2020: The Year Climate Change Got Real for American Wine

As I write this, I'm staring out at a dim, yellow landscape, the indistinct sunlight filtered through a thick layer of atmospheric smoke. I have a sweatshirt on because the day has never really warmed up here in town. We had a couple of days this past week, prime ripening season in Paso Robles, where it barely made it out of the sixties. A photo, no filter applied:

Harvest Apocalypse

We're not really complaining; as apocalyptic as it looks, the air has been cool and fresh at the surface, and we got a chance to catch up on harvesting after what was a scorching hot previous weekend. And plenty is ready. Pretty much all our Syrah. The Vermentino and Marsanne. Our first lots of Grenache Blanc. The smoke has reduced actual temperatures from model forecasts by some 20 degrees, and if we'd had the mid-90s weather that was forecast for this week, it's possible that new blocks would have ripened before we could get through the backlog that the last heat wave produced.

This smoke layer, driven by the fact that six of California ten largest fires ever are currently burning, is only the most recent of a series of unprecedented things we've seen in the 2020 growing season. A week ago, we had a heat wave that crested with back-to-back-to-back days that topped out at 109, 113, and 111. The Paso Robles Airport broke its all-time high with a 117 reading. And San Luis Obispo hit 120°F, which appears to be the highest temperature ever recorded in a coastal zone anywhere in North or South America.

Last month, we saw a trio of fires in the Central Coast produce so much smoke at the surface that we closed our tasting patio for four days because the air quality was so bad. On August 20th, San Luis Obispo had the worst air quality in the world. Those fires were sparked by a surge of tropical moisture, the remnants of Tropical Storm Fausto, that moved up the California coast and produced thousands of lighting strikes on August 14th and 15th. The fires lit by those lightning strikes were fueled by another heat wave that pushed temperatures over 105°F each day between August 15th and 18th.

Paso Robles is hot in the summer. Summer days over 100°F have never been rare here. But the increased number and distribution of these days, the fact that records are falling more often, the earlier and earlier beginnings to harvest (and the shorter durations between veraison and harvest), and finally the new, tropical-influenced rainfall patterns, are new. A few data points that I look at:

  • Over our first 15 vintages, 1997-2011, we started our estate harvest in August 40% of the years. Since 2012, we have done so 78% of vintages. Similarly, in those first 15 years, there were six times we harvested into November, and another four that finished October 28th or later. Over the last 8 years, we haven't once harvested in November.
  • It's not just harvest. This year's gap between veraison and harvest was just 35 days, breaking our record of 36, set in both 2016 and 2019. Before that, the record was 39, in 2015). 2013 was the first year that we saw 40 or fewer days between veraison and harvest. So, in less than a decade, we've seen this critical ripening period shrink by 15%. Crucial growing periods are getting hotter. 
  • Our total growing season degree days, a rough measurement of the number of hours in which it's warm enough for grapevines to photosynthesize efficiently, shows that since 2000, our five warmest years have all come since 2012.

All those data points are indicative, but none of them are likely to on their own pose much of a threat to winemaking here in Paso Robles. But they feed into two phenomena that do: droughts and fires. I'll address droughts first. I wrote a 3-part blog series back in 2014 about our move toward dry farming as a part of being ready for what seems likely to be a drier future. In the research for that, I looked at EPA projections for rainfall showed that, depending on our success in reducing emissions, coastal California would see between 20% and 35% less precipitation annually by the end of the 21st Century:

Southwest-precip-change

That research has since been reinforced by studies of warming in the Pacific Ocean, which will have a complex series of consequences, including increased rainfall in places like northern Australia, the Amazon, and Southeast Asia, but less rainfall (and a later onset of the rainy season) in coastal California. This suggests that droughts, particularly the multi-year droughts like the one we saw between 2012 and 2016, will become more common.

Next, fires. It's not like California is a stranger to fires, but severe ones are definitely happening more often. I moved out here in 2002. The first time after that there was any smoke here was July 2008, when I wrote in a blog that two big fires to our north had burned some 73,000 acres in three weeks. (Note that that figure seems almost quaint now, with the horrific Creek Fire east of Fresno burning 160,000 acres in the first four days.) The second fire I noted in the blog was in 2016. Except for 2019, we've seen scary fires in California's wine country each year since then, and 2020 has already seen the most acres burned on record:

The fires are driven by a number of factors, including higher temperatures, lower humidities, poor utility maintenance, human encroachment into wildland areas, and accumulated fuel in the forests after a century of fire suppression. All of these encourage fires to be bigger, faster-growing, and more destructive than before. But what has set the worst ones off in recent years has been climate-related: either through dry winds spurring (and spreading) fires through downed power lines in periods before it has rained in California, or by tropical moisture that has sparked summer lightning.

The fires that impacted Northern California in 2017 and 2018 were produced by late-season (October and November) windstorms that spurred fires from an aging electrical grid. This is largely a governmental and regulatory failure. But while these windstorms aren't new, and don't particularly appear to be a function of climate change, thanks to climate change the time of year when these storms are common is more likely to still be summer-dry. That is why the climate change-driven later onset to the rainy season is a significant contributor to the number and severity of fires.

2020's fires in California have been different. The storms this summer that produced the first series of wildfires were driven by tropical moisture that was pulled into California. A warming climate produces more and larger tropical storms and hurricanes. 2020 has already seen so many tropical storms that I've begun to read articles about how NOAA might run out of names. The direct impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes on California are rare: minor compared to their impacts in the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. But the more of these storms that form, the greater the chance that tropical moisture can end up in unexpected places. These occasionally produce enough moisture to provide some short-term fire risk reduction (such as the July 2015 storm that dropped more than two inches of rain on us) but more often produce extensive lightning with only limited moisture. These sorts of storms introduce extreme fire risk. 

The combination of warmer days, dryer (and later-beginning) winters, and more frequent incursions of summer tropical moisture has combined to produce drastically more days with very high fire risk.

