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The brief, lovely season with the last of the fall colors and the first shoots of green

You can feel the weather changing as we exit November. The dry offshore winds and the extreme diurnal shifts of the early part of the month are just a memory. In its place we've got weak low pressure systems in the Pacific, regular cloud cover overhead, and mornings damp enough that we have to check the rain gauge to know if it rained overnight or if that was just the fog. We haven't had a lot of rain yet -- just one storm the weekend before Thanksgiving that dropped about an inch and a half -- but you can feel it coming.

And we're in the brief, beautiful season where we've got the last of the fall colors on the vines and the first of the winter’s green grass coming up. Yesterday, that combined with ground fog lifting and rain-heavy clouds rolling in to make for stunning vistas everywhere you turned:

Fog lifting - over Crosshairs

The vines themselves are lovely, but the view from the center of the vineyard, over our biodynamic plantings, was just as impressive in a different color palette:

Fog lifting - Biodynamic plantings

And even the drive in was majestic. I felt like I was in a movie:

Fog lifting - Vineyard Drive

The rain we got was a perfect amount to get the cover crop germinated, without being so much to give us any worries about erosion. The shoots of grass soften the landscape, like an oil painting's subtle wash of Cadmium green under the autumn yellows and browns:

Fog lifting - green grass

The earth, where you can see it, turns a lovely dark brown, as in this young Mourvedre block near the top of our tallest hill:

Fog lifting - in Santos Block

Harvest finished recently enough that there are still ample second crop clusters, particularly on Grenache, just waiting to provide tasty snacks for the sheep when they get let back into the vineyard: 

Fog lifting - second crop

The vines still have their leaves because we've only dropped below freezing a couple of times, and never gotten cold enough to really force them into dormancy. That means that you can identify the different blocks by their autumn tones, from the ocher of Roussanne in the foreground, to the brick red of Tannat in the middle, to the yellow of young Grenache and Syrah on the hillside right and the varied colors of older Muscardin and Bourboulenc vines to the left of the straw-covered farm road: 

Fog lifting - over New Hill

I'll leave you with probably my favorite photo of the morning's ramble, looking south down from our oldest Counoise block, with terraced Syrah vines on the right, and rows of Roussanne vines behind leading down to Las Tablas Creek and the fog-shrouded, oak-covered hillsides beyond.

Fog lifting - looking south over Counoise and Syrah

We know we won't have long with this landscape. One hard freeze (possible as soon as this weekend) will put an end to the fall colors, while the green of winter takes over. And that is lovely too. But this transitional season, with its rich, warm colors and softer edges, feels fleeting and special. We'll enjoy it while we can.

What the Tablas Creek team is drinking with our Thanksgivings in 2023

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It's brings extended family together for a day of cooking, eating, and reflecting on what we're grateful for. It's still largely uncommercialized. And it comes at a time of year where those of us who work at wineries are finally able to slow down and relax. Especially after this year's late, long harvest, that's something to be thankful for indeed.

Before diving into specific recommendations, it's worth going over some things that don't change. Try not to stress over your choices. Open a range of wines. Expect each of them to sing with a dish or two, coexist peacefully enough with another, and maybe clash with something. That can be fun, and instructive. Remember, and accept that it's OK, that nothing will pair particularly well with sweet potato casserole or roasted Brussels sprouts. Open a few more wines than you think you'll need, and don't feel bad about having wine leftovers, along with your food. You'll likely learn something, and have fun along the way. Remember that open bottles kept in the fridge should be fine for a week or more. And if you're still stressing after reading all these recommendations, I refer you to the 2016 piece on W. Blake Gray's blog where he set up a simple 5-question quiz to answer the question "is this wine good for Thanksgiving". I'm sure I haven't gone through every possible combination, but I've never gotten any answer other than "yes".

OK, now that I've told you any choice is perfectly fine, it's only fair that I acknowledge my own preferences. After all, there are wines that I tend to steer clear of, like wines that are powerfully tannic (which tend to come off even more so when they're paired with some of the sweeter Thanksgiving dishes), and wines that are high in alcohol (which tend to be fatiguing by the end of what is often a marathon of eating and drinking). But that still leaves you plenty of options. With a traditional turkey dinner, I tend to steer people toward richer whites and rosés, and fruitier reds relatively light in oak and tannin. Plenty of Tablas Creek wines fit these broad criteria, so if you want to stay in the family, you could try anything from Roussanne and Esprit Blanc to Dianthus Rosé to Counoise or Cotes de Tablas. Richer red meat preparations open up a world of Mourvedre-based reds young or old, from Esprit de Tablas to Panoplie to En Gobelet, which just (say it out loud) sounds like something you should be drinking at this time of year.  

