Tasting the Wines in the Spring 2024 VINsider Wine Club Shipments

Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club. In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club. Most of these (including four of the six wines in the classic shipment and most of the additional wines we added to the Red Wine Selection and White Wine Selection shipments) are made in quantities of less than 1,000 cases. In others, the club gets a first look at a wine that may see a later national release. At least a month before the club shipments will be sent out, we open them all to write the tasting and production notes that will be included in the club shipments. In many cases, this tasting is our first post-bottling reintroduction (or our last pre-bottling check-in) on wines that we'll come to know intimately in coming months and years. I always think it's fun to give followers of the blog a first look at these notes. The wines:

Spring 2024 VINsider Shipment wines

The shipments that will be going out in March include wines from the 2021, 2022, and 2023 vintages. Tasting three vintages together is a great way to get a handle on their relative personalities, and typically my first chance to do a personality assessment on the newest vintage, which we haven't even started blending trials on yet. My quick thoughts, after the tasting, are these:

  • The wines from 2021 continue to demonstrate that this was an outstanding year across the board, from early-drinking whites to ageworthy reds. The wines all show concentration and structure, yet with purity and expressiveness. A candidate for our greatest-ever vintage.
  • Although 2022 was our hottest year ever, the wines don't taste like you'd probably expect. Instead, there's a freshness and openness to both reds and whites that gives confirmation that we were able to keep up with the year's pressures and get the grapes off the vine in good shape.
  • With only the first few wines, it's early to generalize about 2023, but the Vermentino and rosés show unusually intense flavors with great acids to balance them. This is what we'd hope we'd see from our coolest year in more than a decade, which resulted in exceptionally long hang-times.  

I'll go through the six wines in the VINsider Classic (Mixed) Shipment and then move on to the additional wines we chose to include in the Red Wine Selection and White Wine Selection shipments. I was joined for the tasting by most of our cellar team, so these notes are a compilation of our thoughts. The Classic Shipment includes six different wines:

2022 VIOGNIER

  • Production Notes: The two issues that affected our white production in 2022 (a spring frost in one block and the heat wave that hit the first week of September) both largely left the Viognier unscathed. We don't plant any Viognier in the low-lying section that got frosted, and the season had been warm enough that the early-ripening Viognier was already mostly picked by the time it hit. That left us with both reasonable production and excellent vibrancy in Viognier, and we loved the varietal bottling we made, which balances the grape's classic stone fruit and honey flavors with brighter-than-usual acids. The Viognier lots were whole cluster pressed and fermented in a mix of 600-gallon foudres and stainless steel, then the chosen lots blended in April 2023 and bottled in June. 
  • Tasting Notes: A charming nose of honeysuckle and Haribo peach. The palate is long, pure, and textured, with more stone fruit and a tarragon-like note of sweet green herbs. Rich texture is balanced by some structural weight and unusually good acids for Viognier. Drink now and for at least the next five years.
  • Production: 706 cases.
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2023 PATELIN DE TABLAS ROSÉ

  • Production Notes: We're excited to share both our rosés with VINsiders this shipment. The Provencal-style, Grenache-based Patelin de Tablas Rosé is as always led by Grenache (71% this year), which provides both bright fruit and refreshing acidity, while as usual rich, floral Mourvedre (20%) comprises the second-largest portion. Vermentino (a traditional component of many Provencal rosés under its French name Rolle) makes up 8%, with 1% of spicy, electric Counoise to round out the blend. 90% of the fruit was direct-pressed upon arrival at the winery, with the balance destemmed and let soak for a single work day, then pressed off after about 12 hours. The components were blended and fermented in stainless steel until bottling in January 2024.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty peach color, a touch deeper than most recent vintages. On the nose, vibrant aromatics of fresh nectarine, wild strawberry, and jasmine. The mouth is rich with fruit but dry and bright, with flavors of strawberry tart and salted watermelon, vibrant acids, and a mouth-watering finish with notes of yellow raspberry and rose petals. Drink over the next 18 months.
  • Production: 5247 cases
  • List Price: $28 VINsider Price: $22.40

2023 DIANTHUS

  • Production Notes: Better yields on reds allowed us to make a more normal amout of Dianthus in 2023. Named after a family of flowering plants with deep pink blooms, Dianthus is always led by Mourvedre (51% this year), for rich texture and watermelon and plum fruit, with Grenache (38%) for bright strawberry fruit and refreshing acidity and Counoise (8%) for spice and cherry fruit. 3% Cinsaut rounds out the blend with more brambly fruit and sweet spice. The fruit spent 24 hours on the skins, less than usual because of the year's deep colors, and then it completed its fermentation in stainless steel before bottling in January 2024.
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely deep peach color. On the nose, a powerful combination of blood orange and juniper, spiced plum and smoky minerality. The mouth is rich with raspberry and rhubarb fruit, creamy texture, and a vibrant line of acidity that leaves a lingering impression of plum skin, rose petals, and briny sea spray. A rosé to convert people who don't think pink wines can be serious. Drink before the end of 2025.
  • Production: 1396 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2021 LE COMPLICE

  • Production Notes: The sixth vintage of our blend that celebrates the kinship between whole cluster Syrah (59%) and the wildly interesting grape Terret Noir (8%). Le Complice means, roughly, "partner in crime". Although Syrah is dark and Terret light, both share wild herby black spice, and Terret's high acids bolster Syrah's tendency toward stolidity. We added a higher percentage than usual of Grenache (32%) for mid-palate richness in this structured, powerful year, as well as our first-ever harvest of Muscardin (1%) which seems similar to Terret in character. The wine was blended in June of 2022 and aged in foudre until its bottling in April 2023.
  • Tasting Notes: A gorgeous nose of sugarplum and gumdrop, sweet tobacco, pine forest, and dark chocolate. The mouth is vibrant, with flavors of cocoa powder, a tangy fruit note like red apple skin, an iron-like mineral note absolutely classic for Syrah, and a wild sage herbiness adding complexity. The finish goes back to sweeter notes of cola, baking spice, and (it is Syrah, after all) rendered pork fat. An unusually approachable Le Complice at this stage, without sacrificing any of its complexity. Drink over the next two decades.
  • Production: 882 cases
  • List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48

2021 TANNAT

  • Production Notes: Our twentieth bottling of this traditional grape from South-West France, famous for its intense fruit, spice, and tannins that produce wines capable of long aging. Tannat is known principally in the Pyrenees foothills appellation of Madiran, but originally native to the Basque region. We ferment Tannat in open-top fermenters to keep it exposed to oxygen and start the softening process, then move it to neutral oak foudre where it ages for nearly 2 years. It was bottled in April 2023 and has been aging the last 10 months waiting for its release. 
  • Tasting Notes: An appealing nose of raspberry candy, violets, cassis, teriyaki, and blueberry pie. The mouth is mostly red-fruited at this stage, with flavors of plum and currant, a nice saline mineral note, and a note that was both woodsy and mineral that Amanda described as pencil shavings. Tannat's signature combination of chewy tannins and bright acids keeping things fresh. Pair with rich foods now or age for up to two decades if you're looking for a more refined experience.
  • Production: 732 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

2021 PANOPLIE

  • Production Notes: Panoplie is selected from the top 3% of the year's lots, chosen for their richness, concentration and balance, giving pride of place to Mourvedre's lovely dark red fruit and distinctive combination of loam, earthiness, and meat. Each lot was fermented individually before being selected, blended and moved to foudre to age in July 2022. Mourvedre, as always, represents the largest percentage (54%) of Panoplie. Roughly equal parts Grenache (24%, for sweet spice and vibrancy) and Syrah (22%, for black fruit, density, and tannic richness) complete the blend. The wine was bottled in July 2023.
  • Tasting Notes: A densely packed nose of pipe tobacco, red and black fruit, menthol, new leather, and sweet spice. The palate shows related flavors of fruit on the boundary of red and black: currant and black raspberry, with chalky minerality and chewy tannins that suggest lots more will be revealed with time. The long finish has notes of cherry compote, chaparral, and black licorice. Hold for six months if you can, and then enjoy over the next two decades, perhaps longer.
  • Production: 822 cases
  • List Price: $105 VINsider Price: $84

Three additional wines (2023 Vermentino, 2022 Patelin de Tablas Blanc, and 2022 Grenache Blanc) will join the 2022 Viognier and the two rosés in the White Wine Selection shipment:

2023 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our twenty-second bottling of this traditional Mediterranean variety, known principally in Sardinia, Corsica, and Northern Italy. It is also grown in the Mediterranean parts of France (particularly Côtes de Provence) where it is known as Rolle. The Vermentino grape produces wines that are bright, clean, and crisp, with distinctive citrus character and refreshing acidity. To emphasize this freshness, we ferment and age Vermentino in stainless steel, and bottle it young (January 2024, this vintage) under screwcap. Vermentino yields in 2023 were better than 2022 but still 30% below our historical averages, and combined with long hang-times to produce remarkable intensity.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic Vermentino nose of key lime, ripe pear, citrus leaf, lemongrass, white flowers, and chalky mineral. The palate is powerful and richly textured, with flavors of salted pineapple, lemon custard, and a focused saline mineral note that lingers into the long finish, underpinning additional notes of tropical fruit and sweet green herbs. One of the most intense Vermentinos we've ever made. Drink now and over the next five years.
  • Production: 713 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2022 PATELIN DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Patelin is French slang for "neighborhood" and the Patelin de Tablas Blanc is our white Rhone-style blend sourced from seven great neighboring Rhone vineyards: Derby, Windfall Farms, New Creations, Duas Terras, Nevarez, Creston Ridge, and Rails Nape, with a 3% addition of Tablas Creek fruit. We base the wine on the richness and acidity of Grenache Blanc (49%), with Viognier (22%) providing lush stone fruit and floral notes, Marsanne (10%) and Roussanne (4%) adding minerality and texture, and three bright grapes finishing the blend: Vermentino (10%) and Picpoul (3%), which we've never been able to source before, plus a little Bourboulenc (2%). The wine was fermented entirely in stainless steel and then bottled in screwcap in May 2023 to preserve its freshness.
  • Tasting Notes: A nose equally balanced between Grenache Blanc's mineral and citrus and Viognier's stone fruit and white flowers, with additional notes of petrichor and peppery spice. On the palate, luscious flavors of stone fruit and lemon custard lifted by persistent chalky minerality and vibrant acids. The long finish brings back notes of white grapefruit, jasmine, and a briny sea spray minerality. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 4141 cases
  • List Price: $28 VINsider Price: $22.40

2022 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: The 2022 vintage was our third year of drought, and Grenache Blanc was also hit by our May frost, leading to our smallest harvest of the variety in two decades. We used some in the Esprit Blanc, but sacrificed the Cotes de Tablas Blanc this vintage so we'd have at least small varietal bottlings of our core grapes. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose mostly lots fermented in stainless steel (for energy), with a smaller addition from foudre (for roundness). The lots were blended in May 2023 and bottled under screwcap the next month.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty nose of peaches and cream, crushed rock, and lemongrass. The mouth has Grenache Blanc's signature mouth-filling texture and white grapefruit flavors, bright acids, chalky minerality and a little pithy bite of green apple skin tannin on the finish. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 339 cases.
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

Three additional reds (the 2022 Cotes de Tablas and 2022 Counoise, as well as the 2021 Syrah) join the 2021 Panoplie, 2021 Le Complice, and 2021 Tannat in the Red Wine Selection shipment:

