Each spring and fall, we send out a selection of six wines to the members of our VINsider Wine Club. In many cases, these are wines that only go out to our club. In others, the club gets a first look at wines that may see a later national release. Before each shipment, we reintroduce ourselves to these wines (which, in some cases, we may not have tasted since before bottling) by opening the full lineup and writing the notes that will be included with the club shipments. This morning I sat down with Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi and we dove into this fall's collection.
We base each year's fall shipments around the newest releases of the Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc, and this fall is no exception. But there's a lot more to these shipments than the Esprits. In our classic (mixed) shipment we have included two varietal wines, one red and one white, both of which I love, and one of which is the first wine in a new tier that opens up whole new vistas for us. We're also including two blends: the newest vintage of our Patelin de Tablas Rosé and our small-production En Gobelet blend, selected entirely from our head-trained, dry-farmed vineyard blocks. We think it's one of the most compelling classic shipments we've ever put together, and the additional wines that will go into the red wine and white wine selections are super cool as well. I'm excited to get them in our members' hands soon. Chelsea may not let them out of hers.
The classic shipment includes six different wines:
2022 LIGNÉE DE TABLAS WINDFALL FARMS GRENACHE BLANC
- Production Notes: Lignée is French slang for "lineage" and the Lignée de Tablas Windfall Farms Grenache Blanc is our first release in a new tier of wines that features single-vineyard expressions of Tablas Creek clones. The Windfall Farms vineyard is part of a gorgeous horse ranch in the Paso Robles Creston District that used to belong to Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek and now includes some 100 acres of high quality vineyard. This 100% Grenache Blanc is a classic expression of the grape, fermented in stainless steel. It was bottled in May 2023 under screwcap to preserve it at maximum freshness.
- Tasting Notes: A nose of grapefruit pith, petrichor, chalk, apricot pit and lemongrass. On the palate, pure nectarine and green apple fruit with bright acids, a persistent wet rock minerality, and Grenache Blanc's signature mouth-filling texture and sweet spice. The finish shows notes of mandarin, star anise, and crushed rock. Drink now and over the next few years.
- Production: 825 cases
- List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28
2021 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC
- Production Notes: the 2021 vintage is shaping up to be one of our strongest ever, with intense flavors that remain fresh and lifted thanks to a harvest season which brought a lovely rhythm of alternating cool and warm periods without any heat spikes or rain. Roussanne thrived in these conditions, and our Esprit Blanc blend included our highest percentage since 2016 (70%) fermented in a mix of oak of various sizes and ages for power and density. To that Roussanne base we added more Picpoul (17%) than Grenache Blanc (10%), for its bright acids and tropicality, and just 2% Bourboulenc and 1% Clairette Blanche for limestoney, citrusy lift. As we have done since 2012, we returned the blend to foudre after it was assembled in May 2022 and aged it through the subsequent harvest before bottling it in December 2022. We've been letting it deepen in bottle ever since.
- Tasting Notes: A powerful nose of new honey and toasted brioche, orange blossom, pineapple core, and a sweet green note reminiscent of tarragon. The palate is intensely Roussanne: fresh pear and beeswax, orange marmalade and chalky minerals. The powerful structure and bright acids dominate the finish, which is just starting to hint at the caramel and nutty depths to come. Drink over the next two decades.
- Production: 1560 cases
- List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48
2022 PATELIN DE TABLAS ROSÉ
- Production Notes: We're excited to share both our rosés with VINsiders this year. In the spring, we sent members our Mourvedre-based Dianthus, and this fall we're sharing our Provencal-style, Grenache-based Patelin Rosé. Always led by Grenache (67% this year), which provides both bright fruit and refreshing acidity, the wine also includes additions of rich, floral Mourvedre (21%), spicy, electric Counoise (9%), and for the first time, a touch of Vermentino (3%) for its citrusy, minerally lift. Vermentino is a traditional component of many Provencal rosés under its French name Rolle. 90% of the fruit was direct-pressed upon arrival at the winery, with the balance destemmed and let soak for a single work day, then pressed off after about 12 hours. The wine was bottled in January 2023 and we've been enjoying it ever since.