Capon with Panoplie

But I'm just one person. As I've done the last several years, I reached out to our team to ask them what they were planning on drinking this year. This is super fun for me to see, and I'm hoping it will be as much fun for you. One thing I love is that while some will be drinking Tablas Creek, many (including me!) have made other choices. And that's normal. Those of us who work in wine usually do so part because we love its many facets, and there's an amazing variety of wine made around the world. Whether you choose an American wine for this quintessentially American holiday, or celebrate America as a melting pot by choosing wines from elsewhere, I refer you back to Blake Gray's article. You're not wrong.

My team's responses are below, in their own words, in alphabetical order.

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
I am such a traditionalist that I tend to reach for the same bottles of wine each year. Why fix something that isn’t broken, eh?! In our house we always roast a turkey with all the fixings, and my absolute favorite wines to pair with all the goodies are Tablas Creek Counoise, and Bourboulenc.  The Bourboulenc is a newer addition to our table because it is a relatively newer addition to TCV’s portfolio, but it is an absolute stunner!  There will be bubbles while playing board games, loads of charcuterie, and lots and lots of laughs! From my family to yours – Happy Holiday!

Charlie Chester, Senior Assistant Tasting Room Manager
This Thanksgiving, we're keeping things simple, delicious, and easygoing. On the menu: a classic turkey and, weather permitting, maybe a BBQ pork loin. To wash it down, we're opting for the Lone Madrone Carbonic Cinsault – a fruity red that plays well with turkey's savory goodness.

If we successfully get to fire up the grill, I plan on serving a 2020 TCV Grenache to complement both entrees. One of my "go-to" wines for its liveliness and versatility

Joining us at the table will be my sister's family and, of course, visiting from Long Island, Tennessee, and the coast of Oregon, my brand-new in-laws from Amber's side. We're looking forward to the laughs, stories, and shared joy that make Thanksgiving special. So, here's to good food, great company, and a couple of wines that promise to make it a Thanksgiving to remember. Cheers!

Amanda Collins, Cellar Assistant
Thanksgiving is one of the most unpredictable holidays in my opinion. I never know where we are going, who’s going to be there, or what’s going to be served until the last few days before. I know that probably puts me in a severe minority here…. 

That being said, this usually means grabbing wines that can be paired with just about anything! So this year I’m going with our Clairette Blanche and our Counoise. Clairette is light crisp and a bit shy so as to not overwhelm the palate, she’s pretty without being boastful. Then we have counoise that carries its light spice quality on the back of lovely juicy notes that tend to lift the holiday spirits and compliments a variety of dishes! I hope I chose correctly!!! Either way, we are sure to be surrounded by good people, good food, and many fun wines! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Austin Collins, Cellar and Vineyard
After a long hard harvest Thanksgiving will be a welcome reprieve from work madness. The same as every year I believe it important to drink 2023 Beaujolais Nouveau from several producers. It drinks so very fresh and lightens up the heavy thanksgiving dishes. It is also likely that we will open a few bottles of Esprit de Tablas Blanc, vintages yet to be chosen, but I am leaning toward the 2021, as it is very lively right now. Finally, to cap it all off I will be opening a 2014 Domaine Berthet-Bondet Vin Jaune. I love Vin Jaune, especially for this time of year, and especially from Chateau Chalon. Happy Thanksgiving.

Neil Collins, Director of Winemaking
What wines will be on our Thanksgiving table this year?

We will certainly be opening a 2022 Lone Madrone Wirz Riesling, Cienega Valley, planted in 1964, as it was recently released and we're all excited about it, perfect for the day. I also have been saving a bottle of Reyneke Chenin Blanc, a natural wine, Demeter biodynamic certified from South Africa. I am generally not especially a fan of natural wines as they are often a bit funky for me, often tasting like everything I spend my life trying to avoid, but when in the right hands and well-made they can be very special. This bottle was a gift from my friend Tommy Oldre, he konws my taste well so I trust that it will be fun. As always there will be an Esprit Blanc and an Esprit Red present, There will surely be Bristols Cider lurking in the ice box. In a wine focused family it is always fun to see what shows up on the table.

