Tasting the Wines for the 2017 VINsider Wine Club "Collector's Edition" Shipment

Each June, I have the pleasure of tasting through library vintages of our Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel 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 evolove. 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 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel and the 2011 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. You couldn't pick two more different vintages; 2007 followed our driest winter of the last two decades, which combined with a warm summer to produce blockbuster wines, luscious with plenty of structure and tannin to age. 2011 followed our second consecutive wet winter, and was marked by the effects of a spring frost (reducing yield) and the coldest summer, and latest harvest, in our history. These factors combined to make powerful wines with a persistent coolness to their personality that matched the vintage.

Where the vintages overlap is that each produced wines that benefited from (and in many cases, really needed) a few years in the cellar to show their full potential.  What I found most fun about these wines was that both show the signature of their vintage with crystal clarity. And yet time has, in both cases, made the wines more complete. The 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel spent longer in its closed phase [for more on that, see here] than any other wine we've made: nearly 5 years, opening only gradually over the last year as its tannins softened and the finish lengthened. The 2011 Esprit Blanc was powerful but not very giving in its youth, a wine that impressed more than charmed. Its flavors have opened and deepened, without losing the characteristic spiciness and lift of the vintage.

It's worth noting that this isn't the end; both these wines will go out another decade, at least. The duo:

CE Wines 2017

Tasting notes, from tastings today:

  • 2011 Esprit de Tablas Blanc:  Medium gold, only slightly deepened with time. Spicy beeswax Roussanne on the nose, lifted by cool vintage signatures of menthol, tarragon, and crushed rock. The mouth is clean, with a cool dryness taking precedence over flavors that sound -- but aren't at all -- sweet: orange peel, dried pineapple, cream soda, and lots more honey. A cool mintiness and more lemon zest come out on the finish, along with a walnut oil character that is the strongest indication of the wine's time in bottle. Still quite youthful at age six. 64% Roussanne, 26% Grenache Blanc, 10% Picpoul Blanc.
  • 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel: What a pleasure to see the highest rated Esprit we've ever produced in all its mature glory. A meaty, minty, dense nose: like a leg of lamb roasting with garlic and juniper, with notes of baker's chocolate and crushed rock. On the palate, more dark chocolate, creme de cassis, rich and mouth-coating, with chalky tannins that will help this go out another decade at least. It tastes like a special occasion, and only improved with time open; it will almost certainly be better in another 6 months, and we strongly recommend a decant if you're drinking this in the near term. 44% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 21% Syrah, 6% Counoise. 

The complete Collector's Edition shipment is pretty stunning, if I may say so myself:

  • 2 bottles of 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel
  • 1 bottle of 2011 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc
  • 3 bottles of 2015 Esprit de Tablas
  • 1 bottle of 2013 Esprit de Tablas
  • 1 bottle of 2015 En Gobelet
  • 2 bottles of 2015 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 1 bottle of 2016 Cotes de Tablas Blanc
  • 1 bottle of 2016 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 look for an email with news, one way or the other, of whether you've made it on for this round. We add members, once a year, in the order in which we received applications to the waiting list. If you are currently a VINsider member and interested in getting on the waiting list, you can upgrade to the Collector's Edition online. And if you are not currently a member, but would like to be, you can indicate that you would like to join the Collector's Edition when you join the VINsider wine club.


Move Along... Nothing To See Here... Just our First New Wine in Seven Years

Last week, Francois Perrin joined me, my dad, Neil, Chelsea, Craig, Brad and Jordan around the blending table as we took our first comprehensive look at the reds from 2016. Coming into the blending, we'd only looked in detail at the whites, which were super. But reds often tell a different story.  I'm happy to report that this year, they look as strong as the whites.  And, for the first time in 7 years, we got to make a new wine. See if you can spot it:

2016 red blends

As usual, we started our blending week Monday morning by tasting, component by component, through what we had in the cellar. Thanks to the better crop levels that we saw in 2016, there were enough lots that we began with Counoise and Mourvedre on Monday, and continued with Grenache, Syrah, and the handful of oddballs on Tuesday.  Our goal at this first stage is to identify the quality of the different lots, and get a sense of both the character and diversity present in the vintage to help give us direction in blending.

We grade on a 1-3 scale, with 1's being our top grade (for a deep dive into how we do our blending, check out this blog by Chelsea from a few years back). For context, in a normal year, for every 10 lots we might see 3-4 "1" grades, 5-6 "2" grades and 1 "3" grade.  As you'll see, lots of good grades this year.  My quick thoughts on each variety:

  • Grenache (13 lots): A strong showing for Grenache, with 6 of the lots receiving 1's from me and only one 3.  Quite luscious, some lots still a little sweet (not unusual for Grenache at this time of year).
  • Mourvedre (18 lots): Also strong, though (for me) quite a large number of very good lots but not that many great lots.  I gave seven lots a 1 grade, with another three hovering between 1 and 2.  Lots of texture here, beautiful red fruit, good cola flavors. Not blockbuster wines overall, but classy and balanced.
  • Syrah (13 lots): The best showing we've ever seen for Syrah. I gave eight of the thirteen lots 1 grades, and felt guilty on a few other cases that I was being too tough a grader. Deep, spicy, meaty, with powerful black fruit. Juicier than Syrah often is at this stage, but with plenty of tannin and concentration to back it up.
  • Counoise (7 lots): Plenty of pretty Counoise that will be great for varietal bottlings and the Cotes de Tablas. Not much (in fact, only one lot) that felt like it had the concentration for Esprit for me. Usually there's a mix of the lighter-toned Counoise that reminds me of the Gamay grape and the darker, blueberry and spice Counoise that feels more Rhone-like. This year, almost entirely on the lighter side.
  • Tannat (3 lots): All three lots got 1 grades from me; it's going to be a great Tannat year. Lots of black fruit, good tannic structure, good acids.
  • Cabernet (1 lot): Only one small (60 gallon) lot of Cabernet this year; not really enough to bottle on its own, and anyway it was a nice dark wine but without as much Cabernet distinctiveness as we look for in a varietal bottling. It will find a happy home in the 2016 Tannat.
  • Pinot Noir (1 lot): Just right, for my taste, in its balance between pretty cherry Pinot fruit, herbal elements from the roughly 25% whole clusters we used in the fermentation, and a little kiss of oak. Should make for a delicious 2016 Full Circle Pinot. 
  • Terret Noir (1 lot): Just the 4th vintage of this new grape for us, the Terret was zesty and bright, with watermelon fruit, good acids, and a little less grip than I remember from recent vintages. We've bottled it on its own in recent years, as we try to wrap our heads around it, but it's ultimately going to be a blending grape, and we think we found a great use for it.  Keep reading.

We finished Tuesday with a round-table discussion about what we wanted to try in the blending the next few days, and decided that given the strength of the Syrah (and Grencahe) lots, we wanted to see some blends with higher percentages of Syrah than we've had in most recent years, and some others where we increased both Grenache and Syrah at the expense of Mourvedre.  

Wednesday morning, we reconvened to work out each blend, starting with the Panoplie and continuing on through the lineup.  Panoplie is always overwhelmingly Mourvedre (typically 60% at least) and typically not much Syrah, because Syrah's dominance often proves to be too much for the character of the Mourvedre.  Not this year. We tried three blends and ended up picking as our favorite the one with the most Syrah and least Grenache. I was not surprised to find that we'd preferred the wine with 25% Syrah; the Syrah was outstanding. But I was surprised that we liked the blend with 66% Mourvedre and just 9% Grenache better than one with 60% Mourvedre and 15% Grenache. But it was pretty universal around the table: that by having a high percentage of Syrah and increasing the Grenache as well, we lost something essentially Mourvedre -- and essentially Panoplie -- about the wine.

Panoplie decided, we moved on to the Esprit.  Moreso than the Panoplie, the fundamental question we face each year with the Esprit is whether the character of the Mourvedre benefits more from a greater addition of Syrah or of Grenache, as these two variables are typically how we adjust to warmer and cooler vintages.  In warmer years, where the Mourvedre shows juicier and more open (and tends to be higher alcohol) the darkness, spice, minerality, and structure of Syrah are particularly valuable.  In cooler years, the flesh, sweet fruit, and more open tones of Grenache tend to be indispensable. So perhaps it shouldn't have been surprising that in the warm 2016 vintage, we preferred a blend with a lot of Syrah  -- 31%, our highest-ever -- to options with higher percentages of Grenache.  I was surprised that an option where we increased both Syrah and Grenache, and reduced the Mourvedre to around 38%, didn't show as well. But in this relatively ripe year, we found that as we increased the Grenache, the wines tended to come across as a touch alcoholic, while high-Syrah blends felt deep, pure, and balanced. So, the 2016 Esprit de Tablas will be 46% Mourvedre, 31% Syrah, 18% Grenache, and 5% Counoise.