So, what to do? That's the hard part. Most of the response has to come at the governmental level. Investments need to be made to modernize utilities. Forest management practices could be improved to reduce the amount of fuel that builds up. Cities, counties, and states should adopt growth plans that reduce the human/wildland interface as much as possible, both to reduce the opportunities for fires to start and to minimize the loss of life and property when they do. But ultimately, if climate change itself goes unaddressed, all these initiatives (none of which are easy or likely to come without resistance) are likely to be overwhelmed by the growth in the number of extreme fire days and fast spread of fires that do start.

Here's where regenerative agriculture comes in. One of its tenets is that agriculture has an important and necessary role in the reduction of greenhouse gases (and especially Carbon Dioxide) in the atmosphere. And plants, after all, are the best engines we have in doing so, since photosynthesis uses CO2 as one of its inputs, turning that carbon into carbohydrates. But modern farming produces more emissions than the plants it grows consume. Some of that is the fertilizer, derived mostly from petrochemicals. Some of that is the fuel for the tractors and other machinery. And some of it is the processing of the agricultural products.

Regenerative agriculture leads the way toward building carbon content in the soil, through a combination of permaculture, cover crops, reduction in tillage, and the replacement of chemical inputs with natural ones like compost or manure. Soils with more carbon content also hold more moisture, which will help California wineries weather the droughts too. We showed in the application process for our new Regenerative Organic Certification that it was possible to increase our soil's carbon content while growing grapes even in a dry climate like Paso Robles.

Regenerative farming is not just for wineries. It's what all farms, from row crops to orchards to fibers to livestock, should be moving toward. But vineyards offer some of the lowest-hanging opportunities for better farming, because wine is a value-added product with the resources to invest, and the investments tend also to make higher-quality grapes and longer-lived vines, providing return on the investments.

I can't imagine how California, Oregon, or Washington wineries can live through the 2020 vintage without worrying about how climate change might impact their future. A small silver lining could be encouraging more of that community to move toward regenerative farming. Consumers have a role to play here too. Before this year, there wasn't an available standard for moving to, measuring, and being audited for being regenerative. Now, with the launch of Regenerative Organic Certification, there is. If your favorite wineries are not farming regeneratively, you should be asking them why not. It's one of the tools we as farmers have to take some control over what is likely to be an increasingly volatile and dangerous future that might look like last week a lot more often than any of us would want. 

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Grapes of the Rhone Valley: Cinsaut (aka Cinsault)

Last year, we harvested three grapes for the first time ever. The one white among them (Bourboulenc) has already been bottled and released to our wine club members. The two reds (Cinsaut and Vaccarese) are sitting quietly in the cellar after our decision this spring to bottle this first vintage on its own. But as we get ready to pick the 2020 Cinsaut, I thought it was time to take a deep dive into what we know about it. 

CINSAUTEarly History
The precise origin of Cinsaut (often spelled Cinsault) is unknown, but it likely evolved in the south of France. It is distantly related to Picpoul, and has been planted widely enough to be known by different names in Spain (Sinsó), Italy (Grecaù and Ottavianello), South Africa (Hermitage), Australia (Black Prince), and California (Black Malvoisie). As Cinsaut, it also plays significant roles in Lebanon, Morocco, and Turkey.1

Cinsaut is pronounced sæ-soʊ. The first syllable is like the "San" in San Francisco if you just stop just before the lingual "n". The second syllable is very close to the English "so". The syllables are emphasized equally.

The roughly 51,000 acres of Cinsaut in France make it the ninth-most-planted grape there, but that is just a fraction of the more than 120,000 acres there at its peak in the 1970s. Now, while much of the production is still used in red blends, an increasingly large share of this acreage goes into the region's many rosés.

Cinsaut is the fourth-most planted red grape in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation (a distant fourth, after Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre) at 205 acres, 2.6% of total acreage.2

There is a long history of Cinsaut in California, though it has never been particularly widely planted here. As early as 1867, it was listed as "deserving of planting" in Thomas Hyatt's viticulture handbook.3 In 1990, there were 90 acres in California (it was called "Black Malvoisie" in the Grape Acreage Report), all but 3 planted 1980 or earlier and all but 10 in the Central Valley. By 2019, there were 99 acres in California, split roughly equally between the Central Valley, Central Coast, North Coast, and Sierra Foothills regions.

Cinsaut at Tablas Creek
Although French grapegrowers have generally preferred Cinsaut over Counoise (to which it is often compared, because they play similar roles in Rhone blends) because it ripens earlier, the Perrins have long preferred the extra depth and brighter acids that Counoise contributes. Given our confidence that we could wait as long as we needed to ripen Counoise in Paso Robles, we chose to focus on Counoise in our original imports, back in 1989. But we always planned on eventually working with Cinsaut as well.

We included Cinsaut in our second wave of imports in 2003. It spent 9 years in quarantine at UC Davis before being released in 2012, along with Bourboulenc and Vaccarese. It took four years of propagation before we were able to plant our first quarter-acre block in 2017. The 2019 harvest was our first.

We added a second roughly half-acre head-trained block in 2019. The 0.82 acres we have accounts for 1% of California's 82 acres as of 2018.

Cinsaut in the Vineyard and Cellar
In the vineyard, Cinsaut is vigorous and productive, with large clusters of large, dark-skinned berries. It thrives in drought conditions, and ripens roughly one-third of the way through the harvest cycle. In 2019 (our first vintage) we harvested on September 26th, at 22 Brix and a pH of 3.64, both near the median for our red grapes last year.

We only have limited experience with Cinsaut in the cellar, but it is known to be prone to oxidation, so we are treating it like Counoise and fermenting it in closed stainless steel fermenters.

We made the decision to bottle our small 2019 production (two barrels, or roughly 50 cases) on its own. In the long run, we think it could be a useful contributor to many of our red blends, and a lovely addition to our rosés.

Cinsaut 1

Flavors and Aromas
Cinsaut produces wines with medium red color, spicy raspberry, violet, and black tea aromas, and flavors of tart cherry, redcurrant, and new leather. They tend to be relatively low in alcohol, with moderate to slightly above-average acidity and moderate to slightly below-average tannins. The wine's juicy acidity and low alcohol point to its appeal in blends, where it can help moderate the lower-acid, higher-alcohol, and more tannic Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.

We are very much looking forward to experimenting with Cinsaut as a rosé grape as well. Stay tuned!