Enjoy a great table of food, wine and great company. When the three align it makes for something truly special!!!!!

Ian Consoli, Director of Marketing
I am looking at a smaller group around the table this year, so I won't open as many bottles as usual. That being the case, I need to make sure they're the good stuff! We'll start with some Champagne from Delamotte. Then, I have a bottle of Condrieu, a Cinsaut from Sandlands, and a few red Burgundies to choose from in my cellar. The Cinsaut is the one I am most curious to try. I feel Cinsaut (like Counoise) should have a lot of success with Thanksgiving dinner.

Terrence Crowe, Tasting Room
Tis the season to be thankful. Thankful for for family, friends and the creek of Tablas. The wines for this years thanksgiving feast are as follows:

The wines are a representation  of my ‘thanksgiving’ to an organization that is a true pillar of the community. An authentic, forerunner and leader in a town undergoing much recent change. 

TributDarren Delmore, National Sales Manager
My family will be deep in the oyster lands of West Marin County on the holiday, so I'm packing my last bottle of 2020 Laurent Tribut Chablis AC to accompany some raw Kumamotos if all goes well. Tribut is a classic and hard to find longtime Vineyard Brands small production gem. When I had this vintage a couple months back, it tasted like lemon zest and oyster shells itself, with the ripeness of the year smoothing out the producer's hallmark austerity.  

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
After so many jokes that Harvest 2023 was going to end sometime in 2024, I’m incredibly grateful to get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my little family without worrying about breaking up the day with fermentation cap management; we’re finished in the cellar and are slowly assimilating back into society! This year, my husband, daughter and I will be heading to Mexico for some much-needed (and appreciated) post-harvest bonding time. While Mexico does produce wines, I’ll likely be focusing on cervezas and tequila/mezcal based cocktails to pair with the local fare. Wherever and however you are celebrating, I hope your glass is filled with something that elevates the experience and brings immense joy!

Eddie Garcia, Logistics
After a several year hiatus of not traveling for Thanksgiving… this year I’m packing my bags and hitting the road to Phoenix. But, I’m making sure that I’m not leaving empty handed and bringing a taste of Paso with me . I have two wines that I’m excited to share with my family this year. The first is a 2020 Le Cuvier Zinfandel. A solid choice to introduce Paso Zinfandel to a couple family members I found out recently have never tasted a Zin! And my second choice is a 2020 “The Dance” Cabernet Sauvignon from Barton Family Wines. A solid west side Cab. that I’m bringing for the family members who like hearty reds… *my hand is raised*.   

Most importantly though taking time to be thankful for the chance in spending time with family, my kids being healthy/happy and being part of the TCV family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Kaitlyn Glynn, Cellar Assistant
This Thanksgiving we will be starting the day with some autumn cocktails before moving on to the wines. First up will be an easy drinking 2022 Grenache Pet Nat from Dreamcote which will pair nicely with the football we will be watching that day! Next we have a lineup of 2021 Tablas Creek Esprit Blanc, the 2021 Hot Blooded Counoise from Barton Family Wines, and the 2021 Lapsus from Benom to enjoy throughout the day and with our feast. Happy Thanksgiving!

Craig Hamm, Assistant Winemaker
This Thanksgiving came up real quick on me. Having just pressed of most of the grapes in the cellar, I haven’t had much time to think about the upcoming holidays. Our Thanksgiving dinner will be held at my brother’s house. I will be opening a 2022 Patelin Rosé as my mother would like to have a glass of a rose with her meal. We opened a few different Turley wines at harvest lunches and they have been amazing, so I will stop by and pick up a bottle of something they are pouring in there tasting room on Vineyard Drive. Nice perk when living in wine country! I will bring a bottle I made from Velo Vineyard Syrah in 2018. There has to be a Grenache on the table so Tablas Creek 2021 Grenache will definitely be there. Cheers and Happy holidays.

Dusty Hannah, Tasting Room
This year I am looking forward to having a traditional type Thanksgiving with some close friends. Friends that are very special to me and because of that I want to share some special bottles. Therefore, I couldn't think of anything better than Tablas Creek.

