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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

Tablas Creek Whites - October 27, 2010

We tasted this week Mostly Tablas Creek Whites:

  1. PieroMancini DOC: Vermentino di Gallura (12.5%; www.OMWines.com) 2009: Light gold color; rather strong minerally/chalky bright/floral/spicy/fragrant very attractive nose; very tart quite stoney/ minerally bit earthy bright floralspicy/fragrant flavor; long minerally/stoney/chalky slight tangy/metallic/ grapefruity some floral/fragrant finish; a terrific rendition of Vermentino at a great price. $16.00
  2. TablasCreekVnyd Vermentino EG/PasoRobles (13.5%) 2009: Light gold color; strong pear/peach blossom/floral/perfumed talc light stoney/minerally quite aromatic nose; bit softer but good acidity bright/
    spicy/floral/peach blossom/perfumed talc light minerally/stoney flavor; very long bright/floral/peach
    blossom/spicy light stoney/minerally finish; distinctly Calif in fragrance but some of that underlying
    stoney/mineral Vermentino character; lovely wine at a good price. $22.50
  3. AntoineArnea Haut de Carco AC: Patrimonio (13.5%; www.KermitLynch.com; 100% Vermentino) 2009: Med.gold color; rather ripe/floral/pineapply slight earthy somewhat ripe/coarse nose; soft/fat quite ripe/pineapply/grapey/slight floral rather coarse/earthy very slight floral flavor; med.long coarse/earthy fat/soft/porky light floral/pineapply/ripe slight metallic finish; rather coarse/earthy and lacking the perfumed fragrance of the other Vermintinos; way overpriced at $39.50
  4. TablasCreekVnyd Bergeron 100% Roussanne/Savoie style EG/PasoRobles (13.0%) 2009: Light gold color; some earthy/dusty/minerally lovely floral/honeysuckle/Roussane/restrained very pretty nose; tart lean/mineral/earthy lovely vanilla/vanilla pudding/floral/Roussanne bright/zippy flavor; long slightly rich/lush vanilla/floral/light honeysuckle/bright/Roussanne finish; a lovely/bright zippy rendition of Roussanne. $22.50
  5. TablasCreekVnyd Roussanne EG/PasoRobles (14.2%) 2008: Med.gold color; some toasty/ butterscotchy/oak slight nutty/toasted hazelnuts strong floral/ripe/honeysuckle/Roussanne/spicy/apple pie lush/ripe nose; softer some toasty/oak/butterscotchy ripe/lush/floral/honeusuckle/spicy slight earthy/nutty attractive flavor; very long lush/floral/honeyed/honeysuckle some toasty/oak/butterscotchy slight earthy/nutty finish; rich/ lush but good acidity and should age well. Great price at $22.50
  6. TablasCreekVnyd Cotes de Tablas Blanc EG/PasoRobles (45% Viog/28% Roussanne/ 20% Marsanne/7% GrenacheBlanc; 13.5%; www.TablasCreek.com) 2009: Med.gold color; very aromatic/floral/each/pear/Viog bit herbal very spicy/perfumed nose; bit softer bright/floral/peach/ pear/Viog/spicy quite perfumed flavor; long spicy/floral/peachy/Viog/bright very pretty/perfumed finish; a more restrained/ elegant rendition of Calif Viog but not at all over-the-top or DollyPaarton in style; not much minerality but a very pretty Viog at a great price. $18.75
  7. Domaine Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet AC: Languedoc (MeBaD; 13.5%;  www.felines-jourdan.com) 2009: Med.light gold color; rather stoney/minerally light pineapply/spicy/apple pie almost R-like nose; fairly rich/soft/lush grilled pineapple/floral/ripe slight R-like vanilla flavor; long ripe/lush floral/pineapple slight mineral/earthy almost R-like finish; lots of ripeness and not much lean/mineral typical of Picpoul; almost ripe R-like in character; a pretty white at a great price. $13.00
  8. TablasCreekVnyd Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc EG/PasoRobles (65% Roussanne/
    30% GrenacheBlanc/5% PicpoulBlanc; 13.5%) 2008
    : Med.dark gold color; some earthy/Rhonish some floral/ minerally/honeysuckle/spicy bit complex/nutty nose; tart rich some earthy/nutty/Rhonish rather floral/honeysuckle/fruit cocktail slight toasty/oak some complex flavor; very long slight nutty/Rhonish/earthy strong floral/honeysuckle/Roussanne/spicy/fruit cocktail some complex finish; starting to develop that nutty/Rhonish character; will probably go out another 10 yrs; a bit more ripe & outgoing than the '09. $30.00
  9. TablasCreekVnyd Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc EG/PasoRobles (62% Roussanne/12% PicpoulBlanc/
    26% GrenacheBlanc; 13.5%) 2009
    : Med.dark gold color; more floral/honeyed/honeysuckle/Rouss slight valve oil/minerally some complex nose; tarter/leaner slight earthy/mineral/chalky strong floral/ honeysuckle some appley almost Marsanne-like flavor; med.long slight earthy/minerally strong floral/ honeyed/honeysuckle light toasty/oak slight valve oil/petrol finish; seems more restrained & tighter than the '08 but probably needs some time; probably will go out another 10 yrs as well; lovely Rhone Blanc. $30.00
  10. Copain Syrah Tous Ensemble MendocinoCnty (14.2%) 2007: Dark color; some smokey/toasty/oak rather Rhonish/roasted some earthy/tomatoey/MendoCnty spicy/blackberry/Syrah very interesting nose; soft rather toasty/charred/oak tomatoey/earthy/blackberry/Syrah bit tannic/hard flavor; med.long blackberry/Syrah rathertoasty/charred/oak some tomatoey/MendoCnty finish w/ slight tannic bite; some Rhonish character but fair amount of oak; bit like a rustic Cornas; better than previous editions of thiis wine; well priced at $16.00
  11. BonnyDoonVnyd RosaGallica Ruche Passito (14.0%; RS: 7.8%) B by Luca Ferraris/
    CastagnoleMonferrato) NV
    : Med.color w/ slight browning; very ripe/overripe very port-like.maderized slight rose petal bit earthy nose; rather sweet some chocolaty/strawberry/floral/dried rose petal rather hot/alcoholic Ruby-port like/maderized flavor; med.long rather hot/alcoholic some chocolaty/strawberry/
    rose petal quite sweet bit maderized finish; reminds me a bit of some Priorat Rancios more than anything; interesting but not much more than that. $22.00/375ml
  12. JohnEvan LateHrvst Syrah ScreechingOwlVnyd (SaH: 38 Brix; RS: 8%; 16%) JohnMarion/ Livermore 2007: Very dark color; very intense herbal/weedy/vegetal/green pepper/licorice/chocolaty rather alcoholic/hot pretty overripe nose; quite sweet rather hot/alcoholic/Port-like rather herbal/weedy/chocolaty overripe/late harvesty rather bizarre flavor; med.long hot/alcoholic/overripe/late harvesty rather herbal/weedy/chocolaty quite sweet finish; bit too overripe & late harvesty for my tastes; interesting if a bit bizarre.