Footnotes (all highly recommended for those interested in further reading)

  1. Jancis Robinson, Wine Grapes, HarperCollins 2012
  2. Harry Karis, The Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Book, Kavino, 2009, p 78
  3. Patrick Comiskey, American Rhone, UC Press, 2016, p 26

Harvest 2020 Begins Slowly, After a Record-Short Interval from Veraison

Last week, we brought in our first two lots of Viognier and our first lot of Syrah. It wasn't a furious start to harvest, but it was still a beginning. The cellar smells like honeysuckle and nectarines from the Viognier, there's the energy that always comes from the beginning of the harvest season, and the harvest chalkboard is no longer a literal clean slate:

Harvest Chalkboard August 2020

[Editor's note, congratulations to Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi and her husband Trevor on the arrival of their little girl Bohdi on our second day of harvest!!!]

We typically mark the beginning of harvest as the day the first fruit comes off the estate. So, in 2020 that meant the August 25th arrival of grapes from our oldest Viognier block. In my verasion post last month, I predicted a start time sometime between August 26th and September 5th. These dates are calculated by adding 36 to 48 days from our veraison date (the range we've seen over the last 15 years between first veraison and first harvest). 2020 produced an interval of just 35 days. If you've been following weather reports from California, you can probably guess why. After a moderate summer that had produced just three 100 degree days as of late July, the last month has seen ten days top the century mark and another ten top 90. Nighttime temperatures were warm too. In late July we hadn't had a single day all summer not drop into at least the 50s. Between August 15th and August 24th, we had nine of the ten nights get down only into the 60s.

Happily, the heat wave broke just as harvest was approaching, and since August 22nd we've seen an average high of 90 (with nothing higher than 95) and an average low of 55. The wildfire smoke we saw between August 19th and 22nd has cleared. And the picks we've done so far have been in ideal conditions. I love the photos that Viticulturist Jordan Lonborg took during that night pick, beginning 3am on August 25th. Here are two; you can see the rest on our Instagram feed:

Night Harvest 1 Night Harvest 2

Although we've started harvesting, it's important to remember that most of the vineyard is still some time off. The family of Rhone grapes is diverse enough that we typically figure a two-month stretch for harvest. In fact, there are some grapes that are still only in the middle of veraison (like this Counoise, below) as others are being picked:

Counoise pre-harvest 2020

Looking through our other red grapes shows the range of ripeness levels. Counoise is farthest out, likely six weeks or more, but others still have a ways to go. This Mourvedre is mostly red, but still likely won't be picked for more than a month:

Mourvedre pre-harvest 2020

Grenache is still as much pink as red, with the range of colors and jewel tones characteristic of this, our most beautiful grape. It too is at least a month out.

Grenache pre-harvest 2020

There are grapes that are getting close, most notably Syrah, already dark and starting to soften, and showing its classic conical cluster shape:

Syrah pre-harvest 2020

The other grape that is getting fairly close is Cinsaut. We're only on our second harvest, but one of the reasons why it is more planted than Counoise in France (despite that Counoise is more intense, and they serve similar roles in most blends) is that it ripens a month earlier, before or with Grenache instead of after:

Cinsaut pre-harvest 2020

Finally, Terret Noir, which looks fairly dark at this point but is still quite acidic, and on which we will wait another month or so:

Terret pre-harvest 2020

On the white side, Viognier is obviously first in line. But there are others like Vermentino, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc (pictured below) that are getting close. Vermentino might come as soon as the end of this week, and the other two should arrive sometime in the first half of September.

Grenache Blanc pre-harvest 2020

The weather is supposed to warm up again as we get to the end of this week, but seems unlikely to reach the heights of two weeks ago. That's fine. We're ready. Meanwhile, we'll enjoy the new sights and smells of the cellar as fermentations get going. This lone upright tank (filled with our first Syrah, picked Friday) will soon have plenty of new company.

Syrah in wooden upright Aug 2020


Wineries -- and visitors -- should expect months of recurring periodic closures to tasting rooms

Yesterday, our tasting room was open all day for the first time since Thursday, August 13th. We're open again today, and conditions are lovely. Tomorrow looks pretty safe. After that, well, we'll have to see. At least the heat wave that forced us to close most of last week has moved on, but there are still big fires burning to our north, and whether we'll be able to open will depend on where that smoke goes. 

Welcome to 2020. Anyone waiting for things to go back to normal may be waiting quite a while. And I'm just not sure that wine lovers -- or wineries -- have fully realized that this uncertainty is likely to be the norm, rather than the exception, for tasting room operations over the next six months and more. For our part, I'm fully expecting that we'll have to be closed at least one day a week, on average, over the next six months. Why?

First, and most importantly, COVID, which has meant that wineries in California are restricted to outdoor service only. I agree that this is by far the safest way to open. In fact, even when we could have reopened indoors we restricted ourselves to outdoor service only, because the evidence is strong that the risk of COVID transmission is very low in distanced, outdoor settings, and higher in indoor spaces, even with distancing in place. Of course, being outside means you're at the mercy of the weather. But the virus itself is a source of uncertainty; we’ve already had a few instances locally of positive COVID cases at wineries, who have had to close for stretches to make sure their team and their spaces were safe.

It's not bad, most of the time, being outside in California. It's a big reason why people live here. And we got lucky that we had a moderate summer up until the last few weeks. But the climate that allows wine grapes to ripen is sunny and often hot. We do have some control; we installed extra shade, fans, and misters, and have found that with these measures we're able to lower the temperature roughly ten degrees. Plus, we're typically a little cooler than downtown or areas further east. And we do usually get a late afternoon breeze. But still, if it’s over 100, it’s not safe for our team or pleasant for guests. So, we close early and get people on their way before the heat of the day becomes blazing. We've had to do so eight days so far in August, including a six-day stretch between August 14th and 19th. Our average in Paso is a dozen 100+ days each summer. So expect at least a few more heat-related closures before fall.