1997 Tablas Creek Rouge. I was fortunate enough to land one of these bottles as a gift from Neil Collins, and I even got to sample another bottle a few months ago and it still has plenty of life! Really looking forward to it!
2019 Tablas Creek Counoise. Before I discovered this wonderful grape, my Thanksgiving wine was a Cru Beaujolais, but Counoise has now taken over as my mainstay for Thanksgiving. It has soft tannins, wonderful notes of red fruit and good acidity, which is something that is needed to pair with my wide range of dishes on my table.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Cheers.

Ray's WinesRay King, Tasting Room
My family and I will enjoy a small traditional Thanksgiving here in Paso Robles. We will be enjoying:

2018 Haliotide, Extra Brut Rosé, 100% Pinot Noir. San Luis Obispo County. 12.2 abv 
2020 Bico Amarelo, Vinho Verde, Portugal. 11.5 abv
2021 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Mourvèdre. ROC & CCOF certified. 13.0 abv. 
Simple and delicious. 

Jordan Lonborg, Viticulturist (sent in from vacation)
A magnum of 2018 Esprit Rouge for the family this year! 

Erin Mason, Regenerative Specialist
This is the first Thanksgiving in a long time that I don’t have some specific wine in mind for the table. American wines always feel right for this holiday, though. So if I’m drinking and sharing what I have (and love) that fits the theme…then I’ll be opening a 2021 Desire Lines Massa Vineyard Riesling, a 2021 Sandlands Red Table Wine, and a 2019 Hirsch Vineyard Block 8 Pinot Noir. But I might just be drinking gin and tonics! 

Joanna Mohr, Harvest Intern
I’m a last minute everything so my Thanksgiving wines are yet to be bought, but I can’t get enough of our current release Grenache so that will absolutely be enjoyed. I can never choose between pairing turkey with white or red because I think both are equally as fun. I had a great Muscadet Sur Lié the other day that I think will pair great. And a Chinon almost always makes an appearance!

John Morris, Tasting Room Manager
For me the key to Thanksgiving is to keep it simple.  Unless you’re hosting a group of wine geeks, getting too caught up in the perfect pairing can seem a bit much with all that’s going on with both food and guests.  Most writers will relay the same basic info:  choose, low-tannin, moderate-alcohol reds, or richer whites with minimal to no oak.  Fortunately, if you’re choosing Tablas Creek wines, there’s no shortage of options!  Counoise, Grenache, and Côte de Tablas are great choices for reds, while, Marsanne, Bourboulenc, and Côtes de Tablas Blanc are great white choices.  Or maybe an Esprit de Tablas Blanc if you really, really (and I mean really) like your guests.  This year however, I stopped by Wines on Main in Templeton, which was just opened by Jennifer Baeza, a long-time Tasting Room  host here at Tablas Creek, and picked up a 2018 Zyme Valpolicella from Veneto in Northern Italy as the main wine for the meal.  Although I haven’t had this wine, I love Valpolicellas for their medium weight, floral aromas, and subtle fruitiness that is often countered by a touch of bitterness.  Let’s see how it turns out!

Gustavo Prieto, Bidynamicist
Like most years I like to start with bubbles and I’m opening a Cremant de Loire Amirault N/V, from a great producer and it is biodynamic!

For the dinner table, as always I love to have one of my favorites whites from Tablas, a 2004 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, a powerful vintage that will go well with all the different flavors. For reds, a pretty 2005 Esprit the Beaucastel from a great vintage year, also we’ll have on the table a great producer from Cornas, France, Alain Voge, 2019 Chapelle Saint-Pierre. This is a 100% Syrah, with beautiful earthy notes, made from biodynamic grown grapes.

Sarah Schultz, Harvest Intern
Getting to see my family is one of the many reasons why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Our Thanksgiving is an all day affair with food, games, and of course, wine. This year as our family from Lakeport, CA, cannot make it, we have decided to drink wines from Lake county that way they are celebrating with us in spirit. We will start the morning with a light breakfast and Boatique Brut Bubbles. (Pomegranate or orange juice optional) Appetizers include my moms signature spinach dip and popping open a bottle of Brassfield 2021 Pinot Gris. Our dinner is a traditional smoked turkey dinner cooked by my dad this year being served with 2017 Writers Block Syrah. Happy Thanksgiving!