Next on tap were two small-production blends -- one new, one we've been making for a decade -- that will go to the wine club. For our En Gobelet, in early years, we used nearly all the head-trained, dry-farmed lots for this one wine, and typically didn't have a lot of choices.  But as the acreage that we've planted head trained has increased, we've had the ability to use these lots in Panoplie and Esprit as well as En Gobelet.  But having already chosen the blends of these two wines, there wasn't a lot of choice left.  So it was with some relief that we all loved the wine that resulted: a blend of 39% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 8% Counoise, and 3% Tannat.  It was deeply red fruited, rich and savory, structured, like we'd distilled down cherries into their essence. It was a testament to the quality that those head-trained vines produce, and made a nice contrast to more Syrah-driven dark fruit we ended up preferring in the Panoplie and Esprit.  Club members are in for a treat, in a couple of years.

For our second small-production blend, we wanted to find a way to celebrate the kinship that we felt Syrah has with Terret Noir.  Now these two grapes may seem like opposites in many ways, with Syrah dark and Terret quite pale.  But Terret shares a peppery spiciness with Syrah, particularly the Syrah lots that we fermented with whole clusters.  So, we experimented with a series of blends combining the two, trying to figure out the relative proportion to make a wine with depth and seriousness, yet an openness that Syrah only rarely achieves.  We ended up needing to add a little Grenache to the blend for flesh, and think we have a solution at about 60% Syrah and 20% each of Terret and Grenache.  The result is like Syrah with an overlay of translucency: elements of both light and dark, savory, zesty, and clean.  We're tentatively planning to call it "Le Complice," French for "partners in crime," to celebrate the kinship between Terret Noir and Syrah. We may still tweak this a little, but the bones are there for something that should be exciting.

On Thursday morning, we reconvened to tackle the Cotes de Tablas and the varietals.  As often happens, the Cotes fell into place pretty quickly.  We'd used so much Syrah in our other blends that all the rest of what we had in the cellar was only going to make up 25% of the 2100 cases we were trying to target for this wine.  And that amount is about the minimum we feel like a Grenache-dominated blend needs to stay savory and in balance.  We never use much Mourvedre in this blend, as we feel like it gets buried by the Grenache and Syrah, and we would prefer to save this Mourvedre for our varietal bottling.  So, we were really experimenting with only two components: Counoise and Grenache.  We ended up choosing a blend relatively high in Grenache for us (57%), with 25% Syrah, 12% Counoise, and 9% Mourvedre.  The wine was cheerful: strawberry and cherry fruit, nice spice, and enough structure and depth to hold it all together.  It should be a real crowd-pleaser when it's released, and should also get deeper and more serious with time in barrel.

Given what we'd made of the blends, the math dictated what we could make as varietals: Mourvedre, Grenache, and Counoise, but no Syrah.  Quantities of Mourvedre should be solid, the other two somewhat less. No Syrah, as often happens in warmer vintages, since it's so important in the blends.  That makes two years in a row; if you think you'll miss it, consider this your warning to stock up on the (delicious) 2014.

A few concluding thoughts.

First, the 2016 vintage seems to have an appealing balance between lusher, juicier notes and deeper, more savory notes.  Like a somewhat more generous 2014, or a 2015 with a little more power, or 2007 with a little less alcohol.  That these are some of our best recent vintages makes me very excited for 2016's prospects.  See all the 1's and 2's on my tasting sheet:

Tasting Notes 2016

Second, after three years where our quantities were dramatically reduced by our drought (and in 2015, by cold weather during flowering) it was such a relief being able to make the quantities that we wanted of most wines.  This stands in stark contrast to 2015, where even after some pretty drastic action in nearly eliminating the Dianthus and reducing my target quantities of many wines to rock bottom, we still came up short.  There are a few vintages where high quality and solid quantity go hand in hand (I'm thinking 2005, or 2010, here) and I'm always grateful.  Not that 2016 was particularly plentiful; it's still quite a bit below what we saw in 2010 or 2012.  But compared to 2015, it felt like a windfall.

Third, what a pleasure to taste with Francois Perrin.  It's been a few years since we had him here for the blending; we rarely know which Perrin we'll receive when we ask, and he was laid up for a time with some back problems.  And each of the Perrins brings amazing depth of experience and terrific insights.  But Francois, who has been the chief craftsman in the cellars at Beaucastel for four decades, has a unique perspective.  Hearing what he gets excited about is a treat, and knowing that he was enthusiastic about what he found out of the 2016's is a great sign of the vintage's quality.


The woman behind the clipboard: Q&A with Wine Club and Hospitality Director Nicole Getty

By Suphada Rom

Many of you know Nicole as the welcoming face at Tablas Creek's events, or as the signature at the bottom of your wine club member emails. She has been at Tablas Creek since 2004: long enough to see the company evolve in so many ways. Her responsibilities include organizing and conducting our events, managing our wine clubs, and overseeing the hospitality for guests visiting the winery. I caught up with her recently to ask about her journey.

Ocean

Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Northern California in Los Gatos. Los Gatos looked a lot different then. It was a sleepy little town, not too different from what Paso Robles used to be say 30 years ago. It's gotten to be a little busier and Bay area-esque, but still beautiful. 

What's your educational background?
I went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo right after high school. When I went into school, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. I knew I loved plants, so I decided to try out horticulture. It was just the one thing that I I felt drawn to and had an interest in. I could see myself growing and caring for plants, and also landscaping. 

You're one of Tablas Creek's longest tenured employees. How have things changed since you were hired?
So I started here in 2004 and at the time, I was really the only wine club employee. Now, I can't imagine doing it alone, I'm really fortunate that I have my team. We're also a lot bigger now that we were, which is a good thing. We went from having around a dozen employees in 2004 to more than 30 now. Half of these are focused in the tasting room! I've never been to another winery where they have so many people working, but it means that on busy Saturdays and festival weekends we can still take care of people how we want, and still do so much more for both our wine club members and fellow industry professionals. 

IMG_6656

Our great wine club, hospitality and events team: from left, Monica O'Connor, Nicole Getty, Suphada Rom, Janelle Bartholomew, and Dani Archambeault

As Wine Club and Hospitality Director, what are your responsibilities?
The main thing is to make sure we're keeping our members happy with the customer service, the wine, etc. We have around 9,000 members! My team and I try to be creative and keep coming up with ideas on how to keep people excited about Tablas Creek and share all the amazing things we do here everyday. We also do a lot of events here; there's probably about one event per month that happens at the winery. And of course we want to keep the wine club growing, so we're both working on how we can gain new members and how we make sure that our current members want to stick around.

What is your favorite event of the year?
I was leaning towards the horizontal tasting because everyone is super excited to taste all the older vintage wines we have. And it's one of the only times where we get to do something like that. We don't taste the older vintages often, so it's pretty special when we do. I also love our annual pig roast. It's the most casual event that we do here and the food is really good. We'll open a lot of nice wines to pair, as well. I think the thing I enjoy most about all the events is seeing all the familiar faces. I know so many people from the beginning, and it's so nice to be able to reconnect with all of them.

What is one of your fondest memories at Tablas Creek?
I have this great memory from about 9 years ago. After a long day of work, we all decided to go take in the view at the top of the hill in the vineyard. That was back when Neil [Winemaker Neil Collins] had the Winnebago. He brought it up to the top of the hill and cooked dinner for all of us. We sat back, drank some rose, and watched the sun set over the entire vineyard. I remember just sitting up there and really enjoying all of what we had. I felt so fortunate to work at a place where you want to spend time with people you work with outside of work.

Trailer

What makes Tablas Creek special to you?
Tablas Creek's history and story are really incredible. There is so much integrity and progressive thinking here. Being passionate about plants and nature, I think it's important to be as sustainable as possible, which is something we do here, too. And then of course there's Bob [Founder Robert Haas] - I have so much respect for him and his vision for the winery, the environment, and just taking care of the people that work for him. The people that work here are special too, it's just this place- it attracts really great people. 

For food and wine, do you have a favorite pairing?
Ah, I have so many! I like seafood with either Vermentino or Picpoul Blanc. The Patelin de Tablas Blanc has been so good, too. If I'm eating something meat based, I love our Mourvedre.