The heat wave broke late last week. Unfortunately, we’ve got big fires throughout California, producing copious smoke. A few days ago we had the worst air quality in the world. At least with the heat, we could be open in the mornings. We typically took our last appointments at noon each day. That’s a little less than half our capacity, but it’s a lot better than nothing. But with air conditions unsafe, we couldn’t open at all August 20th, 21st, and 22nd. This dramatic satellite image shows the smoke blanketing much of California late last week:

The primary culprit for our smoke is the River Fire in Monterey County to our north, which has burned some 48,000 acres since it was started by a cluster of lightning strikes a week ago. But there are fires burning all over California right now, with other big ones in Sonoma, Napa, and Santa Cruz. And I think there’s every reason to expect these to be burning for months.

Typically, wildfires in California’s forests burn until they are put out by the onset of the rainy season in early winter. Our state’s remarkable firefighters are mostly tasked with protecting structures and making sure that the fires aren’t endangering communities. Once a big fire gets going, with the accumulated fuel from California’s winter growth and exceptionally low summer humidity, it’s just too much to ask to put a fire out. And that’s true even when there are only a few fires burning. With dozens of big ones spreading resources thin, there’s no chance.

These fires were mostly started by lightning strikes from a rare summer thunderstorm week-before-last. We seem to have dodged the potential for more dry lightning overnight. But we’ve still got months before winter rains will end our fire season. Remember all those terrible California wine country fires in 2017 and 2018? Those were in October and November. It's still August. We've got a very long way to go.

Until then? We’re expecting to make day-by-day calls, informed by the local air quality, as to whether we can open for tasters. Most other California wineries will be the same. So if you’re thinking of going wine tasting, plan to check conditions. We'll be posting updates on our website each morning. If it looks like this, we won't be open. We appreciate your flexibility and patience, and promise you wouldn't want to be tasting here anyway.

Smoky skies over Tannat

The kicker? Once fire and summer heat season are over, it will be because of rain. Gentle rain can be handled with umbrellas and heaters. A Pacific storm, with heavy rain and wind? Wineries will have to close for those too. So get used to thinking about a visit to go wine tasting as like a visit to the beach. Sure, make your plans. But also plan to check local conditions in the morning. Welcome to the new (2020) normal.


“I want to do that” – An Interview with Josie Schneider, Two-Time Tablas Creek Cellar Intern

By Ian Consoli

This upcoming harvest is sure to have a different feel to it, because 2020. And change isn’t always a bad thing. But we were excited to build a little continuity by welcoming 2018’s harvest intern Josie Schneider back to Tablas Creek in a more expanded role. Yes, she’s here for harvest, but she’ll also be helping to fill in for some of the void that will be left while Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi is out on maternity leave. (Congratulations, Chelsea!)

Few of us have a direct path into wine. Josie is no exception. But from the beginning, she was driven by the simple statement, “I want to do that.”

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Josie and hear her story of growing up in Chile on an abalone farm, her experience in beekeeping, and her journey into the cellars of Paso Robles. Read on to learn more about Josie. I’m sure you’ll enjoy getting to know her a little.

Who are you?

Josie: That’s actually a really deep question to start with. I’m Josie Schneider and I am the intern for the 2020 harvest at Tablas Creek. I worked here for the 2018 harvest, did a year at a different winery, and now I'm back. I'm super excited.

Josie on a barrel

Before we dive deeper into you returning, let's get to know you a little bit more. Where did you grow up?

J: I was born in Santiago, Chile. When I was young we moved to La Serena, a little town north of Santiago, where they started an abalone farm. So I grew up on an abalone farm, helping my dad. I lived there until I was 18 and then moved to California to go to Cuesta College, transferred to Cal Poly [San Luis Obispo], and I've been on the Central Coast for seven years.

How did you go from abalone farm to wine?

J: My dad has been abalone farming for about 30 years in Chile, but I never thought I would do anything with it. So I studied parks and recreation, sports management at Cal Poly. I didn’t know if I wanted to work in that field, but I knew I really liked sports and it was a broad education. While there I had a couple of friends that worked at wineries, and my girlfriend, Megan, was an enology major at Cal poly. What they were doing looked super cool, so I was like, I want to do this.

How did you end up working your first harvest at Tablas Creek?

J: My dad and [Winemaker] Neil [Collins] went to college and lived together in Cayucos, CA. I contacted Neil and told him I wanted to work with cider or wine or any fermentation. He happened to be looking for a harvest intern for Tablas Creek so I did an interview and got the job.

It’s not too common for us to bring an intern back for a second round. How did that come about?

J: The last two years I've gone to Northern Patagonia from December to March to help my dad with his beekeeping program that he started about five years ago. At the end of the honey harvest Neil contacted me and mentioned that [Senior Assistant Winemaker] Chelsea is having a baby and they have a lot of work to do at the winery, and he offered to hire me in June. I was super stoked on the opportunity to learn what happens in the cellar before harvest. I have gotten to do a lot of bottling and kind of prepping for fruit to come in.

Do you have any special rituals during harvest to make it through the long days and the hard work?

J: I do. I wake up pretty early in the morning and make myself a tea or coffee and a big breakfast. I lay in bed for a little bit eating breakfast, drinking tea, looking at the news on my phone. It kind of wakes me up. I get to do everything that I want before I have to rush to work and get the day started. You don't know how long your day is going to be. So I like to have that little time before work to hang out and do my thing.

What is the toughest harvest you have ever participated in?

J: I would say definitely my first harvest. This is only my third so my first harvest was here. Tough in a good way, really challenging. Working harvest here, you really have to use your brain, be fast, and just get things done. Definitely a challenge; overcoming being tired all the time, working long hours, it was like this world that I had never seen before. And it was really, really a great experience.

Here you are back for round three.

J: I love it. I'm addicted.

Josie on a Forklift

What’s your ultimate goal in cellar work? Where do you want it to take you?

J: Just getting comfortable with everything that happens. Not comfortable in a way that you become stagnant, but comfortable in the sense of being sure of what you're doing. Knowing how things work and getting to know the wines better. I want to get that full cycle of like, okay, we do this when this wine is doing this or it's at this stage and really learning how to work with the wine.

If a genie said you could be head winemaker anywhere you wanted in the world, where would you pick?

