The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2012

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Page 32 of 152

WHAT WE���RE DRINKING Spirit of the Rh��ne CELEBRATING TEN YEARS OF TABLAS CREEK ESPRIT DE BEAUCASTEL by Meridith May / photo by Tom Zasadzinski I Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard, with the new 2010 vintage releases of Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc. n the 1970s, when the Perrin Family came to California, they could not understand why no one was planting Rh��ne varieties in the state���s Mediterranean climate. As the proprietors of Ch��teauneuf-du-Pape���s famous Ch��teau de Beaucastel, they inally found a perfect location that mirrored the climate, high elevation and high pH, rocky limestone soils of their own terroir in the Southern Rh��ne: a 120-acre parcel 12 miles from the Paciic Ocean on the Westside of Paso Robles. When the Perrins created a partnership with importer Robert Haas, founder of Vineyard Brands, Tablas Creek Vineyard came to be. In January 1990, the irst vine cuttings were imported from France. Several clones each of Mourv��dre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Counoise, Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc were imported. New varieties continue to be imported each year. Beginning with the 2001 whites and the 2000 reds, the estate���s lagship wines were named Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc. A Long Time Coming Jason Haas, General Manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard, recently led a group of sommeliers and wine buyers through a ten-year vertical of both the whites and the reds to preface the 2010 vintage releases of Esprit de Beaucastel ($55) and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc ($40). The surprising liveliness of the Esprit de Beaucastel whites along the years can be attributed to the Roussanne, which is the always the dominant varietal in the blend. ���Roussanne is a white that acts like a red,��� comments Haas. ���It begins as a structured and linear in its youth and soon opens up to loral jasmine, honey and caramel as it ages.��� We certainly noticed more aromatics in the older whites. ���Roussanne also restrains 32 / the tasting panel / december 2012 the lashy fatness of Viogner,��� Haas added. Viognier was only used in the 2001���2003 vintages. After that in addition to the everpresent Grenache Blanc, Picpoul was added in 2004 and has been a small part of the equation ever since. ���The 2006 is vibrant and alive!��� stated Cameron Russell, Director of Wines for Gordon Ramsey at the London Hotel in West Hollywood. THE TASTING PANEL agreed. The elegant, mouth-illing jasmine and patchouli, white tea and butter caramel notes were astounding. The new release, the 2010 has a marvelous roundness. From Paso Robles��� coldest year since the winery was founded, the wine displays a zippy, mineral-driven exotic character. We tasted the reds from youngest (2010) to oldest (2000) and experienced the lifeline of big, structured wildly brambly Mourv��dre that played the starring role throughout the years (with a varying degree back-up from Grenache, Syrah and Counoise). While Jonathan Baird of Hatield���s was amazed at the remarkable amount of tannins and fresh acidity from the 2002, Dan Williams, North American Wine Buyer for Costa Mesa retailer Hi-Time Wine Cellars, said, ���There���s absolutely no sign that this wine is getting old. It has body, lushness and melting black fruit and chocolate notes.��� The ���05 was dramatic and chewy while also lush and ripe. But the wow factor came in through the new release, with the deep, dark and high toned spice of the 2010. ���It���s almost translucent,��� said Nancy Milby, Executive Director of Laguna Culinary Arts. ���You can just about taste all the notes from each varietal.��� ���I ind the wines of Tablas Creek to be exceptional,��� commented Ben Hiza, Senior Manager of Los Angeles restaurant Bottega Louie. ���The pedigree of product, the commitment to excellence in the vineyard and in the winery lead to fantastic expressions of their grapes and their terroir. From year to year, each wine was unique in its expression, amazing in their spirit and clearly all from the same family. They each have a perfect context.���

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