2023 Red Blending: Dazzling Wines from a Cool Year... including a Chillable Grenache

Last week we finally got to sit down and taste the eighteen (!) red wines from the 2023 vintage we'd built around the blending table over the past month. The tasting highlighted the incredible combination of vibrancy and depth that we'd all remarked upon during the blending process. From the peppery blood orange and bay-like herbiness of the Terret Noir to the boysenberry, red licorice, and sweet tobacco appeal of Grenache, the soy, melted licorice, black raspberry and graphite umami of the Le Complice, and the pure currant, black plum, and sweet earth depth of the Panoplie, each wine was somehow like itself, but moreso: both deep and expressive, with refinement and lovely high notes. What a pleasure. 2023 was a vintage unlike any that we've seen in a long time, in which we saw record-breaking rains, late budbreak and veraison, the coolest growing season since 2011, and a delayed harvest that didn't finish until mid-November. And unlike the white blending that we finished in April, where yields were still depressed from the residual impacts of 2022's frost, there was good supply of most of our reds, and especially Grenache. So, what a relief that there was such outstanding quality to go with healthy quantities. 

As usual, we got a visit from Cesar Perrin. Unlike usual, Cesar brought two other members of the Famille Perrin cellar team, Valentin Castaneda and Christian Reboul, which meant that we had that many more perspectives and an additional five decades of blending experience around the blending table. Like the Perrins' own system at Beaucastel, we take the blending process in steps and build consensus rather than relying on one or two lead voices to determine the wines' final profiles. After all, when you have nine family members involved in a multi-generational business, as they do at Beaucastel, it's a good policy and good family relations to make sure everyone is on the same page before you go forward. The same is true with a partnership like Tablas Creek where both founding families have equal ownership. Mornings we would taste. Each afternoon, we'd explore different pieces of what we're working on in the vineyard or cellar:

Christian  Valentin  Cesar  Neil and JasonFrom left, Christian, Valentin, Cesar, Neil, Jason

We try to do most of our tasting in the morning because that's when everyone's palates and brains are freshest. Afternoons are for the aforementioned explorations, or brainstorming, or chances to visit with other local winemakers. We began the week, as we always do, by tasting each of the different red lots in the cellar, which in 2023 numbered a substantial 68. On Monday we tackled Cinsaut, Counoise, Muscardin, Mourvedre, Vaccarese, Syrah, and Tannat. Tuesday we dove into Grenache, which encompassed an amazing 24 lots, and then cleaned up some of the trace varieties, including Terret Noir, Pinot Noir, two co-fermented lots and the blended lots that will become our 2023 Patelin de Tablas and Lignée de Tablas wines. We keep our different harvest lots separate until they've finished fermentation so we can assess their quality and character before we have to decide which wines they fit best in. After all, a Mourvedre lot could potentially go into any of six wines: PanoplieEspritEn GobeletCotesPatelin, or the varietal Mourvedre. So our goal at this first stage of blending is to give each lot a grade that's reflective of its overall quality, and to start to flag lots that we think might be particularly suited to one wine or another. This component tasting is also an opportunity for us to get a sense of which varieties particularly shined or struggled, which helps provide direction as we start to brainstorm about blends.

We grade on a 1-3 scale, with "1" being our top grade (for a deep dive into how we do our blending, check out this blog by Chelsea from a few years back). We also give ourselves the liberty to give intermediate "1/2" or "2/3" grades for lots that are right on the cusp. For context, in a normal year, for every 10 lots we might see three or four "1" grades, five or six "2" grades and one "3" grade. As you can see from my notes, this year we saw a lot of "1" grades and very few "3" grades:

2023 red blending notes

How I graded each variety, in the order in which we tasted them:

  • Cinsaut (2 lots): An outstanding beginning, with two quite different lots of Cinsaut both excellent. One was plush and spicy, with great acids and fruit. The other was deeper, with less acid but more texture. I gave them both "1" grades.
  • Counoise (7 lots): Several of these lots showed the pale, pretty, spicy Gamay-style juiciness that our varietal Counoise bottling typically reflects, but unlike in 2022 there were also richer options, culminating in one stunning lot from our new Jewel Ridge plantings with the darker blueberry fruit and rich texture that we look for in Esprit. I gave out one "1" grade, two "1/2" grades, two "2" grades, and two "2/3" grades for lots I thought were pretty enough, but a little on the thin side.
  • Muscardin (1 lot): Progress! Not only did we have a barrel of 100% Muscardin to taste, but it was delicious: spicy and floral, with flavors of raspberry and green herbs. I gave it a "1/2" and we decided to make it our first-ever varietal Muscardin bottling.
  • Mourvedre (10 lots): If we were pleased by the first three wines, we were blown away by Mourvedre. This was the most structured collection of Mourvedre lots in recent years, but they all also showed a vibrancy and a refinement that was just lovely. Six lots got "1"s from me, with three others getting "1/2", one "2"s and nothing lower than that. The only downside is that quantities were barely improved from the punishingly low levels of 2022, so we were going to be constrained in blending.
  • Vaccarese (2 lots): In this darker, higher-acid year, Vaccarese stood out a little less from the wines around it than it has the past few vintages. Still, the grape showed why we're so excited about it, with candied blackberry fruit and vibrant acids. I gave one lot a "1" and the other, which felt perhaps a touch too tannic for Esprit, a "1/2".
  • Syrah (11 lots): Syrah at this stage is easy to appreciate, with its plush dark fruit, spice, and powerful structure. And the lots we tasted had that in abundance, with my main question being whether lots were too monolithic for Esprit. I gave out five "1"s, two "1/2" grades to lots I thought were more medium-bodied and therefore good candidates for varietal Syrah, and four "2" lots split between two with such big tannins I wanted to keep them out of Esprit, and two that were just a little on the quiet side.
  • Tannat (4 lots): Exuberant, with Tannat's normal density but leavened by acids even more vibrant than usual. We didn't bother grading the lots, since they're all getting blended together, but they were all strong. 

What a first day. Of the 33 lots we graded, I gave out fifteen "1" grades and nine "1/2"s. That's unprecedented. And it was strong across lighter-bodied and richer grapes. But would it be just as strong in Grenache, when yields had gone up by an amazing 85% compared to 2022? That was the question for Tuesday. It turned out I needn't have worried:

  • Grenache (24 lots): Grenache can be difficult to taste this early in its evolution, as it is slow to finish fermentation and some lots are just rounding into form. And in recent years we've found Grenache tending toward a pale, spicy profile more like Counoise rather than the darker-fruited, more licorice note found in the Rhone. But led by the growing number of head-trained Grenache blocks, we saw plenty of lots with lushness and sweet fruit, and even some with significant structure. I gave eight lots "1" grades, six others "1/2" grades, nine "2"s and one single "2/3" lot that would end up being the only one declassified into Patelin. If you're going to have so much Grenache that you have to figure out what to do with it, it's great that it's delicious! 
  • Terret Noir (1 lot): The year seems to have treated Terret well, with a little extra darkness in this often-pale grape and nice herby grip. I gave it a "2" and thought it would be great for Le Complice
  • Pinot Noir (1 lot): From the small vineyard in the Templeton Gap that my dad planted outside the house he and my mom built in 2007, where my wife Meghan and I live now. It's planted to a mix of different Pinot Noir clones. Unlike in past years, we didn't keep the different clones separate through fermentation. So there wasn't much to discuss, though we very much liked the assembled wine and thought it would make a compelling 2023 Full Circle.
  • Blend Lots (2 lots): These were impossible to generalize, with one blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, and Counoise outstanding (I gave it a "1") and the other blend of Mourvedre and Grenache pretty and juicy but a little simple. I gave it a "2".

We finished day two with our normal round-table discussion about what we wanted to try in the next day's blending of Panoplie and Esprit and came to the conclusion that given the overall strength of the vintage we should start the blending trials with three test blends, each one leaning a little heavier into one of the big three of Mourvedre, Grenache, and Syrah, and see where that took us. In terms of quantity, the improved yields meant that we felt confident we could bump our Esprit production to around 3500 cases and our Cotes production to around 1500 (an increase of 500 and 300 cases, respectively) while still leaving ourselves room to make some outstanding varietal bottlings. Which ones, and how much, would be determined by the makeup of the blends we chose. 

Wednesday morning was Cesar's last day with us, as he had committed to hosting a dinner that evening in Long Beach and would be returning to France from there, although we got to keep Valentin and Christian for the rest of the week. So we decided to try to come up with some direction for both Panoplie and Esprit while Cesar was here, and then figure we could work out the details later. As always, we tasted our options blind, not knowing what was in each glass.