2022 COTES DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Grenache always plays lead in the Cotes de Tablas, and in 2022 the grape's bright fruit is on full display. We chose 44% Grenache and added 33% Syrah for darker fruit and minerality, while 19% Counoise (for vibrancy and spice) and 4% Mourvedre (for earth and complexity) complete the wine. The Cotes de Tablas was blended in June 2023 and aged in 1200-gallon neutral oak foudres until its bottling in February 2024.
  • Tasting Notes: A vibrant nose of fruitcake and fig, chocolate-dipped strawberries and sweet spice. The mouth has black cherry and wild strawberry fruit, cocoa powder, and a crunchy brightness like bursts of pomegranate seeds. The finish shows a briary, herby note over cherry cola and clove-studded orange. Grenache at its most high-toned and appealing. Enjoy any time over the next decade.
  • Production: 1160 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2022 COUNOISE

  • Production Notes: Valued as a blending grape in France because of its spiciness, its fresh acidity, and its low alcohol, Counoise is rarely seen on its own. But we love being able to share one, and suggest you enjoy it much as you might a Cru Beaujolais: slightly chilled, with charcuterie or as an aperitif. We tend to ferment our Counoise lots in stainless steel to protect them from oxidation, and to age it in neutral oak to avoid weighing down its bright fruit flavors. The lots that we chose for our varietal Counoise were selected and blended in June 2023 and bottled in February 2024, under screwcap to preserve the wine's freshness.   
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely translucent garnet color. The nose is surprisingly powerful, showing brambly raspberry, baking spices, and a little minty top note. The mouth is pretty, with flavors of red plum juice (imagine the inside, without the skin), creamy texture, flinty minerality, and a nice, long finish of red licorice and wild herbs with some lightly dusty tannins keeping order. Enjoy it lightly chilled any time in the next four to six years.
  • Production: 380 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2021 SYRAH

  • Production Notes: All the conditions lined up to make great Syrah in 2021, from the mild winter that preceded the growing season to the warm first half of the year to the cooler weather in August and September, and we had plenty of top-rated Syrah to both use in our blends and make up this varietal bottling. We ferment our Syrah in open-top fermenters, punched down twice daily, then move it to barrel to complete fermentation. For our varietal bottling we selected a mix of lots from newer and older oak, then blended them in June 2022 and aged the wine in neutral oak until bottling in April 2023.
  • Tasting Notes: A dark, quintessentially Syrah nose of iodine, black licorice, blackberry and white pepper. The mouth is classic too, with flavors of blackcurrant and cedar, iron filings and dry-aged beef. The tannins are substantial but not hard, with black fruit and mineral notes reemerging on the long finish. A lovely Syrah that should age effortlessly for two decades.
  • Production: 381 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

If you're a wine club member, we've got a few different ways you can try these wines. We are hosting a live in-person pickup party here at the winery on Sunday, April 7th. Neil, Chelsea, and I will also be hosting another virtual pickup party the evening of Friday, March 29th, with the opportunity to order 187ml tasting kits from us so you can taste along. And we'll again be offering club members who visit between March 15th and April 6th the opportunity to choose their shipment wines as their tasting flight.

If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, we'd love to have you join while there's still a chance to get this spring shipment. Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club.


Tasting the Wines in the Fall 2023 VINsider Wine Club Shipments

Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club. In others, the club gets a first look at wines that may see a later national release. Before each shipment, we reintroduce ourselves to these wines (which, in some cases, we may not have tasted since before bottling) by opening the full lineup and writing the notes that will be included with the club shipments. This morning I sat down with Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi and we dove into this fall's collection.

We base each year's fall shipments around the newest releases of the Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc, and this fall is no exception. But there's a lot more to these shipments than the Esprits. In our classic (mixed) shipment we have included two varietal wines, one red and one white, both of which I love, and one of which is the first wine in a new tier that opens up whole new vistas for us. We're also including two blends: the newest vintage of our Patelin de Tablas Rosé and our small-production En Gobelet blend, selected entirely from our head-trained, dry-farmed vineyard blocks. We think it's one of the most compelling classic shipments we've ever put together, and the additional wines that will go into the red wine and white wine selections are super cool as well. I'm excited to get them in our members' hands soon. Chelsea may not let them out of hers.

Chelsea with Fall 2023 VINsider shipment wines

The classic shipment includes six different wines:

2022 LIGNÉE DE TABLAS WINDFALL FARMS GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: Lignée is French slang for "lineage" and the Lignée de Tablas Windfall Farms Grenache Blanc is our first release in a new tier of wines that features single-vineyard expressions of Tablas Creek clones. The Windfall Farms vineyard is part of a gorgeous horse ranch in the Paso Robles Creston District that used to belong to Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek and now includes some 100 acres of high quality vineyard. This 100% Grenache Blanc is a classic expression of the grape, fermented in stainless steel. It was bottled in May 2023 under screwcap to preserve it at maximum freshness.
  • Tasting Notes: A nose of grapefruit pith, petrichor, chalk, apricot pit and lemongrass. On the palate, pure nectarine and green apple fruit with bright acids, a persistent wet rock minerality, and Grenache Blanc's signature mouth-filling texture and sweet spice. The finish shows notes of mandarin, star anise, and crushed rock. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 825 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2021 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: the 2021 vintage is shaping up to be one of our strongest ever, with intense flavors that remain fresh and lifted thanks to a harvest season which brought a lovely rhythm of alternating cool and warm periods without any heat spikes or rain. Roussanne thrived in these conditions, and our Esprit Blanc blend included our highest percentage since 2016 (70%) fermented in a mix of oak of various sizes and ages for power and density. To that Roussanne base we added more Picpoul (17%) than Grenache Blanc (10%), for its bright acids and tropicality, and just 2% Bourboulenc and 1% Clairette Blanche for limestoney, citrusy lift. As we have done since 2012, we returned the blend to foudre after it was assembled in May 2022 and aged it through the subsequent harvest before bottling it in December 2022. We've been letting it deepen in bottle ever since.
  • Tasting Notes: A powerful nose of new honey and toasted brioche, orange blossom, pineapple core, and a sweet green note reminiscent of tarragon. The palate is intensely Roussanne: fresh pear and beeswax, orange marmalade and chalky minerals. The powerful structure and bright acids dominate the finish, which is just starting to hint at the caramel and nutty depths to come. Drink over the next two decades.
  • Production: 1560 cases
  • List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48

2022 PATELIN DE TABLAS ROSÉ

  • Production Notes: We're excited to share both our rosés with VINsiders this year. In the spring, we sent members our Mourvedre-based Dianthus, and this fall we're sharing our Provencal-style, Grenache-based Patelin Rosé. Always led by Grenache (67% this year), which provides both bright fruit and refreshing acidity, the wine also includes additions of rich, floral Mourvedre (21%), spicy, electric Counoise (9%), and for the first time, a touch of Vermentino (3%) for its citrusy, minerally lift. Vermentino is a traditional component of many Provencal rosés under its French name Rolle. 90% of the fruit was direct-pressed upon arrival at the winery, with the balance destemmed and let soak for a single work day, then pressed off after about 12 hours. The wine was bottled in January 2023 and we've been enjoying it ever since.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty light peach color. On the nose, juicy aromas of Haribo peach, yellow raspberry, strawberry leaf, and yellow roses. On the palate, juicy with flavors of ripe peach, lime zest, creamy minerality, and a gentle minty lift. The lingering finish has notes of pink grapefruit, bright acids, and salty minerals. Drink now and over the next year.
  • Production: 3300 cases
  • List Price: $28 VINsider Price: $22.40

2021 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: In a year where every grape showed well, Grenache still stood out, gaining unusual depth and richness to complement its classic flavors of red fruit and spice. For our varietal bottling we as usual chose lots that emphasized Grenache's freshness and avoided riper lots that tend toward higher alcohols. The lots were blended in June 2022 and aged in neutral oak until its bottling in February 2023.
  • Tasting Notes: A spicy nose of black cherry, red licorice, black pepper, allspice, and rosemary. The mouth is vibrant with fresh plum and blackberry fruit, bright acids, and a wild juniper berry herbiness adding complexity. There is plenty of Grenache's signature youthful tannic grip on the finish, with notes of plum skin, chocolate truffle, and black licorice. Drink soon to enjoy the youthful fruit and spice, or hold for a decade or more for a smoother experience.
  • Production: 970 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2021 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: Our fourteenth En Gobelet, a non-traditional blend all from head-trained, dry-farmed blocks, and mostly from the 12-acre block we call Scruffy Hill, planted in 2005 and 2006 to be a self-sufficient field blend. These lots tend to show more elegance and minerality than our closer-spaced irrigated blocks, although in 2021 the wine shows plenty of power. We chose a blend of 39% Grenache, 29% Mourvedre, 16% Syrah, 11% Counoise, and 5% Tannat, with the Grenache and Counoise providing lift, the Syrah and Tannat providing structure and tannin, and the Mourvedre earth, loam, and ageworthiness. The wine was blended in June of 2022, aged in foudre, and bottled in April 2023.
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely deep red color. A savory nose of teriyaki, mocha, pine forest, and (eventually) redcurrant. The palate is seamless with sweeter flavors like cherry and brambly blackberry balanced with savory, loamy warmth and juniper spice. Bright acids and plum skin tannins highlight a long finish of new leather, chocolate, cranberry, and salty minerality. Complex and built for the long term. Decant this if you're drinking it now, or wait and drink any time over the next two decades.
  • Production: 861 cases
  • List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48

2021 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: As always, the Esprit is based on the red fruit and meatiness of Mourvedre (35%). The relatively equal proportions of Grenache (26%, for sweet spice and bright acids) and Syrah (23%, for dark color and savory, tannic richness) are a good indicator of the vintage's overall balance and quality. This also seemed to be a great vintage to lean into three of our more trace varieties, and we used all our Vaccarese (7%, for black fruit and minerality) and Cinsaut (5%, for warm purple fruit and sweet spice) as well as 4% Counoise for vibrancy and wildness. This blend produced something both intense and fresh, complex and yet pure. The wine's components were selected for Esprit, blended in June 2022 and aged a year in foudre before bottling in August 2023.
  • Tasting Notes: The nose is deep and inviting, clearly Esprit: new leather, sweet spice, currants and dark chocolate. On the palate, broad and rich, with notes of flourless chocolate cake, black plum, meat drippings, and a spicy, nutty mincemeat pie element. The finish is brambly blackberry, black fig, and milk chocolate, with chewy tannins that promise years of meaty development. Immensely appealing now, but also with the structure and intensity to reward time in the cellar. Enjoy any time in the next 25 years.
  • Production: 2950 cases
  • List Price: $70 VINsider Price: $56

Two additional wines joined the Lignée de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc in the white-only shipment (members will get two bottles of the Esprit Blanc and two bottles of the Marsanne):

2022 BOURBOULENC

  • Production Notes: Our fourth-ever bottling of Bourboulenc, from just our fourth harvest of this relatively obscure Rhone white grape. Bourboulenc is known in France to make wines with bright acids, fresh fruit aromatics, and a distinctive nutty character. In just a few years, it's become a favorite here. We fermented it this year in a single concrete egg, then let it settle. It was bottled in June 2023.
  • Tasting Notes: A tropical nose of passion fruit, lychee, fresh almond, wet stone and a warm coconut character that Chelsea identified as surf wax. On the palate, bright, like barely-ripe mango, with additional high-toned fruit elements like mandarin and lemon balm. The finish is more linear, with lemon drop and chalky mineral, and a nice pithy textural bite. Our experience aging Bourboulenc is limited, but we plan to drink ours over the next few years.
  • Production: 185 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2022 MARSANNE

