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


Tasting the wines in the 2021 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 2013 Esprit de Tablas and the 2015 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. Although both vintages were during our recent five-year drought, the growing seasons proceeded quite differently.

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, each 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.]

So, despite their drought conditions, the two vintages manifested differently. 2013 produced wines with classic flavors, dark colors, good density, and lots of spiciness. 2015 produced some of the most ethereal wines we've made, with noteworthy minerality and high-toned elegance. That said, both 2013 Esprit and 2015 Esprit Blanc showed a lovely balance of fruit and mineral, structure and openness, and richness and elegance when I tasted them today. The pair:

Collectors Edition Wines 2021

My tasting notes:

  • 2015 Esprit de Tablas Blanc: Still a youthful pale gold. Elegant on the nose, with aromas of white flowers, lemongrass, beeswax, fresh pineapple, and sweet spice. The palate is lovely and translucent, with flavors of creme caramel and mint, intensely flavored but somehow weightless. The finish was clean and minerally with lingering notes of cream soda, lemon zest, and crushed rock. Because of the relatively low acid in our Roussanne lots, we used more Picpoul than we ever have in the Esprit Blanc, and I can feel its presence in the weightless tropicality. 55% Roussanne, 28% Grenache Blanc, and 17% Picpoul Blanc. Delicious now, and seems like an Esprit Blanc vintage that will sail on for decades, gradually deepening in tone with time.
  • 2013 Esprit de Tablas: A nose of graphite, dark berries, leather, and sweet pipe tobacco, with a little wintergreen spice coming out with time in the glass. On the palate, more red fruited than the nose suggested, with flavors of redcurrant and plum skin, loam, baker's chocolate and Chinese five spice. The finish is long, with notes of mocha, black tea, and chalky mineral. The tannins have softened but are still substantial. The Syrah (which we increased in percentage because it showed so well in our blending trials) was really showing today. 40% Mourvedre, 28% Syrah, 22% Grenache, and 10% Counoise. The still-substantial tannins and (to my mind) impeccable balance between fruitier and more savory elements suggest that you'll be happy whether you open it now or lay it down for additional aging.

So how have the wines changed? The flavors in the Esprit Blanc have shifted slightly in tone, deepening from new honey to something more caramelized, while retaining the high notes and weightlessness 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 become richer. And yet they're both still youthful enough that anyone who loved them when they were young will feel like they're visiting an old friend. And, of course, they're nowhere near the end of their lives, so collectors who like a fully mature profile can wait another decade easily. 

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. I'm really loving the lush vibrancy of all the 2019s, and am excited to share some of our first of the outstanding 2020 white wines:

  • 2 bottles of 2013 Esprit de Tablas
  • 1 bottle of 2015 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 3 bottles of 2019 Esprit de Tablas
  • 2 bottles of 2019 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 1 bottle of 2019 En Gobelet
  • 1 bottle of 2019 Syrah
  • 1 bottle of 2020 Viognier
  • 1 bottle of 2020 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 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 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 shipments that will be going out in March include wines from the 2018, 2019, and 2020 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:

  • 2018 is noteworthy for its vibrancy. It's a vintage where we knew the whites would be great, with lovely freshness and minerality. We're coming to realize that this profile is just as valuable for the reds, emphasizing the purity of the fruit and producing elegant, balanced wines with beautiful varietal expressiveness.
  • 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 offers something for everyone, and seems likely to go down as one of our best-ever years.
  • Finally, 2020, as much as one can tell from tasting two wines, seems to turn up the textural volume even a little on 2019, but without sacrificing either freshness or varietal purity.

I'll start with the classic mixed shipment, and then move on to the additional wines available in the red wine selection and white wine selection shipments. I was joined for the tasting by most of our cellar team: Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi, Assistant Winemaker Craig Hamm, and Cellar Assistants Austin Collins and Amanda Weaver.

Spring 2021 Shipment Tasting Group

The classic shipment includes six different wines:

2020 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our nineteenth 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 in January, under screwcap.
  • Tasting Notes: An absolutely classic Vermentino nose of lime zest and the ocean, with sweeter notes of honeydew and white flowers underneath. The palate shows a somewhat richer texture than normal at this very young stage, with flavors of lemon drop and key lime pie, and briny sea spray minerality. A sweet, tangy lemongrass note lingers on the long, textured finish. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 1350 cases.

2019 ROUSSANNE

  • Production Notes: Roussanne yields recovered from the exceptionally low levels we saw in 2018, and the 1300 cases we made as a varietal wine was double what we were able to make the year before. But the larger quantity didn't mean that the Roussanne was any less intense; to the contrary, it's some of the best, most classic Roussanne we've seen. 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 2020 then aged in foudre through the subsequent harvest before bottling this past December.
  • Tasting Notes: A powerful nose of lacquered wood, new honey, brioche, and pear skin, instantly recognizable as Roussanne. The palate is broad and textured, with flavors of honeycomb and vanilla custard, pineapple core and a slight tropicality like a salted mango. A little sweet oak comes out on the long finish, with a mandarin pith note keeping the classic flavors of honey and pear fresh. 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 more luscious, fruit-driven experience, or hold it for 8-15 years for a flavor profile of caramel, wet rocks, and hazelnut.
  • Production: 1300 cases