Panoplie is always overwhelmingly Mourvedre (typically around 60%) and we try to cap the Syrah percentage at no more than about 25%, because Syrah's dominance often threatens to overwhelm the Mourvedre character of the wine. That said, the trial Panoplie with the most Syrah (26%, along with 58% Mourvedre and 16% Grenache) got about 60% of the first-place votes in round one, with the blend that maxed out Mourvedre (66%) and reduced both Grenache (19%) and Syrah (15%) got the other 40% of the first choices. No one preferred the blend with the most Grenache (31%, along with 58% Mourvedre and 11% Syrah). After some discussion, we decided to try a blend which split the difference between the two favorites and ended up with something that everyone loved. Final blend: 61% Mourvedre, 23% Syrah, and 16% Grenache. 

Panoplie decided, we moved on to the Esprit. With the relatively scarce vintage for Mourvedre, we didn't have the option of truly leaning hard (like 50%) into our lead grape. So we tried Mourvedre ranges from 33% to 37%, Syrah ranges from 22% to 31%, and Grenache ranges from 26% to 33%. Somewhat to our surprise, the blend with the most Syrah was again our favorite, with a nice balance of brightness and lushness and youthfully powerful tannins. Unlike the Panoplie, we couldn't think of an obvious way to tweak it to make it better, so we decided we'd table that and come back later to decide which trace varieties we wanted to use. 

After one last lunch together, Cesar headed south and we turned our attention to our remaining wine club blends, starting with En Gobelet. With the easing of the drought and the new production off of Jewel Ridge and other new head-trained blocks, we have more options for this wine than ever before, even after using some of our favorite head-trained lots in Esprit and Panoplie. For the third wine in a row, we chose the blend with the least Grenache (49%) and most Syrah (14%) to go along with 31% Mourvedre and 3% each of Tannat and Counoise. That's still a lot of Grenache, and we felt that the relatively higher percentages of Syrah and Mourvedre gave the pretty sugarplum fruit more density and seriousness. 

For Le Complice, which celebrates the kinship we feel Terret Noir shows with whole cluster Syrah, we dismissed the blend with the most Grenache (41%) and least Syrah (51%) as pretty and luscious but not structured or wild enough, and split between the power of a blend with 65% Syrah, 29% Grenache, and 6% Terret and the herby vibrancy of a blend with 58% Syrah, 29% Grenache, and 13% Terret Noir. As with the Panoplie, splitting the difference made a wine that everyone was happy with: 62% Syrah, 28% Grenache, and 10% Terret. Note that we made less of this (just 360 cases, vs. 750 cases in most recent years) so we can increase the flexibility of what we send out to VINsider club members.

At this point, we'd made four blends and had the following quantities of wine left of our main grapes. Do you notice the outlier?

  • Mourvedre: 1230 gallons
  • Grenache: 9173 gallons
  • Syrah: 2555 gallons
  • Counoise: 2199 gallons

Given those quantities, Friday was going to be a deep dive into Grenache, and it was something of a relief when we convened to taste the Cotes de Tablas first thing in the morning, we had universal consensus that our favorite wine was one that used the most Grenache: 66%, along with 18% Syrah, and 8% each Counoise and Mourvedre. Still, that left us with about 6800 gallons of the grape, enough for nearly 3,000 cases. I have been wanting us to make a more substantial amount of varietal Grenache, enough to release nationally, so I asked Chelsea to blend the best 4800 gallons into what would become a 2,000 case lot for us to taste. We did, and loved it. It was juicy and spicy, with pure cherry and plum fruit, good acids, and appealing sweet spice. It was so good, in fact, that I wondered aloud if adding another 1200 gallons (500 cases) was viable.

We decided that after lunch we would blind taste the 2,000-case varietal Grenache we'd tasted that morning against a potential 2,50o-case Grenache. I went into this expecting that I'd like the smaller lot (with, after all, higher-rated components) and was just hoping that the two blends would be close enough in quality that we'd all be content. Instead, it seemed like the extra lots that we added, which tended to be higher in acid and less ripe, brought out a lovely saline minerality and expressiveness while giving the fruit more focus and taming the little bit of alcoholic heat that we'd been perceiving on the nose. Done, and done. There really is nothing like tasting blind to tell you what the right solution is. 