  • Production Notes: Marsanne is best known from the northern Rhone, particularly the famed appellation of Hermitage, where it produces wines of legendary elegance and ageworthiness. The 2022 vintage produced lovely Marsanne, which we fermented in 600-gallon foudres to emphasize its texture and give it a hint of oak. Because we thought it so classic and pretty, we reserved a little more than usual for a varietal expression at blending in March of 2023. The wine was bottled in June.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty nose of orange peel and chalky mineral, honeysuckle and acacia wood. The palate is lovely and gentle, with flavors of pineapple and nectarine, cream puff and lemongrass. The finish is bright, with Meyer lemon and warm straw notes. So appealing now that I'm guessing a lot of it will get drunk young, but it should evolve in an interesting way for a decade at least.
  • Production: 505 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

Two additional reds joined the GrenacheEn Gobelet and two bottles of the Esprit de Tablas in the red-only shipment:

2021 FULL CIRCLE

  • Production Notes: The twelfth vintage of our Full Circle Pinot Noir, grown on the small vineyard outside the Haas family's home in Templeton, in the cool (for Paso) Templeton Gap AVA. Its name reflects Robert Haas's career: from a start introducing America to the greatness of Burgundy, through decades focusing on grapes from the Rhone, one of his last acts was to plant Pinot at his home and oversee our first few vintages. The grapes were fermented in one-ton microfermenters, two-thirds de-stemmed and one-third with stems for a more savory profile, punched down twice daily by hand. After pressing, the wine was moved into a mix of one-year-old and two-year-old Marcel Cadet 60-gallon barrels, for a hint of oak. The wine stayed on its lees, stirred occasionally, for 10 months, before being blended and bottled in August 2022. We've aged the wine in bottle for an additional year since then.
  • Tasting Notes: An immediately recognizable Pinot Noir nose of cherry cola, sarsaparilla, Chinese five spice and new leather. The palate is bright with cranberry and salted raspberry notes, sweet baking spices and chalky tannins. Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 313 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

2021 MOURVEDRE

  • Production Notes: Mourvedre is the one red grape that we try to bottle on its own each year, because we think it is a wonderful grape that too few people know, and one we feel worthy of some proselytizing. The outstanding 2021 vintage produced some of our favorite-ever Mourvedre lots, seemingly equally balanced between Old World-style loamy, meaty elements and the lusher red-fruited, milk chocolate mouth-coating density that we associate with Paso Robles. All our Mourvedre lots were fermented in large wooden tanks and moved to neutral barrels to await blending. The chosen lots were blended in the spring of 2022, then aged in a single foudre until bottling in April 2023.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep, rich nose of soy marinade, bay leaf, saddle leather, mocha, and blackcurrant. On the palate, rich with currant and black plum fruit, baker's chocolate, cherry wood, herb-marinated leg of lamb, and white pepper. The long finish shows cocoa powder, dark red fruit, dried rose petals, and a graphite-like minerality that combined with the structural density suggests you could drink this any time in the next 20 years.
  • Production: 492 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

The tasting was a great way to hone in on the character of our two most recent vintages. 2022 is a vintage that shows outstanding vibrancy: clear, delineated flavors and bright acids, with plenty of fruit to back it up. 2021 is a classic year whose combination of low yields and cool harvest temperatures produced wines that all taste like themselves, only more so. Both seem like they'll offer pleasure whether people drink the wines soon or wait. We can't wait to find out what our members think.

If you're a wine club member, we've got a range of options for you to try these wines. We are planning to host a live in-person pickup party on Sunday, October 22nd. Neil, Chelsea, and I will be hosting another virtual pickup party the evening of Friday, October 13th. And we'll again be offering club members who visit the opportunity to choose the shipment wines as their tasting flight between mid-September and early-October. Consider this a "save the date"; we will be putting details on all this on our VINsider News & Updates page and announcing them via email soon.

If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join us while there's still a chance to get this fall shipment? Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club


Introducing Lignée de Tablas: Single-Vineyard Wines from Tablas Creek Clones around California

Here at Tablas Creek we're pretty cautious about jumping into new projects. In my 20 years we've made one significant addition to the lineup of wines, back in 2010 when we started working with a handful of Paso Robles vineyards to produce our first-ever non-estate wine, the Patelin de Tablas. That decision came after the shock of the 2009 vintage, where the combination of drought and frost reduced our crops by nearly 50% and forced us to choose between keeping our wine club and tasting room supplied and maintaining our presence in the wholesale and export markets. At the same time, the 2008 financial crisis and the recession that followed meant that there were high quality grapes available from Paso Robles vineyards at reasonable prices. We worked out agreements with our first eight growers and we were off.

The addition of the Patelin tier has played out just as I'd hoped, giving us the ability to maintain and expand our presence in the wholesale market, especially in restaurants' by-the-glass lists, while mitigating the peaks and valleys of production that are unavoidable in our frost- and drought-prone climate. The Patelin wines gave the category we're a part of entry-level wines that we were proud to use to introduce new customers to the category, while allowing us to be more selective about what we put into our estate wines. I think the quality of our Cotes de Tablas and varietal wines has never been stronger, in part because we've declassified into Patelin the lots that are pretty and friendly but maybe don't have the intensity or focus we wanted for our estate wines.

An unexpected benefit has been that we feel like we're more integrated into our community after having had the chance over the last decade to work with dozens of the small growers who make up the essential fabric of the Paso Robles wine community. You can get a sense of how much of a pleasure that process has been from the video that we made back in 2017 talking about the people behind Patelin:

The Patelin idea has worked because we've been able to find great sources of the key Rhone grapes, both red and white, here in Paso Robles. And that desire -- to make a wine that represents both our category and our region -- has meant that we've always limited our Patelin sourcing to vineyards in Paso Robles, with preference given to vineyards that have the same clones that we brought in from Beaucastel in the ground. But as a winery who built our reputation on making wines of place, each year there's a certain amount of regret in blending the product of beautiful vineyards together, even if the end result is something we're proud of.

Covid was the catalyst for a new idea. Just as the last economic shock -- the financial crisis and recession that followed, combined with our drought and frost -- opened up the opportunity to make the Patelin wines, we've realized that the challenges we've faced over the last three years point toward another new opportunity. And like in 2007-09, we have a three-year drought cycle (this one beginning in 2020) as a primary catalyst. By 2022 that drought had reached critical levels and its impact on our yields was worsened by our latest-ever spring frost. At the same time, the pandemic fueled a shift in the wine business where in 2020 and 2021 restaurant sales were down sharply and phone, internet, and wine club orders to wineries surged as people stuck close to home by choice or mandate. Together, those changes meant that we saw greater demand than ever before for our estate wines (the bulk of what we sell direct and to our wine club customers) just at the time when our own production was constrained by drought and frost. In the early stages of the pandemic we were able to shift some of our production of the Patelin wines from wholesale to our wine club and tasting room to satisfy the demand there, but that's not an ideal long-term solution. We need those wines in the wholesale market as restaurants have come roaring back. And we think it's more exciting to have the wines that we feature at our tasting room and send to our club members be different from those of our wines that they can find at their local bistro.

Enter Lignée de Tablas. This new tier of wines will debut with the 2022 vintage. It will consist of single-vineyard wines sourced from vineyards planted to Tablas Creek clones, made in small (250-850 case) quantities and sold direct from the winery. There are hundreds of vineyards up and down the West Coast planted with cuttings from the Tablas Creek nursery. In addition to Paso Robles, particularly exciting concentrations of these vineyards can be found in the Sierra Foothills, Santa Barbara County, Sonoma, and up in Washington State. Those other regions have never had the opportunity to be a part of our program... until now. And because our only non-estate wines have been the Patelins, we haven't had the opportunity to celebrate the unique expressions of place from these vineyards. Until now.

My long-term goal is for us to make three or four of these each year, but in 2022 we started with two. We'll be making a Grenache from the Hahn Vineyard in Monterey County, and a Grenache Blanc from Windfall Farms right here in the Creston District of Paso Robles. The Hahn Grenache isn't bottled yet and won't be released until next year, but it's impressive: darker in both color and fruit tone than any Grenache we make here, with firm tannins, lovely fruit, and the distinctive spice you get from cool-climate Grenache. The Windfall Farms Grenache Blanc is equally lovely, with the grape's classic citrus and green apple fruit and a pretty hint of sweet spice. It went into bottle a few weeks ago and will be included in our fall VINsider Wine Club shipments:

Lignee bottle next to grafter - landscape

Lignée, if you're wondering, means "lineage" in French. So Lignée de Tablas means, in essence, the lineage of Tablas Creek. All these wines will be made exclusively from Tablas clones. For design, we're keeping with the basic look and feel of our current labels, but identifying the vineyard name and the AVA on the front label. For color scheme, instead of the gold, silver, bronze, or copper foil of our current wines, we're using a black foil that hearkens back to the Las Tablas Estates Glenrose Vineyard experiment that we released in 2002. For price, we're planning to offer the wines between what we sell our estate varietal wines for and what we charge for the Patelin de Tablas. For the Windfall Farms Grenache Blanc, that will be $35 list, with the normal wine club and case savings off that. The label (you'll have to imagine the sparkle of the black foil):

Lignee de Tablas Windfall Farms Grenache Blanc 2022 Label

As for the wine, it's delicious. It was a favorite in our blending trials of the 2022 whites. My notes at the concluding tasting of the week were:

A pretty lifted nose nose of white pepper and citrus pith. On the palate, more citrus, with a green citrus leaf element adding complexity. With solid texture, good acids, and a little sweet spice on the finish, this should be a nice addition to the lineup!

For the 2023 vintage, we're venturing even further afield, and have been able to secure commitments from two great vineyards in the Sierra Foothills (Syrah from Shake Ridge and Grenache and Mourvedre from Fenaughty) as well as Roussanne from our friends at Zaca Mesa Vineyard down in Santa Barbara County. These are renowned vineyards whose fruit appears in some of our favorite California wines. That's one of the things I know we're all most excited about. Until this point we've set ourselves the task of exploring Paso Robles through the Rhone lens. We do that each year with our estate wines and through Patelin. But there are amazing Rhone-style vineyards all over California. When we go to Hospice du Rhone or Rhone Rangers, one of the things that is the most fun is to taste what our favorite producers from other regions are doing with these clones that we brought to America. With Lignée we'll be able to be a part of those explorations.

Still, it feels fitting that the first wine that we'll be releasing under the Lignée label will be from Paso Robles, and from Grenache Blanc. After all, Grenache Blanc is probably the biggest success story to come out of the Tablas Creek nursery. When we brought in our first vine cuttings, there wasn't a single Grenache Blanc vine planted in California. Thirty years later, it has leapfrogged both Roussanne and Marsanne to become the second-most-planted white Rhone variety in California (after Viognier) at 618 acres. It may not be a threat to knock Chardonnay off its throne any time soon, but its acreage is growing fast and its growing patterns incredibly well suited to California. We're excited that with the launch of the Lignée de Tablas we get to tell one more piece of Grenache Blanc's story.

Lignee bottle next to mothervine - portrait

But for us the most exciting piece of the Lignée de Tablas program is that we'll get to make new wines of place that will allow us to explore some of the other places whose wines we've long admired. There's nothing more fundamental to the lineage of Tablas Creek than that. We're looking forward to sharing these new expressions with you.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collectors Edition Wines 2023

My tasting notes:

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

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

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

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

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


Elevating the virtual experience thanks to Master the World

By Ian Consoli

It is no mystery that I am a huge fan of virtual events for wine club members. We introduced semi-annual virtual pickup parties to accommodate the release of our wine club shipments in fall 2020. We started these virtual events during COVID when we had no choice, but elected to continue them because their benefits in access, intimacy, and convenience were significant. Wine Club members from around the country continue to express their gratitude through emails and social media comments for allowing them to connect with us from afar. Viewership of the events remains consistent, participation remains high, and the conversations started by viewer questions continue to bring value. From my conclusion in a blog I wrote in 2021 on the virtual pickup parties:

We're excited to continue to host this kind of event in the future. We're meeting our members where they are, we're teaching them new recipes, and we're giving them the opportunity to interact with the proprietor, winemaker, and chef.

