the drinking must continue. Original travel plans have been cancelled and backcountry maps have been unfolded. For this year, Thanksgiving will be spent in the woods. Exact locations are not specific but, the beverages need be. Lugging 750 mL glass bottles for miles and miles on your back is not really ideal. Thus, I am opting for the canned wine option this year. I will be bringing a selection of canned wines including but not limited to, a HYKIT Wines 4-pack, that should be sufficient for the adventure. But, once the trek is complete and the bags unpacked yet again there is one wine that must always make an appearance at Thanksgiving, a final stamp of completion. One, or maybe two, magnums of Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Nouveau. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
Well as always there will be a healthy supply of Bristols Cider on hand. I think we will begin with some Lone Madrone Pet Nat of Chenin Blanc. Moving into a rosé from Gros Noré, a Fixin Burgundy from Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret, and of course a magnum of 2015 Esprit De Tablas!! I opened a bottle this week to try and it was singing!!! Maybe a Warre's Otima around the fire at days end. Happy Thanksgiving all, be safe and be thankful.

Ian Consoli, Media and Marketing
This year my family will be having a bottle of the 2017 Esprit de Tablas Blanc with our Thanksgiving meal. It has been tasting phenomenal in the tasting room of late and I can fully imagine it melting into a forkful of turkey dipped in mashed potatoes and Mama's gravy. I'm still up in the air about a red. I drank through my supply of Counoise (a turkey day go-to) so looking at possibly a Thacher Cinsault to take its place.

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
Over the past couple years I've developed a slight interest in natural wines - meaning wines that are grown organically and receive no added yeast, acid, fining, filtration and often no sulfites. Finding one that didn't look like a hazy IPA or wasn't capable of removing toenail polish put me off in the beginning, but the best producers around the globe are now taking pride in producing cleaner, faultless versions. I curbside picked-up a bottle of Matassa 2019 Cuvee Romanissa Rouge from Domaine LA, made by natural wine god Tom Lubbe in the Cotes Catalanes zone of southern France. It's a light-colored blend of Carignane and Lledoner Pelut, an obscure grape that loosely translates as ‘hairy Grenache’. Maybe Neil and the boys will have to dust off the grafting station to bring that furry varietal into the Tablas mix! 

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
I always love Thanksgiving; spending time with family to take pause and reflect on the gifts in our lives, but this year, my gratitude is too immense to do anything but let it wash over me.  I’ll be spending the holiday kissing the ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes of our new baby girl and trying to understand how I could have ever become so fortunate. 

I usually try to open bottles from other wineries during the holidays, but this year, it’s important to me to drink Tablas Creek.  Not only to feel a little closer to all the wonderful  coworkers I’ve been missing during maternity leave and the crazy whirlwind that has been COVID, but also to appreciate how lucky I am to work for such an upstanding organization that takes care of its people and its community. We’ll be foregoing the turkey this year in favor of prime rib, and will be opening a bottle of 2007 Panoplie that we’ve been patiently waiting to open.  What better time than 2020 to open the good stuff you’ve been holding onto?!  

Eddie Garcia, Logistics
In our household, I have people who enjoy great wine. And all though this year has been what it has been, Thanksgiving is going to be a time where we all can sit at the table and toast to what we have going on in our lives. Health and family. And to be honest, I’m ready to enjoy this time together. I have a couple bottles that I have set aside for dinner that night including a 2015 “Chapter One” Napa Valley Cabernet from Ernest Hemingway Vineyards.  And a 2016 Brecon Feral Underclass. Both are no doubt not going to disappoint! Have a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving!

Jody Gomes, Accounts Payable & Compliance
For my small family of four, Thanksgiving 2020 isn’t looking too different than in previous years. My parents, my fiancée, and I will spend all day in the kitchen cooking up a lavish meal which will be consumed in roughly 30 minutes. The highlight of the meal will of course be the wine selections. Since 2020 has been a rough year for everyone, why not open up some bottles we have stashed away. While the turkey is browning in the oven my Dad and Fiancée will have their regular Tanqueray on the rocks with olives while my Mom and I will open a bottle of 2012 Domaine Carneros Le Reve, my personal favorite sparkling from California. As a rule of thumb, sticking to a lighter and low alcohol wine usually pairs best with the heavy dinner courses. The Counoise from Tablas Creek has been a staple on my table for the last several years. The notes of bright fruit and subtle spices make for a delightful medium bodied wine that pairs perfectly with every dish on the table. Historically, one bottle of wine is never enough, we will also open a bottle of 2017 Pinot Noir from Odonata Wines. One bottle in particular I am anxiously looking forward to opening will be served after dinner where I can relax and appreciate each sip. This 2008 Petit Verdot from Geddes Wines in McLaren Vale, South Australia, was gifted to me by the Winemaker/Owner during a visit to their cellar door several years ago with my now Fiancée. It was a special trip filled with lots of wonderful memories, it is only fitting I share those memories and wine with my family during a year that has lacked memories.

I am looking forward to spending time with my small family, sharing stories and laughter. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving holiday filled with good times and even better wine! Cheers!

Barbara Haas, Founder
Rebecca will go down to the cellar and choose an "oldie-goldie" Burgundy for the dinner, and we will hopefully have a Dianthus for aperitif and add a nice Tablas white to the Thanksgiving table to bridge the gap between roaster chicken with chestnut stuffing and cranberry jelly and Brussels sprouts and potato and celery root puree. We might open a sweet wine with dessert when we decide on what we're having. This is not the most obsessive, buttoned-up Thanksgiving dinner ever.

Ray King, Tasting Room
I’m planning on bringing the Patelin Rosé, Cotes rouge, Cotes Blanc, Esprit rouge and Esprit Blanc for my family’s outdoor Thanksgiving celebration. Cheers, Ray

Monica O'Connor, Direct Sales Manager
Well, I was very excited looking forward to opening my 2009 Nuits-St-Georges “Les Plateaux”, which I’ve been saving for a special occasion such as what this Thanksgiving might have been.