2020 DIANTHUS

  • Production Notes: For our Dianthus rosé, whose name was chosen for a family of plants with deep-pink flowers, we aim for a style between that of Tavel (deeper pink, based on Grenache) and Bandol (less skin contact, based on Mourvedre). This year's blend is 48% Mourvèdre, 37% Grenache and 15% Counoise, bled off or pressed off after 24-36 hours on the skins. Because of the relatively early finish to the 2020 harvest, we were able to get the wine fermented (all in stainless steel) and ready for bottling in late January. This is a deeply colored, flavorful rosé, ideal with complex, powerful foods.
  • Tasting Notes: A lovely orange-pink color. The nose shows powerful wild strawberry, mint, and pink peppercorn aromas. The palate shows lush texture, tangy yellow plum, and a powerful rose petal florality characteristic of Mourvedre rosés. It's luscious but also vibrant, with a hint of plum skin tannin keeping control over a finish with intense flavors of yellow raspberries, sweet herbs, and rose hips. A rosé to convert people who think that pink wines can't be serious.  Drink before the end of 2022.
  • Production: 1270 cases

2018 TANNAT

  • Production Notes: Our seventeenth bottling of this traditional varietal from South-West France, known principally in the Pyrenees foothills appellation of Madiran, but originally native to the Basque region. Tannat typically has intense fruit, spice, and tannins that produce wines capable of long aging. As we do many years, we blended in our small harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon, making the wine is 97% Tannat and 3% Cabernet. We aged it in one foudre and a mix of new and older smaller barrels for nearly 2 years before bottling it in April 2020, and then aged it another 10 months in bottle before release. 
  • Tasting Notes: On the nose, black cherry, wood smoke, Worcestershire sauce, sweet licorice and brambly spice. The mouth is dense and savory, with flavors of black licorice and eucalyptus, blackberry, black tea, and dark chocolate truffle. A lovely saline mineral note comes out on the finish with plum skin tannins and cedary spice. Relatively elegant and approachable for a Tannat at this stage. A wine to drink any time over the next two decades.
  • Production: 1280 cases

2018 LE COMPLICE

  • Production Notes: Just the third vintage of our newest red blend, which celebrates the kinship between Syrah (60%) and the wildly interesting grape Terret Noir (15%). Although Syrah is dark and Terret light, both share wild herby black spice, and Terret's high acids bolster Syrah's tendency toward stolidity. Le Complice means, roughly, "partner in crime". We added some Grenache (25%) for mid-palate fleshiness. The wine was blended in June of 2019, aged in foudre, bottled in April 2020, and has been aging in our cellars since.
  • Tasting Notes: A savory, herby dark nose of black pepper, pancetta, sweet tobacco, and sandalwood. On the palate, more vibrant than the nose suggests at this stage, with tangy black raspberry, smoky black tea, bitter chocolate, and a cranberry-like crunchiness that is refreshing and appealing. Good acids and youthful tannins suggest that the wine will drink well for two decades or more.
  • Production: 830 cases

2018 PANOPLIE

  • Production Notes: As always, Panoplie is selected from lots chosen in the cellar for their richness, concentration and balance, always 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 2019. Although Mourvedre as always represents by far the largest percentage (64%) of Panoplie, in this relatively elegant, high-toned vintage, we preferred a relatively high percentage of Syrah (24%) for black fruit, density, and tannic richness and less Grenache (12%) for sweet spice and vibrancy. The wine was bottled in July 2020 and has been aging in our cellars since then.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep, lovely Beaucastel-like nose of dark red currant fruit, sweet Middle Eastern spices, pomegranate reduction, and a graphite-like minerality. The mouth is luscious but still vibrant, with flavors of dark cherry, blood orange, and chocolate cake with raspberry reduction. The wine has rich texture, with loamy earth, clove spice, and baker's chocolate. The finish lasted a full minute, reverberating between red and black licorice, with sweet spice lingering at the end. A delicious wine with a long life ahead; we predict two decades of life, easily.
  • Production: 850 cases

There are three additional wines (2019 Viognier, 2019 Marsanne, and the 2016 Esprit de Tablas Blanc) as well the 2020 Vermentino and two bottles of 2019 Roussanne in the white wine selection:

2019 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 2019 vintage, for whatever reason, produced our most textured, Hermitage-like Marsanne ever, another indication that it was a tremendous vintage overall. We fermented it in the new 600-gallon foudres for a balance of richness and a little sweet oak, then chose the lots for our varietal bottling, returned it to large wood for a few more months, and bottled it in June 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: An intense Marsanne nose of Charentais melon,, sweet straw, lemongrass and citrus blossom. On the palate, sweet tropical fruit that reminded me of lychee and ripe kiwi. The finish showed white flowers and tropical honey, solid acidity, and lingering tropical fruit. I think this is the best Marsanne we've ever made, with the texture, fruit, and acidity all up a notch from what we normally see. 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: 340 cases

