By Ian Consoli
In the early morning of August 17th, we brought in our earliest estate-fruit pick ever with just under four tons of Viognier. Our first purchased fruit came in later that the same day: 4.25 tons of Syrah from Fralich Vineyard. And just like that, the 2022 harvest began! We steadily brought in fruit over the next week before temperatures cooled a bit the last few days, and everything slowed down.
The next day saw our annual "Cellar Crew Day" at the Haas Vineyard, source of our Full Circle Pinot Noir. This tradition allows the whole cellar team to be a part of the picking process before the thick of harvest. It's also an opportunity for our core cellar team to better get to know the harvest interns. A few photos from that pick, beginning with Vineyard Manager David Maduena, starting his 31st harvest here at Tablas Creek, monitoring the bins of Pinot Noir:
Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi in her 14th harvest at Tablas Creek picks alongside one of this year's cellar interns, Louisa:
Seeing the first bins of fruit on the crush pad is always a welcome sight:
Unlike last year, where temperatures dropped in late August and we waited a week between our first estate pick and our second, this year is steadily moving along. After the Viognier came in on Wednesday, we harvested half a bin of Roussanne from Jewel Ridge on Thursday, Vermentino on Saturday, then Grenache Blanc and Syrah on Monday. Over the past week, we have maintained a daily high of around 100 degrees with just a slight dip over the weekend into the 80s, maintaining prime ripening conditions for the fruit this time of year:
Our estate fruit isn't the only thing we are keeping track of. We source from about ten vineyards throughout Paso Robles for our Patelin program, and with these kinds of ripening conditions, viticulturist Jordan Lonborg needs to pull samples from all of them a couple of times a week to ensure we pick at just the right time. Every time we finish picking from one of these partner vineyards, there's one less stop Jordan needs to make in the morning. Right now, he's visiting every one of them. Here's his haul from Wednesday morning:
It's early, but it looks like we may be seeing another lower-yielding vintage. That’s not surprising, given the drought conditions and the frosts we saw in April and May, but we’d hoped it might be more localized. Instead, Winemaker Neil Collins noted that yields are down on both the estate and Patelin picks so far from a year ago, and a year ago yields were down from the previous year. Still, quality looks very strong.
Although an earlier-than-normal harvest does come with complications for staff (the cellar team typically takes a bit of time off before the rush of harvest), the steady pace at which this harvest started bodes well for the next couple of months. We're looking at temperatures in the 90s over the next week with a slight dip over the weekend. This is the type of weather pattern we hope for at this time of year, and we're looking forward to what next week will bring.
What's next? It seems like we might get a little more Syrah at the end of the week. In the meantime, we'll be enjoying the lovely harvest aromas of fermenting Viognier in the cellar and this slow, steady start to harvest. It's just the beginning, but it's been a good beginning. I'll leave you with the Syrah clusters that look like they're coming next.