All-in-all, we can say the virtual events are a success, and we look forward to continuing them. Today, I want to highlight a decision we made that elevated the experience and made the continuation of the series possible: producing tasting packs with Master the World.

It was always clear that we needed an option for guests to taste along with us from home. The first virtual pickup party we did was in the fall and aligned with the latest release of our Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc. Those are the only wines we bottle in 375ml packaging, primarily for distribution to restaurants. They worked perfectly as a two-pack for this initial virtual event – not least because restaurants were largely closed at that point, so we had 375ml bottles to spare – but when it came time for our spring shipment, we had no small format bottles to work with. As with any of our virtual tastings, we could invite attendees to pick one Tablas Creek wine to enjoy with the broadcast (from their shipment or not), but we needed something more.

We evaluated repackaging our 750mL bottles into 187mL but faced four significant hurdles.

  • Technology: rebottling wines and having them emerge in good shape is a challenge that requires the purchase of specialized equipment and comes with a learning curve.
  • Labor: rebottling would pull our cellar team away from their tasks for one to two full days. There's the cost to pay employees for those days and an opportunity cost of what else they would have done.
  • Packaging: small batches of anything are expensive. Having to source new bottles and screwcaps, print new labels, and make sure that everything was compliant with the TTB was a non-trivial challenge, and expensive to boot.
  • Shipping: the sample kits we proposed must ship around the country. That meant sourcing shipping boxes, negotiating shipping prices, and navigating different states' restrictions on bottle-size limits. Another hurdle for staying compliant.

That is when Master the World (MTW) came on our radar. Founded by Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein and Wine Business pro Limeng Stroh, MTW was created to help sommeliers studying for exams to taste wines from around the world without having to deal with the cost and challenge of sourcing full bottles. To facilitate this, MTW rebottles 750 mL bottles to 187 mL format and builds and ships tasting kits all over the country. Well, that sounded exactly like what were are looking for. Plus, they're pretty darn cute!


After a call with the founders, we had a solution on our hands. Master the World has a system they developed where every bottle gets tested to ensure it is sound. They rebottle under a layer of inert gas, so the wine gets into the 187ml bottles in good shape. They solved our labor issues by taking on the entire process. All we needed to do was send a few cases of each of the wines in our VINsider Classic Shipment to their facility in Northern California, and they took it from there. They took on the TTB for label approval, and as of spring 2022, they even started making custom labels that match our full-size bottles. The kits sell through Master the World, not Tablas Creek. That allows them to handle all the shipping and compliance, and their licenses enable them to ship to even more states than we can.

We saw an opportunity to allow our virtual attendees to taste all six wines in our classic shipment and went for it. The kits sell for $99, which is manageable for our members and allows us to break even between the cost of wine and MTW's services. Guests purchased all 100 kits we made the first time through Master the World and the 80-kit runs we did for subsequent virtual pickup parties. We found a solution by finding the right partner, and we are delighted with the results for our members.

Our next Virtual Pickup Party is March 24th, 2023, and the newest set of tasting kits are available now through Master the World's website.

Craig Hamm and Chelsea Franchi holding MTW kit


Tasting the Wines in the Spring 2023 VINsider Wine Club Shipments

Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club. In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club. In others, the club gets a first look at a wine that may see a later national release. About six weeks before the club shipments will be sent out, we open them all to write the tasting and production notes that will be included in the club shipments. In many cases, this tasting is our first post-bottling reintroduction to wines that we'll come to know intimately in coming months and years. I always think it's fun to give followers of the blog a first look at these notes. The wines:

Spring 2023 VINsider shipment wines

The shipments that will be going out in March include wines from the 2020, 2021, and 2022 vintages. Tasting three vintages together is a great way to get a handle on their relative personalities, and typically my first chance to do a personality assessment on the newest vintage, which we haven't even started blending trials on yet. My quick thoughts, after the tasting, are these:

  • The challenging year of 2020 keeps surprising us. Far from the simple, juicy wines you might expect from such a hot year, as we get to late releases of our most ageworthy reds it's the structural scaffolding and deep spice of these more tannic reds that stands out. 
  • This tasting only confirmed my opinion that 2021 will go down as one of our best vintages ever, with a combination of mouth-filling texture, intense flavors, and great focus. Even better, it seems to be equally strong for reds and whites.
  • With only a couple of wines, it's early to generalize about 2022, but the Vermentino and Dianthus show creamy textures and luscious fruit without sacrificing brightness. It's a promising start. 

I'll go through the six wines in the VINsider Classic (Mixed) Shipment, and then move on to the additional wines that we chose to include in the Red Wine Selection and White Wine Selection shipments. I was joined for the tasting by Executive Winemaker Neil Collins and Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi, so these notes are a compilation of our thoughts. Maybe you can tell that we were excited with what we'd tasted...

Jason Neil Chelsea tasting spring 2023 VINsider shipment wines

The Classic Shipment includes six different wines:

2021 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Viognier is always the lead grape in our Cotes Blanc, and we balance Viognier's lushness with the elegance of Marsanne and the brightness of Grenache Blanc. In the outstanding 2021 vintage, when all the grapes had good focus and freshness, we chose a somewhat higher percentage of Viognier (44%) than in most recent years, and added Grenache Blanc (32%) for brightness and pithy bite, Marsanne (14%) for elegance, and Roussanne (10%) to round out the blend and provide structure. The selected lots were blended in May 2022, and the wine was bottled in June 2022.
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely Rhonish nose, very aromatic, of jasmine, clementine pith, ripe peach, petrichor, and sweet green herbs. The mouth shows both richness and brightness, with flavors of nectarine and mint, rich texture, and a persistent wet stone minerality. The wine's acids come out on the long, clean finish, leaving flavors of mango and creamy minerality. Drink now and for at least the next five years.
  • Production: 1215 cases.
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2022 DIANTHUS

  • Production Notes: Although our yields on our whites were very low in 2022, yields on reds rebounded a bit, which allowed us to increase our production of Dianthus slightly. Named after a family of flowering plants with deep pink blooms, Dianthus is always led by Mourvedre (45% this year), for rich texture and watermelon and plum fruit, with Grenache (38%) for bright strawberry fruit and refreshing acidity and Counoise (16%) for spice and cherry fruit. I'm not sure we can isolate what the 1% Cinsaut adds, but we're excited to have it and look forward to incorporating more in future years. The fruit spent 24-36 hours on the skins, giving it a deeper color and more texture than many rosés, and then it completed its fermentation in stainless steel before bottling in January 2023.
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely deep peach color. On the nose, complex aromatics of strawberry hard candy, newly cut grass, watermelon rind and sweet mint. The mouth is both lush and vibrant, with flavors of red cherry, pepper spice, and chalky minerals. But it was the texture that we found most noteworthy, mouth-filling and serious, with a saline edge and a lingering finish with salted watermelon and yellow rose petal notes. A rosé to convert people who don't think pink wines can be serious. Drink before the end of 2024.
  • Production: 860 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2021 PATELIN DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Our Patelin de Tablas, blended from a selection of local vineyards planted to our clones, is always based on the dark fruit and mineral notes of Syrah (43%) with additions of Grenache (28%) for generosity and openness, Mourvedre (23%) for texture and meatiness, and Counoise (6%) for spice and vibrancy. The lovely 2021 vintage produced one of our favorite Patelins ever, with immediate juicy appeal and the structure to age over the medium term. It was blended in May of 2022 and bottled in August of that same year, and has been resting in bottle at the winery since.
  • Tasting Notes: A nose of licorice, both red and black, new leather, black cherry, pomegranate reduction, and black pepper. The mouth is bright with cranberry fruit and a chaparral-style wild herbiness, and deeper flavors of baking spices, sweet tobacco, and plum skin. The finish is deep and long, with chalky tannins that suggest there's more to be revealed with time in bottle. Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 3568 cases
  • List Price: $28 VINsider Price: $22.40

2020 TANNAT

  • Production Notes: Our nineteenth bottling of this traditional grape from South-West France, famous for its intense fruit, spice, and tannins that produce wines capable of long aging. Tannat is known principally in the Pyrenees foothills appellation of Madiran, but originally native to the Basque region. We ferment Tannat in open-top fermenters to keep it exposed to oxygen and start the softening process, then move it to neutral oak foudre where it ages for nearly 2 years. It was bottled in April 2022 and has been aging the last 10 months waiting for its release. 
  • Tasting Notes: An exuberant nose of teriyaki spice and plum, leather and Tannat's signature wild lupine florality. On the palate, richly tannic with flavors of black cherry and charcuterie, grilled meat and chaparral spice. The finish is loaded with dark red fruit, sweet anise spice, and chalky tannins. A serious wine to pair with rich foods now or age for up to two decades if you're looking for a more refined experience.
  • Production: 963 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2020 LE COMPLICE

  • Production Notes: The fifth vintage of our newest red blend, which celebrates the kinship between whole cluster Syrah (77%) and the wildly interesting grape Terret Noir (8%). Le Complice means, roughly, "partner in crime". Although Syrah is dark and Terret light, both share wild herby black spice, and Terret's high acids bolster Syrah's tendency toward stolidity. We added some Grenache (15%) for mid-palate richness. The wine was blended in June of 2021 and aged in foudre until its bottling in December 2022.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic savory Syrah nose of rare steak, black olive, green peppercorn, and chalky minerals. The mouth is more of the same, with notes of carne asada, dried herbs, blackberry fruit, and a little minty lift. The finish shows more crushed rock minerality with a grilled berry note and plenty of tannic richness. Still youthfully tight; give this six months if you can, then drink over the next two decades.
  • Production: 900 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

2020 PANOPLIE

  • Production Notes: Panoplie is selected from the top 3% of the year's lots, chosen for their richness, concentration and balance, giving pride of place to Mourvedre's lovely dark red fruit and distinctive combination of loam, earthiness, and meat. Each lot was fermented individually before being selected, blended and moved to foudre to age in July 2021. Mourvedre, as always, represents the largest percentage (59%) of Panoplie. In this year when Syrah was particularly compelling, we included more of it in the blend than usual (28%, for black fruit, density, and tannic richness) and just two lots of our most expressive Grenache (13%, for sweet spice and vibrancy). The wine was bottled in July 2022.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep nose of cassis and spruce forest, warm spices like clove and star anise, with a dry-aged umami meaty note lurking underneath. The palate shows ripe plum, melted chocolate, licorice root, and plenty of chalky tannins. The finish is balanced between sweeter blueberry flavors and more savory chaparral spice, with creamy texture and a finish laced with cocoa powder and redcurrant notes. This is appealing now, but should also develop additional layers of meatiness and loamy earth with time. Enjoy over the next two decades, perhaps longer.
  • Production: 807 cases
  • List Price: $105 VINsider Price: $84

Four additional wines (2022 Vermentino, 2021 Marsanne, a library release of the 2013 Roussanne, and 2 bottles of the 2021 Roussanne) will join the 2021 Cotes de Tablas Blanc in the White Wine Selection shipment:

2022 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our twenty-first bottling of this traditional Mediterranean variety, known principally in Sardinia, Corsica, and Northern Italy. It is also grown in the Mediterranean parts of France (particularly Côtes de Provence) where it is known as Rolle. The Vermentino grape produces wines that are bright, clean, and crisp, with distinctive citrus character and refreshing acidity. To emphasize this freshness, we ferment and age Vermentino in stainless steel, and bottle it young (January 2023, this vintage) under screwcap. Vermentino yields in 2022 were painfully low (off by half compared to most recent years) but the fruit we got was lovely.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic Vermentino nose of all parts of a lime, from blossom to leaf to pith to juice, deepened by an herby lemon verbena note and briny sea spray minerality. The palate is fresh and juicy yet with a surprisingly creamy texture for the usually lighter-bodied Vermentino, with flavors of key lime, lemon custard, and sweet green herbs. The finish shows more saline minerality with yellow grapefruit and chamomile notes. Tastes like summer at the beach, or like what a gin and tonic wishes it could be. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 575 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2021 MARSANNE

  • Production Notes: Marsanne is best known from the northern Rhone, particularly the famed appellation of Hermitage, where it produces wines of legendary elegance and ageworthiness. The 2021 vintage produced some of our favorite Marsanne ever, which we fermented in 600-gallon foudres to emphasize its texture and give it a hint of oak. Because we thought it so classic and pretty, we reserved a little more than usual for a varietal expression at blending in March of 2022. The wine was bottled that June.
  • Tasting Notes: A vibrant nose of lychee, wildflower honey, white tea, and lemongrass. The mouth is soft and lovely with flavors of white peach and honeydew melon, chamomile and Meyer lemon pith. The finish is clean and long, with fresh pear and clean straw notes, and a little pithy bite. So appealing now that I'm guessing a lot of it will get drunk young, but it should evolve in an interesting way for a decade at least.
  • Production: 254 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2021 ROUSSANNE

  • Production Notes: Roussanne yields continued their downward trend in 2021, reduced by the lack of rainfall and the accumulated stress of growing in Paso Robles. But the Roussanne lots that we got were uniformly outstanding. Our varietal bottling came roughly 55% from foudre, 35% from neutral oak puncheons, and 10% in small new barriques. The selected lots were blended in April 2022 then aged in foudre through the subsequent harvest before bottling this past December.
  • Tasting Notes: A spicy nose of honeysuckle and baked apple, honeycomb and cinnamon. On the palate, poached pear and clove notes, chalky minerals, rich texture, and a lingering lanolin note that is quintessentially Roussanne. The finish shows waxy texture and lingering flavors of Meyer lemon pith, saline minerality, and a little hint of sweet oak. Drink in the next 3 or 4 years for a pure expression of Roussanne's honey and pear flavors, or hold it for 8-15 years for a flavor profile of caramel, wet rocks, and hazelnut.
  • Production: 517 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2013 ROUSSANNE

  • Production Notes: The 2013 vintage, which featured lively fruit and outstanding balance, was one where we felt we might get something exceptional if we were to stash some of our Roussanne for a few years. And we did! Bottled in February 2015 and aged in our cellar ever since, the 2013 Roussanne shows what we love about this unusually ageworthy white grape at around a decade old. Still fresh, the honey notes have caramelized and the expression is one of lushness. If you've never tried aged Roussanne you're in for a treat. 
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty mature Roussanne nose of creme brulee and marzipan. ripe pear and sweet straw. On the palate, vanilla custard, apple pie, tarragon, and a little pithy sweet quince note like membrillo paste. Luscious and nearly decadent, just held in check on the finish by a little pithy bite. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 700 cases
  • Library Price: $65 VINsider Price: $52

Two additional reds (the 2021 Cotes de Tablas and 2020 Syrah) join the 2020 Panoplie, 2020 Le Complice, 2020 Tannat, and 2021 Patelin de Tablas in the Red Wine Selection shipment:

2021 COTES DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Grenache always plays lead in the Cotes de Tablas, and in the outstanding Grenache year of 2021 it represents an above-average 47% of the blend. 30% Syrah adds darker fruit and minerality, while 15% Counoise (for vibrancy and spice) and 8% Mourvedre (for earth and complexity) complete the wine. The Cotes de Tablas was blended in June 2022 and aged in 1200-gallon neutral oak foudres until its bottling in February 2023.
  • Tasting Notes: An immediately appealing nose of sugarplum and wild strawberry, herbes de Provence and charcuterie. The mouth shows notes of milk chocolate and red cherry, deepened with olive tapenade and sweet green herbs. Some youthful Grenache tannins come out on the long, juicy finish. This will only have been in bottle for a month or so by the time you receive this wine, so give it a few months if you possibly can, and then enjoy any time over the next decade.
  • Production: 1125 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2020 SYRAH

  • Production Notes: Syrah was one of the standouts in our blending trials of the 2020 reds, and it was exciting that we were able to make a varietal bottling in decent quantity as well as using it in all our key blends. We ferment our Syrah in open-top fermenters, punched down twice daily, then move it to barrel to complete fermentation. For our varietal bottling we selected a mix of lots from newer and older oak, then blended them in June 2021 and aged the wine together in one 1200-gallon oak foudre until bottling in April 2022.
  • Tasting Notes: An inviting nose of black licorice and black raspberry, dark chocolate and dried herbs. On the palate, blackcurrant fruit, mocha notes and mouth-filling tannins, absolutely characteristic of what we love about Syrah, with enough plum skin brightness to keep the wine fresh. The finish shows notes of grilled blackberry and an iron-like mineral note with plenty of tannin to keep this going for two decades or more.
  • Production: 474 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

If you're a wine club member, we've got a few different ways you can try these wines. We are hosting a live in-person pickup party here at the winery on Sunday, April 2nd. Neil, Chelsea, and I will also be hosting another virtual pickup party the evening of Friday, March 24th, with the opportunity to order 187ml tasting kits from us so you can taste along. And we'll again be offering club members who visit between March 17th and April 9th the opportunity to choose their shipment wines as their tasting flight. All the details are up on our VINsider News & Updates page.

If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join up, while there's still a chance to get this spring shipment? Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club.


Tasting the wines in the Fall 2022 VINsider Wine Club shipments

Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club. In others, the club gets a first look at wines that may see a later national release. Before each shipment, we reintroduce ourselves to these wines (which, in some cases, we may not have tasted since before bottling) by opening the full lineup and writing the notes that will be included with the club shipments. Yesterday I sat down with Winemakers Neil Collins and Chelsea Franchi and we dove into this fall's collection.

We base each year's fall shipments around the newest releases of the Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc, and this fall's shipment is no exception. But there's a lot more to this fall's shipment than the Esprits. In our classic (mixed) shipment we have two varietal wines, one red and one white, both of which I love, and two blends: the newest (and in my opinion, best-ever) vintage of our "neighborhood" white, the Patelin de Tablas Blanc, and our small-production En Gobelet blend, selected entirely from our head-trained, dry-farmed vineyard blocks. We think it's one of the most compelling classic shipments we've ever put together, and the additional wines that will go into the red wine and white wine selections are super cool as well. I'm excited to get them in our members' hands soon.  

The classic shipment includes six different wines:

Fall 2022 Classic Shipment

2021 PATELIN DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Patelin is French slang for "neighborhood" and the Patelin de Tablas Blanc is our white Rhone-style blend sourced from five great neighboring Rhone vineyards: Derby, Fralich, Castoro, Pomar Junction, and Creston Ridge, with a 7% addition of Tablas Creek fruit. We base the wine on the richness and acidity of Grenache Blanc (54%), with Viognier (29%) providing lush stone fruit and floral notes, Marsanne (9%) and Roussanne (7%) adding minerality and texture, and for the first time, a little Bourboulenc (1%) for its pithy tropicality. The wine was fermented entirely in stainless steel and then bottled in screwcap in May 2022 to preserve its freshness.
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely Rhone-like nose of peach pit, chalky minerality, and sweet sarsaparilla spice. On the palate, ripe pear and fresh apricot, a pronounced limestone-like minerality, and lovely acids that bring out Grenache Blanc's signature pithy bite on the long, tropical finish. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 2900 cases
  • List Price: $28 VINsider Price: $22.40

2021 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: The chilly, dry 2020-21 winter produced punishingly low yields for some of our early-sprouting grapes, and Grenache Blanc was no exception, with the harvest down nearly 50%. That meant that we produced our smallest quantity of our 100% Grenache Blanc in more than a decade. But the combination of the low crop levels and the ideal 2021 growing season gave us Grenache Blanc with unusual concentration and rich texture. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose mostly lots fermented in stainless steel (for energy), with a smaller addition from foudre (for roundness). The lots were blended in May 2022 and bottled under screwcap the next month.
  • Tasting Notes: An appealing nose of heirloom red apples and sweet spices. On the palate, on point between brighter and lusher elements: mouth-filling with flavors of fresh apple cider and citrus blossom, sea spray minerality and a hint of butterscotch. Vibrant acids keep order, and lead to a long, pithy finish with a pronounced saline mineral note. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 750 cases.
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2020 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: The challenges of the 2020 vintages included drought, heat, and pandemic, although we were spared the brunt of the state's terrible fires, which stayed well to our north. But Roussanne, at least, thrived, though its yields suffered as the hot harvest season dragged on. In the end, it was down 25% even as our overall yields were up 7%. Roussanne's scarcity, along with its relatively low acids, constrained us a bit in our blending, opening the door for us to use our highest percentage of complementary grapes since our initial Esprit Blanc in 2001. The final blend included 46% Roussanne, fermented in a mix of oak of various sizes and ages for power and density, 28% Grenache Blanc for texture and pithy bite, and 14% Picpoul for tropical intensity and bright acids. Rounding out the blend were three of our new white Rhone grapes: 5% Bourboulenc (appearing in Esprit Blanc for the first time) for limestoney, citrusy lift, 4% Clairette Blanche for its clean fruitiness and chalky minerality, and 3% Picardan for a little burst of acid, further emphasizing the mineral notes. As we have done since 2012, we returned the blend to foudre after it was assembled in May 2021 and aged it through the subsequent harvest before bottling it in December 2021. We've been letting it deepen in bottle ever since.
  • Tasting Notes: An immediately appealing nose of poached pear and baked quince, vanilla custard and nutmeg spice. On the palate, lovely and long, with Roussanne-driven flavors of beeswax and preserved lemon, rounded out by just a hint of sweet oak. Fresh and lifted, but long and textured. A charming Esprit Blanc that will be hard to resist young but which should also do beautifully with time in the cellar. Drink over the next two decades.
  • Production: 1880 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

2020 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: Grenache thrived despite the challenges of the 2020 vintage, with yields up 45% and a lovely spine of tannic bite deepening the juicy appeal that we expect every year from this famously fruity grape. For our varietal bottling we as usual chose lots that emphasized Grenache's freshness and avoided riper lots that tend toward higher alcohols. The lots were blended in June 2021 and aged in neutral oak until its bottling in February 2022.
  • Tasting Notes: A lifted nose of minty, herby wild strawberry over deeper notes of teriyaki and black raspberries. On the palate, redcurrant and red licorice flavors, with tannins like fresh cherry skin providing counterpoint. The long finish shows red fruit, sweet spice, and firm tannic grip. Don't be thrown by the wine's relatively pale color; it packs a ton of flavor. Drink soon to enjoy the crunchy fruit character, or hold for a decade or more for a smoother experience.
  • Production: 1122 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2020 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: Our thirteenth En Gobelet, a non-traditional blend all from head-trained, dry-farmed blocks, and mostly from the 12-acre block we call Scruffy Hill, planted in 2005 and 2006 to be a self-sufficient field blend. These lots tend to show more elegance and minerality than our closer-spaced irrigated blocks, although in 2020 the wine shows plenty of complexity. We chose a blend of 37% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, 22% Syrah, 11% Counoise, and 5% Tannat, with the higher-than-normal percentages of Syrah and Tannat combining to give dark spice and firm tannins in this warm, luscious year. The wine was blended in June of 2021, aged in foudre, and bottled in April 2022.
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely deep red color, darker than many previous years. On the nose, spicy and savory, with notes of chaparral and star anise over wild grapes and brambly black fruit. On the palate, flavors of dark chocolate-covered cherries, juniper spice, and ripe fresh figs. A lovely tannic richness emphasizes salty minerality on the long finish. Deep, complex, and built for the long term. Decant this if you're drinking it now, or wait and drink any time over the next two decades.
  • Production: 906 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