2019 VIOGNIER

  • Production Notes: Viognier, known more from the northern Rhone than the area around Chateauneuf du Pape, tends to thrive in cooler years. So, you might think that the intensity from the relatively warm 2019 vintage would have made Viognier unpleasantly heavy or floral. You would be wrong. Instead, the cool first half of the growing season appears to have emphasized its freshness, and with the grape's characteristic stone fruit and white flowers balanced by an unusual (for Viognier) citrus zest flavor and better-than-usual acids. As usual, we pressed our Viognier grapes whole cluster at harvest and fermented the juice in stainless steel, then selected lots for our varietal bottling in April 2020 and bottled in June 2020 in screwcap, to preserve its brightness.
  • Tasting Notes: On the nose, new honey, jasmine, and honeydew melon, held in check by tangier aromas of nectarine and citrus leaf. The mouth shows flavors of white peach and keffir lime, with a lively finish of coconut, chalky minerality, and a hint of citrus zest. Drink now and over the next five years.
  • Production: 480 cases

2016 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: We love Roussanne (and the Roussanne-based Esprit Blanc) with a few years in bottle to let the grape's classic honey flavors to deepen to show more crème brulée and nuttiness, and so stashed a few pallets of our 2016 Esprit Blanc on release for our White Wine Selection club members. The classic 2016 vintage was a tremendous one for Roussanne, and we ended our blending trials tied for the most Roussanne we'd ever used in the Esprit Blanc (75%, fermented and aged in a mix of small newer barrels and neutral foudres). 18% Grenache Blanc and 7% Picpoul Blanc provide citrusy acidity and saline freshness. We returned the blend to foudre after it was assembled in April 2017 and aged it through the subsequent harvest before bottling it in December 2017. It has been aging in bottle since then.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic Esprit Blanc nose of poached pear and honeysuckle, vanilla custard and chalky minerality. The flavors are starting to deepen to crème caramel, lemon meringue, baked apple, and just the first hint of hazelnut complexity. The wine's rich texture is kept in check with a hint of tannin likely from the Grenache Blanc, leaving a finish of honey, saline minerality, and sweet spice. Still young and powerful, but on its way to a future of nuttiness and minerality. Drink over the next few years, or cellar for a wonderful and different experience for up to two decades.
  • Production: 2070 cases

Two additional reds (the 2019 Counoise and 2019 Grenache) join the 2018 Panoplie, 2018 Le Complice, and two bottles of 2018 Tannat in the red wine selection:

2019 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 2020 and bottled in February 2021, under screwcap to preserve its freshness.   
  • Tasting Notes: Darker than many vintages of Counoise, the wine shows a nose of cranberry and clove-studded orange, spicy and lifted. The mouth is lively with flavors of raspberry and cherry, a sweet wintergreen note, and bright acids that smooth out into a spicy wild strawberry and red licorice finish. A pretty and intriguing wine that should be endlessly flexible with food. Enjoy it any time in the next six to eight years.
  • Production: 460 cases

2019 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: Grenache yields were down sharply in 2019 as the grape suffered losses from shatter (incomplete fertilization) from cool, windy weather at flowering. But the Grenache that we received was lovely: intensely fruity but also more structured than it is in many vintages, with good acids and plenty of tannin. 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 2020 and aged in neutral oak until its bottling in February 2021.
  • Tasting Notes: A wild, brambly nose showing raspberry liqueur, potpourri, and a sweet, exotic Chinese five spice note. The mouth shows cassis and fresh cherry, lively acids, and a finish of wild strawberries with notes of sweet red licorice, minty eucalyptus, and star anise. If you prefer your reds crunchy and vibrant, don't feel bad about opening it young. If you prefer to wait for more subtle flavors, drink any time in the next six-to-ten years.
  • Production: 455 cases

If you're a wine club member, you should make your plans to join us for our virtual pickup party. In these times of Covid, we aren't able to safely hold our normal shipment tasting at the winery, but Neil and I will lead people through a live tasting through the shipment the evening of Friday, April 16th. We'll have Chef Jeff Scott join us to share recipes. And we're even planning to offer packs of the six classic shipment wines rebottled into 187ml bottles so you can open the wines and taste along with us. We'll have details 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

Spring 2021 Shipment Tasting Wines


Tasting the Wines in the Fall 2020 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 Winemaker Neil Collins and we dove into this fall's collection. For what we found, read on:

Neil and Jason after shipment tasting

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 a couple of (we think, really terrific) varietal wines, one red and one white, and two other smaller-production blends, again one each red and white. We think it's one of the most compelling shipments we've ever put together. I'm excited to get them in our members' hands soon.  