Besides Tablas Creek, what are some of your favorite wineries?
Locally, I like Lone Madrore and TH. Outside of Paso, I like Chamisal, Ridge, and Kosta Browne. When I'm not drinking Tablas Creek Rhone wines, I love Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir from Kosta Browne was probably the first I ever had and it was definitely a gateway wine for me. 

What is your hospitality philosophy?
I learned this pretty early on, but it's kind the whole philosophy here at Tablas Creek. We want to make sure that everybody that walks in, calls, or e-mails has a good and positive experience. It's my goal every day to make sure that happens.  I mean, we are a luxury industry. People don't need what we're selling. And there are so many wineries to choose from. So it's really important to keep people happy. 

Besides being here at work, how do you like to spend your free time?
My husband Nathan, our son Noah, and I go to the coast quite a bit. We go to Cambria pretty much every other weekend, and we'll go camping in San Simeon. We've also been trying to go on more hikes as a family. Most recently, Noah, he's four now, is riding his bike, so that's fun to watch! I was so afraid to take the training wheels off and I couldn't believe that when I did, he didn't fall once! I think our next thing is we'll get a cruiser for Nathan. I've got a basket on mine and who knows, maybe we'll even put our dog, Penny, in there. With a little bow or something!

Xmas

Finally, how do you define success?
I think success is not all about money, but it's a little about living comfortably and in a way where you can do the things you want to do. Also, it's so much about where you work. If you're coming to work and spending at least 8 hours a day with people, you want to be surrounded by people that you genuinely care about. That further translates to caring about what you do, as well. If I were selling something like, say, fertilizer with pesticides, I don't think I could stand behind it. Feeling good about what you're doing and with people you care about- that's success. 

 


Tasting the wines for the spring 2017 VINsider 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 weeks and months.  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.  Over recent years, I've given followers of the blog a first look at these notes.

These shipments include wines from the 2014, 2015, and 2016 vintages.  It was fascinating to taste these three vintages, all of which we think were very strong, together, and to get a sense of how they compare.  My quick thoughts, after the tasting, are that 2014 is a blockbuster vintage, with wines that are luscious and forward, yet not lacking in tannin and structure.  The reds incorporate tannic power with luscious fruit... a pretty irresistible combination. The 2015s are, I'm coming to see, similar in many ways to the 2014's, but with a somewhat more notable savory note, perhaps from the alternating cool and warm periods that typified that growing season. For those familiar with the classic, Old World-styled 2013's, 2015 seems to be a midpoint between them and the 2014's. Finally, 2016 (we only tasted two wines) seems to be electric and vibrant, with very bright acids showcasing and contrasting with pretty, intense fruit. 

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 Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi.  The wines:

Spring 2017 vinsider shipment

2016 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our fifteenth 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 in screwcap.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic Vermentino nose of grapefruit pith, citrus leaf, fresh herbs and sea spray, but with an extra level of creaminess beyond what we usually see, like key lime pie. The palate is zingy with flavors of lemon, nectarine, and a briny mineral note that comes out on the long, clean, bright finish.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 1275 cases.

2015 ROUSSANNE

  • Production Notes: Roussanne suffered less than our other white varietals from low production in 2015, but yields were still down, and this brought an extra level of structure to the lushness Roussanne typically exhibits. 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. The selected lots were blended in April 2016 then aged through the subsequent harvest before bottling this past December.
  • Tasting Notes: A rich nose of pineapple, honeycomb, butterscotch, jasmine, and a little cedary oak. The mouth is broad and rich, inviting, with ripe pear, beeswax, custard, baking spices and a nice savory firmness that reminded me of apple skin cleaning things up on the long finish. A wine to enjoy now or to hold for a decade or more.
  • Production: 1200 cases

2016 DIANTHUS

  • Production Notes: Our Dianthus rosé, whose name was chosen for a family of plants with deep-pink flowers, is back at reasonable levels after a drastically lower production in 2015. As usual, 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 49% Mourvèdre, 37% Grenache and 14% Counoise, bled off or pressed off after roughly 24 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 that shows the combination of rich fruit and bright acid characteristic of the 2016 vintage.
  • Tasting Notes: An electric pink. The nose shows watermelon candy, mint, yellow raspberry and a strawberry tart richness that hints at the flaky crust as well as the berries. The mouth is floral: rose petals, lemongrass, raspberry and plum, with a little tannic bite to maintain order on the back palate. Great acids come out on the finish, with flavors of cranberry and spice. A rosé to convert people who think that pink wines can't be serious.  Drink before the end of 2018.
  • Production: 900 cases

2014 SYRAH

  • Production Notes: Many years, in our climate, Syrah makes for a wonderful blending component but a varietal wine that can be more about power than balance. Not 2014. In this blockbuster vintage, Syrah showed a combination of luscious fruit, powerful tannins, and herbal lift that we thought worthy of showcasing. So, during blending in the summer of 2015, we kept aside one foudre and a few puncheons and demi-muids (a mix of newer and older oak) of our most expressive Syrah. It was re-blended and bottled in May of 2016.
  • Tasting notes: The nose is luscious: blackberries, prime rib drippings, tobacco leaf, Chinese five spice and a little cedary oak. The mouth is richly tannic: new leather, black raspberry, plum skin, sweet oak, and baking spices. A syrah that is more refined than our usual: more Cote Rotie than Cornas, for those with a northern Rhone background. Decant in advance if drinking soon, or wait up to two decades.
  • Production: 845 cases

2014 TANNAT

  • Production Notes: Our thirteenth 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.  While we often blend ours with Cabernet Sauvignon, in this vintage we bottled the Cabernet separately and the wine is 100% Tannat.  We aged it in one foudre and a mix of new and older smaller barrels for nearly 2 years before bottling it in April 2016, and then aged it another year in bottle before release. 
  • Tasting Notes: On the nose, smoky, savory and meaty: stew in a garlicky marinade, Worcestershire sauce, and mint, yet with Tannat's characteristic (and welcome) floral undertone that reminded me of violets. The mouth is classic: red plum, tobacco leaf, pepper spice, and a little sweet oak. Plum skin tannins soften into a spicy, salty finish with a lingering note of black tea. A wine to watch evolve over decades.
  • Production: 985 cases

2014 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 2015.  The wine was bottled in June 2016 and has been aged in bottle in our cellars since then.  The blend is 65% Mourvèdre, 28% Grenache and 7% Syrah.
  • Tasting Notes: A nose that was immediately reminiscent of Beaucastel, to me: currant, sugarplum, cola, orange peel, crushed rock, and wild herbs.  The mouth is luscious, with red currant, milk chocolate, licorice, plum, and cigar box flavors.  The finish is long, with big tannins enlivened by a minty lift.  An unusually approachable Panoplie at this stage, but one that should have two decades of life, easily.
  • Production: 800 cases

There were two additional wines (joining the Roussanne and Vermentino) in the white-only shipment:

2015 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 nine great neighboring Rhone vineyards. We base the wine on the richness and acidity of Grenache Blanc (56%), with Viognier (23%) providing lush stone fruit and floral notes, and Roussanne (12%) and Marsanne (9%) adding minerality and texture. All the varieties, but particularly the Viognier, saw dramatically reduced yields in 2015, sacrificing quantity but providing extraordinary concentration. The wine was fermented entirely in stainless steel and then bottled in screwcap in June 2016 to preserve its freshness.
  • Tasting Notes: An explosive nose of lychee, white peach, tarragon, lemon pith, and mineral. The mouth is clean, fresh, and vibrant: blood orange, anise, pear, lemon curd, and sweet spice. The finish is clean and long. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 2920 cases

2012 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: 2012 provided a warm contrast to the cold vintages of 2010-2011, giving Roussanne generous fruit to go with its spice, structure and flavors of honey and pear skin.  This unusual friendliness allowed us to use more Roussanne than usual in our Esprit Blanc, adding just enough Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc to lift the aromatics and the acidity slightly, and bring in a hint of sweet spice.  We blended 75% Roussanne (fermented primarily in foudre) with 20% Grenache Blanc and 5% Picpoul, then for the first time let the blend age in foudre through the 2013 harvest before bottling it in December. Knowing how well this wine ages, we held back a good chunk of our production, and are releasing it to club members now, after three years of bottle age have brought out the deeper, nuttier tones white Rhones gain with age.
  • Tasting Notes: The three years in bottle have brought remarkable depth to the aromas of caramelized pineapple, honeycomb, citrus blossom, creme brulee, and a nice herby lift Chelsea nailed as "lemon thyme". In the mouth, like the essence of an apple pie: custard, baked apples and pears, sweet spice, and a rich element that Chelsea described as bran and I identified (keeping with the theme) as pie crust. The finish is long, rich, and deep, yet never heavy. Drink now or continue aging for another decade.
  • Production: 2465 cases