But alas, there will be no gathering as planned, so I’ll be opening a Gruet Brut (375ml) and toast over Zoom with far-flung with friends and family on the east coast. After which I’ll be curling up with my new book, A Promised Land. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Gustavo Prieto, Cellar, Vineyard, and Tasting Room
Well, this Thanksgiving is going to be different, less people at the table, eating outside. And for the wines, we’ll start with something fresh, a cremant de Loire, Amirault NV, followed by one of my favorite wines, the Esprit de Tablas Blanc. The vintage? I haven’t decided. For its richness and texture it can take on almost any food, especially for thanksgiving with the mix of flavors. And for the red I’m thinking a bottle of Counoise 2017, with its bright fruit, good acidity and medium body it’s definitely a wine that can complement many foods. Happy Thanksgiving!

Amanda Weaver, Cellar Assistant
Usually I have 3 to 4 bottles in my bag when I show up to Thanksgiving dinner, ready to share with relatives and friends alike, but this year with our gathering being so small I think 3 to 4 bottles might be a tad too ambitious. So instead I think I will pare it down to 2 bottles, a white and a red. For the white I tend to gravitate toward something bright and zippy to get the palate refreshed and ready for the onslaught of gravy covered mashed potatoes, stuffing, and nut loaf (I should probably mention our meal will be Vegan, hence, nut loaf). In keeping with that idea, 2018 Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre will be joining the festivities. I came across this producer while in Sancerre, a quiet vineyard tucked into one of the many side roads of the village. Luckily, Julie Guiard was hanging about when we arrived and took us through the entire story of her family’s vineyard and how she herself was now taking the reins and hoping to leave her mark on this new generation of wines. Needless to say, I got out of there with half a case of her wines! And lucky for you, Kermit Lynch is an importer for Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy so you don’t just have to take my word, you can get out there and enjoy it yourself! Okay, onto the red! For reds I have to go with another favorite of mine, 2016 A Tribute to Grace Shake Ridge Ranch Grenache. Honestly, any Grenache from Angela Osborne would be a stunning addition to good food and good company, but this specific bottle sticks out to me for its complexity. Her wines have a lovely softness without being a pushover, they stand their ground while still invite you to explore deeper. I highly recommend visiting her tasting room in Los Alamos to really wrap your head around how cool these wines are!

And with that I leave you to ponder your own wine pairings and what you are most excited about and thankful for this season! Cheers!

Lizzy Williams, Tasting Room
This year I'm spending Thanksgiving with my husband and five dogs, hiking on the 90 acres we live on. We will have a picnic, hopefully with most of the traditional Thanksgiving sides. When it comes to opening a drink, I have a bottle of aged Esprit Rouge and a couple of '18 Cotes Blanc; however, I couldn't justify opening my favorite wines on a hike. We will be having the Castoro Zinfandel and Merlot grape juice. The nice wine will be saved for the next chance I have to share with friends.

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 with just three adults, that doesn't seem like a great idea. So, I'll try to follow Dave McIntyre's advice and pick wines that make me want to remember 2020. Maybe the 2019 Bourboulenc to start, helping celebrate that 2020 was the year we got a harvest off all the 14 grapes of the Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape collection for the first time. Plus, with its bright acids and nutty flavors, it seems like a great match for the capon we're cooking in lieu of a turkey.

As for reds, I'm leaning toward bookends both inspired by the California Wine Institute's Behind the Wines series I had the pleasure of being a part of twice this year, early on with Bob Lindquist and then in the finale with Morgan Twain Peterson. I think I'll open a bottle of Bob's Lindquist Family Wines Grenache, all bright fruit and translucent elegance, and a bottle of one of Morgan's Bedrock Heritage Vineyard blends. Mostly Zinfandel, but (as I learned in the lead-up to our session) with grapes as diverse as Mataro, Grenache, Carignane, and even Vaccarese in the blend, it seems like an appropriately American combination for this quintessentially American holiday. Plus, it's full of character, spicy and fruity, earthy and intriguing without being heavy-handed in any way.

It feels right, in the uncertainty and challenges of 2020, to celebrate the community of American wine. As Bob and Morgan demonstrate in their own ways, there is inspiring work being done in American wine on many fronts. We're fortunate to still have Bob, one of the founders of the Rhone Rangers movement we inhabit, making wines that are as soulful and expressive as anything he's ever done. And we're fortunate to have Morgan diving into the heritage vineyards that helped establish California wine, sharing what he's learning, and using that to make quintessentially American wines of balance and character. I am thankful for this community I get to be a part of and, in a weird way, for the opportunities we've had because of 2020 to interact in new ways with the inspiring people in my own sphere, and with new fans around the country and world. It's a privilege to be a part of such a rich tradition, and to help shape its future.

Wherever you are, we wish you a happy, healthy Thanksgiving, and that you are able to find things to celebrate.


What We're Drinking with Thanksgiving 2019

I am a fan of Thanksgiving. It's a holiday that's mostly about eating, drinking, and family. It's still relatively uncommercialized. And it's about giving thanks, which I feel like puts a celebration into the right perspective.

Thanksgiving meals can be motley, usually involving a range of flavors and sweetnesses, and a group of participants whose interest in wine is likely to not all be acute. So I think it's good that most of the criticism I read about Thanksgiving wine pairing suggests first that you not stress too much about it, and second that you offer guests a range of choices. I was reminded recently of 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". And that's an approach it's hard to argue with.

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. There are a lot of Tablas Creek wines that fit these broad criteria, so if you want to stay in the family, you could try anything from Marsanne (one of my absolute favorites right now) 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.  

To give you a sense of this diversity, I thought it would be fun to ask a broad cross-section of our team what they were planning on drinking this year. Their responses are below, in their own words, in alphabetical order.

