Basque-ing in a Tablas Creek tasting

The Basque country is in northwestern Spain on the border with France and includes the Navarre region. The French resort Biarritiz is right over the county line [ed. tBoW’s first link to wikitravel]. Notable Basque towns include Bilbao and San Sebastian although Hondarribia (near San Sebastian) is certainly one of the most charming. This is the road less traveled when it comes to Spanish tourism. Good for you!! Area highlights include Bilbao’s Gehry-designed museum, knocked off repeatedly, even by himself, (see LA’s Disney Hall) and the surfing town of [ed. to prove the point side by side pics can be examined at bottom] and Mundaka…

(arguably Europe’s most Mundaka chapel 2a.jpgrenowned surf spot tucked into a river entry cove on the road to Bilbao.
Basques are proud people and do not consider themselves to be Spanish…or French. More like Greek with their cyrillic script, abundant use of the letter “x”, affection for desolate churches and balalaika-like string instruments. Many battles with the French and Spanish have been fought to preserve the national identify.
Count on lots of seafood and regional wines which are brisk and lean whites. tBoW did review a Basque Rose a few weeks ago. Something about being so lean you could easily whistle while sipping.
These wines are not California or French chardonnays nor are they in the same basket as German and Austrian Rieslings. Maybe the Gruner Veltliners. More along the lines of white Rhone style wines, however, they are unto themselves and not having any appeal to or interest from the “Parklander Beast” these wines remain true unto themselves displaying unflinching regional pride. Oh bully!!
Segrelalbarino05.jpg2005 Segrel Pablo Padin Albariño $15: Purchased at K&L. Sour say the Missus. I would agree but sour as in a green apple mashed up with a lighter lime. Clean and still a bit lush. All of 12%.
turonio2007.jpg2006 Quinta de Couselo “Turonia” Albari√±o $17: The other K&L purchase. Crisp, bitter in a brash and not caustic fashion. Clean, not as rich as the Padin but also more bracing. Liked this wine and would buy it again. 12.5%
Had dinner with friends who are Tablas Creek wine club members so there was plenty to choose from. Here is what we came up with.
cotes05_label.jpg2005 Cote de Tablas ~$16: The entry level blend in 2005 was 43% Grenache, 24% Mourvedre, 18% Syrah and 15% Counoise. Now I do not know about you but that blend sounds just about perfect on paper. Nose is gently red and toasty. Flavors are creamy, Syrah seems to stand out. Consistently a great value and delicious wine. Have had it in past three vintages and it was excellent each year. 14.8%
2004 Cote de Tablas $14: 64% Grenache, 16% Syrah, 13% Counoise, 7% Mourvedre. Doncha wonder how they decide the distriibution of grapes? Wouldn’t you assume it is a function of the winemaker’s palate? I will tell you right now that is a fair assuption that is most likely DEAD WRONG. The wine, nevertheless, is wonderful. Still have a few more waiting to taste the business side of the Laguille opener. Grenache dominant and has the powdery sublime fruit that is soft and seductive like a lithe and sinewy even a touch zaftig ballerina…like Brigitte Bardot!! [ed. that’s right…a classicallly trained ballerina hope you’d like to know]. Never seen a zaftig ballerina you say?
esprit03_label.jpg2003 Esprit de Beaucastel$36 on release: 50% Mourvedre, 27% Syrah, 16% Grenache, 7% Counoise. Rich, deeper than the Cote de Tablas. Softly smoky. Very nicely developed at 5 years. I am very pleased as this is the first Esprit de Beaucastel to be opened from the wine club shipments. With the higher alcohol I do not taste the heat. These are both very good, well made wines. The vines are in ten years and the fruit is showing wonderful if still youthful maturity. It is just terrific that they have all their homeland fruit to choose from transplanted in the Paso vineyard. 14.8%
Having been a TC Vinsider member (the wine club) for a few years AND understanding that TC wants their reds to take some age, my TC tasting experience has been limited to the white wines. All more or less very good and some outstanding (Bergeron, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc, and one 2003 Esprit de Beaucastel in a split which is their serious white Rhone blend that should also take a few years). The only red I have really tasted is the Cote de Tablas however it was was good enough to join the wine club. Now having tasted the 2003 Esprit red my positive instinct is confirmed.
CDBcoudoulet.JPG2004 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Red Cotes du Rhone $18: So this is the “baby Beaucastel” from the Tablas Creek granddaddy; i.e., it is the entry level bottle from the mothership, Chateau de Beaucastel. I did not know Beaucastel even made this wine. My remembrances are with the Chateauneuf du Pape. Even though they are both similarly allocated estate grapes in similar blends the “baby” Coudoulet is getting juice from younger vines. I was never very fond of the flagship Chateauneuf du Pape Cdbeaucastel.JPGbut I like this “baby” just fine. Has liquer-like intensity and focus. Also plenty of coffee so I am thinking Tia Maria. It is kind of simple but lovely. As a parallel to the Cotes du Tablas this is more lean with higher tone fruit. Given the two to choose I take both side by side. If choosing between the Esprit and the Chateuaneuf du Pape I take the Esprit every time. A Costco buy. Winna Winna Chicken Dinna. 14%.
crozes 2003.jpg2003 Crozes Hermitage Cuvee Sassenas $19: Picked this wine up at the new Wine Cask in our neighborhood. The high end operation that created the Santa Barbara Futures program has finally come south. So what if it’s housed in a former art glass retail shop. The glass pieces are spectacular. Not my style but someone who likes wine will surely buy a big glass piece. In the meantime, this wine bodes well for customers of the new store. Domaine Maxime Chomel has the steep hillside Syrah vineyards that make up this bottle. The wine has cherries and cranberries. Tannins evident but soft. Have to call this good value at 5 years old. 13.5%
TIME OUT. tBoW wonders why he does not taste the same stuff he reads in other reviews. For example, here is a nice brief review on the same wine.
“The 2003 Crozes-Hermitage could easily be a luxury cuvee. Dense purple to the rim, with hints of incense, licorice, creosote, tapenade, blackberries, and cassis, it is tannic, medium to full-bodied, ripe, rich, and heady. We stole this wine from the distributor!! Drink it over the following 12-15.”
Agree the wine is a steal. I missed the licorice altogether. In fact I would say it was not there. Licorice is easy to smell and taste. Tapenade? Creosote? I had to look these up. Olives (Provencal dish) and coal tar (from beech wood). I love olives. I was in the Languedoc and am confident I ate tapenade. No olives in the wine I tasted. I also know coal tar from when I had some “hair issues” and used the stuff as treatment (Successfully thank you). I know that aroma. More to come as tBoW blows the whistle on the aroma wheel of bullshit.
Care to examine two innovative designs by Frank Gehry? [ed. NO? Take a look at this Rolex? Real gold.] Enter here…and consider…what does it mean when the world’s most famous architect knocks off his own work…
first examine the Disney Hall in LA…completed 2004…
now consider the museum in Bilbao…completed in 1998…
In certain professions basing one’s own work on the ideas of others is not only the highest form of flattery it is the preferred protocol. For example, in medical research or many academic disciplines, new research is always predicated on old models and studies. Is it any different in architecture? What does it mean when an architect replicates his own innovative style in new settings? And isn’t it worth wondering if Gehry was inspired by Gaudi, the great Spanish architect, in creating his Iberian building?
Send in your own thoughts. Especially architects that love wine.

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