The classic shipment includes six different wines:

Fall 2020 VINsider Classic Shipment

2019 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: The cool-then-warm 2019 growing season pushed yields a little below average, resulting in unusually small Grenache Blanc grapes that turned out to have both exceptional brightness and rich texture. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose lots that were fermented in stainless steel (for energy) and foudre (for roundness), blended them in May 2020 and bottled the finished wine under screwcap in June 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: An intense Grenache Blanc nose of lemon curd, sweet green herbs, and crushed rock. On the palate, like a lemon meringue pie with the hint of graham cracker underlying the bright, luscious lemon. The finish is lovely and long, with a little pithy Grenache Blanc tannin coming out at the end. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 860 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2019 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 2019, the Viognier (44%) already had nice acidity, so we chose to use more Marsanne (29%) to bring elegance and minerality, and a relatively low percentage of Grenache Blanc (19%), leaving more Grenache Blanc for our varietal bottling in this relatively scarce Grenache Blanc year. 8% Roussanne rounds out the blend and provides structure. The selected lots were blended in May 2020, and the wine was bottled in June 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: An elegant nose, with Marsanne seemingly at the fore right now: nectarines, lemongrass, honeydew, and a rich, wheaty element that Neil described as clean straw. The mouth is lovely, with flavors of peach pit, tangerine, and newly-mown hay drying in the sun. Lovely acids and sweet green herbs come out on the long, balanced finish. Drink now and for at least the next five years.
  • Production: 1540 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2018 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: For the second year in a row we incorporated two of our newest white grapes into the Esprit Blanc blend. Of course, Roussanne (66%, fermented in a mix of oak of various sizes and ages) still takes pride of place, but the different higher-acid, more mineral varieties (21% Grenache Blanc, 8% Picpoul Blanc, 3% Picardan and 2% Clairette Blanche) all add citrusy acidity and saline freshness. As we have done since 2012, we returned the blend to foudre after it was assembled in April 2019 and aged it through the subsequent harvest before bottling it in December 2019 and letting it rest an additional 9 months in bottle before release.
  • Tasting Notes: A lifted nose of orange blossom, honeycomb, and spicy pine nut. On the palate, the signature clean, precise elegance of the 2018 vintage, with flavors of baked custard, marmalade, and saline minerality, deepened by a little sweet oak. Then lively and juicy on the finish like biting into a fresh pear, complete with the little hint of pear skin tannin. A balanced, elegant Esprit Blanc that we expect to go out two decades, gaining additional nuttiness and complexity with time in bottle.
  • Production: 2315 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2018 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: Grenache was one of the stars of the cool 2018 vintage, producing lots with lifted fruit, lots of peppery spice, and a little tannic bite that suggests it will produce wines that can age gracefully. 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 2019 and aged in neutral 1200-gallon oak foudres until bottling in May 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A nose of wild strawberry, allspice, brambly briar patch, and sarsaparilla root. The palate is generous with vivid cranberry fruit and all the elements of plum pudding, from creamy richness to the tangy baked plum and the bursts of plum skin tannin. Bright acids and youthful grippy tannins provide balance to the juiciness on the finish. We suggest you wait a few months for the tannins to integrate, then drink in the next few years for a crunchy and vibrant experience or wait six to ten years for a deeper, softer profile.
  • Production: 1160 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2018 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: Our eleventh 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 2018 the wine shows plenty of power and density. We chose a blend of 36% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 27% Syrah, 6% Counoise, and 3% Tannat. In this lifted, elegant vintage, we chose our highest-ever percentage of Syrah for this blend, giving the wine heft and Syrah's signature creamy, meaty density. The wine was blended in June of 2019, aged in foudre and bottled in May 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A explosively vibrant nose of boysenberry, blackcurrant, black pepper, and roasted meats. The mouth is juicy but firmly tannic, with flavors of cassis and black cherry, wood smoke, and cracked peppercorn. Syrah's signature creamy dark minerality comes out on the finish. Serious and built for the long term; wait six months if you can, and then drink any time over the next two decades.
  • Production: 860 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

2018 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Although the Esprit is based as always on the red fruit and meatiness of Mourvedre (40%), in this vintage noteworthy for its lift and minerality we found that the darkness and density provided by Syrah (27%) was essential and we needed a little less of the bright spiciness of Grenache (23%). Counoise (10%) rounds out the blend with brambly notes and sweet spice. The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for Esprit, blended in June 2019 and aged a year in foudre before bottling in July 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep brooding Mourvedre nose of loamy redcurrant and roasted meats, new leather and black plum. The mouth shows spicy licorice and nutmeg lift over baked plums and Mourvedre's signature plum skin tannin maintaining balance with the wine's mouth-coating texture. The long, richly tannic finish, with lingering flavors of wood smoke, roasted meat, and crushed rock, promises more rewards to come with cellar aging. The wine was showing beautifully despite only having been in bottle one week when we tasted it; we recommend that you drink either between now and 2023 or again starting in 2026 any time over the subsequent two decades.
  • Production: 4325 cases
  • List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48

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

Fall 2020 VINsider White Shipment

2019 BOURBOULENC

  • Production Notes: Our first ever bottling of Bourboulenc, from our first-ever harvest of this relatively obscure Rhone white. Bourboulenc is known in France to make wines with citrus aromatics and a distinctive smoky character, with fairly good acids and relatively low alcohol. As we have no road map for this wine, never having harvested or fermented it before, we treated it gently, fermenting with our signature native yeasts in a mix of stainless steel and neutral oak barrels. It had a distinctive orange color (not that different from Roussanne) coming out of the press, and while much of that settled out in fermentation, it's still a lovely rich gold. We used our entire production in this 135-case varietal bottling, put into bottle in June 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: Medium gold color. A nose of lychee and wet rocks, lightly floral, with an unusual and appealing fresh almond note. On the palate, richly textured and softly mineral, with pineapple fruit and a little mintiness, pretty and delicate and lovely. We have no idea how this will age, but suggest you drink it over the next few years.
  • Production: 135 cases
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2017 PETIT MANSENG