Two additional reds joined the Syrah, Panoplie, and Tannat in the red-only shipment:

2015 PATELIN DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Patelin is French slang for "neighborhood" and the Patelin de Tablas is our red Rhone-style blend sourced from our many great neighboring Rhone vineyards. We base the wine on the spicy savoriness of Syrah (51%), with Grenache (31%) providing juiciness and freshness, and Mourvedre (14%) and Counoise (4%) earth and structure. Fermented in a mix of upright oak fermenters and stainless steel tanks and aged in wooden uprights, it was bottled in July 2016 and aged in bottle to round into its structure.
  • Tasting Notes: A savory, dark, Syrah-driven nose of blackberries, crushed rock, menthol and saddle leather, with a little sweet lift lurking that reminded me of honey graham crackers. The mouth shows black cherry, loam, and pepper spice, with chalky tannins and flavors of cranberry and freshly turned earth that come out on the finish. Delicious now, but with the substance and balance to age for up to a decade.
  • Production: 4845 cases

2015 COTES DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas is our chance to let Grenache shine, as it does in most Chateauneuf du Pape blends. The juiciness of Grenache in the 2015 vintage encouraged us to use a closer percentage of Grenache (39%) and Syrah (35%) than normal, to keep Grenache's fruitiness grounded.  Additions of Counoise (16%) and Mourvedre (10%) added a savory earthiness to the wine, which was blended in June 2016 and aged in foudre until its upcoming bottling later in February.
  • Tasting Notes: A spicy Grenache-led nose, despite the relatively equal percentages: wild strawberry, mint, fresh figs, and an undertone of meatiness that reminded Chelsea of chorizo. In the mouth, we found lifted fruit balanced with richness, like strawberry shortcake, with complicating flavors of Mexican hot chocolate, cola, and fresh dates. Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 1475 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 2nd.  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


We warm up for the Holidays with a vertical tasting of Panoplie 2000-2015

Panoplie, for those who don't know it, is our elite red wine modeled after the Beaucastel Hommage a Jacques Perrin, with a very high percentage of Mourvedre and an extremely limited production.  Because it's not a wine that we put into distribution -- it goes exclusively to our wine club members each spring -- it's our chance to make as spectacular a wine as we can, without worrying about having to make it in quantity. Members have the opportunity to purchase 2 or 3 more bottles maximum after each shipment.  Even so, it rarely lasts more than a month.

Because of the wine's scarcity and its long aging curve, I don't open one very often. So today, in anticipation of the upcoming holidays, I decided to reward myself and our team with a chance to taste every vintage of Panoplie we've made, and share the notes so that anyone who's lucky enough to have a few bottles in their cellar can see what we think.

The lots that we choose for the Panoplie are the richest and most compelling in the cellar, and these wines are made to age.  In the tasting, even the oldest (from 2000) was just at maturity, and had in fact improved since the last Panoplie vertical we did four years ago.  The wines from the mid-2000's were fresh and vibrant, and although they're showing well, will go out another decade easily.

That said, it was interesting to me to see just how well some of the more recent wines did, with vintages like 2013 and 2011 standing up proudly alongside the more mature favorites like 2003, 2005, and 2008.  In fact, there was really only one vintage I'd caution people away from at the moment: 2010, which appeared to us to be in the in-between teenage stage that many Mourvedre-based wines go through 5-7 years after their vintage date.  The other wines all offered immense pleasure, even in their youth, and while they will undoubtedly add complexity with additional time in bottle, no one will be disappointed if they open one up this holiday season. The lineup:

Panoplie Vertical Dec 2016

The scene:

Panoplie tasting panorama

From oldest to youngest (note that we didn't produce a Panoplie in the frost-impacted 2001 vintage, and that each wine is linked to its profile page on our Web site if you want detailed technical information or to see the tasting notes we wrote shortly after bottling):

  • 2000 Panoplie (55% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 15% Grenache): The nose was still quite fresh and vibrant, while still showing some of the trademark aromas of maturity: raspberry and fresh plums with roasted meat and Christmas spices. There's nice sweet dark red fruit on the mouth, deepened with flavors of chocolate-covered cocoa beans and given focus by some still-solid tannins.  After tasting the other wines, the Syrah here seemed quite noteworthy, giving power and tannic structure, but also making the wine a touch more monolithic than some later wines in the lineup.  Still, an outstanding performance for this, our first and oldest Panoplie, made from vines no more than 8 years old.
  • 2002 Panoplie (80% Mourvedre, 13% Grenache, 7% Counoise): A nose that was both more mature and more open than the 2000; I immediately thought of an old Beaucastel: anise, rosemary, sweet peppermint, and juicy red fruit.  The mouth was generous, fully mature and in a beautiful place, with a nice dash of white pepper on the finish.  We couldn't imagine this getting any better; drink up if you have one.
  • 2003 Panoplie (69% Mourvedre, 21% Grenache, 7% Syrah, 3% Counoise): Rich and a little more vibrant on the nose than the 2002, with a touch more minty lift and the deeper aromas of milk chocolate and meat drippings more pronounced.  In fact, a nice mid-point (as the blend would suggest) between the 2000's meaty, woodsy power and the 2002's open red-fruited generosity. Rich and mouth-filling on the palate, chewy and savory, with little balsamic/soy/umami character giving relief to the fruit on the finish.  Beautiful.
  • 2004 Panoplie (69% Mourvedre, 21% Grenache, 10% Syrah): The nose is complex but also a touch older than the previous wines, dense, with notes of pine brush, cola, bacon and orange peel.  The mouth shows nice tannic structure, quite dense, with dark fruit and a woodsy note that plays off the fruit nicely.  The finish comes off as a touch sweet right now, with flavors of licorice root, cherry syrup, and tree bark framing still-substantial tannins.  A bit disjointed for me right now, with the sweetness, savoriness, and tannins all fighting for dominance.  I'm interested to see where this goes in coming years.
  • 2005 Panoplie (70% Mourvedre, 25% Grenache, 5% Syrah): An explosive, dramatic nose, full of wild herbs, flowers, and dark, brambly blackberry fruit. On the palate, it's rich and dense: sweet fruit, plum skin, dark chocolate and a tangy marinade note. Amazing that this was from one of our highest-ever production vintages.  My dad called this "a wow wine" and Chelsea added a great analogy: "like driving a performance vehicle, with that weight, but how it holds the road". Should be great for some time.
  • 2006 Panoplie (68% Mourvedre, 27% Grenache, 5% Syrah): If less drama, and a touch more mature, than the 2005, no less appealing. A nose that shows both savory -- spicy eucalyptus and herbs -- and sweet -- sugarplums -- notes. On the palate, seemingly very Grenache in character with lots of fruit, a luscious salted-caramel-chocolate note, great mid-palate weight and mature tannins. A real crowd pleaser with nice sweet fruit on the long, fresh finish. We felt that this was aging faster than the 2005 and, like the 2002, was just about as good as we could imagine it getting. 
  • 2007 Panoplie (60% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah): A savory Old World nose with leather, root beer, baking spices, and soy. More youthful and Californian on the palate, with fresh plums, cocoa, a round, voluptuous texture, and big but ripe tannins.  After a long stretch in the closed period, this is singing now, though Neil commented "but it'll be even better in 5 years". This wine got smokier and more chocolaty with time in the glass; definitely decant it if you're drinking it now, but be prepared to be richly rewarded.
  • 2008 Panoplie (54% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 17% Syrah): The nose is spectacular, even after the remarkable 2007, focused and inviting with explosive aromatics of sweet spices, strawberries and cream.  The mouth was generous with sweet fruit, like cherry jam but smoother and richer. Lovely, lively, and pure.  My dad called it "a ballerina", which I thought was a nice way of talking about its graceful power.
  • 2009 Panoplie (65% Mourvedre, 26% Grenache, 9% Syrah): A very cool, savory, and exciting nose of dark blue/black fruit, seemingly less about Grenache than the 2008. The fruit is fresh but concentrated, cherry and plum, with a powdered sugar character to the tannins that we often see in great vintages.  Some cocoa powder on the finish, which is still youthfully grippy and fairly primary.  It's still quite a young wine, from a powerful vintage, and may also still be emerging from its closed phase.  Should make great drinking over the next decade.
  • 2010 Panoplie (60% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah): The nose is quiet compared to the previous wines, though appealingly savory, like baker's chocolate with a citrus pith note.  On the palate, the chocolate character predominates, with fruit, meat drippings, and a little minty lift.  The finish was a little short.  Four years ago, this was one of our absolute highlights of the tasting; this year it didn't get a single vote when I asked everyone around the table to pick three favorites.  That's a great indication it was in its closed phase, and should be hidden away for a few years.
  • 2011 Panoplie (60% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah): The nose is all about dark, as are many of the 2011's right now: a slate minerality, with eucalyptus, black licorice, new leather, and charcuterie notes.  A little peppery lift (Chelsea thought pink peppercorn) gave some aromatic high notes. On the palate, highter toned, with strawberry preserves, a nice creamy texture, and beautiful tannins framing a long finish.  This wine was the one we chose to have with the main course of our Tablas Creek holiday party last weekend, and it shined opposite a braised short rib.  A beautiful wine, in a very nice stage, though it's next in line to shut down.  Anyone drinking it in 2017-2018 would be well advised to check our vintage chart, which we update every few months.
  • 2012 Panoplie (70% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, 10% Syrah): The nose is still primary, with wild strawberries, a nice rosemary note, and some creamy minerality. On the palate, some nice savoriness on the attack, with garrigue framing strawberry fruit, medium bodied, and very well balanced.  If it's a little simple compared to the 2011 or 2013, that seems a reflection of the vintage.  It will be nice to give this some time in the cellar to gain some secondary notes and a darker tone; we thought the same thing about the 2008 at a similar stage, and look where that is now.
  • 2013 Panoplie (75% Mourvedre, 15% Grenache, 10% Syrah): The nose is explosive like the 2008 and 2005, dark and not particularly fruit driven, with flavors of marinating stew: bay leaves and herbs and meat, on top of plum skin and dark chocolate. In the mouth, it's luscious and powerful, not at all sweet, with concentrated flavors, chalky tannins, and a great precise, dry finish with tons of promise.  My mom commented that it "feels French" and it did.  It will be exciting to watch over the next two decades.
  • 2014 Panoplie (65% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache, 7% Syrah): Rounder edges than the 2013, with a nicely lifted nose of herby wild strawberries, orange pith, a briny mineral note, and grilled game fowl (we had a long discussion about whether the right game was quail, squab, or duck, which probably says more about the fact that lunchtime was approaching and we'd already tasted 13 wines than about any specific flavors). The palate shows the characteristic lush texture of the 2014 vintage: mouthwatering ripe raspberry, deepened by some brambly spice.  Still a baby, and only going to get deeper and better.  Will go out to VINsider Club members in the spring.
  • 2015 Panoplie (71% Mourvedre, 24% Grenache, 5% Syrah; from foudre): Still in foudre and smells very young: intensely grapey, with some meatiness and floral (gardenia?) lurking behind all that primary fruit.  The mouth is less in its infancy than the nose, with a great combination of spiciness, generosity, meatiness, and tannic power that reminded us of a slightly lusher 2011. It's going to be a treat to watch this evolve. It will go into bottle late this coming summer, and be released to VINsiders in the spring of 2018.