Thanksgiving Pairings

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
This Thanksgiving will be spent with just my little family of five in our quaint town of Templeton. I truly enjoy cooking so I plan to spend my day in the kitchen creating memories with my kids while they help me make the feast. There will be Charlie Brown and the Macy’s parade on the TV for the kids - music playing while we enjoy bubbles and appetizers. For dinner this year, it was a toss-up between Domaine Weinbach Riesling and Tablas Creek Counoise. Given the possibility of rain (yay!!) on Thursday, I opted for a red wine. The Counoise fruit and spice notes pair perfectly with all things Thanksgiving.  I hope everyone has a wonderful day filled with love, laughter, and lots of good food. Cheers!

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
Well the Thanksgiving table, what to drink? There will of course be some Bristols Cider. This year we will have some Ojai Vineyards Roussanne which I just picked at the tasting room and is delicious. Also we will be opening a nice Beaujolais Nouveau from Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Fils. I think it will be a nice occasion for a Story Of Soil Grenache. Perhaps a nice Calvados to round it all off.

Ian Consoli, Marketing Coordinator
I like to balance guarantees with experiments in my Thanksgiving wine selections. This year the guarantee is The Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare Rosé. The tart red fruit of Grenache focused roses tend to pair well with the meal every year. My Tablas bottle is a bit of an experiment recommended by a local Somm. During a recent tasting he noted the Viognier focus and balancing Grenache Blanc of our 2017 Cotes de Tablas Blanc would pair nicely with the flavorful feast that fills aThanksgiving table. I’m looking forward to finding out. In a red I shoot for a fruit forward wine. This year I am looking at a Pinot from Alain Gras in Burgundy and an Old Vine Cinsaut from South Africa. There’s only 4-6 people at our table so I’ve been told I can only choose one of the reds. Wish me luck. Happy feasting!

Evelyne Fodor, Tasting Room Lead
My friends Andrea and Michael Dewit are hosting Thanksgiving dinner at their new home this year. The wines I chose are as much about pairing with the traditional meal as to a nod to them. 

The first is a 2017 Sattlerhof Gamlitz Sauvignon Blanc from Sudsteiermark, Austria, the town where Andrea grew up. I found it at K&L where an eager staff told me it is light and has good acidity. He assured me it will pair beautifully with the fresh, crunchy endives salad I am bringing. Andrea will appreciate it immensely.

The second is a 2003 Côte-Rôtie from Domaine Patrick Jasmin. My brother gave me the bottle several years ago when I was visiting him in my hometown Lyon. Interestingly, the patriarch, Robert Jasmin was a friend of my dad. Our host Michael previously owned a vineyard (Domaine Maillet) in Vaison-La-Romaine, knows very well the region and is a true connoisseur of Côte-Rôtie. My brother described it as a wine in full maturity, with gentle tannin and moderate acidity. Not the least, a moderate alcohol level. No doubt it will be a great match with the spiciest part of the turkey. I can’t wait to see Michael taking the first sip of it.

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
My husband’s family is from Orange County, which is around four hours away, and my mom lives in the Sierra Foothills, which is approximately five hours away. This means for the holidays, we normally spend a decent amount of time in the car. This year, however, my family is coming to us! I am feeling incredibly grateful and as such, have taken the time to plan for wines that they will love as a small thank you for the long haul they’re making to spend time with us. We’ll be making our traditional prime rib for Thursday night, so our final wine will need a little more heft and structure than we would be for the more traditional turkey feast.  We’ll go through a progressive wine list, starting with light and fruity and making our way up the structure scale. To kick things off while cooking in the kitchen, I typically like to have something with bubbles. It looks like it may be a chilly, rainy afternoon, so instead of the usual bottle of white or rosé sparklers, we’ll have a bottle of Barbolini Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro. It’s bubbly, fruity, and incredibly fun to drink. For dinner, we’ll have dueling glasses of red – one glass that’s a little dancier on the palate and one with a little more heft and weight. Jolie Laide’s 2016 North Coast Syrah will be our wine on the leaner end of the spectrum to pair with the non-meat dishes. For the prime rib, we’ll have a bottle of The Royal Nonesuch Farm 2017 Red. I’m unbelievably excited about opening and enjoying each of these wines, but even more excited to share them with some of the people I love most in the world.

Craig Hamm, Assistant Winemaker
We are going to be doing a potluck at my family’s house so my duties are the wines. There will be a sparkling rosé made with some friends, a fully garagiste special: my first vintage of wine, the Paysan Rosé of zinfandel. Then to some white Esprit Blanc, which always goes well at Thanksgiving with the richness it brings. I will also be bringing something I purchased from a great tasting at Kukkula: Vaalea, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier. For the reds we will have a Niner Cabernet Franc, Tablas Creek Counoise, and also the Tannat. I hope everyone has a good time with family and friends. Cheers.

Jordan Lonborg, Viticulturist
Thanksgiving is the best day of the year. Friends, family, food, WINE, and whiskey. I am pulling the trigger this year and opening a magnum of 2013 Esprit de Tablas to share with my Mendocino family branch. On our journey north, this being Alma’s (our 5 month old daughter) first visit to the NorCal coast, we figure we’d expose her to some of the gems Route 128 and Anderson Valley has to offer. Our planned stops for Pinot (and hopefully a few Rhônes) will be Navarro, Husch Vineyards, Toulouse, and lastly, for the bubbles, Roederer... The night will end, or begin, with a bottle of Blanton’s Whiskey!!! Big things to come out of Tablas Creek Vineyard this year! We will keep you all posted! I am truly thankful to be a part of this team! ¡Viva Tablas Creek Vineyard! 

John Morris, Tasting Room Manager
The thing is, this Thanksgiving I still don’t know what wine we’ll be serving.  This is directly and irrefutably related to the fact that we don’t yet know what we’ll be serving for dinner.  I know, I know, its Tuesday.  We’re going back and forth between a traditional Thanksgiving spread and something more to my liking, like say, lamb chops, or my wife’s amazing Thai cuisine (which is her traditional Thanksgiving dinner). It will be a game time decision, made while grocery shopping Wednesday morning.  So I thought I’d pass along some general guidelines that I follow for Thanksgiving. Frankly, you could skip this and check out Eric Asimov’s always excellent Thanksgiving column, which features better writing and the suggestions of a savvy group of wine professionals, as the message is pretty similar. 