  • Production Notes: Our eighth 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° Brix and a pH of 2.99, we fermented it in barrel, and stopped its fermentation when it had about 62 grams/liter of sugar left and sat at an alcohol of 14.4%. 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 2018.
  • Tasting Notes: Medium gold. An exotic nose of lemon marmalade, briny mineral, citrus leaf, and lemongrass. In the mouth, the wine is a roller-coaster, first sweet like candied orange peel, then lemon drop acids assert themselves, and finally the finish relaxes to a combination of clementine orange, sea spray minerality, and citrus blossom. 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: 170 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

Two additional reds joined the Grenache, En Gobelet and Esprit de Tablas in the red-only shipment:

Fall 2020 VINsider Red Shipment

2018 FULL CIRCLE

  • Production Notes: 2018 is the ninth 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 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 2019. We've aged the wine in bottle for an additional year since then.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty nose of cherry cola, Chinese five spice, teriyaki, and black tea. The mouth is medium-bodied, soft, and generous, with raspberry fruit, a little sweet oak, and a lightly tannic finish with sarsaparilla and wild strawberry notes. Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 475 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2018 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 cool 2018 vintage produced a very Old World style of Mourvedre, with loamy, meaty elements just as strong as the red-fruited notes we typically see at the fore here in 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 2019, then aged in foudre until bottling in May 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A very Old World style of Mourvedre, with loam at the front, then pie cherries and meaty note reminiscent of a rosemary-rubbed leg of lamb. The mouth is more generously fruited than the nose suggests, with flavors of plum and redcurrant fruit, new leather, and some chewy tannins that come out on the finish and reassert a loamy, juniper forest note. It seems like time in the cellar will be well rewarded, but feel free to 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. 2018 shows a cool climate signature with vibrant, expressive, spicy wines with elegance and the potential to age. 2019 is a blockbuster vintage, combining rich textures with lively acidity and powerful varietal characters. I can't wait to get these wines in our club members' hands and find out what they think.

If you're a wine club member, you're probably aware that we're not going to be hosting a traditional wine club pickup party because of COVID, but we've come up with a few ways to give members the chance to experience the wines. These include the option of "shipment flights" should members come for a distanced patio tasting in September and October, a virtual tasting party the evening of Friday, October 15th for which we'll be putting together tasting packs that include half-bottles of the two 2018 Esprit de Tablas wines, and the newest season of Chelsea & the Shepherd, which we'll be debuting around the time the shipment goes out. We have details on all this 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 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 2020 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 2012 Esprit de Tablas and the 2014 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. Although both vintages were warm and sunny, and that showed up in the wines we made those years, 2012 was the first dry year after two wet ones, and the vineyard really showed no signs of stress all growing season, by 2014 we were starting to see the effects of our drought in lower yields and a denser, chewier lushness. That said, both wines showed a lovely balance of fruit and mineral, structure and openness, and richness and elegance when I tasted them today. The pair:

CE 2020 Wines

My tasting notes:

  • 2014 Esprit de Tablas Blanc: Lovely medium gold. Rich on the nose, with aromas of gingersnap, lacquered wood, yellow pear, and sweet green herbs. The palate is similarly exuberant, with rich texture and flavors of baked spiced pear and honey. A little pithy Grenache Blanc tannin kicked in on the finish, ushering in a briny minerality that was a welcome counterpoint to the wine's lushness. 72% Roussanne, 23% Grenache Blanc, 5% Picpoul Blanc.  Delicious now, and will certainly be good for another 5-10 years or more.
  • 2012 Esprit de Tablas: A deep nose of iodine, soy marinade, cassis, and chalky minerality. The mouth shows bittersweet chocolate and black cherry notes, warmed by sweet baking spices. The finish is long, with good tannins, plum skin, and black tea, and the 2012 vintage's signature freshness. 40% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 21% Syrah, 9% Counoise. It's already deepened notably since my last tasting of it just over a year ago, and my sense is that it's only getting better. Still, it's lovely now, and anyone who pops one open upon arrival is going to be very, very happy.

So how have the wines changed? Both have deepened since bottling. The flavors in the Esprit Blanc have shifted from fresh pear to poached pear, and from new honey to something more like creme brulee. The flavors in the Esprit have shifted from more red-fruited to something poised between red and black, and the texture has become richer. And yet they're both still youthful enough that anyone who loved them when they were young will feel like they're visiting an old friend. And, of course, they're nowhere near the end of their lives, so collectors who like a fully mature profile can wait another decade easily. 