A few concluding thoughts:

  • The overall level of quality was exceptionally high.  I asked the nine people around the table for their votes on three favorites, and eleven of the fifteen wines received at least one vote.  The highest vote getters were 2005 (6 votes), 2008 (5 votes), with both 2007 and 2009 receiving 3 votes. Really any of these wines, even the ones that aren't as good as they will be, will make for exceptional drinking if you open it.
  • Things move.  Looking back at our last Panoplie vertical from 2012 our favorites were 2003, 2007, and 2010.  The 2010 has moved into a closed phase, like the Esprit 2010, a process we more or less understand and can predict.  But the older favorites moved too.  The 2003 was still spectacular, but stood out less because of the evolution of wines like 2002, 2005, and 2006, which all showed more mature tannins and better balance than they did four years ago.  And the 2007, which was wildly exciting at age 5, came through its closed phase as a more settled, finished product.  Do I like it better now than I did then?  I'm not sure.  But it's been fun to see it at both stages, and to know that any one bottle you open is only a snapshot.
  • The young wines are drinking very well.  I know that when we let people know that these wines can age two decades it often scares them away from opening one young.  But the young wines in this flight were almost all drinking beautifully, and anyone who opens a vintage like 2011 or 2013 in coming months is in for a real treat.

Now... to decide which one to open with Christmas dinner!


Checking in on 2015: an "Athletic" vintage

My dad got back to California earlier this month, and since his return we've been making time one day each week to taste through a thematic slice of what's in the cellar. Today, we took a look at the 2015 reds that have been aging quietly in foudre since we blended them late last spring.  

Esprit 2015 in foudreA lot has happened in the last six months, including the arrival of a whole new vintage into the cellar and our release of our flagship wines from 2014.  So, with both 2014 and 2016 more prominent in our thoughts than 2015, it was great to make a reintroduction to the wines today.  The timing was serendipitous because this coming Saturday we're hosting our annual futures tasting where we'll present the 2015 Esprit de Tablas Blanc, 2015 Esprit de Tablas, and 2015 Panoplie.  This will be their first public appearances, and I wanted a preview.

[A bit of an aside: if you aren't aware of our futures tasting and en primeur offering, it's one of the benefits of membership in our wine club.  We offer members the chance to taste before bottling and reserve quantities of our top wines before they are otherwise allocated, all at a special futures discount. For details, click here and if you're a member and want to come Saturday, let us know right away since it's almost full.]

Overall, the 2015 vintage was exceptionally scarce compared to recent years, due to a combination of four years of drought and some unfavorable weather at flowering [for details, see my 2015 harvest recap].  Early grapes like Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier were particularly affected, while later grapes like Mourvedre and Roussanne saw yields closer to normal.

The 2015 whites have been notably powerful, thanks (we think) to their very low yields.  But the 2015 reds, while they had excellent power, seemed more noteworthy today to us for their focus, their purity, and their expressiveness.  Overall, it seems like it will shape up to be a superb vintage.  My notes on the four red blends (plus the Esprit Blanc, which I figured we should taste because it will be available at the en primeur event):

  • 2015 Esprit de Tablas Blanc: An exotic and compelling nose of passion fruit, honeysuckle, lanolin, candied orange peel, and sweet spice. The mouth is both richer and more traditional than the nose suggests, with flavors of honey, pear, preserved lemon, and nutmeg. The finish is long, clean, and peachy.
  • 2015 Cotes de Tablas: A spicy, briary nose of raspberry and red plum, sweet spice and cherry pit. The mouth is juicy and generous, with strawberry, clove and milk chocolate flavors, and a long, clean finish with a little hint of mint bringing lift.
  • 2015 En Gobelet: A sweeter, denser nose than the Cotes, with notes of wine-soaked figs, licorice, pepper, new leather, and an exotic note that reminded me of cumin. The mouth was powerful too, with flavors of blackberry, roasted meat, tar, and that recurring curry note. There are nice chalky tannins on the finish, but elegance too.
  • 2015 Esprit de Tablas: The nose was instantly identifiable to me as Esprit: red plums, chocolate, sweet gingery spice, soy, and currant.  The mouth is vibrant, with flavors of chocolate-covered black cherry, more currants, and loads of structure. The long finish reverberated between red and black licorice, with chewy tannins and a lingering note of baker's chocolate. 
  • 2015 Panoplie: A very Mourvedre nose: loamy, foresty currants, with additional notes of cloves, balsamic, and juniper. The mouth is powerful, showing leather and earth and meat on top of its dark red fruit. It reminded me of my wife Meghan's description the first time she tasted Mourvedre out of foudre: that it reminded her of "butter in a butcher shop". The finish is rich, tangy, and long without being heavy.

A few concluding thoughts.

  1. This seems like a vintage with a somewhat different personality than the 2014, whose principal trait seems to be lushness.  2015 wasn't as warm a year as our other recent vintages, with temperatures more like average than the near-record warmth we've seen in 2013, 2014, and 2016.  The freshness that these cooler temperatures produced was noteworthy today, alongside the concentration from (presumably) the record-low yields. My dad called the wines "athletic", which I thought was a nice way of complimenting both their power and their lack of any sense of heaviness.
  2. It struck us all that these are wines that will age beautifully. To age well, wines need intensity and balance. All the wines we tasted showed both of these, in spades.
  3. Those of you coming for the en primeur tasting on Saturday are in for a treat.