  1. Keep it light.  Wines with low alcohol, tannin and oak work better with a traditional Thanksgiving feast. 
  2. Keep it simple.  It kills me to see Uncle Lush knock back an expensive and complex wine like he’s taking a shot of cheap tequila. Unless you’re hosting an avid wine crowd, save yourself some stress and money and look for modest bottlings that follow rule #1.
  3. Rose always works. 

If you’re looking for suggestions from Tablas Creek, the Esprit de Tablas Blanc is always spot on with the savory flavors of this holiday, and elevates this meal to something more. For a budget white, the Patelin de Tablas Blanc would be terrific.  For reds I like the Counoise, Grenache, or Cotes de Tablas.  Just don’t forget the Rosé.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Gustavo Prieto, Tasting Room, Cellar, and Vineyard
These year we’ll have a mix of guests, meaning there will be wine drinkers and beer drinkers, so it will be more of a challenge to choose the wines but one thing for sure it will be bubbles to start with. I’m thinking an Amirault cremant from the Loire and for the dinner table a bottle that I always choose for Thanksgiving, an older vintage of Tablas Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, probably a 2005 and for reds a 2017 Tablas Counoise and also from the Loire a 2013 Patient Cottat, Le Grand Caillou, Pinot Noir

Randy Thurman, Facilities & IT
Kirk and Sweeney rum, Port from a winery in Greenfield, and probably English Ales Black Prince Porter and some English Ales Fat Lip. Maybe some English Ales Big Sur Ale as well and might have some fish and chips from their pub on the weekend. My father in law will probably have several bottles of TCV wines open as he has saved a few from his last shipment. My father in law is waiting for the 24 hour apple cider brined rotisserie smothered in herb butter stuffed with veggies and cooked over peach wood turkey on a rotisserie add on for our Weber kettle grills and I use the drippings from the turkey to make the gravy for the mashed potatoes.

Amanda Weaver, Cellar Assistant
This Thanksgiving I will be traveling down home with a couple options in my car. I usually go for something to pair with the main dish, TURKEY!!! However, my mom has gone the way of veganism so I’ll have to get a bit more creative with my selections. I’m thinking a couple whites, like Delaporte Sancerre Monts Damnés and Paix Sur Terre Ugni Blanc. Both bring a lot to the table with lovely acidity and lots of texture, they are both pleasurable to drink on their own but can also accompany a meal. As far as reds for the occasion, I like to keep things light seeing as the meal typically brings everyone to the edge of bursting their buttons. Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Nouveau 2019 is a great light, pleasantly fruity, and easy on the wallet wine to pair with what will probably be a vegetable-heavy meal.

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 per force.

The largest bottle I have is a 3-liter of 2005 Robert Mondavi Napa Cabernet, acquired at some silent auction this year (a consequence of attending fundraisers in wine country!). I'm sure that would be amazing. But I'm not feeling like I want to commit four bottles of the same wine to a meal where there will only be eight adults. This is a smaller gathering than some recent ones in our history. If I don't open the big bottle, I may go with a magnum of 2000 Talley Rincon Pinot Noir that I've been saving for the right occasion. I also ordered a case of one of my favorite Beaujolais producers, the 2018 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie, with Thanksgiving in mind.

Whichever way we go, I'm sure that it will be preceded by some Dianthus, and we'll likely break out some whites for those who'd prefer that with their turkey, maybe the 2018 Picardan for something mineral and refreshing. For me, it's an important consideration that none of these wines will demand to be the center of attention: they will be dining companions with which you can have a conversation, to tell (and help you tell) stories around the table. After all, that's what it's all about.

Wherever you are, we wish you a happy, healthy Thanksgiving, and that you be surrounded by good food and great company.


Our Most Memorable Wines of 2018

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.

This year, I thought it would be fun to ask some of our key people about one wine that stuck with them from all the ones they'd tried in 2018. I loved the responses I received, and thought that readers of the blog might too. Here's everyone's submission, in their own words, in alphabetical order (except mine, which is at the end):

Leslie Castillo, Tasting Room Team Lead: Casa Gran del Siurana La Fredat 2014 Garnatxa
DSC08261This last November my husband and I traveled to Barcelona, Spain. A longtime friend from Baja, Mexico happened to be there at the same time, so we met up and drove to the Priorat for a day and had lunch at Mastrucafort in Bellmunt del Priorat, it was there where we had my most memorable wine La Fredat 2014 Garnatxa from Casa Gran del Siurana, objectively the wine was elegant yet wild simply beautiful but what made it even more memorable was the amazing Catalan food, rice prepared with rabbit, escargots and wild mushrooms; pasture raised lamb and the best braised “bacalao” I’ve had. The wine on its own was beautiful but what made it most memorable for me was everything that surrounded it our friends, the place the amazing dishes, whenever I drink La Fredat in the future I will remember that snapshot of our trip.

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker: 2013 Domaine Tempier La Tourtine
IMG_9163I have always maintained that a really great wine can only achieve its full potential when it’s company and surroundings are all in perfect tune. Just such a moment happened last week. I took the glorious drive over the Nacimiento-Ferguson road to Big Sur with my boys and a friend. We lunched at my favorite lunch spot anywhere on the planet, Nepenthe. A glorious winter day, we were treated like kings! Classic steak & frites, the wine a 2013 Domaine Tempier La Tourtine. Stunning is an under statement! Food family friends great weather great view GREAT Wine, perfect.

Ian Consoli, Tasting Room: AmByth Estate 2013 Mourvedre
My favorite bottle of 2018, AmByth Estate 2013 Mourvedre, had two special moments. Number one was in its tasting room. As a man stood across from me and poured me 14 memorable natural wines one stood above them all. I took that bottle and held it for the right occasion until it found me only 2 months later at a dinner made exclusively of biodynamic ingredients. I brought it out to pair with the lamb and was immediately sent into a world where everyone else at the table disappears and only the dish, the wine and myself remain in the phenomenon known as “the vortex”. It was magical.