And as for me...
Typically, my choice is to open the largest bottle I have to hand at Thanksgiving gatherings. There's usually a story behind a big bottle, and the randomness of "just open it" adds a certain amount of pleasurable discovery to the gathering, as well as the festivity that large bottles bring. But for the first time in more than 15 years, I'm spending Thanksgiving in Vermont where I grew up, and my dad really didn't collect large-format bottles. So we did the best we could by buying a magnum of Domaine Tempier Rosé from our lovely local wine shop Meditrina, and we'll open some of the lovely old Burgundies that my dad laid down. Here are some of the options:

Wines from outside cellar

We'll probably want a white as well, and my go-to is Esprit Blanc with some -- but not too much -- age. Maybe the 2012 that has been so pretty recently. We'll probably also break into a dessert wine, because if not with a meal like this, when you have a crowd around the table and aren't expected to do anything beyond play games and watch football, when?!? Beyond that, we'll have to see! 

Wherever you are, however you're celebrating, please know that we are thankful for you. May your celebrations be memorable, the wines you open outstanding, and the company even better.

2023 Harvest Recap: Late, but Worth the Wait

On Thursday, with the bin of Roussanne pictured below, we completed the 2023 harvest. Well, mostly, at least. We completed the last pick. There's still some of that pick that is sitting on straw in one of our greenhouses, working to get that last little bit of concentration. This last pick was a full month later than the last pick in 2022. If you've been following along with the growing season, that won't be a surprise. But it's still a relief. 

Last Bin of Roussanne

2023 was our coolest year since 2011. That cool weather, combined with a late start thanks to our record rainfall last winter, meant that we came out of dormancy late, hit every marker late, and harvested late. At the beginning of October we were only 10% done, and with El Nino looming in the Pacific, had real worries as to whether or not we'd get the crop in before it started to rain. But we got lucky. The weather warmed up in October, the rain (and frosts) held off, and we were able to pick everything. Check out the degree days trend for the year. 2023 is the bold, red dotted line. The key inflection point is at the beginning of October, at which it bends back up and since we've seen more-or-less average heat accumulation:

Cumulative Growing Degree Days through November 9th

Another way of looking at the cool year is going month by month compared to normal. We've had two months that were slightly warmer than average (July and October), three that were slightly cooler than normal (April, May, and August), and two that were significantly chillier than normal (June and September):

Degree Days by Month 2023 vs Average

As you would suspect, the cool September didn't exactly cause fruit to come tumbling in. But once it warmed up in October, things shifted into high gear. That month included our busiest-ever week of over 140 tons between October 8th and 14th. In the chart below, blue is purchased fruit for the Patelin or Lignée programs, and orange estate-grown fruit. While the timing of the arrival of our purchased grapes is more variable, the estate fruit forms an almost perfect bell curve:

2023 Harvest tons by week

Yields were up 39.9% overall off the estate vs. 2022, which sounds amazing, but it's more a reflection of how low 2022 was than that 2023 was some crazy windfall. We also have some new acreage in production, which means that even with all those new grapes we averaged 3.04 tons/acre. A list of our other vintages that saw crop levels right around 3 tons per acre reads like a "greatest hits" collection and includes 2003, 2007, 2014, 2016, and 2019. But it's worth noting that there's a lot of variation in how different grapes did this year. The grapes that were up sharply were either the whites that were impacted by last year's frosts (Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Picpoul, and Roussanne) plus Grenache Noir, which saw the most significant increase in producing acreage. Other grapes were flat or even (in the cases of Viognier and Cinsaut) down a bit:

Grape 2023 Yields (tons) 2022 Yields (tons) % Change vs. 2022
Viognier 10.1 11.9 -15.1%
Marsanne 9.0 8.3 +8.4%
Grenache Blanc 29.3 14.2 +106.3%
Picpoul Blanc 7.2 4.2 +71.4%
Vermentino 13.0 8.7 +49.4%
Bourboulenc 7.2 5.9 +22.0%
Roussanne 26.2 10.5 +149.5%
Other whites 3.2 4.1 -22.0%
Total Whites 105.2 67.8 +55.2%
Grenache 97.1 52.5 +85.0%
Syrah 41.7 39.9 +4.5%
Mourvedre 47.4 42.9 +10.5%
Tannat 15.3 13.5 +13.3%
Counoise 22.4 14.4 +55.6%
Cinsaut 3.6 3.8 -5.3%
Other reds 7.1 8.0 -11.3%
Total Reds 234.6 175.0 +34.1%
Total 339.8 242.8  +39.9%