Tasting the wines in the fall 2016 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 afternoon, Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi and I dove into this fall's collection, and I thought that readers of the blog would be interested in what we found.

We base the fall shipments around the newest releases of the Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc, and this fall's shipment is no exception. In addition, this year we reached back into our library to include not just the newest 2014 Esprit de Tablas, but also a bottle of the 2012 Esprit de Tablas that has been showing so well recently.  I'm excited to hear the feedback that we get.  

When we'd finished the tasting, Chelsea and I looked at each other and had the same thought: this fall is going to be fun, and the shipment pickup party, where we get to introduce the wines to several hundred club members, is going to be a blast.  2014 and 2015 are, each in their own way, remarkable: both the products of low yields, with the 2015 powerful and savory, with a noteworthy saltiness in all the whites underpinning their power. 2014 is luscious and expressive, with ripe tannins cloaked by plenty of fruit. It's going to be exciting!

The classic shipment includes six different wines:

Classic_crop

2015 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Making the Cotes de Tablas Blanc in 2015 proved to be a challenge, as the two grapes (Viognier and Marsanne) on which it is usually based were both in very short supply. On the plus side, both showed remarkable intensity, no doubt in part because of the very low yields. We ended up using all our Viognier and Marsanne in this blend, and adding nearly as much Grenache Blanc (for freshness) and Roussanne (for structure), resulting in a wine with nearly equal proportions of the four grapes (26% Viognier, 25% Marsanne, 25% Grenache Blanc, 24% Roussanne). Even choosing more open-knit lots of the richer grapes, the wine has as much in common with our Esprit Blanc as with a normal Cotes Blanc. The selected lots were was blended in April 2016, and the wine was bottled -- under screwcap, to preserve its brightness -- in June.
  • Tasting Notes: An immediately Rhone-like nose, with aromas of peach pit, lemon verbena, beeswax, key lime, and sweet spice. On the palate, the wine is rich and mouth-filling, with the Roussanne persistence evident. Flavors of apricot and salted nuts are balanced by creamy minerality, and the finish is exceptionally long.  Drink now and for at least the next five years.
  • Production: 1550 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2014 ROUSSANNE

  • Production Notes: All our whites in 2014 showed a balance of lush power and good acids from the unusually high diurnal temperature variation. This combination was kind to the powerful but sometimes austere Roussanne grape, bringing lushness and openness to complement its characteristic structured profile. 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. The selected lots were blended in April 2015 then aged through the subsequent harvest before bottling that December.
  • Tasting Notes: A luscious nose of peach syrup, jasmine, and lanolin is undercut by cool, spicy notes of lemon thyme and citrus leaf. On the palate, flavors of salted caramel, nutmeg, marzipan and orange zest are backed by rich texture and saline notes come out on the long, dry finish. Already appealing (moreso than many vintages of our Roussanne are in their youth) but should also develop over at least the next decade.
  • Production: 885 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2014 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Thank to the dramatic conditions in 2014, all our white components showed both power and freshness, which made blending the Esprit Blanc a pleasure. We used a relatively high proportion of Roussanne (72%, fermented primarily in foudre) for weight and structure, and added Grenache Blanc (23%, from foudre and stainless steel) for sweet spice and openness, and Picpoul Blanc (5%, from stainless steel) for floral aromatics and saline freshness. As we have done since 2012, we let the blend age in foudre through the subsequent harvest before bottling it in January 2016 and aging it an additional 8 months in bottle before release.
  • Tasting Notes: An immensely appealing nose of fresh pears, wildflower honey and candied pecan, lifted by a spicy notes of anise and orange blossom. The mouth shows flavors of salted honeydew, honeycrisp apple, and more pear, with floral notes of jasmine and citrus blossom reemerging on the long, clean, spicy finish.  Already delicious, it should also go out 15 years or more and gain additional nuttiness and complexity with time.
  • Production: 2200 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2014 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: Our seventh 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. We have found that in our drought, our head-trained blocks suffer less than our closer-spaced irrigated blocks, but the wine still showed the signature of the lush intensity and freshness characteristic of 2014. We chose a blend of 34% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre, 15% Counoise and 5% Tannat, even after holding back several head-trained Mourvedre lots for Panoplie. As usual, the small addition of head-trained Tannat proved valuable for its chalky tannins and deep flavors. The wine was blended in June of 2015, aged in foudre and bottled in April 2016.
  • Tasting Notes: A rich dark-red-fruited nose of currant, leather, chocolate, licorice, and crushed rock that Chelsea said "you almost need to chew". The palate is similar, but a touch darker: salty cocoa, black raspberry, plum skin and chalky minerality. Despite the wine's serious tannins, the overall impression is one of gracefulness, and it should provide a great deal of pleasure in both the near and longer term. Drink now and for the next two decades.
  • Production: 700 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

2012 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Like all the 2012 reds, the Esprit de Tablas shows the results of the vintage's classic combination of healthy yields, warm temperatures, high diurnal variation, and beautiful weather at harvest. The generous fruit character of the Mourvedre and Grenache resulted in us using our highest-ever percentage of the dark, smoky, savory Syrah grape, to bring structure and seriousness to the resulting blend. Still, Esprit was as usual led by the red fruit, earth and mocha of 40% Mourvèdre, with additions of 30% Syrah, 21% Grenache and 9% Counoise. It was aged in foudre. In the two-plus years since its bottling in July 2014, the wine has grown richer, with Mourvedre's saddle leather component coming more to the fore. It still has many years ahead of it.
  • Tasting Notes: Fun to revisit after spending so much of my recent time with the 2013 Esprit. The 2012 has a nose of purple fruit, leather, dried cranberry, pepper, and juniper spice. The mouth is medium weight, beautifully balanced, with flavors of milk chocolate, zesty red plum, and black cherry. The finish is savory and meaty, like the the drippings from a charcoal grilled ribeye. It's still quite a youthful wine, which should make for very good drinking for the next year or two, then likely shut down for a few years before reopening in 2019 or 2020 and drinking well for another fifteen plus years.
  • Production: 4400 cases
  • List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48

2014 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: In our blending trials in 2014, we decided to highlight the year's natural lushness with the fruit and freshness of Grenache rather than try to rein it in with the structure of Syrah or the restraint of Counoise. So, to our typical contribution of Mourvedre (40%) we added our most-ever Grenache (35%) and relatively small portions of Syrah (20%) and Counoise (5%). The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for the Esprit, blended in June 2015 and aged a year in foudre before bottling in June 2016.
  • Tasting Notes: The nose is powerfully expressive, with deep aromas of licorice and cherry liqueur given lift by spicy notes of pink peppercorn and mint. The mouth is luscious but still very young, with flavors of chocolate-covered cherries, a briny sea spray note, and serious tannins. The finish shows more baker's chocolate and cherry cola notes, as well as a smoky berry element. The wine is still unwinding after its recent bottling; we recommend that you hold the 2014 Esprit for a few months, then drink either between 2017 and 2019 or again starting in 2022 any time over the subsequent two decades.
  • Production: 3800 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

There was one additional wine (joining the Cotes de Tablas Blanc, Roussanne, and Esprit de Tablas Blanc) in the white-only shipment:

WhiteOnly_crop

2015 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: Like all our white grapes except Roussanne, 2015 saw dramatically reduced yields for Grenache Blanc, down 31% due to drought and cold, unsettled weather during its May flowering. The reduced yields also brought remarkable fruit intensity to go along with Grenache Blanc's typical notes of minerality and sweet spice. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose lots that were fermented in stainless steel (for brightness) and foudre (for roundness), then blended and bottled in the summer of 2016.
  • Tasting Notes: An immensely appealing nose of baked apples, fresh pineapple, anise, mint and pie spices. The mouth is quite luscious, with flavors of baked apples, ripe pink grapefruit, pie crust, and strawberry granita. The grape's characteristically beautiful acids come out on the long, rich finish, which ends with a saline note. Stunning. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 600 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

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

RedOnly_crop

2014 COUNOISE

  • Production Notes: Our first varietal Counoise since 2010! In 2014, the vintage's weight provided enough substance to balance Counoise's open-knit personality, and we picked one small lot that seemed to us particularly characteristic of the grape to bottle on its own. It was fermented in stainless steel, aged in neutral barrels, and bottled -- under screwcap, to preserve its brightness -- in April of 2016. Counoise is renowned for its bright acids and flavors of brambly fruit, and this wine shows that in spades. 
  • Tasting Notes: A spicy, minty nose of sage, wild strawberries and violets. On the palate, a wonderful tension between the fruit and the bright acids, with crunchy cranberry and barely-ripe blueberry notes, brambly spice, and light-to-medium body. The finish is fresh and spicy, with a beautiful saline note. You might serve this slightly chilled, as you would a Cru Beaujolais, and enjoy it any time in the next six to eight years.
  • Production: 340 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2014 FULL CIRCLE