2020 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: As always, the Esprit is based on the red fruit and meatiness of Mourvedre (40%). 30% Grenache (for sweet spice and bright acids), 21% Syrah (for dark color and savory, tannic richness), and 5% Counoise (for brambly spice and freshness) were in line with most recent years, but in this relatively luscious vintage we found a place for two of our newest grapes for the first time: 3% Vaccarese, for black fruit and minerality, and 1% Cinsaut, for sweet spice and herby wildness. This blend produced something both luscious and weightless, complex and yet pure. The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for Esprit, blended in June 2021 and aged a year in foudre before bottling in July 2022.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty nose that speaks clearly of Mourvedre in its elderberry and blackcurrant fruit and its eucalyptus and soy marinade umami notes. On the palate, black cherry and musky mulberry fruit, new leather, and a loamy richness that suggests a lovely meaty note will develop with time. The firm but ripe tannins maintain order and lead to a long, spicy finish. This is an Esprit that will drink well young, but don't let this trick you into thinking it won't have the stuffing to age. Enjoy any time in the next 20-25 years.
  • Production: 3480 cases
  • List Price: $65 VINsider Price: $52

Two additional wines joined the Patelin de Tablas BlancGrenache Blanc, and Esprit de Tablas Blanc in the white-only shipment (we doubled up the Esprit Blanc):

Fall 2022 White Selection Shipment

2021 BOURBOULENC

  • Production Notes: Our third-ever bottling of Bourboulenc, from our third-ever harvest of this relatively obscure Rhone white grape. Bourboulenc is known in France to make wines with fresh fruit aromatics and a distinctive nutty character, with fairly good acids and relatively low alcohol. In just a few years, it's become a favorite here, making it into the Esprit Blanc the last two years. Still, this 209-case varietal bottling is its primary showcase, and represents about 75% of our total harvest. It was blended in May 2022 and bottled in June.
  • Tasting Notes: A nose of sea spray, mandarin, and citrus blossom. On the palate, rich but bright like lemon curd, with additional notes of vanilla shortbread and chalky minerals. Clean and long on the palate, with a lingering finish of preserved lemon and a verbena-like green herb character. Unique and delicious. Our experience aging Bourboulenc is limited, but we plan to drink ours over the next few years.
  • Production: 209 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2019 PETIT MANSENG

  • Production Notes: Our tenth bottling of this traditional grape from southwest France, Petit Manseng is best known from the appellation of Jurançon, where it has made admired sweet wines for centuries that you rarely hear about in America. Petit Manseng achieves sufficient concentration and sugar content -- and maintains its acids sufficiently -- to make naturally sweet, balanced wines without botrytis. Harvested at 29.4° Brix and a pH of 3.36, we fermented it in barrel, and stopped its fermentation when it had about 90 grams/liter of sugar left. This is a little sweeter than most of our recent Petit Manseng vintages, but acids are high enough that it shows lovely lift to balance the sweetness. The wine was aged on its lees in barrel and bottled in June 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: Medium gold. An exotic nose of honey, citrus leaf, and grilled pineapple. In the mouth, the wine begins lushly sweet, like candied orange peel, then a notes of green shiso-like herbiness, followed by a pithy bite, and finally the acids come out and restore order. Sweet but light on its feet, with a spicy pink peppercorn note coming out on the finish. A little sweeter and more intense than but reminiscent of a demi-sec Vouvray, for anyone with that as a reference point. Would be amazing, we thought, with a salty cheese or lemon olive oil cake or prosciutto and melon. Drink now or age for up to another decade for a nuttier character.
  • Production: 190 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

Two additional reds joined the GrenacheEn Gobelet and two bottles of the Esprit de Tablas in the red-only shipment:

Fall 2022 Red Selection Shipment

2020 FULL CIRCLE

  • Production Notes: The eleventh vintage of our Full Circle Pinot Noir, grown on the small vineyard outside the Haas family's home in Templeton, in the cool (for Paso) Templeton Gap AVA. Its name reflects Robert Haas's career: from a start introducing America to the greatness of Burgundy, through decades focusing on grapes from the Rhone, one of his last acts was to plant Pinot at his home and oversee our first few vintages. The grapes were fermented in one-ton microfermenters, half de-stemmed and half with stems for a more savory profile, punched down twice daily by hand. After pressing, the wine was moved into a mix of one-year-old and two-year-old Marcel Cadet 60-gallon barrels, for a hint of oak. The wine stayed on its lees, stirred occasionally, for 10 months, before being blended and bottled in August 2021. We've aged the wine in bottle for an additional year since then.
  • Tasting Notes: An immediately recognizable Pinot Noir nose of cola, cherry skin, and sweet spice. The palate is juicy, vibrant, and salty, with red fruit deepened by a little smoky oak. The experience brightens back up on the finish, highlighted by bright acids, wild herbs, and sweet mulling spices. Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 367 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2017 PATELIN DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Most of our Patelin de Tablas, blended from a selection of local vineyards planted to our clones, is sold in restaurants and wine shops and mostly consumed in the first few years. But in recent years, when we have a vintage we love, we've started stashing a modest quantity in our library to show how it can age. And the blockbuster 2017 vintage produced a Patelin de Tablas worthy of that aging, and more. The blend of 48% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 16% Mourvedre, and 4% Counoise tastes like it has one foot in the old world and one in the new, as well as one foot in the northern Rhone and one in the south. It was blended in May of 2018 and bottled in August of that same year. In the intervening four years, it's developed a lovely meatiness to complement the black fruit and spice it has had since the beginning.
  • Tasting Notes: A meaty nose of pancetta, baker's chocolate, and brambly blackberry. On the palate, juicy black fruit with a salted brown butter richness and a sweet tobacco herbiness. The long finish, with notes of iron and blackberry, still shows the wine's essential youthfulness, with its age coming out in that recurring pancetta note. We recommend you decant this (and any screwcapped red) and enjoy it any time in the next six-to-eight years.
  • Production: 3588 cases
  • Library Price: $38 VINsider Price: $30.40

The tasting was a great way to hone in on the character of our two most recent vintages. 2020 is a vintage that is most noteworthy for its lush fruit, though it has the tannic structure and acids to stand up to it. 2021 is a blockbuster, whose low yields produced wines with excellent concentration and great vibrancy. They are both worthy successors to the classic 2019s, and we can't wait to find out what our members think.

JH NC and CF with fall 2022 shipment wines

If you're a wine club member, we've got a range of options for you to try these wines. We are planning to host a live in-person pickup party on Sunday, October 16th. Neil and I will be hosting another virtual pickup party the evening of Friday, October 7th. And we'll again be offering club members who visit the opportunity to choose the shipment wines as their tasting flight between mid-September and early-October. Consider this a "save the date"; we will be putting details on all this on our VINsider News & Updates page and announcing them via email soon.

If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join us while there's still a chance to get this fall shipment? Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club


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

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

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

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

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

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

2022 Collectors Edition Wines

My tasting notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tasting the Wines in the Spring 2022 VINsider Wine Club Shipments

Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club. In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club. In others, the club gets a first look at a wine that may see a later national release. About six weeks before the club shipments will be sent out, we open them all to write the tasting and production notes that will be included in the club shipments. In many cases, this tasting is our first post-bottling reintroduction to wines that we'll come to know intimately in coming months and years. I always think it's fun to give followers of the blog a first look at these notes. The wines:

Shipment Wines Spring 2022

The shipments that will be going out in March include wines from the 2019, 2020, and 2021 vintages. Tasting three vintages together is a great way to get a handle on their relative personalities, and typically my first chance to do a personality assessment on the newest vintage, which we haven't even started blending trials on yet. My quick thoughts, after the tasting, are these:

  • The 2019s show a lovely combination of density and balance, with concentration reminiscent of a year like 2014 or 2017, but slightly higher acids and more overt minerality than either. It's a vintage that is serious and ageworthy, without being austere. An outstanding years for both reds and whites.
  • I had originally thought that the warm weather that marked the summer and harvest of 2020 might produce wines with a soft, luscious profile, but I don't find that to be true. Instead, there is plenty of plush fruit but also lively acids and excellent balance. The wines are crowd pleasers without the simplicity that this might imply. 
  • Finally, 2021, as much as one can tell from tasting two wines, seems electric. The combination of mouth-filling texture, intense flavors, and bright acids makes tasting the wines a memorable experience. Buckle up.

I'll go through the six wines in the VINsider Classic (Mixed) Shipment, and then move on to the additional wines that we chose to include in the Red Wine Selection and White Wine Selection shipments. I was joined for the tasting by Executive Winemaker Neil Collins, so these notes are a compilation of our thoughts.

The Classic Shipment includes six different wines:

2020 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Viognier is always the lead grape in our Cotes Blanc, and we balance Viognier's lushness with the elegance of Marsanne and the brightness of Grenache Blanc. Because of the somewhat softer profile of 2020, to the Viognier (38%) we added a higher-than-normal percentage of Grenache Blanc (32%) for brightness and pithy bite, bumping down the percentage of Marsanne (22%, for elegance), and preserving a little more Marsanne for our varietal bottling. 8% Roussanne rounds out the blend and provides structure. The selected lots were blended in May 2021, and the wine was bottled in June 2021.
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely nose of peach pit and honeysuckle, fresh apricot and lemongrass . The mouth shows both richness and brightness, with flavors of fresh pear and apple skin and rich texture. Grenache Blanc comes out in the finish, asserting order with bright acids and a little pithy bite, leaving a long finish of gardenia flower and stone fruit. Drink now and for at least the next five years.
  • Production: 1257 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2020 ROUSSANNE

  • Production Notes: Roussanne yields were down sharply in 2020, reduced by both the lack of rainfall and the unrelenting summer. But you wouldn't have known it from the Roussanne lots that we tasted during blending, which showed freshness and balance. We chose lots for our varietal bottling that came roughly 55% from foudre, 35% from neutral oak puncheons, and 10% in small new barriques. The selected lots were blended in April 2021 then aged in foudre through the subsequent harvest before bottling this past December.
  • Tasting Notes: An appealing nose of anise, brioche, beeswax, petrichor and jasmine, instantly recognizable as Roussanne. The palate is pretty, showing flavors of ripe pear and chalky minerals, lighter on its feet than many vintages of Roussanne, with a finish of wildflower honey, a sake-like sweet minerality, and a little hint of sweet oak. The wine has only been in bottle for a few months, but it's already drinking well. Drink in the next 3 or 4 years for a pure expression of Roussanne's honey and pear flavors, or hold it for 8-15 years for a flavor profile of caramel, wet rocks, and hazelnut.
  • Production: 940 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2021 PATELIN DE TABLAS ROSÉ