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. I'm really loving the vibrancy and freshness of all the 2018s, and am excited to share some of our first of the luscious 2019s:

  • 2 bottles of 2012 Esprit de Tablas
  • 1 bottle of 2014 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 3 bottles of 2018 Esprit de Tablas
  • 2 bottles of 2018 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 1 bottle of 2018 En Gobelet
  • 1 bottle of 2018 Grenache
  • 1 bottle of 2019 Cotes de Tablas Blanc
  • 1 bottle of 2019 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.


Introducing a new wine club: the Esprit Club

We've had pretty much the same collection of wine clubs for most of the last decade. They are (with links to the club pages on our Web site):

  • The VINsider Wine Club. This is our main club begun and kept in more or less the same format since 2002, and probably the most familiar to most people. We pick six bottles we love in the spring and fall, and send them out to members at our standard wine club discount of 20% below list price, plus shipping and tax. Members have the opportunity to choose classic (mixed), red-only, or white-only shipments. 
  • The VINsider Wine Club Collector's Edition. We augment the fall VINsider club shipment with six extra bottles of Esprit, including a few additional bottles of the newest Esprit and Esprit Blanc and a small collection of older Esprit and Esprit Blanc that we've been aging in our cellars. Because that shipment is a case, we bump up the discount to 25% (our case discount for VINsider members), and because it contains six or more bottles of Esprit wines, we include no-charge shipping. We've had a waiting list for this since its second year, and because we only have so much wine in our library, I suspect we always will have to cap membership.
  • The VINdependent Wine Club. For people who don't want preconfigured shipments or want a lesser commitment, all we require is that members purchase a minimum of six bottles per year. Because the commitment is less, the discounts are a bit less too: 10% from bottle one, and 20% on orders of a case of more. If members get to the end of the year and haven't met the 6-bottle commitment, we offer them a choice of three shipments: mixed (the default), red-only, and white only, or the opportunity to configure their own order. We let them know that if we don't hear back from them, they'll get the default shipment.

While I think we have something for almost everyone, there are a couple of sorts of fans for whom none of the above clubs are a perfect fit. One is the cohort of VINdependent Club members who really just want our flagship wines. They typically put together an order of Esprit (and sometimes Panoplie) once a year, to take advantage of the 20% case discount. But they reasonably point out that their order is more valuable to us than most VINsider orders, and wonder why they aren't getting the 25% case discount. The second is our super-fans, who are in the Collector's Edition club and often reach out to us to add additional wines (mostly Esprits) to their spring shipment to get to the point where their shipping is included. They reasonably wonder why they can't get the case discount on their spring club shipment (our software doesn't process club shipments that way).

At the same time, I've felt for a while that we don't do quite enough to elevate the Esprit de Tablas. When you think of Ridge, for all the wonderful wines they make, if you're asked to name a collectible wine, you likely choose Monte Bello. If you think of Justin, you likely think of Isosceles. If you think of Joseph Phelps, you likely recognize Insignia. From my conversations with our fans and our supporters among restaurant and retail buyers, the general consensus is that if it says Tablas Creek, they're going to like it, but that they don't distinguish all that much between the different blends we make. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone tell me they had one of our wines at a restaurant, I ask them which one, and they can't remember. (Or they say Panoplie when they mean Patelin, but that's another story).

Overall, I think this is a good thing. I'm very happy that whether it's Patelin, Cotes, or Esprit, people feel confident that a Tablas Creek blend will be great. But I also think this is a missed opportunity. We really don't think that all three of our main blends are equal. We blend first for the Esprit, and that wine is made up of the best 15%-20% of what we taste in our blending trials. And, the focus grapes of the blend are meaningful, as both Esprits are based on the signature grapes of Beaucastel. We feel that the Esprit is the most tangible connection in our work to the pioneering tradition personified by Jacques Perrin's pursuit of Mourvedre and Roussanne (and the quest to find and regenerate all the traditional varieties of Chateauneuf du Pape) in the 1950s. As my dad says in this video from 2017, it's the wine we came to California to make:

If you combine the fact that we want a club for our superfans, want to give collectors of the Esprit de Tablas wines a home, are looking to give the Esprit wines a higher profile in our marketing, and have noted that we're getting to the point where we're having to choose where to allocate out the limited amount of Esprit that we've got, it seems like an Esprit Club could do all of those things. So, here goes.

We have decided to keep the new Esprit Club simple. Members will get a case of the newest vintage of Esprit de Tablas (red) each spring, at a 25% member savings off of the list price and with no-charge shipping included. That's it. Easy. If our Esprit club members are also members of our VINsider Club they'll get that spring shipment at the additional discount and also with shipping included. Joint Esprit-Collector's Edition Club members (read: those superfans) will get the 25% savings and included shipping on both shipments, which only feels appropriate. 

Esprit Vertical

If you're interested in being a part of the inaugural year of the Esprit club and getting your case of the 2017 Esprit de Tablas, you can read the details of the club and sign up here. If you have feedback on the idea, or other things you'd like us to implement, please leave the suggestions in the comments.


Tasting the wines in the Spring 2020 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 6 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 introduction to wines that we'll come to know intimately in coming months and years. In some cases (like this time) where the shipments contain wines that aren't yet even bottled (they will be the last week of February) it's a chance to get to know wines that are newly finished.  I always think it's fun to give followers of the blog a first look at these notes.