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager: 2005 Franck Balthazar Cornas 
IMG_1005This 2005 Franck Balthazar Cornas quietly resides on one of my favorite wine lists in the US, at Sacramento’s Tapa the World. Half wine bar and half hookah lounge, owner Paul bought heavy amounts of old world juice before the financial downturn of 2008, and a lot of it is still there at original prices for us industry types to drool over. Black and viscous in color, raw meat and kalamata olive aromatics, with just enough of the Cornas funk bumping in the glass; it's in a beautiful pop-and-pour state at 13 years of age with time-tamed tannins.

Evelyne Fodor, Tasting Room Team Lead: Fino Sherry
Tapas and wineAt a tapas joint in Córdoba, Andalusia this summer.  We spotted this little place hidden in the backstreets near the grandiose Mezquita-Cathedral that we had just visited that morning.  In this picture taken by my husband, you’ll notice our glasses of chilled Fino Sherry, the local wine, ubiquitous in the region.  I still feel the deliciously crisp refreshing taste of it, with its distinctive aromas of almond that remind me of our Roussanne.  It did not need any more than a simple plate of chorizo and Manzanilla olives to make the experience delicious and unforgettable.

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker: 2017 Ridge Montebello (from Barrel)
20180803_143440 (1)Thinking about my favorite or most memorable bottle of wine from a given year is like going through a highlight reel from the past 12 months.  Travel experiences, epic dinners with friends and family, celebrations both large and small… for me, every one of those events is marked with a special bottle of wine.  Going through my favorite memories of the year and trying to narrow it down to a single bottle is a difficult task, indeed! 

However, there was one singular wine experience that absolutely blew me away this year.  Before harvest, our cellar team took a trip to Santa Cruz under the auspice of teambuilding, but the real reason for the trip was that our winemaker, Neil Collins, got an invitation from Eric Baugher, winemaker at Ridge Vineyards, to visit the Ridge Monte Bello Estate.  We jumped.  FAST.  Eric gave us a full cellar tour and led us through a stellar barrel tasting experience before showing us the separate Monte Bello cellar.  It was here that I had my very first taste of Ridge’s Monte Bello wine.  My dad had always been a fan of Ridge and the striking green and black labels were a staple in our wine rack – but never the Monte Bello.  This, to me, was tasting from barrel a lifetime of curiosity, longing and wonder.  And while it may have been my first taste of this venerable wine, it was not to be my last that day.  We sat down to lunch and after enjoying flights from their Lytton Springs and Geyserville properties, as well as a flight from their ATP wines, we were treated to a flight of the 1992, 2002 and 2012 Monte Bello.  These wines and this experience was the closest to perfection I’ve ever had the good fortune to be part of.

Working in this industry, we get access to all kinds of really extraordinary experiences, events and wines.  But hanging out with the Ridge vineyard and cellar team and talking frankly about their winemaking practices over glasses of exceptional wines I’d been waiting my entire life to try – this was one of those days where I sat thunderstruck, asking myself “Is this really my life?  How did I get so lucky?”  If a glass of wine causes you to ask questions like that, well, that’s certainly a highlight of the highlight reel.

Linnea Frazier, Media & Marketing: 1984 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon
My most memorable bottle actually all came into play because of a chipped tooth. Yes, a chipped tooth. I was at my orthodontist and we were chatting about my work in the wine industry and his past wine collections, so being curious about the more obscure Rhone whites he proposed we do a bottle exchange next appointment. I readily agreed, not thinking too much of it and when the time came presented him with a bottle of our 2017 Picpoul Blanc. Casually, he places a bottle of 1984 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Cab Sauvignon on the table between us. Needless to say I laughed. And despite my protestations, he was adamant about us exchanging. Much to the delight of my conscience, I do believe he ended up buying a couple cases of Picpoul a few weeks after.

That bottle was opened during the holidays with the people I love most and given the ceremony it well deserved. Of course it was outstandingly rich and rustic, with immediate sinister earthiness and gained more dark fruit after a couple hours. Cheers!

Misty Lies, Tasting Room Team Lead: 2013 Domaine Ponsot Clos de la Roche
IMG_0048Earlier this year we had a free afternoon to open a nice bottle of wine. We decided on a bottle from Domaine Ponsot and decanted it. As the afternoon progressed we tasted it about every 20 minutes to see how it would open up over time. Even as a youthful wine, it was simply amazing and it gave me a whole new appreciation of wine.

John Morris, Tasting Room Manager: 1996 Tablas Hills Cuvee Rouge
This was a year where I drank plenty of wine, but mostly good, solid, everyday stuff.  The exception, at the risk of being a homer, was the discovery of a handful of cases of 1996 Tablas Hills Cuvee Rouge.  This predated the first Tablas Creek Vineyard labeling by one year, but is in essence an Esprit de Tablas/Beaucastel.  A caveat: there’s none left.  We sold it bottle by bottle in the tasting room over the course of a couple of months, and I had the opportunity to taste it a handful of times.  It’s held up remarkably well, and still has some years left.  It is of course an old wine, so is ethereal in body, delicately perfumed, graceful on the palate, with just enough vibrancy to make it fresh.  It’s not quite a perfect wine, as it shows a touch of green, maybe stemmy tannins that are mostly calmed with age, but for a 22-year-old wine made from three-year-old vines, it’s a revelation.  And as much I as enjoyed it, I‘m even more excited about what the wines we’re making now will be like in 20 years, with fully mature vines and a vineyard and winemaking team with two decades of experience on this site.

Suphada Rom, Sales & Marketing: Vouette & Sorbée’s Fidèle
Suphada ChampagneI might be the worst minimalist ever! I carried around this bottle of champagne around with me through the better part of the summer. I had a sneaking suspicion that Cameron (my now fiancé) was going to propose at some point and me, being my hyper organized and planned self, I wanted to be prepared. Thankfully, I only had to tote it around for a month or two! Our engagement wine was Vouette & Sorbée’s Fidèle, a beautiful expression of Pinot Noir from the Aube. If I can give any unsolicited advice, I would say to always have a bottle of champagne ready- you never know (or sometimes you do!) when you may need to celebrate.