  • Production Notes: With yields low in 2021, we reduced our production of Dianthus, which opened up an opportunity to share with VINsiders our Patelin Rosé, the Provencal-style dry rosé that we base on Grenache and source primarily from other vineyards with our grapevines in the ground. Always led by Grenache (79% this year), which provides both bright fruit and refreshing acidity, the wine also includes additions of rich, floral Mourvedre (15%) and spicy, electric Counoise (6%). More than 80% of the fruit was direct-pressed upon arrival at the winery, with the balance destemmed and let soak for a single work day, then pressed off after about 12 hours.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty light peach color. On the nose, explosive aromatics of pink grapefruit, fresh nectarine, cherry blossom, and chalky minerals. The mouth is lovely and lively like the nose, with flavors of yellow raspberry and peach juice, vibrant acids, and a mouth-watering finish with notes of passion fruit and white flowers. Electric. Drink now and over the next year.
  • Production: 3300 cases
  • List Price: $28 VINsider Price: $22.40

2019 TANNAT

  • Production Notes: Our eighteenth bottling of this traditional grape from South-West France, famous for its intense fruit, spice, and tannins that produce wines capable of long aging. Tannat is known principally in the Pyrenees foothills appellation of Madiran, but originally native to the Basque region. Easy to grow and ferment, we mostly put Tannat in open-top fermenters to keep it exposed to oxygen and soften it somewhat. We then moved the wine to neutral oak foudre and aged it for nearly 2 years before bottling it in April 2021, and then aged it another 10 months in bottle before release. 
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely juicy blackcurrant and sweet licorice nose, given lift and definition with spicy juniper and alpine forest notes. On the palate, mouth-filling flavors of black cherry, sweet tobacco, and dark chocolate, lots of chalky tannic structure but the friendliness and fruit to carry that even in its youth. A long, plushly tannic finish of bittersweet chocolate and brambly blackberry completes the experience. A Tannat to make new friends and converts for the grape. Drink any time over the next two decades.
  • Production: 1179 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2019 LE COMPLICE

  • Production Notes: Just the fourth vintage of our newest red blend, which celebrates the kinship between whole cluster Syrah (67%) and the wildly interesting grape Terret Noir (6%). Le Complice means, roughly, "partner in crime". Although Syrah is dark and Terret light, both share wild herby black spice, and Terret's high acids bolster Syrah's tendency toward stolidity. We added some Grenache (27%) for mid-palate richness. The wine was blended in June of 2020, aged in foudre, bottled in April 2021, and has been aging in our cellars since.
  • Tasting Notes: A savory, umami-rich nose of iodine, soy, wintergreen, and graphite. The mouth is juicier than the nose suggests, with sweeter-toned flavors of licorice, star anise, baking chocolate, plum skin, and bay. The finish is more generous yet, with the predominant notes being Chinese five spice and loamy earth. Plenty of tannic richness. A wine to pair in its youth with rich, flavorful meats, which we suspect will age for two decades or more.
  • Production: 793 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

2019 PANOPLIE

  • Production Notes: Panoplie is selected from the top 3% of the year's lots, chosen for their richness, concentration and balance, giving pride of place to Mourvedre's lovely dark red fruit and distinctive combination of loam, earthiness, and meat. Each lot was fermented individually before being selected, blended and moved to foudre to age in July 2020. Mourvedre, as always, represents the largest percentage (62%) of Panoplie. In this year when all our major red grapes excelled, we chose a relatively equal proportion of Syrah (22%, for black fruit, density, and tannic richness) and Grenache (16%, for sweet spice and vibrancy). The wine was bottled in July 2021 and has been aging in our cellars since then.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty nose, just hinting at what's to come, with aromas of sweet loam and redcurrant, milk chocolate and new leather. The mouth is a blockbuster, with both red (raspberry) and black (cherry) fruit, a teriyaki-like umami element, then a wash of serious tannins that promise decades of fascinating evolution. The finish, like the rest of the wine, vibrates between red and black (licorice, in this case), sweet earth, and savory herbs. A serious wine to wait on for a year or two, if you possibly can, then to enjoy over two decades or more.
  • Production: 820 cases
  • List Price: $95 VINsider Price: $76

Four additional wines (2021 Vermentino, 2020 Marsanne, and two library selections, the 2017 Roussanne and 2017 Esprit de Tablas Blanc) will join the 2020 Cotes de Tablas Blanc and 2020 Roussanne in the White Wine Selection shipment:

2021 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our twentieth bottling of this traditional Mediterranean varietal, known principally in Sardinia, Corsica, and Northern Italy. It is also grown in the Mediterranean parts of France (particularly Côtes de Provence) where it is known as Rolle. The Vermentino grape produces wines that are bright, clean, and crisp, with distinctive citrus character and refreshing acidity. To emphasize this freshness, we ferment and age Vermentino in stainless steel, and bottled it young in January 2022 under screwcap. Vermentino yields in 2021 were painfully low (off by half compared to most recent years) but the fruit we got was classic and showed beautiful balance.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic Vermentino nose of all parts of a lime, from leaf to pith to juice, deepened by an herby lemongrass note and briny sea shell-like minerality. The palate is electric and juicy, with key lime and yellow grapefruit notes, sweet white flowers and briny sea spray, and a long, vibrant finish. Tastes like summer at the beach, or like what a gin and tonic wishes it could be. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 537 cases
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2020 MARSANNE

  • Production Notes: Marsanne is best known from the northern Rhone, particularly the famed appellation of Hermitage, where it produces wines of legendary elegance and ageworthiness. The 2020 vintage, for whatever reason, produced some of our favorite Marsanne ever, which was a bit of a surprise since we think of it as a grape that prefers cooler years. We fermented it in 600-gallon foudres to emphasize its texture and give it a hint of oak, then chose the lots for our varietal bottling and bottled it in June 2021.
  • Tasting Notes: A quintessential Marsanne nose of honeydew melon, honeysuckle, and straw drying in the sun. The mouth is pretty, showing notes of fresh honey, Golden Delicious apple, citrus blossom, and a gentle, chalky minerality. The long, gentle finish shows white flowers and melon, rainwater and dried grass. Moderate acids, but enough to keep things together. Like our 2019, it's so appealing now that I'm guessing a lot of it will get drunk young, but it should evolve in an interesting way for a decade at least.
  • Production: 193 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2017 ROUSSANNE

  • Production Notes: In a vintage where most grapes showed higher-than-normal yields, Roussanne was the exception. But the year's ample rainfall produced Roussanne fruit with bright acids and vibrant flavors. We fermented the Roussanne lots that were selected for our varietal bottling roughly 55% in foudre, 35% in neutral oak puncheons, and 10% in small new barriques, blended them in April 2018, returned them to foudre to age another six months, and bottled the wine that December. Because of the vintage's unusual vibrancy, we stashed a couple of pallets for a later release, and have enjoyed watching the deeper, more caramel-tinged flavors emerge over the last few years. 
  • Tasting Notes: A deep, classic Roussanne nose of lacquered wood, vanilla custard, lanolin, and quince. The mouth is still lively, with flavors of graham cracker and tangerine, candied orange peel and melon rind, and a finish that shows a little pithy bite that keeps the developing caramel tones fresh. Drink any time over the next decade.
  • Production: 1050 cases
  • Library Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2017 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: In 2017 we incorporated two of our newest white grapes into the Esprit Blanc blend for the first time. Still, Roussanne (68%, fermented in a mix of oak of various sizes and ages) was the leading contributor, but the different higher-acid, more mineral varieties (17% Grenache Blanc, 7% Picpoul Blanc, 4% Clairette Blanche, and 4% Picardan) all added citrusy acidity and saline freshness. After the blend was chosen and assembled in April 2018 we returned it to foudre to age another six months before bottling it in December 2018. Like with the Roussanne, we stashed some away for a (slightly) later release, when some of its more mature flavors would have developed.  
  • Tasting Notes: A nose balanced between sweeter and more savory elements, candied green apple and Werther's caramel aromas given depth and seriousness by laquered wood and lemongrass notes. On the palate, similarly sweet and savory, with flavors of lemon meringue, chalky mineral, creme brulee and melon rind. Notes of sweet hay and dried herbs tilt the balance toward savory for me, at least right now. The long finish shows pear skin and beeswax, minerality and citrus pith. In the middle of what promises to be a long, interesting life. Drink now or age up to another two decades for additional notes of hazelnuts and butterscotch.
  • Production: 2250 cases
  • Library Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

Two additional reds (the 2020 Counoise and 2020 Cotes de Tablas) join the 2019 Panoplie, 2019 Le Complice, and two bottles of 2019 Tannat in the Red Wine Selection shipment:

2020 COUNOISE

  • Production Notes: Valued as a blending grape in France because of its spiciness, its fresh acidity, and its low alcohol, Counoise is rarely seen on its own. But we love being able to share one, and suggest you enjoy it much as you might a Cru Beaujolais: slightly chilled, with charcuterie or as an aperitif. We tend to ferment our Counoise lots in stainless steel to protect it from oxidation, and to age it in neutral oak to avoid weighing down its bright fruit flavors. The lots that we chose for our varietal Counoise were selected and blended in June 2021 and bottled in February 2022, under screwcap to preserve the wine's freshness.   
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely translucent garnet color. Very fresh on the nose, with aromas of raspberry, rose petals, and savory chaparral, spicy and lifted. The palate is juicy, herby, and lively, reminiscent of the whole wild strawberry experience, from fruit to leaves, with sweet sarsaparilla spice, light tannins, and refreshing acids. A pretty and intriguing wine that should be endlessly flexible with food. Enjoy it lightly chilled any time in the next six to eight years.
  • Production: 240 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2020 COTES DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Grenache always plays lead in the Cotes de Tablas, and 2020 (where it represents 43%) was no exception. But during our blending trials we realized we had enough top-notch Syrah left to make a more serious, savory Cotes than we often do, and included 33% in the blend. 20% Counoise (for vibrancy and spice) and 4% Mourvedre (for earth and complexity) rounded out the wine, which was blended in June 2021 and aged in 1200-gallon neutral oak foudres until its bottling in February 2022.
  • Tasting Notes: A serious nose of brambly spice, red apple skin, wild grape jelly, and bay. The palate is poised evenly between savory and sweeter elements, with plum skin and cola deepened by dried herbs and cocoa powder. A little chalky minerality comes out along with some fairly substantial tannins on the finish. This will be delicious young, with excellent complexity for this bottling, but should also age gracefully a decade or more.
  • Production: 1200 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

If you're a wine club member, we've got a few different ways you can try these wines. We are planning to host a live, outdoor, in-person pickup party here at the winery on Sunday, March 27th. Neil and I will also be hosting another virtual pickup party the evening of Friday, April 8th, with the opportunity to order 187ml tasting kits from us so you can taste along. And we'll again be offering club members who visit between mid-March and mid-April the opportunity to choose their shipment wines as their tasting flight. Consider this a "save the date"; we will be putting details on all this on our VINsider News & Updates page and announcing them via email soon.

If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join up, while there's still a chance to get this spring shipment? Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club


Tasting the Wines in the Fall 2021 VINsider Wine Club Shipments

Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club.  In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club. In others, the club gets a first look at wines that may see a later national release. Before each shipment, we reintroduce ourselves to these wines (which, in some cases, we may not have tasted since before bottling) by opening the full lineup and writing the notes that will be included with the club shipments. Yesterday I sat down with Winemakers Neil Collins and Chelsea Franchi and we dove into this fall's collection.

We base each year's fall shipments around the newest releases of the Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc, and this fall's shipment is no exception. But there's a lot more to this fall's shipment than these two wines. We have three (we think, really terrific) varietal wines, one red and two white, and our small-production En Gobelet blend, selected entirely from our head-trained, dry-farmed vineyard blocks. We think it's one of the most compelling classic shipments we've ever put together, and I think the additions to the red wine and white wine selections are exciting. I'm excited to get them in our members' hands soon.  