These shipments include wines from the 2017, 2018, and 2019 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 that 2017 is a blockbuster, where every wine shows density and lushness, with powerful fruit but the structure to age. I feel like I can taste the health of the vineyard from the 43 inches of rain we received. 2018 is noteworthy for its vibrancy. It's a vintage whose whites have some of the highest acids we've seen in recent years, yet the balance between fruit, acid, and mineral gives the wines a purity and varietal expressiveness that reminds me of 2015 (but with a bit more concentration). Finally, the 2019s, as much as one can tell from tasting two wines, seem to strike a midpoint, with plenty of concentration, good acids, and lovely texture.  I'll start with the classic mixed shipment, and then move on to the red-only and white-only shipments, noting which wines will be included in each. I was joined for the tasting by Winemaker Neil Collins, Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi, and Tasting Room Manager John Morris.

Spring 2020 VINsider Shipment Group

The classic shipment includes six different wines:

2019 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our eighteenth 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 bottle it early, under screwcap.
  • Tasting Notes: An absolutely classic Vermentino nose of citrus leaf, marzipan, sea spray, green herbs, and maraschino cherry. The palate shows vibrant acids with flavors of lime juice, wet rocks, and a floral gardenia note. A quinine-like pithy note lingers on the long, zippy finish. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 1510 cases.

2019 DIANTHUS

  • Production Notes: For our Dianthus rosé, whose name was chosen for a family of plants with deep-pink flowers, we aim for a style between that of Tavel (deeper pink, based on Grenache) and Bandol (less skin contact, based on Mourvedre). This year's blend is 52% Mourvèdre, 33% Grenache and 15% Counoise, bled off or pressed off after 24-36 hours on the skins. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and will be bottled later in February. This is a deeply colored, flavorful rosé, ideal with complex, powerful foods.
  • Tasting Notes: An electric fuchsia. The nose shows powerful strawberry and guava fruit, deepened by sweet tarragon and rose petal notes. The mouth is vivid, with plum skin acids and a line of passion fruit tropicality. Tons of texture leads into a long finish with flavors of strawberry and lemon drop. A rosé to convert people who think that pink wines can't be serious.  Drink before the end of 2021.
  • Production: 900 cases

2018 COTES DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas is our chance to let Grenache shine, as it does in most southern Rhone blends. Grenache had remarkable vibrancy in 2018 with mostly high toned fruit, so we used a relatively high percentage of Syrah for depth and balance as well as small additions of Mourvedre and Counoise for earth and spice. The final blend (45% Grenache, 33% Syrah, 12% Counoise, and 10% Mourvedre) was assembled in June 2019 and has been aging in foudre in anticipation of its upcoming bottling later in February.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep nose, powerfully reminiscent of Syrah and the Rhone, with notes of soy marinade, black pepper, chocolate, and fig. On the palate, equally balanced between Grenache's red fruit and acid and Syrah's dark fruit and power, with flavors of kirsch, bittersweet chocolate, black cherry, and chalky tannins. A serious, powerful Cotes de Tablas that is already delicious but with the stuffing to age. Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 2140 cases

2017 TANNAT

  • Production Notes: Our sixteenth bottling of this traditional varietal from South-West France, known principally in the Pyrenees foothills appellation of Madiran, but originally native to the Basque region. Tannat typically has intense fruit, spice, and tannins that produce wines capable of long aging.  As we do many years, we blended in our small harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon, making the wine is 96% Tannat and 4% Cabernet. We aged it in one foudre and a mix of new and older smaller barrels for nearly 2 years before bottling it in April 2019, and then aged it another 10 months in bottle before release. 
  • Tasting Notes: On the nose, spicy licorice and black pepper, with a savory spruce forest note over black plum and elderberry fruit. The mouth is dense and richly tannic, packed with flavors of fruitcake and sugarplum and Tannat's characteristic (and welcome) floral undertone that always reminds me of violets. The finish is approachable for a Tannat at this stage, with tannins cloaked in sweet fruit. A wine to drink any time over the next two decades.
  • Production: 1110 cases

2017 LE COMPLICE

  • Production Notes: Just the second vintage of our first new blend in a decade, celebrating the kinship (Le Complice means, roughly, "partners in crime") between Syrah (67%) and our newest red grape, Terret Noir (12%). 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 (21%) for mid-palate fleshiness. The wine was blended in June of 2018, aged in foudre, bottled in April 2019, and has been aging in our cellars since.
  • Tasting Notes: Syrah-driven darkness on the nose: iron, pencil lead, and black fruit, with a pickling spice note of bay, green peppercorn, and star anise that I think came from Terret. The mouth is meaty, like Korean ribs, with dark fruit of dates and figs. The rich texture continues on to the finish, with savory notes of soy, balsamic, and fig. We don't know for sure, but suspect it will drink well for two decades.
  • Production: 880 cases

