By Ian Consoli
Every harvest season our team receives some temporary help to lessen the load of the hundreds of tons of grapes that flood through the cellar doors over the course of 8-10 weeks. The individuals that join us bring an assortment of stories and expertise. Some come to see wine production for the first time, some add another harvest under their belt, and some know what they want and see Tablas Creek's Harvest as a way to get there. This year's interns represent a variation of all three of these categories.
I enjoy sitting with the harvest interns every year to discuss where they came from, how they ended up at Tablas Creek, and where they are going next. This year we have three interns, Louisa, Michael, and Erin, whose answers are divided by color. I'm excited for you to meet them.
Who are you?
My name is Louisa, and I'm a Harvest intern at Tablas Creek right now.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up near San Diego, in Del Mar, California.
I lived in Paso Robles for my whole childhood. My family moved here 30 years ago, so they've been here for a while. I graduated from Templeton High in 2015.
Mostly in Southeast Georgia. I lived the longest in Atlanta, so I claim Atlanta as where I'm from, but I've lived and grown up in the southeast my whole life. I ended up in California when I came out to work a harvest with Ian Brand in 2019. I've been living up and down the state ever since.
How did you get into wine?
I wasn't exposed to wine growing up, but I discovered it in college. I took a class at Cal Poly SLO called The Spirituality of Wine. And that got me interested in learning more about wine.
I've been drinking wine since I turned 21. When I moved back here from Australia two and a half years ago, I wanted to get into wine. I started researching wineries around the area here in Paso and got lucky enough to start working in the Tablas Creek tasting room. That's when I started working with and studying wine.
I was running beverage programs for a restaurant group in Atlanta. I wanted to connect on a different level with wine, less as a buyer and more with production and viticulture. I quit my job of 10 years, put all my stuff in storage, packed up my car, and came out to work harvest. I didn't have anything lined up after. I have been piecing together seasonal work and making it work for the last three years.
How did you end up working Harvest with us?
My good friend Kayja worked the last two harvests here. She inspired me to apply for a position at Tablas. This is my first grape harvest, and it's going good.
I have wanted to work Harvest ever since I started here. Last year I worked Harvest at another winery, so this year I chatted with Chelsea and had a meeting with the cellar crew. We all got along, and here we are.
I came to Tablas because of the regenerative program and my interest in the sheep grazing the vineyard. I wanted to look deeper into a position involved with that. Harvest is a way for me to work and see if Tablas is a good long-term fit.
What was it like working our busiest harvest week ever?
It was a lot of grapes <laughs>. Yeah, it was a little bit overwhelming to look out in the parking lot and just see bins and bins and bins of grapes. But it was cool seeing how everyone worked together to make it happen and get all those grapes processed.
Exhilarating and tiresome and fun.
It's like working all of Harvest in one week <laughs>. It was fine. It was hard, long hours, and kind of grueling, but everybody was in good spirits, well organized, and efficient, which made it a lot easier. Everybody's hands-on, there's not really like a hierarchy of who's doing what, so everybody's in there working until it's done. But yeah, it was tough. <Laughs>
What were you doing during the week?
Mainly on the sorting table and doing cap management, like pump overs and pulse airs to keep the ferments going. I like doing the DMAs the most, which is like getting the temperature and the density of all the different lots and stages they're in, and that's been really fun.
Hmm, that's a good question. A little bit of everything. I mean everything from cleaning tanks to processing fruit to just everything. They were long days.
What has been your best memory from Harvest 2021?
Probably one of those really long days during those couple of hectic weeks. We had days we worked from 7am to almost 9pm. We had a water fight at the end of the night, <laughs>, which was super fun. Oh, and harvest lunches are great. Definitely a highlight.
Every day for lunch, we sit down and pull a couple picnic tables into the cellar. Then Winemaker Neil Collin's wife Marcie comes with food for everybody at about 12. We pick out a couple of bottles of wine, sit down for an hour or two, enjoy each other's company, and have food.
Seeing the first estate fruit come in. And just seeing the quality of fruit and the taste and being wowed by that.
Best bottle of wine you ever had?
I really like the Tablas Creek Dianthus. It's just really, really beautiful.
Probably the one I had with good company and good friends. There are so many good wines in the world, too many to choose from. I don't know if it could be my first Chablis, the 2000 Chateau Montelena, or the 2006 Beaucastel, I don't know. I don't remember the wines as much as I do the company I share them with. I've had a $2 bottle of wine that was absolutely fantastic because I shared it with great people.
One of the most memorable bottles is a 2007 Chateau Rayas, which was unlike any wine I've ever tasted. It was incredible and super alive. The experience of tasting it next to A Tribute to Grace 2007 from Santa Barbara Highlands, the first wine that Angela Osborne ever made, was really a cool experience.
What's next for you?
I'm going to work for an organization called NOLS, an outdoor education school. I worked for them in Alaska this past summer doing backpacking and sea kayaking expeditions. This winter, I'm going to work for them down in Baja, doing sailing expeditions.
After Harvest, I'll go to Napa for a couple weeks to do my WSET level three. Then I'll go to Portland and check out the Oregon wine region for a little bit. Then I'll be back here in the tasting room. I hope to do a harvest in Europe somewhere next fall, potentially Italy, Portugal or France. But you never know what will happen.
Aside from a massage and recovery, hopefully, staying on here at Tablas and diving deeper into the regenerative organic certification. I like it here. Everybody seems super happy to work here. It's a good sign that people have worked here as long as they have. The property's beautiful, and everybody seems really generous. There's a lot of open-mindedness, curiosity, and support which I think is really important. Especially because there's no finish line or endpoint in regenerative agriculture. It's something that you're always going to be striving to do what's best, and that'll change and evolve. It seems like Tablas as a company has been able to do that in and of itself. So it gives me confidence in where the regenerative program could go.