The classic shipment includes six different wines:

Fall 2021 VINsider Shipment - Classic

2020 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: Although our overall yields were low in 2020, Grenache and Grenache Blanc were the exception, and we were able to make a bit more of our 100% Grenache Blanc than normal. The warm 2020 growing season gave us a diversity of options between richer, more caramel-tinged lots and brighter citrusy ones. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose to split the stylistic difference, with some lots fermented in stainless steel (for energy) and other from foudre (for roundness). The lots were blended in May 2021 and bottled under screwcap the next month.
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely nose of quince, fresh pineapple, wet rocks, and gardenia florality. On the palate, on point between brighter and lusher elements: mouth-filling with flavors of green apple and a hint of butterscotch, with vibrant acids and a Meyer lemon pithy bite keeping the finish precise. Absolutely Grenache Blanc in character and one of our favorite vintages ever. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 1074 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2020 VIOGNIER

  • Production Notes: The heat in 2020 didn't really hit until August, and the Viognier lots from that year seemed to reflect the cool June-July more than the very warm harvest season. We noted during blending the unusual vibrancy in Viognier, and love the resulting wine, which balances the grape's classic stone fruit and honey flavors with brighter-than-usual acids. All the Viognier lots were whole cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel, then the chosen lots blended in May 2021 and bottled in June. 
  • Tasting Notes: A nose of peaches and pineapple core, sweet green herbs and lemongrass. The palate is nicely balanced, clean and precise, with flavors of nectarine and mandarin and medium body. The finish is long and bright, delicately herby with lingering stone fruit flavors. Just how we like Viognier, with none of the cloying heaviness it can be prone to. Drink now and over the next five years.
  • Production: 693 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2019 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: The more we come to know 2019 the more convinced we are that it will go down as one of our best-ever vintages. That gave us a range of options for the Esprit Blanc during blending. The vintage's power and density was most evident in Roussanne (63%, fermented in a mix of oak of various sizes and ages). To that core, we added a little less Grenache Blanc than normal (just 20%) and increased Picpoul (14%) to give extra vibrancy and tropical notes to both nose and palate. 3% Picardan rounds out the blend and emphasizes the minerality. As we have done since 2012, we returned the blend to foudre after it was assembled in May 2020 and aged it through the subsequent harvest before bottling it in December 2020 and letting it rest an additional 9 months in bottle before release.
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely, creamy nose of wildflower honey, sweet baking spices, citrus pith, and briny minerality. The mouth is textured and dry, with both the richness and essence of egg custard, flavors of quince and pear, and a long finish with echoing honey, fresh vanilla bean, and limestone mineral notes. A powerful, textured Esprit Blanc that is drinking well now but which we expect will really shine with time in the cellar. Drink over the next two decades.
  • Production: 2250 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

2019 SYRAH

  • Production Notes: After no varietal Syrah in 2018, when it all got snapped up by our blends to give density and power to the more elegant year, the 2019 vintage's more structured character meant that the blends needed less Syrah and we were able to save enough out to bottle it as a varietal wine. All the lots showed the grape's characteristic black olive, black pepper, blackberry, and smoke aromas, and its plush mouthfeel, with the iron fist of Syrah tannins cloaked in dark fruit. For our varietal bottling we selected a mix of lots from newer and older oak, then blended them in June 2020 and aged the wine together in one 1200-gallon oak foudre and some smaller barrels until bottling in April 2021.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep, brooding nose of blackberry thicket, graphite, teriyaki marinating meat, and iodine. The palate is intensely concentrated without feeling at all heavy: blackcurrant and iron, with plush tannins that provide significant grip. A long finish with lingering flavors of black raspberry and chalky minerality completes the picture. This should drink well for two decades or more.
  • Production: 712 cases
  • List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32

2019 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: Our twelfth En Gobelet, a non-traditional blend all from head-trained, dry-farmed blocks, and mostly from the 12-acre block we call Scruffy Hill, planted in 2005 and 2006 to be a self-sufficient field blend. These lots tend to show more elegance and minerality than our closer-spaced irrigated blocks, although in 2019 the wine shows plenty of power and density. We chose a blend of 37% Grenache, 33% Mourvedre, 20% Syrah, 8% Counoise, and just 2% Tannat, as the wine had enough structure that it didn't need much of Tannat's tannic power. The wine was blended in June of 2020, aged in foudre, and bottled in April 2021.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep red fruit nose with Mourvedre's classic meaty richness deepened by a warm spice reminiscent of Mexican chocolate, all leavened by a juniper savory minty note. On the palate, vibrant with tangy, salty flavors of redcurrant and mocha. The long, red-fruited, richly tannic finish suggests some time in the cellar will be rewarded. Serious and built for the long term; wait six months if you can, and then drink any time over the next two decades.
  • Production: 910 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

2019 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: As always, the Esprit is based on the red fruit and meatiness of Mourvedre (39%). In this blockbuster vintage, we found that a relatively high percentage of the higher-acid Grenache (30%) and Counoise (10%) and a bit less Syrah than normal (21%) produced something both deep and elegant, with warm spices and a lovely loamy earthy umami character. The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for Esprit, blended in June 2020 and aged a year in foudre before bottling in July 2021.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep nose, with brooding aromas of cassis and bay leaf, with sweeter notes of licorice reverberating between black and red coming out with time. On the palate, fresh and vibrant, with fresh fig and raspberry coulis flavors, a salty prosciutto-like savoriness, and lovely rich tannins cloaked by alternating blue and deep red fruit, ending on a sweeter star anise note. A blockbuster that promises more rewards to come with cellar aging. Give it a few months if you can; then drink either before the end of 2024 or again starting in 2027 any time over the subsequent two decades.
  • Production: 3650 cases
  • List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48

Two additional wines joined the Viognier, Grenache Blanc, and Esprit de Tablas Blanc in the white-only shipment (we doubled up the Esprit Blanc):

Fall 2021 VINsider Shipment - White

2020 BOURBOULENC

  • Production Notes: Our second-ever bottling of Bourboulenc, from our second-ever harvest of this relatively obscure Rhone white. Bourboulenc is known in France to make wines with fresh fruit aromatics and a distinctive nutty character, with fairly good acids and relatively low alcohol. After an unusually golden color from our debut vintage in 2019, we were more conscious of protecting the clusters from the sun, and were rewarded by a more classic, tropical result. It was good enough that we included 5% in the 2020 Esprit Blanc, but this 165-case varietal bottling still represents more than 60% of our total harvest. It was blended in May 2021 and bottled in June.
  • Tasting Notes: Classic light gold. A nose of fresh pineapple and chalky minerality, as well as lusher notes of lychee and poached pear. The mouth shows flavors of fresh mango, orange blossom, and limestone minerality. Lovely acids come out on the finish, emphasizing the pineapple fruit and leaving a lingering note of petrichor. Our experience aging Bourboulenc is limited, but we plan to drink ours over the next few years.
  • Production: 165 cases
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2018 PETIT MANSENG

  • Production Notes: Our ninth bottling of this traditional grape from southwest France, Petit Manseng is best known from the appellation of Jurançon, where it has made admired sweet wines for centuries that you rarely hear about in America. Petit Manseng achieves sufficient concentration and sugar content -- and maintains its acids sufficiently -- to make naturally sweet, balanced wines without botrytis. Harvested at 28.4° Brix and a pH of 3.13, we fermented it in barrel, and stopped its fermentation when it had about 85 grams/liter of sugar left and sat at an alcohol of 13.2%. This is a little sweeter than we've finished the Petit Manseng in recent years, but as usual the high acidity makes it taste much drier than the sugar reading would suggest. The wine was aged on its lees in barrel and bottled in June 2019.
  • Tasting Notes: Medium gold. An exotic nose of citrus leaf, grilled pineapple, and chalky minerality. In the mouth, the wine begins lushly sweet, with flavors of pears in syrup, mango juice, and candied orange peel. Then the acids reassert themselves, suggesting lemon drop with a pithy bite. The very long finish splits the difference, with notes of tropical flowers, grilled citrus, sweet spices, and a spicy pink peppercorn note. A little sweeter and more intense than but reminiscent of a demi-sec Vouvray, for anyone with that as a reference point. Drink now or age for up to another decade for a nuttier character.
  • Production: 180 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

Two additional reds joined the Syrah, En Gobelet and two bottles of the Esprit de Tablas in the red-only shipment:

Fall 2021 VINsider Shipment - Red

2019 FULL CIRCLE

  • Production Notes: The tenth vintage of our Full Circle Pinot Noir, grown on the small vineyard outside the Haas family's home in Templeton, in the cool (for Paso) Templeton Gap AVA. Its name reflects Robert Haas's career: from a start introducing America to the greatness of Burgundy, through decades focusing on grapes from the Rhone, one of his last acts was to plant Pinot at his home and oversee our first few vintages. The grapes were fermented in one-ton microfermenters, half de-stemmed and half with stems for a more savory profile, punched down twice daily by hand. After pressing, the wine was moved into a mix of one-year-old and two-year-old Marcel Cadet 60-gallon barrels, for a hint of oak.  The wine stayed on its lees, stirred occasionally, for 10 months, before being blended and bottled in August 2020. We've aged the wine in bottle for an additional year since then.
  • Tasting Notes: A spicy nose of cherry cola, black pepper, juniper, and black tea. The mouth is medium-bodied, with flavors of cherry skin, red licorice, milk chocolate, and a little hint of mulling spices. The finish is long and fresh, with flavors of candied orange peel, mocha, and black cherry. Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 482 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2019 MOURVEDRE

  • Production Notes: Mourvedre is the one red grape that we try to bottle on its own each year, because we think it is a wonderful grape that too few people know, and one we feel worthy of some proselytizing. The classic 2019 vintage produced some of our favorite-ever Mourvedre lots, seemingly equally balanced between Old World-style loamy, meaty elements and the lusher red-fruited, milk chocolate mouth-coating density that we associate with Paso Robles. All our Mourvedre lots were fermented in large wooden tanks and moved to neutral barrels to await blending. The chosen lots were blended in the spring of 2020, then aged in foudre and smaller neutral barrels until bottling in April 2021.
  • Tasting Notes: An Old World nose, more reminiscent of Bandol than most of our varietal Mourvedres: pine forest and blackberry thicket, juniper, thyme, and wild game. The palate is more generous than the nose suggests, with dark red plum and currant fruit, and deepening elements of loam and cocoa powder. The finish shows plum skin and bittersweet chocolate, mouth-watering and still tasting very young. It seems like six months or so in the cellar will be well rewarded, and then drink any time over the next 15 years.
  • Production: 640 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

The tasting was a great way to hone in on the character of our two most recent vintages. 2019 is a blockbuster vintage, combining noteworthy fruit intensity with good structure and lift. I think several of the 2019 reds are the best we've ever made. 2020 seems just as strong, though we only have the whites to judge so far. The flavors seem both intense and balanced, and the weights of the wines right on point. I can't wait to get these wines in our club members' hands and find out what they think.

Fall 2021 VINsider Shipment Tasting Wines

If you're a wine club member, we've got a range of options for you to try these wines. We are planning to host a live, outdoor, in-person pickup party on Sunday, October 3rd. Neil and I will be hosting another virtual pickup party the evening of Friday, October 15th. And we'll again be offering club members who visit the opportunity to choose the shipment wines as their tasting flight between mid-September and mid-October. Consider this a "save the date"; we will be putting details on all this on our VINsider News & Updates page and announcing them via email soon.

If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join us while there's still a chance to get this fall shipment? Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club