2017 PANOPLIE

  • Production Notes: As always, Panoplie is selected from lots chosen in the cellar for their richness, concentration and balance, always giving pride of place to Mourvedre's rich meatiness and firm structure. Each lot was fermented individually before being selected, blended and moved to foudre to age in July 2018.  Mourvedre was typically outstanding in 2016, and our blend reflects that (69%), with roughly equal portions of Grenache (17%) for lushness, sweet spice, and vibrancy and Syrah (14%) for black fruit, density, and tannic richness. The wine was bottled in July 2019 and has been aged in bottle in our cellars since then.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep, lovely Rhonish nose of dark red currant fruit, sandalwood, new leather, and a licorice note that echoed between red and black. The mouth is luscious and generous with flavors of red plum, loamy earth, clove spice, and baker's chocolate. Rich texture, full, long, and complex, with a finish that lasted for a full minute. A delicious wine with a long life ahead; we predict two decades of life, easily.
  • Production: 850 cases

Spring 2020 VINsider Shipment Wines

There are three additional wines (2018 Viognier, 2018 Marsanne, and two bottles of 2019 Roussanne as well as a second bottle of the 2019 Vermentino) in the white-only shipment:

2018 VIOGNIER

  • Production Notes: The vibrancy of the 2018 vintage allowed us to produce a varietal Viognier that we loved. Viognier, known more from the northern Rhone than the area around Chateauneuf du Pape, sprouts first of all our grapes, making it the most prone to frost, but was spared in 2018. The chilly nights maintained its acids and kept it on the vine into September. It was whole cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel, then blended and bottled in May 2019 in screwcap, to preserve its brightness. 
  • Tasting Notes: An incredibly appealing nose, classic Viognier with fresh apricot, meyer lemon, and citrus flowers. The mouth is luscious without being at all heavy: white peach and sweet spice with a tangy pineapple note that becomes more pronounced on the long, lively finish. This should hold for a few years at least, but really, I can't imagine it being any better than it is right now.
  • Production: 430 cases

2018 MARSANNE

  • Production Notes: Like Viognier, Marsanne is best known from the northern Rhone and many summers here are too warm for us to be happy bottling it on its own. Not 2018. As in Hermitage, where it is renowned for making some of the world's most ageworthy white wines, we picked our Marsanne in mid-September, fermented it after a whole-cluster press, and selected the varietal bottling from a single lot with unusually good acids. Just our sixth-ever varietal bottling of Marsanne, bottled in June 2019.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic Marsanne nose of honeydew, quince, crushed rock, and a sweet note like freshly harvested wheat. Soft and delicious on the palate, with flavors of vanilla custard, chamomile tea, candied lemon peel, and chalky minerality. Medium-bodied, refined, and pretty. 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: 395 cases

2018 ROUSSANNE

  • Production Notes: Roussanne yields were low in 2018, and the 630 cases we made as a varietal wine is our smallest production in a decade. But the Roussanne we got was powerfully characteristic of the grape, and 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 2019 then aged in foudre through the subsequent harvest before bottling this past December.
  • Tasting Notes: A powerful nose of lacquered wood, new honey, dried orange peel, cardamom, and aromatic bitters. The palate is classic, with flavors of caramel and ripe pear, a little sweet oak, and a little bit of tannic bite that cleans the wine up on the long finish. 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 more luscious, fruit-driven experience, or hold it for 8-15 years for a flavor profile of caramel, wet rocks, and hazelnut.
  • Production: 630 cases

Two additional reds join the Panoplie, Tannat, Cotes de Tablas, and Le Complice in the red-only shipment:

2017 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: Grenache yields recovered in the healthy 2017 vintage, although for whatever reason the paler color we came to expect during the five-year drought persisted. But don't fear; this is a wine whose intensity of flavor belies its color. 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 2018 and aged in neutral 1200-gallon oak foudres until bottling in April 2019.
  • Tasting Notes: A wild, brambly nose showing raspberry fruit and an herby, rocky undertone. The palate is generous, with vivid wild strawberry fruit, flavors of cola and sweet spice, great acids, and a savory sarsaparilla note vying for primacy with foresty wildness on the finish. This has been deepening nicely over recent months. If you prefer your reds crunchy and vibrant, don't feel bad about opening it now. If you prefer to wait for more subtle flavors, drink any time in the next six-to-ten years.
  • Production: 530 cases

2017 SYRAH

  • Production Notes: The productive, high-quality 2017 vintage gave us the opportunity to make our first varietal Syrah since 2014. For the varietal bottling, we chose Syrah lots that led with a dark, meaty, savory note, but carried plenty of dark fruit underneath. These lots were blended in June 2018, aged in a new foudre until bottling in April 2019, and then have been aging in our cellar ever since. 
  • Tasting notes: A meaty nose reminiscent of pancetta, with graphite and iron mineral notes, black spice, and tobacco leaf. The mouth is savory, with Syrah's classic meat drippings and green herbs, like a roasted porchetta, a little juniper mintiness, and dark boysenberry fruit. A serious wine, on which patience will be rewarded. Give it a good decant if you plan on drinking it soon, or cellar it up to two decades.
  • Production: 420 cases

If you're a wine club member, you should make your reservation for our shipment tasting party, where we open all the wines in the most recent club shipment for VINsiders to try. This spring's party will be on Sunday, April 5th.  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