In trying to pull out trends that aren't just reflections of 2022's weirdness, it seems to me that early grapes (like Viognier, Marsanne, Cinsaut, and Syrah) were pretty much flat compared to last year's low levels, so below-average historically. Vermentino and Grenache Blanc look like exceptions to that rule, but they were frozen last year and even their healthier yields this year are a little below our long-term norms. The grapes that flowered and ripened in the middle of the cycle (think Grenache Noir, Tannat, and Bourboulenc) all saw above-average yields and in many cases were up notably from last year. And the late-sprouting grapes like Counoise, Mourvedre, and Roussanne were somewhere in the middle, up from last year but still around our long-term averages.

Ideally, the outstanding vine health this year pays us off in two ways. First, all that leaf area combined with relatively modest yields should translate into great intensity in the wines. That's consistent with what we're seeing with the deep colors and dramatic flavors in the wines we're tasting so far. But the second payoff is that the cane growth and this year's lack of frosts should put the vines in position to produce well next year too. The buds that will produce next year's growth, after all, are already formed. They're just waiting for the arrival of spring to show themselves.

We had 129 harvest lots, an increase of 14 vs. 2022. These included 12 more estate lots (94 instead of 82), two more Lignée lots (4 instead of 2) and the same number of Patelin lots (31). The combination of the increased fruit off the estate and some larger Patelin lots meant that we processed 35% more fruit this year than we did in 2022. No wonder the cellar team was ready to celebrate! In the photo below of our harvest chalkboard, estate lots are in white, while purchased lots are green. Each line represents one pick. And yes, we have five more lots that we're going to have to figure out how to fit into those last three lines:

Harvest chalkboard nearly done

One way that you can get a quick assessment of a vintage is to look at average sugars and acids. Since 2010, our average degrees Brix and pH at harvest:

Year Avg. Sugars Avg. pH
2010 22.68 3.51
2011 22.39 3.50
2012 22.83 3.65
2013 22.90 3.63
2014 23.18 3.59
2015 22.60 3.59
2016 22.04 3.71
2017 22.87 3.74
2018 22.80 3.62
2019 22.30 3.62
2020 22.14 3.62
2021 22.12 3.55
2022 22.14 3.70
2023 22.77 3.51

It's been a long time since we saw sugar and (especially) pH numbers like this. In fact, you need to go back to 2010 to find a comparable year. How big a difference does 0.19 pH points make? A lot more than you might think. pH is measured in a logarithmic scale, so a pH of 3 has ten times the concentration of acid ions as a pH of 4. So the average pH of 3.51 is 55% more acidic than the average pH of 3.70 we saw last year. That's why Chelsea described what we were seeing as "dream chemistry" in an Instagram Live we recorded mid-harvest. We can thank this year's cooler weather and lack of heat spikes for the vibrant acids, but I also think it points to the health of the vineyard thanks to the ample rain last winter and the years of regenerative farming that have allowed it to hold that water in a zone where the vines' roots can find it. 

Of course, just because we've finished picking doesn't mean that we're done with our cellar work. There are still plenty of lots to be pressed off, tanks to be dug out, and fermentations to monitor. But it feels different than it does earlier in harvest, when you're emptying tanks to make room for the next pick. We've already put a couple of our open-top fermenters outside, along with our sorting table and destemmer. And now, when we press something off and clean a tank out, that's the last time of the season: 

Joanna digging out Mourvedre

In character, it's early to tell what things will be like, but I asked Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi to sum up the vintage, and she was enthusiastic: "the long ripening really helped us out with the depth and intensity. Even this early the aromas are so nuanced, layered, and complex. If this is a sign of things to come I think we've got a really exciting vintage ahead of us." We're all looking forward to getting to know the wines of 2023 even better in coming weeks.

Mourvedre in the press

With rain in the forecast for later this week, we've been pushing to get the vineyard prepped for winter. We've been spreading compost, seeding cover crop, and laying straw on our vineyard roads:

Straw on the farm road

Just as this year has gone since the beginning, it looks like we'll get it done just in time. We've been telling ourselves, for what feels like months, that we'll have a rest when we get to Thanksgiving. It looks like that's about right. And there will be plenty to give thanks for.