- Tasting Notes: A pretty light peach color. On the nose, juicy aromas of Haribo peach, yellow raspberry, strawberry leaf, and yellow roses. On the palate, juicy with flavors of ripe peach, lime zest, creamy minerality, and a gentle minty lift. The lingering finish has notes of pink grapefruit, bright acids, and salty minerals. Drink now and over the next year.
- Production: 3300 cases
- List Price: $28 VINsider Price: $22.40
- Production Notes: In a year where every grape showed well, Grenache still stood out, gaining unusual depth and richness to complement its classic flavors of red fruit and spice. For our varietal bottling we as usual chose lots that emphasized Grenache's freshness and avoided riper lots that tend toward higher alcohols. The lots were blended in June 2022 and aged in neutral oak until its bottling in February 2023.
- Tasting Notes: A spicy nose of black cherry, red licorice, black pepper, allspice, and rosemary. The mouth is vibrant with fresh plum and blackberry fruit, bright acids, and a wild juniper berry herbiness adding complexity. There is plenty of Grenache's signature youthful tannic grip on the finish, with notes of plum skin, chocolate truffle, and black licorice. Drink soon to enjoy the youthful fruit and spice, or hold for a decade or more for a smoother experience.
- Production: 970 cases
- List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36
2021 EN GOBELET
- Production Notes: Our fourteenth En Gobelet, a non-traditional blend all from head-trained, dry-farmed blocks, and mostly from the 12-acre block we call Scruffy Hill, planted in 2005 and 2006 to be a self-sufficient field blend. These lots tend to show more elegance and minerality than our closer-spaced irrigated blocks, although in 2021 the wine shows plenty of power. We chose a blend of 39% Grenache, 29% Mourvedre, 16% Syrah, 11% Counoise, and 5% Tannat, with the Grenache and Counoise providing lift, the Syrah and Tannat providing structure and tannin, and the Mourvedre earth, loam, and ageworthiness. The wine was blended in June of 2022, aged in foudre, and bottled in April 2023.
- Tasting Notes: A lovely deep red color. A savory nose of teriyaki, mocha, pine forest, and (eventually) redcurrant. The palate is seamless with sweeter flavors like cherry and brambly blackberry balanced with savory, loamy warmth and juniper spice. Bright acids and plum skin tannins highlight a long finish of new leather, chocolate, cranberry, and salty minerality. Complex and built for the long term. Decant this if you're drinking it now, or wait and drink any time over the next two decades.
- Production: 861 cases
- List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48
2021 ESPRIT DE TABLAS
- Production Notes: As always, the Esprit is based on the red fruit and meatiness of Mourvedre (35%). The relatively equal proportions of Grenache (26%, for sweet spice and bright acids) and Syrah (23%, for dark color and savory, tannic richness) are a good indicator of the vintage's overall balance and quality. This also seemed to be a great vintage to lean into three of our more trace varieties, and we used all our Vaccarese (7%, for black fruit and minerality) and Cinsaut (5%, for warm purple fruit and sweet spice) as well as 4% Counoise for vibrancy and wildness. This blend produced something both intense and fresh, complex and yet pure. The wine's components were selected for Esprit, blended in June 2022 and aged a year in foudre before bottling in August 2023.
- Tasting Notes: The nose is deep and inviting, clearly Esprit: new leather, sweet spice, currants and dark chocolate. On the palate, broad and rich, with notes of flourless chocolate cake, black plum, meat drippings, and a spicy, nutty mincemeat pie element. The finish is brambly blackberry, black fig, and milk chocolate, with chewy tannins that promise years of meaty development. Immensely appealing now, but also with the structure and intensity to reward time in the cellar. Enjoy any time in the next 25 years.
- Production: 2950 cases
- List Price: $70 VINsider Price: $56
Two additional wines joined the Lignée de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc in the white-only shipment (members will get two bottles of the Esprit Blanc and two bottles of the Marsanne):
- Production Notes: Our fourth-ever bottling of Bourboulenc, from just our fourth harvest of this relatively obscure Rhone white grape. Bourboulenc is known in France to make wines with bright acids, fresh fruit aromatics, and a distinctive nutty character. In just a few years, it's become a favorite here. We fermented it this year in a single concrete egg, then let it settle. It was bottled in June 2023.