Randy Thurman, IT and Facilities Manager: 2012 Esprit de Tablas
We celebrated a new niece arriving this year with a bottle of Esprit Red 2012. I also gained a brother in law almost 3 months to the day that my niece was born, which we also drank to at their wedding with 24 bottles of Tablas Dianthus, Picardan, and Patelin current releases. We did not have any immediate family pass but we usually toast them at every family get together with any drink available and reminisce about how they would have enjoyed being there with us and how much we miss them. To King Po Po as my family would say.

Me: Domaine Marquis d'Angerville, Clos des Ducs, Vintage Unknown
IMG_7056As readers of the blog or followers of Tablas Creek will know, my dad Robert (founder of Tablas Creek) passed away this March one month from his 91st birthday. I wrote at some length on the blog on his life, and also in another piece shared the eulogy I gave for him at the celebration of his life we held at the vineyard in April. That celebration was a mix of sadness and appreciation for the many things he built and left for all of us. In that spirit, at a family gathering two nights before the memorial, my brother Danny and I decided to open a bottle of made by the Burgundy proprietor with whom he had been friends longest: Jacques d'Angerville, born like him in 1927.

I've always loved the wines from Domaine Marquis d'Angerville in Volnay, which for me exemplify Burgundy's magical ability to have depth and intensity of flavor without any sense of heaviness. The bottle itself had spent some years in my dad's Vermont cellar, where the high humidity is ideal for the wine inside the bottles but enough to cause labels to disintegrate. I'm sure that the vintage was printed on the cork, but I don't remember what that was, and the part of the label that would have shown it is gone. Almost certainly some vintage between 1976 and 1985, but I can't be more specific than that.

I remember the wine, though: translucent and ethereal, high-toned, fully mature and yet still very much alive. It's a wine I would have loved in any circumstances, but it was everything else that the wine signified that night that made it my most memorable wine of the year: a backdrop for our telling stories of our dad's life; tangible proof of the impact of his career; and a symbol of endurance (Jacques passed away in 2003, but his brilliance shines through in the wines he made).

A few concluding thoughts:
As you might expect, this was an eclectic list. Some wines are Tablas Creek, but most are not. Many were older, which says that for all the challenges of storing and being patient with wines, the rewards can be marvelous. But the thing that stood out most for me was the extent to which wines can mark the significant occasions in our lives, and give those moments additional depth and meaning. May your food and wine experiences be memorable in 2019.


What We're Drinking with Thanksgiving 2018

I have always loved Thanksgiving. It's a holiday that's mostly about eating, drinking, and family. It's still relatively uncommercialized. And it's about giving thanks, which I feel like puts a celebration into the right perspective.

The idea that there is a "right" wine for Thanksgiving seems to be on its way out, and that's just fine. The meal, after all, is diverse, with a panoply of flavors (and participants) that encourages a diverse collection of wines. I do think that there are wines that it's probably good to steer clear of: wines that are powerfully tannic 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 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.  There are a lot of the wines that we make that fit this broad criteria, so if you want to stay in the Tablas Creek family, you could try anything from Roussanne and Esprit Blanc to Dianthus Rosé to Counoise, Grenache, or Cotes de Tablas.  Richer red meat preparations open up a world of Mourvedre-based reds, from Esprit de Tablas to Mourvedre to our Panoplie.  But there's a wide world of wines out there, and I know that while our table will likely include a Tablas wine or two, there will be plenty of diversity represented. I thought it would be fun to see what a broad cross-section of our team were looking forward to drinking this year.  Their responses are below, in their own words, in alphabetical order.

Thanksgiving Pairings

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
This year my family is especially grateful considering all the turmoil California has been through in the last month.  It will be just our little family of 5 celebrating together this year, so our wine list in small.  While I cook and listen to my children play (or argue, more commonly) I will be sipping on some lovely Delamotte Champagne… bubbles make everything better. For dinner I have saved a bottle of 2012 Coudoulet de Beaucastel to share with my husband. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
Once again it is time to carefully select those wines that will accompany turkey on the table. As is always the case these days the first bottle on my list will be a Magnum of Esprit De Tablas Blanc, the new and luxuriant 2016 perhaps? or the 2012?. The cellar crew and I shared a magnum of Beaujolais Nouveau from Domaine Dupeuble, I bought an extra for thanksgiving! The Lone Madrone Demi Sec Chenin Blanc will certainly be present. I have been saving a Brick House Pinot also. I tend to like some bubbles around also perhaps from The Loire Valley. We have a lot of guests coming this year, guests with varying levels of wine geekiness so the post Thanksgiving list will surely make more interesting reading than my pre list. Is there any better moment than friends and family around a table laden with wine food and chatter? Not for me there isn't! Neil..

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
Darren editedI’m going all central coast this year on wine, as my family is celebrating with close friends in Ventura who own an awesome wine-focused restaurant called Paradise Pantry. We’ll be starting off with the 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, which is at an incredible stage of its life and mind blowing in large Bordeaux glassware. For my contribution of reds, I pulled a 2008-2010 vertical of Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir; a powerful iconic SLH estate for the varietal. The fruit and tannin intensity coming from this own-rooted slope rewards some short term cellaring and should be at their pleasurable peak, along with the flavors and richness of what Paradise Pantry's chef-owner Kelly Briglio is making for the feast. Happy holidays! 

Brad Ely, Cellar Master
This year, as every year for Thanksgiving, my family and I will be starting with sparkling. There is nothing like bubbles to ease some family tensions and put everyone in the festive spirit. I usually go domestic for this and buy a few bottles of something very drinkable that everyone can enjoy like Mumm, Roederer, or Schramsberg. Then for the meal we will definitely have a food oriented rosé, like our Tablas Creek Dianthus. I find rosé to be a very versatile pairing with the multitude of flavors on the Thanksgiving dinner table. For red, we will be drinking a Cru Beaujolais from Fleurie and a Red Burgundy from Marsannay. Reds on the fresh side that complement the different foods without overpowering anything are my go to wines and these two should fit the bill just right. Cheers!