Jordy on quad

Knowing rain is on the way makes our brief, lovely autumn all the more special

It's always a shock when daylight savings ends, and I realize it's already dark as I wrap up my work day. But there are rewards of having the sun set while I'm still at work, not least that I can look out my office window, realize that the light is breathtaking, and grab my phone and head out to the vineyard. I did that yesterday and got some shots that I loved. First, a photo of Sadie (who turns 9 today) prowling through my beauty shot. The aura of light makes it look like I photoshopped her into the picture, but I didn't.

Sadie in the sunset

The low sun angles brings out the autumn colors in the vines. A different view of the vineyard block above, looking south over the Syrah and Roussanne instead of west, shows the warm yellows and oranges that join the green in this season.

Autumn Syrah and Roussanne

I got another view that highlights the fall colors looking downhill through our oldest Counoise block (also the oldest Counoise block in California):

Autumn Counoise

I sometimes feel like I've taken every picture there is to take here, but I got a perspective I've never noticed before, with the sun at my back silhouetting one of our big valley oak trees against the warm colors of an old Grenache block. I'm not sure there is a more "Paso Robles in autumn" shot than this one:

Oak silhouette on Grenache

I got up on top of the ridge you see in the above photo and was able to get a photo of the sun setting where there was also enough light to illuminate the Grenache vines in the foreground:

Sunset over Syrah and Grenache

We've started shifting our focus from bringing in our grapes (there's only a little Roussanne left out) to prepping our land for the coming rainy season. This tractor probably isn't going to have any more grapes to haul:

Dramatic tractor

We know we've gotten lucky with frosts. Much of Paso Robles has gotten a few already, with some temperatures down in the mid-20s. That's not an issue for grapevines that have already been picked, but if there's still fruit out, a hard frost will kill off the leaves and mean there won't be any more ripening because photosynthesis is over for the year. At that point, the leaves turn brown and crispy, ready to fall off as the vine transitions into its winter dormancy. Those are the conditions that I see every day looking out my window, as we had a few frosts last week in the Templeton Gap. Now that vineyard -- source of our Full Circle Pinot Noir -- looks ready for winter. Soon, the whole vineyard will:

Pinot with brown leaves
This brief-but-beautiful autumn season will end as soon as we get a hard freeze out at Tablas, which could happen as soon as this weekend. And whether it freezes or not, it looks like we're about to make our transition to winter. The first winter storm of the season is forecast to arrive next Tuesday:

That transition is perfectly timed, from our perspective. We should be done picking this week. We'll have a chance to get cover crop seed down where it needs to go before the rain. We should have a chance to do some keyline plowing to help slow down the surface flow of water and encourage deeper penetration. And the quantities are perfect for a first storm: enough to do more than wet the surface, but not enough to worry about erosion before the cover crop has sprouted.

We feel like since October the 2023 season has played out just as we'd have hoped it would. It seems like that's going to continue for at least a little longer.

Autumn sunset vertical

An Internship Unlike Any Other: An Interview with Liberty Wines Apprentice Ceren Eroglu

By Ian Consoli

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’re aware that each year, we host three harvest interns here at Tablas Creek. Getting to know these interns is always a treat, and knowing that, three months later, they leave steeped in Tablas Creek’s practices and with experience in all aspects of harvest is great. It’s one of the ways that we pay it forward. But this year, an additional opportunity dropped into our laps. In February, we received an email from Liberty Wines, our agent in the UK, about their Apprentice Scheme.  Liberty Wines’ Head of Education, Clare Whitehead, summarized the program:

We have now been running the Liberty Wines Apprentice scheme since 2007 and have had one (or two) apprentices every year since! Unique in the industry, our 2-year programme offers candidates a detailed and wide-ranging experience of many departments within the organisation. They are also supported through the WSET Diploma Level 4 and undertake two vintages in the northern and southern hemispheres.

It has given Liberty an excellent way to grow talent and provides opportunities to people who might not have otherwise chosen wine as a career. We are proud to send our apprentices to our producers, as ambassadors of Liberty Wines and look forward to their return a newfound intimate knowledge of not just winemaking, but also the producer!

We were asked by Liberty Wines if we’d be interested in hosting one of their apprentices for their northern hemisphere harvest. Our response: “of course”! Ceren Eroglu joined the harvest team in early October, making her their first Apprentice to do so in California. She proved to be an immediate asset to the team. Winemaker Neil Collins commented on her engaging nature, intellect, and strong work ethic as valuable components to this harvest's success. "We wish she could have stayed longer!"