J: Can I start my own? I would start a winery in Santa Cruz, Chile, one of the bigger wine regions. I would have a really cool organic, maybe biodynamic, vineyard with bees and animals on the property. It's like 40 minutes away from probably the best surf spot in Chile, [redacted]. It’s an incredible coastline with every kind of wave you would want. So being 40 minutes away from the best wave in Chile, which is saying a lot because Chile he has good waves, being able to start a winery, and making wine would be insane. A total dream.

Are there any wineries in Chile that you consider a favorite?

J: It’s kind of hard to taste there. You have to get an appointment, it's expensive, and they're all really huge wineries. I haven't really been to any small wineries. Clos Apalta is a winery that Megan and I went and toured. We went down into the caves and did a little tasting. I'm hoping this year to go tour the area and get to know Author Wineries (Vines de Autor, a category of winery that's really small, family owned and pretty underground). You really need to find them and get to know the people around the area to get a tasting. That’s the goal for this year. So put a pin on that question. When I come back next year, maybe I’ll have some names.

Best bottle of wine you ever had?

J: That's really hard. Oh my gosh. I mean, Tablas Creek is pretty good! Best bottle I had recently was the Seven Springs Chardonnay from Evening Land up in, I think it's an Oregon. Weston from Bristols [Cider] shared that bottle of wine with us. And I was loving it. It was exactly like what I want from a Chardonnay. Nice and bright and delicious.

What’s next for you?

J: Short term, my dad and I have been talking about the honey harvest in Chile. We’re starting to work on our queen rearing program. The apiaries are on an Island, and there weren’t honeybees on the island before we brought them in so we have full control over the hives. By finding our best genetics in all of our apiaries and creating good queens we won't have to buy queens and risk bringing in, disease, Varroa [a parasitic mite that infests bee colonies], or other things that can be harmful to the colony. We don't use pesticides and we want to get to a point where we don't have to treat for disease either.

Josie leaning against a press

Are you doing any bee work with our viticulturist Jordan Lonborg while you are here?

J: Yeah, we have four hives right now and we're just kind of figuring out how we want to organize them. They’re starting to fill up with honey. It's been fun to work with the top bar hives as well. You don't have a foundation so they just layer all of their wax and its super cool to see.

How are you balancing cellar work and bee work?

J: You only check the bees every 10 days and four hives takes about 30 to 45 minutes to check. So whenever we have a little extra time on a Friday or Thursday we check on them.

Would you rather:

 

Cake or pie?

Cake

Breathe under water or fly?

I’m a surfer, so breathe under water. It's just classic.

New world or Old world?

Right now? Old world.

Winemaker or a viticulturist?

Winemaker. Ideally I'd like to do both, but right now that's my main focus; so for now focus on the closer goal, which is wine making.


Introducing Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC): Farming Like the World Depends on It

By Jordan Lonborg

In February of 2019, Tablas Creek was approached by Elizabeth Whitlow (Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance) to see if we would like to take part in a pilot program of a new approach to farming called Regenerative Organic. It was clear from the organizations behind this effort, including the Rodale Institute, Patagonia, and Dr. Bronner’s, that this was going to be appealing, both inclusive of and yet more comprehensive than organic and biodynamic. I’ll let their Web site explain:

“Regenerative Organic Certified™ was established in 2017 by a group of farmers, business leaders, and experts in soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. Collectively called the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA), our mission is to promote regenerative organic farming as the highest standard for agriculture around the world.”

At first, considering the fact that we are already certified organic and biodynamic, juggling a third certification was not the most exciting proposition for me. But as I began to dig through the ROC Framework and its requirements, it became clear that this was a certification that Tablas Creek Vineyard had to get behind and fully support. We accepted the invitation to be the only winery in the pilot and the ball started to roll.

Regenerative farming is a style of farming in which soil health and building that soil is the main focus. It is a term that was developed by Robert Rodale (the son of the legendary organic farmer J.I. Rodale) to “distinguish a kind of farming that goes beyond sustainable.” But as appealing as this sounds, there’s more: regenerative organic builds in requirements that participants also certify the humane treatment of any animals on the farm and that the farming crews are paid living wages, work in safe conditions, and understand their rights. Therefore, this certification incorporates three pillars; soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness.

The heart of Regenerative Organic Certified is the Soil Health Pillar. The property must be certified organic. Various regenerative farming tactics must be employed such as no-till farming (with few exceptions), cover cropping, incorporation of livestock and mob grazing (when animals are given a small area where they can completely graze that area in a short amount of time and then are moved to start the process over again), and creating habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects are a few of the recommended or required practices. Composting on-site is encouraged. Comprehensive soil tests showing that you’re maintaining or building carbon are a requirement, because one of the fundamental tenets of ROC is that farming can be and must be an agent for fighting climate change and reducing the use of nonrenewable resources. After all, their slogan is “Farm like the world depends upon it.”

Mushrooms growing on Compost pile Growth from biochar application


Because of the work we've been doing with biodynamics, there weren't many practices we needed to change or implement here. But the testing that we needed in order to show that we were building carbon content in our soils was tremendous validation that the way that we've been farming really is capturing carbon and building soils that match up well with the highest national and international standards. 

Jordy with AlpacaFor the Animal Welfare Pillar, like the Soil Health Pillar, ROC requires that livestock on the property are to be certified organic under USDA standards. The humane treatment of the livestock in all aspects of their life is a necessity. The health, nutrition, shelter (where applicable), protection, herding methods, handling methods, transport, and slaughter are all evaluated when applying to be Regenerative Organic Certified.

As is true with any pilot program, the goal is to incorporate new standards while providing feedback to help make those standards stronger and more consistent. By this measurement, the pilot program was a huge success. Both Tablas Creek and the ROA learned a great deal about which requirements within the pillars needed adjustments and which didn’t for vineyards. For example, the initial draft of the standards included an ironclad requirement for no-till farming. In the process of trying to achieve the “gold” ROC standard, we picked up a few more certifications along the way. Not only is the herd certified by CCOF, Demeter-USA, and Regenerative Organic, they are also certified by Animal Welfare Approved. I can assure you, this highly decorated flock is extremely proud of themselves at the moment and if you were to see them now you’d swear they looked a bit taller.