  • Production Notes: 2014 is the fifth vintage of our Full Circle Pinot Noir, grown on the small vineyard outside Robert Haas's family home in Templeton, in the cool (for Paso) Templeton Gap AVA. Its name reflects his career: from a start introducing America to the greatness of Burgundy, through decades focusing on grapes from the Rhone, he's now growing Pinot at home. 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 a year and a half before being blended and bottled in April 2016.
  • Tasting Notes: A dense dried cherry nose with aromas of figs, cloves, graham cracker, and mint. In the mouth the wine is opulent, with flavors of chocolate, cola, olallieberry and lots of nutmeg spice. The finish is warm and comforting, a wine to break out in front of a fire during the holidays. Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 460 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

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 fall's party will be on Sunday, October 2nd.  If you're not a wine club member, and you've read all this way, then why not join us while there's still a chance to get this fall shipment? Details and how to join are at tablascreek.com/wine_club/vinsider_club


Introducing the Wines for the 2016 VINsider Wine Club "Collector's Edition" Shipment

Each June, I have the pleasure of tasting through library vintages of our Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel 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 evolove. 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 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel and the 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc. Each wine provides a clear signature of the vintage that produced it: 2009, with its power and density from the combination of spring frost (low yields) and warm weather, and 2010, with noteworthy elegance from an unusually cool summer that produced our longest hangtime ever. And yet time had, in each case, made the wine more complete, softening the tannins and opening the structure of the 2009 Esprit, and deepening the flavors and bringing more weight to the 2010 Esprit Blanc. And this isn't the end; both wines will go out another decade. It will be fun to get these in people's hands in a few months. The wines:

CE Wines 2016 Square

Tasting notes, from a tasting yesterday that Chelsea and I conducted:

  • 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc:  A nose balanced, I thought, between youthful and mature notes: white flowers, mint and pear skin on the youthful side, with beeswax, straw and nutmeg showing signs of maturity. The mouth is rich, with flavors of golden delicious apple and cinnamon (just bake the pie, already), creme brulee, and sweet straw. There's a welcome little bite of tannin -- likely from the 35% Grenache Blanc, our highest Grenache Blanc percentage ever for this wine -- that reminded us of mandarin pith to keep things clean on the long finish. Just beautiful. Drink now or for the next several years.
  • 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel: A darkly powerful, expressive nose of mint, black plums, petrichor, figs, baker's chocolate, and a savory note that Chelsea and I debated between balsamic and Worcestershire. The mouth shows both dark fruit notes and something higher toned -- think fresh black figs -- and is nicely focused with flavors of chocolate-covered black cherries, menthol, and new leather. There are some chewy tannins that suggest substantial food as a partner (as well as the capacity for more aging). The finish is beautiful, with cocoa powder, blackcurrant and sarsaparilla root. Drink now and over the next 15 years.

The complete Collector's Edition shipment is, I think, the best collection we've ever offered, with 3 different vintages of our flagship red, 2 of our flagship white, our newest En Gobelet (maybe my personal favorite wine we're making right now), and two gorgeous whites: the luscious 2014 Roussanne and the floral, mineral 2015 Cotes de Tablas Blanc:

  • 2 bottles of 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel
  • 1 bottle of 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc
  • 3 bottles of 2014 Esprit de Tablas
  • 1 bottle of 2012 Esprit de Tablas
  • 1 bottle of 2014 En Gobelet
  • 2 bottles of 2014 Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 1 bottle of 2014 Roussanne
  • 1 bottle of 2015 Cotes de Tablas Blanc

We will be adding to the Collector's Edition membership, subject to available space, in the next week. If you're on the waiting list, you should look for an email with news, one way or the other, of whether you've made it on for this round. We add members, once a year, in the order in which we received applications to the waiting list. If you are currently a VINsider member and interested in getting on the waiting list, you can upgrade to the Collector's Edition online. And if you are not currently a member, but would like to be, you can indicate that you would like to join the Collector's Edition when you join the VINsider wine club.


Tasting the Wines in the Spring 2016 VINsider 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 weeks and months.  In some cases (like this time) where the shipments contain wines that aren't yet even bottled (they will be week after next) it's a chance to get to know wines that are newly finished.  Over recent years, I've given followers of the blog a first look at these notes.

These shipments include wines from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 vintages.  It was interesting to taste these three vintages, all of which we think were very strong, together, and to get a sense of how they compare.  My quick thoughts, after the tasting, are that 2013 is a classically-styled, old-world vintage, on the brooding side, with substantial tannins, more about balance than exuberance.  It should be exceptionally ageworthy, and I think that most of the reds will benefit from a little time in bottle.  2014 is a blockbuster vintage, with wines that are luscious and forward, yet not lacking in tannin and structure.  Both our 2014 Cotes de Tablas and 2014 Cotes de Tablas Blanc are a part of this shipment, and I think they're the best examples of these wines we've ever made.  I can't wait to get the 2014 Esprits into bottle.  Finally, 2015 (we only tasted two wines) seems to be explosively vibrant, with intense fruit and a sweet-tart character that should be immediately appealing. 

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 Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi.  The wines:

Spring 2016 Shipment Wines

2014 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas Blanc is our showcase for the floral, lush fruit of Viognier (39%), grounded by the texture, acidity, and citrus of Grenache Blanc (29%), with Marsanne (20%) providing gentle minerality and Roussanne (12%) providing structure. The components were blended in April 2015, aged briefly in stainless steel, and bottled in June.
  • Tasting Notes: Stunning in its intensity for this bottling: honey and nectarine and spicy passion fruit on the nose, with something cooler, like wet stones.  In the mouth, it's rich and tangy, with ripe pineapple fruit lifted by orange blossom and deepened with a briny sea-spray element.  The finish is rich, long, and clean, with a creamy expansiveness that reminded me of lemon meringue.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 1250 cases

2011 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Although 2011’s spring frosts largely spared the notoriously late-sprouting Roussanne, yields were still low and these low yields combined with the unusually cool growing season to produce structured Roussanne with good acidity, suitable for aging. Knowing this, we held back a good chunk of this wine, and are releasing it to club members now. 64% Roussanne, 26% Grenache Blanc, and 10% Picpoul Blanc, aged for a year in foudre and then for 3 more years in bottle.
  • Tasting Notes: The three years in bottle have brought depth and additional substance to the classic Roussanne flavors and aromatics, and like many Roussanne-based wines it has become more aromatic with age. It's showing candied orange peel, ginger, creme brulee and lychee fruit on the nose. The mouth is savory, with green plum, grilled bread, honeydew rind, lots of mineral, and a hint of nutty oak on the long, stony  finish.  When it was released, I called it "a fascinating combination of rich and very dry". That's more true than ever now.  Drink now or continue aging for another decade.
  • Production: 2480 cases

2015 PATELIN DE TABLAS ROSÉ

  • Production Notes: Our fourth vintage of the Provencal-style dry rosé that we base on Grenache and source primarily from other vineyards with our grapevines in the ground. Always heavy on Grenache (68% this year), the wine also includes additions of zesty, vibrant Counoise (13%), rich, floral Mourvedre (11%) and for the first time, a little spicy Syrah (8%). Most of the Grenache and all the Syrah were picked for the rosé program and direct pressed upon arrival at the winery, with the balance bled off after a few hours on the skins.  It is just a shade darker than our 2014, but still pale, fresh, and clean.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty light peach color.  On the nose, explosive aromatics of nectarine, wild strawberries, grapefruit pith, and jasmine.  The mouth is rich but vibrant, with flavors of rubired grapefruit, plum, mineral, spice and rose petals.  The acids are bracing on the finish, and the wine is really long.  I can't wait to get this in front of people.  Drink now and over the next year.
  • Production: 2150 cases