Evelyne bottlesEvelyne Fodor, Tasting Room Lead
I am looking for something autumnal, unexpected, and “very French.”  My first pick is the 2015 Le Peu de la Moriette Vouvray of Domaine Pichot. The grape is Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley.  To me, Vouvray stands for Fall; the way rosé makes me think of Summer.  This one has a yellow leaf color, herbal flavors and a Pink Lady apple fruitiness that will fit perfectly with my butternut squash soup.  

Another pick from the Loire Valley will also land on my table.  I found this 2012 Chinon, Les Petites Roches from Charles Joguet at Kelly Lynch in Menlo Park for $23 (the grape is Cabernet Franc). It is lean, floral and has the right amount of acidity to cut the fat of the meal. I loved its faint earthy undertones on my palate. I will put it in the fridge for 30 minutes before opening because I like my reds on the cooler side.  Both Vouvray and Chinon will flow with the food instead of being the centerpiece of the meal. 

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
Aside from helping with chopping and dishes, my only Thanksgiving responsibility is to bring some wines that (hopefully) everyone will enjoy and make sure glasses stay full.  My wine packing plan involves the assumption that everyone likes what I like, which is a tactic that I’ve discovered works far better with wine than it does with politics. 

If there were a Day-Drinking Handbook, I’m sure it would require that sparkling wines must be consumed at some point during the festivities.  There’s not (that I know of), but it doesn’t mean we can’t heed that imaginary book’s wisdom.  We’ll start with something that provides everything I love about sparkling wine (dry, bright yet creamy with a fine mousse) and leaves out the thing that’s harder for me to swallow when buying Champagne: the price-tag.  My first sparkling bottle of the 2018 holiday season will be Domaine Huet’s Vouvray Petillant Brut.  It lands solid on the palate but weighs in at less than $30.  For the more serious portion of the dinner, we’ll pull out a 2012 Foxen Pinot Noir from Bien Nacido Block 8.  I’m anxious to revisit this wine as I loved the explosive nose and precise palate when we last had a bottle a few years ago.  If it’s anything like I remember, this bright, spicy and supple wine should be a great accompaniment to the various dishes being passed around the table.  With these two beauties being enjoyed (plus others, I’m sure), we’re bound to be too busy extolling the virtues of what’s in our glass to even think about discussing politics!

Linnea Frazier, Marketing Assistant
Thanksgiving tends to toe the line of mayhem and yet not quite dissolving into anarchy every year in my household. Naturally, the wines on the table help in this regard (sometimes admittedly adding to the anarchy aspect). Being a bubbles oriented family in general, we will probably be honoring American tradition and starting out with something produced Stateside like the 2012 Soter Mineral Springs Blanc de Blancs from one of my favorite Oregon producers. After that our 2016 Counoise and 2015 Roussanne will be no doubt represented and massively appreciated, with some Gamay always tending to sneak in there as well. Cheers!

Eileen Harms, Accounting
We will begin and end our Thanksgiving with a toast to the blessings we have had this year and what the future holds. I think a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut and a bottle of Domaine Carneros Brut Rose should do the trick. Not quite sure which will start and which will finish but dinner will include a 2013 Carlson Creek Chenin Blanc.

Misty Lies, Tasting Room Team Lead
You might be surprised but my family can be a bit untraditional when it comes to Thanksgiving meals. We are just not big on turkey but love all the fixings. This year we will be having some family in from Southern California and are going to celebrate the day before by heading down to Ember Restaurant for dinner. For starters I might bring Esprit Blanc to go with the first half of dinner, it will go nicely with their salads and the amazing scallop appetizer they have. I also see they have Six Hour Braised Oxtails on the menu so I will be taking along some bottles of the 2009 Massolino Barolo Parussi.  

Our family wishes you all a great Thanksgiving!

Jordan Lonborg, Viticulturist
In the spirit of giving thanks, I’ll be paying homage with an ‘09 Tablas Creek Tannat because it is hands down one of the toughest, most resilient varietals I’ve yet to encounter. 

Also, Lone Madrone’s “Old Hat” (Neil Collins’ side project). The fruit from this wine is grown by my neighbor David Osgood, a local dry farming legend, and hands down one of the largest inspirations in my life and a huge catalyst as to why I do what I do today! 

John Morris, Tasting Room Manager
My wife announced yesterday that we're having a Cajun turkey for Thanksgiving.  While I haven't taken the time to research precisely what that entails, I know one thing:  it's going to be spicy.  In my mind I go immediately to whites and roses.  Sure, light-bodied, low-tannin reds will work, and I may pull out a bottle of our Counoise just to test my theory, but I suspect my initial instinct will prove correct.  I'm going to lean heavily on Tablas Creek this year, so opening a bottle of both the Patelin de Tablas Rosé and Dianthus seem elementary.  For whites, the options are much greater.  An Esprit de Tablas Blanc of any vintage would be sublime, but I'm a little concerned it's elegance would be overshadowed by the heat.  After some tinkering in my minds eye, I'm going with the 2016 Cotes de Tablas Blanc (more saline and mineral than the effusive 2017) and the 2017 Picpoul Blanc, which has this great spice component that offsets the juicy fruit and welcome acidity.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  

Gustavo Prieto, Tasting Room, Cellar, and Vineyard
I have in mind it's to start with some bubbles, a Vouvray, Domaine Pichot 2011, I like Chenin and it's always a fun way to start the festivities. After, continue with Tablas Dianthus Rosé 2016 and for the dinner table an older vintage of the Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc (04?, 05?). I love Esprit Blanc's and I always find them very complex ready to take on such a mix of flavors like thanksgiving dinner. And for the red drinkers the Qupe 2011 Pinot from the Sawyer Lindquist vineyard in Edna Valley farmed Biodynamically, only 1.5 acres planted. I never tried this Pinot before but I'm curious to taste this wine from a cooler area. 