Alas, Ceren concluded her one-month harvest this week and will continue her internship back in the United Kingdom. But before she left, I sat down with her to find out why she did this apprenticeship, learn about her wine journey, and hear about her time at Tablas Creek. We can't wait for you to meet her.

Ceren Eroglu

Who are you?

My name is Ceren Eroglu. I am an Apprentice at Liberty Wines and have been here for about a month, helping with the harvest at Tablas Creek.

 What is Liberty Wines?

Liberty Wines is one of the UK's leading wine importers and distributors.

 Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself? Where did you grow up?

I'm from Turkey but moved around a lot growing up. We lived in Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, and Austria before I moved to Canada for college. I live in London now and have been in the UK for the last eight and a half years or so.

 How did you get into wine?

I did my master's in the UK and started working at a financial services research company immediately after. During the lockdowns in 2020, I was going stir-crazy working from home and decided to take a few wine courses. I really enjoyed them, so I spoke to a few friends in the wine industry and decided to switch to wine in October of last year. So it's been exactly a year.

 What wine classes were you taking?

I lived around the corner from the WSET school in London, and I just walked by and thought, "I like wine. This is something I could learn more about." It was just purely by chance. I did levels two and three while working in finance, and now I'm completing my WSET Diploma.

Can you explain what that means regarding working with Liberty, completing the diploma, and what that connection is to Tablas Creek?

Sure. I am in Liberty Wines' two-year Apprenticeship program, working with different teams across the company every month to two months. That gives me exposure to and an understanding of how every single team works, the company, the industry, how we fit within it, and how we can be the best company within it. From my view, the goal of the Apprenticeship is to get a holistic understanding of the wine industry and Liberty wines more generally. Part of that includes two harvests abroad: one in the northern hemisphere, which I'm completing here now, and one in the southern hemisphere, which I will hopefully take part in around February or March next year. It also includes the WSET diploma. I'm about halfway through the second semester of the diploma.

Ceren Eroglu on sorting table

How long do you work the harvests?

It depends. Northern Hemisphere is typically a month, so I'm doing five weeks here at Tablas. Southern Hemisphere is typically about two months just because you're going further away, but I guess I've come a pretty long way anyway.

 Is it common for apprentices to come to the US?

It is typically Europe. It's sometimes based on language requirements, sometimes based on producers. I speak a bit of French, so it was between France and the US. The Brand Manager who covers our producers in the US works with Tablas Creek, and she highly recommended coming here.

 Does it have to be a company that Liberty distributes?

Yes, it's typically a producer we have a really good relationship with who will take the time to teach the apprentice how to make wine and show them around the area.

How's it going?

Really good. I'm having the best time. It's totally different to my day-to-day job. I had to write an email the other day and realized I'd forgotten my laptop password [laughs]. The team is welcoming, and there's a strong sense of community here that I'm really going to miss. This has been a great place for my first harvest because of how understanding and happy to answer questions everyone is.

The harvest team at Tablas Creek 2023

Do you feel like this harvest has helped you understand your WSET courses and diploma?

A hundred percent. Seeing everything has been amazing. I understood the theory behind winemaking, viticulture, vinification, all that stuff, but it was just theory. I had never seen everything in action, and seeing it solidified everything in my mind. It is interesting to see how the team works with different grapes, especially red grapes. Different types of cap management, days of fermentation, how they process the fruit, whether whole cluster or not, which choices they may or may not make, what kind of barrels to use. All of that. Seeing those decisions made in real-time has been super helpful for the rest of my studies.

What are your plans at the conclusion of this internship?

I'll spend a few days in Sonoma and Napa with my partner, then travel along the coast. We'll spend a few more days in Paso so I can show him Tablas before we head back to London. I'll be going straight back to work. I will likely work with Customer Services over Christmas, then prepare for the Southern Hemisphere harvest.

Ceren Eroglu doing a punchdown

What's the best bottle of wine you've ever had?

The best bottle of Tablas Creek was the 2015 Roussanne. I think it's fantastic, so much depth and complexity and so much potential to age further. We tried the 2003 Vermentino with lunch a few weeks ago. That was fantastic too. It's aged beautifully, was quite refreshing, and really vibrant.

Is there anything else you want to share with the Tablas Creek audience?

I think Tablas makes great wines, and I'm so excited to keep enjoying them!