And the usual pompous stuff from TheBloodyPulpit:

1. Vermentino di Gallura: This area is on the windswept northern end of Sardinia. Rather rugged country from the pics I've seen. I've generrally liked the Vermentinos from here. Vermentino usually has a strong mineral/chalky streak and a pretty/low-key floral fragrance. This Mancini, imported by Oliver McCrum, is probably the best one I've yet had from there. Vermentino, sorta like Lemberger, is not a catchy name from the marketing standpoint. The variety is known in the Rhone as Rolle, hence the TablasCreek interest, but the Feds do not recognize (yet) Rolle
as a varietal name. So TCV must use the Italian name. Their rendition of Vermentino is one of the
best I've had. It shows the richness & lushness you'd expect from a Calif-grown wine, but still shows underneath that chalky/mineral character that you don't often find in Calif whites.
2. TablasCreek: This is a wnry I've followed from the very start (doh!!!), back when they were making wine under a different label from purchased grapes. I was very excited when I found out the Perrins and RobertHaas had purchased land in Paso. They were sure to set the Calif Rhone movement on fire w/their entry. It didn't happen. They imported many of the varieties from Beaucastel used in CdP, it took them a few yrs to get thru USDA quarantine at Geneva. Many of the varieties were already in Calif, but most were of unknown provenance, many were suitcase clones. Once the vines cleared quarantine,