Suphada Rom, Sales & Marketing
Thanksgiving is the ultimate family meal and bottle share. I’ll bring a few different options, like the Gamay/Pinot Noir blend from Guillot-Broux, a perfect accompaniment to my tangy cranberry sauce (and for my post-Thanksgiving sandwich!) I’ll keep the Pinot Noir trend going through dinner with a bottle of Frederic Savart Champagne. His Blanc de Noirs (l’Ouverture) is my favorite because its got a freshness I love when it comes to champagne, and a richness I am always pleasantly surprised by. My fiancé Cameron and my parents love rosé and we saved some 2017 Patelin- I’m sure a bottle will make it onto very crowded but cozy dinner table.

Randy Thurman, Facilities & IT
I usually drink some Papa’s Pilar rum or a nice bottle of Esprit that we have been saving for special occasions. The rum reminds me of camping trips with my dad and sitting by the camp fires listening to old stories and smelling the smoke from cigars. The wine reminds me of visiting my mother and father in law when we have had huge spreads with a large group of family. Usually 20-30 people and we sometimes drink large magnums of wine. Has been some J Lohr, Tucker Cellars, Paraiso Vineyards by the smith Family and of course several bottles of Tablas Creek. Usually a bottle of Dianthus and something white like a Viognier or Picardan is opened along with a bottle of Esprit. I usually rotisserie over a Weber charcoal grill an apple juice-brined turkey coated in butter and herbs and stuffed with apples, oranges, lemons, and onions for about 4 hours on low heat. Always juicy and comes out like a smoked rotisserie chicken. I have also used a similar method to smoke large prime rib roasts as well.

Calera SelleckAnd 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 per force.

Of consideration for us, this will be our first Thanksgiving without my dad, and I'm sure we will spend a good chunk of the day thinking and talking about him. So it's with pleasure that I think I've found the perfect bottle to both celebrate his memory and pair with the meal. It's a magnum of 1987 Calera Selleck Pinot Noir, brought by Calera's founder and winemaker (and longtime friend of my dad's) Josh Jensen to the celebration of my dad's life this spring. It checks all the wish list elements for me: Pinot Noir, particularly with some age, is a great pairing for turkey (check), Calera is an iconic producer (check), it was brought by a friend and is a wine to which we have a personal connection (check), and it's a magnum, so there's going to be enough to go around the table (check). I'm sure that it will be preceded by some Dianthus, and we'll likely break out some whites for those who'd prefer that with their turkey, maybe our 2017 Marsanne, which is my favorite white we've got right now. And none of these wines will demand to be the center of attention: they will be dining companions with which you can have a conversation, to tell (and help you tell) stories around the table. After all, that's what it's all about.

Wherever you are, we wish you a happy, healthy Thanksgiving, and that you be surrounded by good food and great company.


Other Wines We Love: 2012 Qupe Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Grenache

The next in an occasional series of our non-Tablas Creek wine discoveries.

Bob Lindquist is one of my favorite people in the wine business.  As the founder of Qupe and one of the pioneers of California's Rhone movement, Bob probably needs little introduction to most fans of Tablas Creek. He has been making wines from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County grapes since 1982, and has been honored with many awards, including the 2015 Rhone Rangers Lifetime Achievement Award. Even more interesting, to me at least, he's still on the Rhone movement's cutting edge. He's planted Rhone varieties in new places, most notably the Sawyer-Lindquist Vineyard in the cool (UC Davis Region 1 on the Winkler Scale) Edna Valley. He adopted Biodynamic farming early enough that this year is year 10 of the Sawyer-Lindquist Vineyard's Demeter Certification. And he's still a tireless promoter of the category we both inhabit; I've run into him in airports and at out-of-state wine events more times than I can count.

Bob's wines are in style like his manner: thoughtful, understated, and long-lived.  They're rarely flashy when they're young, although they're always pure and correct.  But they have remarkable longevity, and (like Bob) the more time you spend with them, the more insight you realize they have to offer. 

Last night, we opened a bottle of Qupe 2012 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Grenache. We paired it with a Blue Apron recipe for seared steaks with parsley-caper butter, which we dressed up by grilling the steaks and zucchini and then serving the zucchini over a whipped ricotta concoction we'd loved from a different Blue Apron recipe.  The food was terrific: one of the best meals we've cooked this year.  The steaks turned out juicy and flavorful, with the meaty flavors brought out by the umami of the parsley-caper butter.  The mashed potatoes were tangy and rich, while the sweet smokiness of the slow-grilled zucchini was given texture and cool richness by the ricotta.  But the wine was the star of the show.  Grenache has a tendency toward being candied on its own, but this rendition had none of that: just pure crunchy red fruit, vibrant acids, and a little welcome spice at the end. The wine came across as almost weightless, in the best possible way: flavors distilled down to their essence, as I often find from grapes grown in a region almost too cool for them to ripen.  Just an absolute pleasure to drink.  A snapshot, mid-meal (I didn't stage a shot at the beginning because, well, I wasn't expecting the revelation we got):

Qupe Grenache

The Grenache grape can be something of a chameleon, which is perhaps unsurprising for a grape planted in so many diverse places around the world.  It is a warm climate staple, and most regions where Grenache is widely planted (including the southern Rhone, Spain, and Paso Robles) are warm ones.  And some of the characteristics that I found in this Qupe Grenache are those we see here at Tablas Creek: its red fruit profile, its brilliant garnet color, its good acids, and its spice.  But while many examples of Grenache world-wide are earthier and show more baked red fruit character, this wine felt so fresh, even at age 6, like it was all high tones and electricity. I don't know what age will do to the wine, but given Qupe's track record for aging and the wine's freshness, I'm confident it's going to go somewhere exciting, though it's so good and so pure now, I'm sure lots of it will get consumed in the near term.  And best of all, it's not an expensive wine, still available for $35 on the Qupe Web site.  If you have the chance to snag some, or you have some in your cellar, you're in for a treat.

Bravo, Bob.