Flock of sheep in tall grass

What separates ROC from most other certifications is its Social Welfare Pillar. The dark side of agriculture in today’s world is how farmworkers are treated. This certification addresses that situation head on. It ensures that the farmworkers, whether employed or subcontracted, receive a living wage, that they understand their rights, and that their working conditions are clean and safe. These are just a few examples of what is incorporated in the Social Fairness Pillar.  

We also received a certification from the Equitable Food Initiative. This group ensures the social welfare of the farmworker crews on the property. We all spent a week of intensive training together. These sessions lasted all day long and consisted of physical activities, team building skills, communication skills (both with each other and management), problem solving skills, and education sessions in which they and we together explored in detail their rights as farmworkers both individually and as a group. It was an extremely powerful week.

Vineyard Crew

Not all of the third party certifications that we obtained are necessary for achieving Regenerative Organic Certified. We took these extra steps in an attempt to obtain the highest level of the certification. For anyone who is reading this post and is interested in obtaining this certification for your operation, reach out to the ROA to determine where you are on the path to ROC and what certifications you will need.

Tablas Creek Vineyard has always been extremely proud of our organic and biodynamic certifications. That said, we have never felt that the certifications were ends in and of themselves. And there are pieces of both of those protocols that we think could be improved. Anyway, we farm the way we do because we feel that it is the right thing to do for the land and the people that work here. But this certification is different. It sends a powerful message to the wine industry, consumers, and our local community. It shows them that Tablas Creek is not willing to accept anything less than the very highest standard for our soils, our animals, and the welfare of the people who work here.

We are beyond proud to be the first vineyard in the world to be Regenerative Organic Certified and we fully believe that this certification can and will be the future of farming in all forms of agriculture!!    

A big thanks to the folks at the Rodale Institute, Patagonia, and Dr. Bronner’s for spearheading this movement! Keep farming like the world depends on it!!!


Tasting the Wines in the Fall 2020 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 I sat down with Winemaker Neil Collins and we dove into this fall's collection. For what we found, read on:

Neil and Jason after shipment tasting

We base each year's fall shipments around the newest releases of the Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc, and this fall's shipment is no exception. But there's a lot more to this fall's shipment than these two wines. We have a couple of (we think, really terrific) varietal wines, one red and one white, and two other smaller-production blends, again one each red and white. We think it's one of the most compelling shipments we've ever put together. I'm excited to get them in our members' hands soon.  

The classic shipment includes six different wines:

Fall 2020 VINsider Classic Shipment

2019 GRENACHE BLANC

  • Production Notes: The cool-then-warm 2019 growing season pushed yields a little below average, resulting in unusually small Grenache Blanc grapes that turned out to have both exceptional brightness and rich texture. For the varietal Grenache Blanc, we chose lots that were fermented in stainless steel (for energy) and foudre (for roundness), blended them in May 2020 and bottled the finished wine under screwcap in June 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: An intense Grenache Blanc nose of lemon curd, sweet green herbs, and crushed rock. On the palate, like a lemon meringue pie with the hint of graham cracker underlying the bright, luscious lemon. The finish is lovely and long, with a little pithy Grenache Blanc tannin coming out at the end. Drink now and over the next few years.
  • Production: 860 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2019 COTES DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: Viognier is always the lead grape in our Cotes Blanc, and we balance Viognier's lushness with the elegance of Marsanne and the brightness of Grenache Blanc. In 2019, the Viognier (44%) already had nice acidity, so we chose to use more Marsanne (29%) to bring elegance and minerality, and a relatively low percentage of Grenache Blanc (19%), leaving more Grenache Blanc for our varietal bottling in this relatively scarce Grenache Blanc year. 8% Roussanne rounds out the blend and provides structure. The selected lots were blended in May 2020, and the wine was bottled in June 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: An elegant nose, with Marsanne seemingly at the fore right now: nectarines, lemongrass, honeydew, and a rich, wheaty element that Neil described as clean straw. The mouth is lovely, with flavors of peach pit, tangerine, and newly-mown hay drying in the sun. Lovely acids and sweet green herbs come out on the long, balanced finish. Drink now and for at least the next five years.
  • Production: 1540 cases.
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2018 ESPRIT DE TABLAS BLANC

  • Production Notes: For the second year in a row we incorporated two of our newest white grapes into the Esprit Blanc blend. Of course, Roussanne (66%, fermented in a mix of oak of various sizes and ages) still takes pride of place, but the different higher-acid, more mineral varieties (21% Grenache Blanc, 8% Picpoul Blanc, 3% Picardan and 2% Clairette Blanche) all add citrusy acidity and saline freshness. As we have done since 2012, we returned the blend to foudre after it was assembled in April 2019 and aged it through the subsequent harvest before bottling it in December 2019 and letting it rest an additional 9 months in bottle before release.
  • Tasting Notes: A lifted nose of orange blossom, honeycomb, and spicy pine nut. On the palate, the signature clean, precise elegance of the 2018 vintage, with flavors of baked custard, marmalade, and saline minerality, deepened by a little sweet oak. Then lively and juicy on the finish like biting into a fresh pear, complete with the little hint of pear skin tannin. A balanced, elegant Esprit Blanc that we expect to go out two decades, gaining additional nuttiness and complexity with time in bottle.
  • Production: 2315 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2018 GRENACHE

  • Production Notes: Grenache was one of the stars of the cool 2018 vintage, producing lots with lifted fruit, lots of peppery spice, and a little tannic bite that suggests it will produce wines that can age gracefully. For our varietal bottling we as usual chose lots that emphasized Grenache's freshness and avoided riper lots that tend toward higher alcohols. The lots were blended in June 2019 and aged in neutral 1200-gallon oak foudres until bottling in May 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A nose of wild strawberry, allspice, brambly briar patch, and sarsaparilla root. The palate is generous with vivid cranberry fruit and all the elements of plum pudding, from creamy richness to the tangy baked plum and the bursts of plum skin tannin. Bright acids and youthful grippy tannins provide balance to the juiciness on the finish. We suggest you wait a few months for the tannins to integrate, then drink in the next few years for a crunchy and vibrant experience or wait six to ten years for a deeper, softer profile.
  • Production: 1160 cases
  • List Price: $35 VINsider Price: $28