- Tasting Notes: A tropical nose of passion fruit, lychee, fresh almond, wet stone and a warm coconut character that Chelsea identified as surf wax. On the palate, bright, like barely-ripe mango, with additional high-toned fruit elements like mandarin and lemon balm. The finish is more linear, with lemon drop and chalky mineral, and a nice pithy textural bite. Our experience aging Bourboulenc is limited, but we plan to drink ours over the next few years.
- Production: 185 cases
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
- Production Notes: Marsanne is best known from the northern Rhone, particularly the famed appellation of Hermitage, where it produces wines of legendary elegance and ageworthiness. The 2022 vintage produced lovely Marsanne, which we fermented in 600-gallon foudres to emphasize its texture and give it a hint of oak. Because we thought it so classic and pretty, we reserved a little more than usual for a varietal expression at blending in March of 2023. The wine was bottled in June.
- Tasting Notes: A pretty nose of orange peel and chalky mineral, honeysuckle and acacia wood. The palate is lovely and gentle, with flavors of pineapple and nectarine, cream puff and lemongrass. The finish is bright, with Meyer lemon and warm straw notes. So appealing now that I'm guessing a lot of it will get drunk young, but it should evolve in an interesting way for a decade at least.
- Production: 505 cases
- List Price: $40 VINsider Price: $32
Two additional reds joined the Grenache, En Gobelet and two bottles of the Esprit de Tablas in the red-only shipment:
2021 FULL CIRCLE
- Production Notes: The twelfth vintage of our Full Circle Pinot Noir, grown on the small vineyard outside the Haas family's home in Templeton, in the cool (for Paso) Templeton Gap AVA. Its name reflects Robert Haas's career: from a start introducing America to the greatness of Burgundy, through decades focusing on grapes from the Rhone, one of his last acts was to plant Pinot at his home and oversee our first few vintages. The grapes were fermented in one-ton microfermenters, two-thirds de-stemmed and one-third with stems for a more savory profile, punched down twice daily by hand. After pressing, the wine was moved into a mix of one-year-old and two-year-old Marcel Cadet 60-gallon barrels, for a hint of oak. The wine stayed on its lees, stirred occasionally, for 10 months, before being blended and bottled in August 2022. We've aged the wine in bottle for an additional year since then.
- Tasting Notes: An immediately recognizable Pinot Noir nose of cherry cola, sarsaparilla, Chinese five spice and new leather. The palate is bright with cranberry and salted raspberry notes, sweet baking spices and chalky tannins. Drink now and over the next decade.
- Production: 313 cases
- List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40
- Production Notes: Mourvedre is the one red grape that we try to bottle on its own each year, because we think it is a wonderful grape that too few people know, and one we feel worthy of some proselytizing. The outstanding 2021 vintage produced some of our favorite-ever Mourvedre lots, seemingly equally balanced between Old World-style loamy, meaty elements and the lusher red-fruited, milk chocolate mouth-coating density that we associate with Paso Robles. All our Mourvedre lots were fermented in large wooden tanks and moved to neutral barrels to await blending. The chosen lots were blended in the spring of 2022, then aged in a single foudre until bottling in April 2023.
- Tasting Notes: A deep, rich nose of soy marinade, bay leaf, saddle leather, mocha, and blackcurrant. On the palate, rich with currant and black plum fruit, baker's chocolate, cherry wood, herb-marinated leg of lamb, and white pepper. The long finish shows cocoa powder, dark red fruit, dried rose petals, and a graphite-like minerality that combined with the structural density suggests you could drink this any time in the next 20 years.
- Production: 492 cases
- List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44
The tasting was a great way to hone in on the character of our two most recent vintages. 2022 is a vintage that shows outstanding vibrancy: clear, delineated flavors and bright acids, with plenty of fruit to back it up. 2021 is a classic year whose combination of low yields and cool harvest temperatures produced wines that all taste like themselves, only more so. Both seem like they'll offer pleasure whether people drink the wines soon or wait. We can't wait to find out what our members think.
If you're a wine club member, we've got a range of options for you to try these wines. We are planning to host a live in-person pickup party on Sunday, October 22nd. Neil, Chelsea, and I will be hosting another virtual pickup party the evening of Friday, October 13th. And we'll again be offering club members who visit the opportunity to choose the shipment wines as their tasting flight between mid-September and early-October. Consider this a "save the date"; we will be putting details on all this on our VINsider News & Updates page and announcing them via email soon.
If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join us while there's still a chance to get this fall shipment? Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club