TCV seemed to focus on the nursery operation and was slow to get the wnry side of things off the
ground. They made their first wines under another name (which I forget) using purchased grapes. I was pretty underwhelmed by them. When they finally came out w/ the TCV label, I was excited...finally world class CdP from Calif. I tasted my first one w/ BobSenn at LOW&SE. Disappointed again. It was rather restrained, not a lot going on, and not the bold/lush/ripe character I had learned to expect from Paso Rhones. Bob gave me that all-knowing look and suggested I not throw TCV under the bus based on that first wine. He was, as usual, right. About 3 yrs later at dinner in Casmalia/HP w/ Bob; he pulled out that first TCV red. I sorta rolled (or is it vermentinoed??) my eyes and thought "Is this the best you can do, Bob, for such a special guest??" Surprise/surprise....they wine had developed a really lovely perfume and fragrance, elegant & balanced, a lovely wine that was a bit overwhelmed by my HitchingPost steak. Once again...BobSenn was right.

So I started following the TCV wines a little more closely. Almost invariably, they were not big/
bold/dramatic statements out of the gate. But they showed a balance/restraint/elegance that I typically find in the Qupe wines; an acidity that ensures they age w/ grace & style. That the wines are liked by certain Monktown attourneys is a puzzle to me.

Finally, after JasonHaas was in town a month ago and did a winemaker dinner for the SFW&CF and I was, once again, mightly impressed by the wines (the TCV Quintessence/Roussanne is probably the greatest Calif passito I've had); I broke down and signed up for their wine club. As if I needed another wine club to belong to...like a hole in my head. After this tasting, my group put in an order for 2.5 cs of these wines. Will do the Rouges in two weeks.

Anyway, TCV is making some of the best Calif Rhones around. They haven't made the big splash in the Calif Rhone movement I was expecting them to many yrs ago; but their influence is not to be denied when you note the amount of TablasCreek clones planted in vnyds throughout the State. Sometimes it's not the biggest/brashest/highest-scoring wnry that deserves the attention.

In the FWIW category, the TCV WebSite (www.TablasCreek.com) is one of the best wine WebSites around. Furthermore, JasonHaas does a blog periodically that is very well-written and packed with info. I usually check it out at least once a month. And they recently planted their first vines of Clairette and Terret Noir, two pretty minor varieties in the Rhone. Who knows...they might not be so minor in Calif!! I noticed that the '08 EdBB was packaged in one of the massive/ oversize/overweight btls that producers reserve for their high-end/pricey wines. But the '09 EdBB was packaged in the standard/lighter btl. Presumably to reduce their carbon footprint. Yeah for that change I say.
3. Roussanne: Bergeron is the local name in the Savoie for Roussanne. This region, tucked up in the eastern France foothills of the Alps, is the birthplace, for some reason, of many of the world's great vinifera varieties, including Syrah (Deurza and MondeuseBlanche cross). TCV makes this Roussanne they call Bergeron in a different style from their regular Roussanne...from the coldest Roussanne block, harvested early, fermented in old oak. Don't know if TCV is experimenting w/ concrete fermentors (some of which are made right there in Paso), but I would be very interested in seeing what that would bring to their Bergeron. I've had maybe 12-16 Bergerons over the yrs (try almost every Savoie & Jura wine I come across). I can see the resemblance to Savoie Bergeron stylistically, but it's a distinctly Calif rendition of Bergeron. Sometimes  attempting this style of white wine in Calif can lead to a lean/eviscerated/pinched/green kind of wine. This Bergeron was definitely not that. Just a lovely (I'd say food-friendly...but I detest that term) white wine.


[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]


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