2018 EN GOBELET

  • Production Notes: Our eleventh 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. These lots tend to show more elegance and minerality than our closer-spaced irrigated blocks, although in 2018 the wine shows plenty of power and density. We chose a blend of 36% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 27% Syrah, 6% Counoise, and 3% Tannat. In this lifted, elegant vintage, we chose our highest-ever percentage of Syrah for this blend, giving the wine heft and Syrah's signature creamy, meaty density. The wine was blended in June of 2019, aged in foudre and bottled in May 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A explosively vibrant nose of boysenberry, blackcurrant, black pepper, and roasted meats. The mouth is juicy but firmly tannic, with flavors of cassis and black cherry, wood smoke, and cracked peppercorn. Syrah's signature creamy dark minerality comes out on the finish. Serious and built for the long term; wait six months if you can, and then drink any time over the next two decades.
  • Production: 860 cases
  • List Price: $55 VINsider Price: $44

2018 ESPRIT DE TABLAS

  • Production Notes: Although the Esprit is based as always on the red fruit and meatiness of Mourvedre (40%), in this vintage noteworthy for its lift and minerality we found that the darkness and density provided by Syrah (27%) was essential and we needed a little less of the bright spiciness of Grenache (23%). Counoise (10%) rounds out the blend with brambly notes and sweet spice. The wine's components were fermented separately, then selected for Esprit, blended in June 2019 and aged a year in foudre before bottling in July 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A deep brooding Mourvedre nose of loamy redcurrant and roasted meats, new leather and black plum. The mouth shows spicy licorice and nutmeg lift over baked plums and Mourvedre's signature plum skin tannin maintaining balance with the wine's mouth-coating texture. The long, richly tannic finish, with lingering flavors of wood smoke, roasted meat, and crushed rock, promises more rewards to come with cellar aging. The wine was showing beautifully despite only having been in bottle one week when we tasted it; we recommend that you drink either between now and 2023 or again starting in 2026 any time over the subsequent two decades.
  • Production: 4325 cases
  • List Price: $60 VINsider Price: $48

Two additional wines joined the Cotes de Tablas Blanc, Grenache Blanc, and Esprit de Tablas Blanc in the white-only shipment (we doubled up the Esprit Blanc):

Fall 2020 VINsider White Shipment

2019 BOURBOULENC

  • Production Notes: Our first ever bottling of Bourboulenc, from our first-ever harvest of this relatively obscure Rhone white. Bourboulenc is known in France to make wines with citrus aromatics and a distinctive smoky character, with fairly good acids and relatively low alcohol. As we have no road map for this wine, never having harvested or fermented it before, we treated it gently, fermenting with our signature native yeasts in a mix of stainless steel and neutral oak barrels. It had a distinctive orange color (not that different from Roussanne) coming out of the press, and while much of that settled out in fermentation, it's still a lovely rich gold. We used our entire production in this 135-case varietal bottling, put into bottle in June 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: Medium gold color. A nose of lychee and wet rocks, lightly floral, with an unusual and appealing fresh almond note. On the palate, richly textured and softly mineral, with pineapple fruit and a little mintiness, pretty and delicate and lovely. We have no idea how this will age, but suggest you drink it over the next few years.
  • Production: 135 cases
  • List Price: $30 VINsider Price: $24

2017 PETIT MANSENG

  • Production Notes: Our eighth bottling of this traditional grape from southwest France, Petit Manseng is best known from the appellation of Jurançon, where it has made admired sweet wines for centuries that you rarely hear about in America. Petit Manseng achieves sufficient concentration and sugar content -- and maintains its acids sufficiently -- to make naturally sweet, balanced wines without botrytis. Harvested at 28° Brix and a pH of 2.99, we fermented it in barrel, and stopped its fermentation when it had about 62 grams/liter of sugar left and sat at an alcohol of 14.4%. The high acidity makes it taste much drier than the sugar reading would suggest. The wine was aged on its lees in barrel and bottled in June 2018.
  • Tasting Notes: Medium gold. An exotic nose of lemon marmalade, briny mineral, citrus leaf, and lemongrass. In the mouth, the wine is a roller-coaster, first sweet like candied orange peel, then lemon drop acids assert themselves, and finally the finish relaxes to a combination of clementine orange, sea spray minerality, and citrus blossom. A little sweeter and more intense than but reminiscent of a demi-sec Vouvray, for anyone with that as a reference point. Drink now or age for up to another decade for a nuttier character.
  • Production: 170 cases
  • List Price: $50 VINsider Price: $40

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

Fall 2020 VINsider Red Shipment

2018 FULL CIRCLE

  • Production Notes: 2018 is the ninth vintage of our Full Circle Pinot Noir, grown on the small vineyard outside the Haas family's home in Templeton, in the cool (for Paso) Templeton Gap AVA. Its name reflects Robert Haas's career: from a start introducing America to the greatness of Burgundy, through decades focusing on grapes from the Rhone, one of his last acts was to plant Pinot at his home and oversee our first few vintages. 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 10 months, before being blended and bottled in August 2019. We've aged the wine in bottle for an additional year since then.
  • Tasting Notes: A pretty nose of cherry cola, Chinese five spice, teriyaki, and black tea. The mouth is medium-bodied, soft, and generous, with raspberry fruit, a little sweet oak, and a lightly tannic finish with sarsaparilla and wild strawberry notes. Drink now and over the next decade.
  • Production: 475 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

2018 MOURVEDRE

  • Production Notes: Mourvedre is the one red grape that we try to bottle on its own each year, because we think it is a wonderful grape that too few people know, and one we feel worthy of some proselytizing. The cool 2018 vintage produced a very Old World style of Mourvedre, with loamy, meaty elements just as strong as the red-fruited notes we typically see at the fore here in Paso Robles. All our Mourvedre lots were fermented in large wooden tanks and moved to neutral barrels to await blending. The chosen lots were blended in the spring of 2019, then aged in foudre until bottling in May 2020.
  • Tasting Notes: A very Old World style of Mourvedre, with loam at the front, then pie cherries and meaty note reminiscent of a rosemary-rubbed leg of lamb. The mouth is more generously fruited than the nose suggests, with flavors of plum and redcurrant fruit, new leather, and some chewy tannins that come out on the finish and reassert a loamy, juniper forest note. It seems like time in the cellar will be well rewarded, but feel free to drink any time over the next 15 years.
  • Production: 640 cases
  • List Price: $45 VINsider Price: $36

The tasting was a great way to hone in on the character of our two most recent vintages. 2018 shows a cool climate signature with vibrant, expressive, spicy wines with elegance and the potential to age. 2019 is a blockbuster vintage, combining rich textures with lively acidity and powerful varietal characters. I can't wait to get these wines in our club members' hands and find out what they think.