2014 COTES DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: The Cotes de Tablas is our chance to let Grenache shine, as it does in most Chateauneuf du Pape blends. The luscious 2014 vintage led to us using a closer percentage of Grenache (44%) and Syrah (36%) than normal, to keep Grenache's generosity and fruitiness from tilting over into sappiness.  Additions of Counoise (12%) and Mourvedre (8%) added a savory earthiness to the wine, which was blended in June 2015 and aged in foudre until its bottling in February 2016.
  • Tasting Notes: Shows a deep, spicy nose for a Grenache-based wine (of course, there's a lot of Syrah in here): new leather and blackcurrant and licorice and a sweet spiciness like a clove-studded orange, all held in check by a minerality that Chelsea called "rock quarry".  The mouth is generous with chocolate-covered cherry and a minty, juniper note.  It reminded me of the best grape jelly you could ever imagine.  Beautiful chalky tannins clean things up at the end, and the finish is long, with licorice, mint, and chalky mineral notes.  Drink now and over the next decade or more.
  • Production: 1600 cases

2013 TANNAT

  • Production Notes: Our twelfth 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.  While we often blend ours with Cabernet Sauvignon, in this vintage we bottled the Cabernet separately and the wine is 100% Tannat.  We aged it in neutral demi-muids for nearly 2 years before bottling it in July 2015. 
  • Tasting Notes: On the nose, dark, savory and winey, with baker's chocolate and an iron-like bloodiness that reminded me of marinating meat with rosemary and soy.  The mouth is lusher than the nose suggests, with dark chocolate flavors, brambly black fruit, and a creamy texture.  The iron-like minerality came back out on the long finish, which also showed Tannat's signature tannins and smoky character.  A wine to watch evolve over decades.
  • Production: 720 cases

2013 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 2014.  The wine was bottled in August 2015 and has been aged in bottle in our cellars since then.  The blend is 75% Mourvèdre, 15% Grenache and 10% Syrah.
  • Tasting Notes: A nose that manages to be both brooding and inviting, with notes of pine forest and aged balsamic and cassis and meat drippings.  The mouth is luscious, with red plum, black licorice, leather, cocoa powder and cigar box flavors.  The finish is long, with big tannins enlivened by a minty lift.  A wine to wait on if you possibly can, at least in the short term, but one that should have two decades of life, easily.
  • Production: 670 cases

There were two additional wines (joining the Cotes de Tablas Blanc and Esprit de Tablas Blanc) in the white-only shipment:

2015 VERMENTINO

  • Production Notes: Our fourteenth 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 in screwcap. Normally a generous producer, our yields in 2015 were down by nearly 50%.
  • Tasting Notes: A classic Vermentino nose of white grapefruit, citrus leaf, and crushed rock, but then surprisingly generous and mouth-filling, like lemon-lime soda, with a briny sea spray minerality and a long, clean, luscious finish.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 575 cases.

2014 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 our many great neighborhood Rhone vineyards. We base the wine on the richness and acidity of Grenache Blanc (49%), with Viognier (31%) providing lush stone fruit and floral notes, and Roussanne (12%) and Marsanne (8%) adding minerality and texture.  The wine is fermented entirely in stainless steel and then bottled young (in May 2015) to preserve its freshness.
  • Tasting Notes: The nose is very polished, with toasted marshmallow and lemongrass, honeydew, orange zest and preserved lemon.  In the mouth, the wine is luscious, with caramel apple and rose water flavors, and a little Grenache Blanc tannin that maintains order on the long, aromatic finish.  Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 3000 cases

Three additional reds joined the Cotes de Tablas, Panoplie, and Tannat in the red-only shipment:

2013 FULL CIRCLE

  • Production Notes: 2013 is the fourth vintage of our Full Circle Pinot Noir, grown on the small vineyard outside Robert Haas's family home in Templeton, in the cool (for Paso) Templeton Gap AVA. Its name reflects his career: from a start introducing America to the greatness of Burgundy, through decades focusing on grapes from the Rhone, he's now growing Pinot at home. The grapes were fermented in one-ton microfermenters, 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 a year and a half before being blended and bottled in April 2015.
  • Tasting Notes: A classically Pinot nose of sarsaparilla, nutmeg, milk chocolate and black cherry.  In the mouth the wine is beautifully fresh and medium-bodied, with cherry cola flavors and a touch of sweet oak on the finish.  Really pretty, and (for us) a validation that we can make classic-styled Pinot Noir here in Paso Robles.  Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 310 cases

2014 PATELIN DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Patelin is French slang for "neighborhood" and the Patelin de Tablas is our red Rhone-style blend sourced from our many great neighborhood Rhone vineyards. We base the wine on the spicy savoriness of Syrah (55%), with Grenache (29%) providing juiciness and freshness, and Mourvedre (10%) and Counoise (6%) earth and structure. Fermented in a mix of upright oak fermenters and stainless steel tanks and aged in wooden uprights, it was bottled in July 2015 and aged in bottle to round into its structure.
  • Tasting Notes: A dark, Syrah-driven nose that is creamy, meaty, minerally, and a little bit wild.  A little blue fruit lurks underneath and comes out with air.  The mouth shows both Grenache and Syrah's influence, with black plum, boysenberry, chalky minerality and nice powdered sugar tannins that come out on the finish. Decant if you're drinking now, or age for up to a decade for secondary and tertiary flavors of meat and earth.
  • Production: 3500 cases

2013 SYRAH

  • Production Notes: Our first varietal bottling of Syrah since 2010.  Despite the warm 2013 vintage, the vintage proceeded largely without extreme heat spikes, and cool-loving Syrah showed both power and freshness in our blending trials.  So, we kept aside one foudre (assembled from a mix of newer and older small barrels) of our most expressive Syrah, and aged it there for a year before bottling in May of 2015.
  • Tasting notes: A dark, spicy brambly campfire wildness that is absolutely characteristic of Syrah.  There is also a marinade wineyness that seems to be 2013's signature in our red wines. The palate is vibrant with blackberry and briary spice, big tannins and a little sweet oak.  I don't think this will hit its peak for a decade or more, but it should be pretty amazing once it does. Decant in advance if drinking soon, or wait up to two decades.
  • Production: 550 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 10th.  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


En Primeur: a Tablas Creek tradition since 2003

By Lauren Phelps

Today, we were joined by many of our most enthusiastic wine club members for our annual futures tasting, which provides the first opportunity for anyone outside the cellar to taste (from barrel) our newest vintage of Esprit de Tablas and Panoplie.  

Group
Our Cellar, Newly Decorated for the Holidays

For a little background, 13 years ago we began offering wine en primeur, which is a time-honored French tradition most often associated with first-growth Bordeaux estates. In outstanding vintages, valued customers are offered the opportunity to secure a limited quantity of sought-after wines at a special price in advance of bottling and subsequent general release.

Info
The Tasting List

Our focus today was on the 2014 vintage, which we have felt since blending may turn out to be one of our best.  We showed our two top red wines from the vintage, the Esprit de Tablas and Panoplie, each of which was blended this past spring.  They have been resting in foudre until this morning's tasting, and are only about halfway through their barrel aging; they'll remain in foudre until bottling next summer.

Bottles
The Wines

Jason Haas provided a bit of context for the tasting by summarizing how 2014 compared to other recent vintages, while Viticulturist Levi Glenn and Winemaker Neil Collins dove into the details of the challenges and opportunities that 2014 presented in the vineyard and cellar.  Finally, Robert Haas shared his thoughts on how these wines have come together and express themselves, and where they may go in the future.

The 2014 vintage produced wines that are notably luscious, but with good tannins behind them. Jason compared it to 2007, a similarly intense vintage with plenty of fruit balanced by substantial but ripe tannins.  We think that the wines will be impressive young (they showed very well today) but will also be among the most ageworthy we've made.

Neil
Neil (foreground) and Levi (behind) speak to the group

Bob
Founder Robert Haas

We find that often the most interesting topics are raised by the participants in our events, and very much enjoyed the lively question and answer session that followed the vintage discussion and tasting.

Wreath
A wreath hangs on a Roussanne tank

Because we feel it is important to taste these wines both on their own and with food, we asked Chef Jeffery Scott to make a dish that would pair well with them.  He chose a coq au vin, braised in syrah, and we contributed the 2008 Esprit de Beaucastel out of our library to give guests a chance to see how a (relatively) mature version of the wine might look. [Editor's note: we're working with Chef Jeff to get the recipe, or at least a version that doesn't require a 3-day preparation of the stock, and will post it here on the blog if and when we do.]

Yum
Chef Jeffery Scott's delicious coq au vin

We hold this tasting every year, always in early December, if you're setting your calendars for next year. And if you missed the tasting,  you haven't missed your opportunity to buy the wines at their futures-only discount. Members interested in ordering wine en primeur should contact our Wine Club team no later than Monday either by email at vinsider@tablascreek.com or by phone at 805.237.1231 x36.

Mavis
Mavis