James and Christine invited us to Artisan Wine Depot for their second annual Rhône vs. Tablas Creek competition. We accepted eagerly. The justifiable famous Perrin et Fils represented the Rhône. The tasting was done in five pairs, one from each winery. The sixth round featured a vertical of the 2011 and 2012 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape with Tablas Creek having only their 2012 “Esprit de Tablas.” Despite being outnumbered seven to six, we thought Tablas Creek won four of the six rounds. There were three white wines from each, with four reds from Perrin & Fils and three from Tablas Creek. We have decided to name this the Battle of the Rhônes 2015 at Artisan.
Before we get into the review, we have to add a note about the name Perrin & Fils. The winery has apparently rebranded itself as Famille Perrin. The tasting sheet uses the original name. But we’ll substitute the new name here.
The whites opened with Famille Perrin 2014 Côtes du Rhône Blanc Reserve ($10). This wine has a very light citrus and floral nose and flavors, similar to a very good chenin blanc. And when was the last time you saw a good French blanc at this price?
Tablas Creek countered with their 2014 “Patelin de Tablas” Blanc ($20). Opening with aromas of Meyer lemon with a little orange zest, the mid-palate features pear and pineapple. This wine is a bargain. Tablas Creek wins round 1.
Famille Perrin offered their 2011 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc “Les Sinards” ($36). The grapes are from a 2.5 acre vineyard inside the clos around the pope’s historic palace. The wine is light and fruity with a surprising hint of fig on the finish. We would add the word “gritty” to the description. Give this wine at least five years in the bottle and you’ll be pleased with the result.
The Tablas Creek 2014 “Côtes de Tablas Blanc” ($27) also exhibited youthfully exuberant tannins. The wine features minerality with lemon, citrus and floral notes. Give it two years in the bottle. Tablas Creek wins round 2.
We had been looking forward to the Chateauneuf du Pape reds. But we were pleasantly surprised to discover a white. The Chateau de Beaucastel 2013 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc ($90) shows aromas and flavors of pineapple and grapefruit with a slight buttery finish. Is it worth $90? You’ll need to ask someone with a palate more sophisticated than ours.
Tablas Creek countered with their 2012 “Esprit de Tablas Blanc ($40). This wine opens with sharp aromas of tangerine and apples with a hint of spice. On the palate pineapple and creamy chestnuts combine to create an unusual and very nice experience. And it’s less than half the price of the Beaucastel. Tablas Creek wins.
Much to our surprise, Tablas Creek swept the whites. At this point, it would be difficult for Perrin & Fils to mount a comeback. In fact, Tablas Creek had already guaranteed at least a tie.
The Famille Perrin 2012 Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge ($13) is very French with tannins and oak. Black cherries, cocoa and coffee aromas promise excellent results a few years from now. Jancis Robinson describes this wine as, “Rather lurid crimson with shocking pink rim. Warm, ripe, alluring nose. Zesty palate attack. Quite lifted and racy. Menthol and balsamic notes. Quite dry on the end but the amount of fruit on the mid palate is sufficiently convincing.” (We could not resist including that review.)
Tablas Creek offered their 2013 “Patelin de Tablas” red Rhône-style blend ($18). This wine lets syrah take the spotlight. The 2013 vintage is 45% syrah, 29% grenache, 22% mourvedre and 4% counoise. The wine opens with aromas of smoke, leather and black licorice that continue on the palate and extend into the finish. Perrin & Fils wins.
Now things are getting serious. Famille Perrin offered their 2012 Gigondas “La Gille” ($32). The wine opens with aromas of cherries and strawberries. We found it a little rough on the palate, probably due to tannins and oak. Buy six bottles and open one a year starting in 2022.
Tablas Creek returned serve with their 2013 “Côtes de Tablas” red Rhône blend ($36). This wine is also a little rough, but with superior aromas and flavors featuring lavender, rose petals and spice. Tablas Creek wins by the virtue of being more drinkable today. We’re not very good at predicting how wines will age, but in the long run the Gigondas may prove to be the better of the two.
And what a round it was, with a two-year vertical of Chateauneuf du Pape. First was the Chateau de Beaucastel 2011 Chateauneuf du Pape ($75). Dark cherry and cocoa aromas are followed by a palate that can only be described as ” juicy.”
The Chateau de Beaucastel 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape ($90) could not have been more different. We were surprised to be greeted by the “desert” aromas we associate with the Santa Rita Hills. This is more austere than the 2011. It should develop nicely over the next decade or so.
The Tablas Creek entry was their 2012 “Esprit de Tablas” red blend ($50, also available in magnums and ½ bottles). The aroma is a bit flat with an acid palate. We suspect a few years in the bottle will improve this wine considerably. But for drinking today, the 2011 Beaucastel is the winner.
We judged these wines on their drinkability today. If we had been willing to forecast how the wines would develop over the next decade or so, the result would probably have been a tie.
The previous tasting featuring these two wineries was May, 2014. We declared Perrin & Fils the winner then. This time it’s Tablas Creek. We’re looking forward to next year’s friendly competition.