If you're a wine club member, you're probably aware that we're not going to be hosting a traditional wine club pickup party because of COVID, but we've come up with a few ways to give members the chance to experience the wines. These include the option of "shipment flights" should members come for a distanced patio tasting in September and October, a virtual tasting party the evening of Friday, October 15th for which we'll be putting together tasting packs that include half-bottles of the two 2018 Esprit de Tablas wines, and the newest season of Chelsea & the Shepherd, which we'll be debuting around the time the shipment goes out. We have details on all this on our VINsider News & Updates page.

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


Veraison 2020 reflects our cool July and suggests a (gasp) normal start to harvest

The 2020 growing season has been a lovely antidote to all the chaos out in the world. Unlike many years, we've avoided both heat spikes and extended chilly periods. A graph of the daytime highs since May 1st gives a sense of how things have been distributed through July 22nd. You can see more 80s than 90s, plenty of 70s, and only three days (barely) in triple digits, one each month:

High Temps 2020 Growing Season

July has been particularly nice; our average high temperature so far this month has been 87.6°F. Compare that to the last three years, whose Julys averaged 91°F, 96.5°F, and 95.6°F. And remember, those are the high temperatures each day. Nights have been chilly, and it takes a while each morning for it to warm up. We haven't yet had a night this summer that didn't drop below 60°F, and our average nighttime low has been 47°F. That's kept the vineyard looking green and vibrant. The net result has been gradual progress by the vines and outstanding vine health.

Veraison, if you're unfamiliar with the term, is a physiological stage of grape evolution where the berry stops accumulating mass and starts accumulating sugar. More visibly, red grapes start their color change from green, while white grapes take on more of a yellow tint. Both red and white grapes start to soften. [For more about what's happening chemically, check out this veraison post from the archives.] This landmark comes roughly six weeks before the onset of harvest, and gives us our best estimate for when harvest will begin.

We didn't see any evidence of color in the vineyard until late last week, and it wasn't until this week that there was enough color change to be worth photographing. Now that it's started, I thought it would be fun to give you a visual tour. I'll start with Syrah, usually the first Rhone red to enter version and the fastest to change colors:

Veraison 2020 - syrah

It's important to note that this cluster is somewhat more advanced than the average one. Even at the top of the hills, many of the Syrah clusters are green. At the bottom of the hills, there's very little color change to be found. And as for the other grapes, Mourvedre is the one where we're seeing significant color change. If you know that Mourvedre is almost always one of our last grapes to harvest, you might be surprised. But it isn't always last to enter veraison; it just takes a long time to go from first veraison to first harvest:

Veraison 2020 - mourvedre
It took some significant searching by both Neil and me to find any color in Grenache. The best we could do is this one cluster, with a few red berries in a sea of green:

Veraison 2020 - grenache

As for Counoise, it's still completely green. The cluster below is just one example; I could have pointed the camera just about anywhere and shown you more or less the same thing:

Veraison 2020 - counoise

Although the veraison posts you're likely seeing from your favorite wineries may make it seem like veraison is a moment, like Christmas, it's probably better understood as a continuum, like winter, and first veraison is like first frost, or first snowfall. It will likely be a few weeks before even all the Syrah clusters are red, and probably six weeks until the last clusters of later grapes like Mourvedre and Counoise have finished coloring up. 

While six weeks is a good basic guide for the duration between veraison and harvest, it's not totally constant, and can be influenced by the weather that we get in the interim, as well as by the amount of fruit the vines are carrying and the inherent tendencies of the different varieties. For example, we noted first veraison on July 30th in both 2010 and 2019. In 2019, perfect ripening conditions (consistently very-warm-but-not-hot weather) in August and September gave us a short runup before our estate harvest began September 4th. In 2010 vintage, a very cool August delayed the start of harvest compared to 2019 by nearly two full weeks, to September 16th. The last decade is compiled in the chart below, with each year linked to my blog post about that year's veraison:

Year First Veraison Noted Estate Harvest Begins # of Days
2010 July 30 September 16 48
2011 August 5 September 20 46
2012 July 25 September 5 42
2013 July 17 August 26 40
2014 July 9 August 23 45
2015 July 18 August 26 39
2016 July 13 August 18 36
2017 July 20 August 30 41
2018 July 29 September 10 43
2019 July 30 September 4 36
2020 July 21 ? ?

Using the range of durations between first veraison and first harvest (36 to 48 days) we can have good confidence that we'll begin picking sometime between August 26th and September 7th. The weather between now and then will determine where in the range we'll fall. 

What's next for the vineyard? We'll watch the different grapes go through veraison. What starts like a trickle quickly becomes a flood, and the view in the vineyard changes daily. Grenache is sure to start to color up soon, and Counoise a bit later. White grapes too stretch out across a continuum; in fact, Viognier has already started veraison, although the visible changes are subtle enough that a photograph doesn't really show anything. Vermentino and Marsanne will move into veraison on the earlier side, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul in the middle, and Roussanne bringing up the rear, as usual. It's an exciting time. We'll be posting regular photos of veraison's progress on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. In the cellar, we're bottling the last of our 2018 reds, refilling those barrels and foudres with our newly-blended 2019s, and starting the process of pulling out and cleaning all the tanks and equipment we'll be using once harvest begins.

So, while veraison doesn't mean we know exactly when we'll start to see fruit, it is the most useful signpost we have. And we know that the clock is ticking.

Veraison 2020 - pinot