That left about 1100 gallons of the Grenache that the cellar was calling "the rest". I figured we should taste it so that we'd know, if we were looking to sell it to another winery, what it was like. That happens from time to time. So we did. And while it didn't have the power (or the color) of the 2,500-case varietal Grenache we had just blended, it was pretty, spicy, with a little crushed stone minerality on the nose. The palate showed lovely strawberry fruit and bright acids. We were all admiring it when Chelsea spoke up: "You know, I would love to have a box of this in my fridge this summer." And the last piece fell into place. It turned out that the lots we'd marked down for not being dark or structured enough made the perfect chillable red. We'll have enough to make something like 900 3L boxes to sell here and 65 kegs to sell to restaurants and wine bars around the country to pour on tap. Look for that release (which we're tentatively planning to call Alouette1) in August.

At that point, Christian and Valentin had to return to France, and I had to hit the road for a week of work in Washington DC. When I got back we had a pre-scheduled bottling run, and then a few people had other commitments that kept us from all getting together. So it wasn't until week-before-last that we sat down to put the finishing touches on the Esprit and then taste the full lineup. We'd blocked out, we felt, the right proportions of Mourvedre, Grenache, and Syrah for Esprit, but hadn't been able to dive into the trace varieties to our satisfaction. So back to the blending table we went, and tried three different approaches to fill the 10% of the blend that we'd left for Vaccarese, Cinsaut, and Counoise. And we were grateful that we did. The "baseline" proportion that we'd used in the first round (6% Counoise, 3% Vaccarese, and 1% Cinsaut) turned out to be our least favorite, and the one we liked most maxed out our Cinsaut at 6%, with Vaccarese and Counoise dropping to 2% each. That meant we wouldn't have a varietal Cinsaut, but would have a little more varietal Counoise and Vaccarese. And that's fine. You have to know what your priorities are when you go into blending, and for us, what the Esprit wants, it gets. In this case, what the Esprit got from the additional Cinsaut was more plushness and length, and a touch of licorice-like sweet spice. It felt somehow appropriate that finishing touch on our most important wine came from the first grape that we tasted on the first day of the component trials.

Those decisions made, all that was left was to taste the full lineup of blends and varietal wines, and to add in the non-estate wines like Patelin de Tablas and Lignée de Tablas. It's important for us to make sure everything is properly differentiated. We don't want, for example, a Grenache-dominated wine like Cotes de Tablas to taste too much like our varietal Grenache, or the Esprit and Panoplie, both of which are based on Mourvedre, to feel too close to each other or our varietal Mourvedre. We also were looking forward to tasting our Syrah against the Lignée de Tablas Shake Ridge Syrah. The wines:

2023 blended reds

My quick notes on each of the eighteen wines we made, and their rough quantities: 

  • Counoise (1015 cases): A juicy brambly nose with notes of wild strawberry, rhubarb, and rose petals. Clean, pure, and bright on the palate with flavors of ripe red raspberry, cranberry and pomegranate, bright acids, and a spicy chaparral note on the finish. Like springtime in the woods.
  • Terret Noir (90 cases): A peppery nose of blood orange, pink peppercorn, and sweetgrass. The palate is tannic and pithy with a bay-like herbiness, black raspberry fruit, and a finish of watermelon rind and sagebrush. Fascinating and fun.
  • Muscardin (25 cases): A nose of aromatic bitters and Aperol, spice cabinet and potpourri. On the palate, like cherry Jolly Rancher, but fully dry with fresh green herbs and a nice saltiness on the finish. I have to believe that this will be most people's first exposure to Muscardin, and it should be memorable and fun.
  • Full Circle (260 cases): A distinctively Pinot nose of cherry cola, milk chocolate, leather, and a little sweet oak. The mouth shows cherry skin, sweet earth, and a little oregano-like herbiness from some well-integrated stems. There's a kiss of oak on the finish.  
  • Vaccarese (250 cases): A nose of dark chocolate, black pepper, mint, and black raspberry. On the palate, black cherry, graphite, and cocoa powder, good acids, and then a finish with black tea and black licorice notes over healthy tannins.
  • Grenache Alouette (1080 gallons): A high-toned nose of peppermint stick, cranberry, and grenadine. On the palate, juicy and appealing with flavors of watermelon, red cherry, and candied orange. Medium-bodied, with gentle tannins and refreshing acidity. Should be delicious lightly chilled.
  • Grenache (2500 cases): A nose of boysenberry, red licorice, and potpourri. The palate is full-bodied with flavors of fresh fig, grape jelly, pipe tobacco, and sweet spice. Good structure, with chalky tannins coming out on the finish. I'm so excited to have so much of this.
  • Cotes de Tablas (1500 cases): An umami-rich nose, especially compared to the Grenaches that preceded it, of grilled portabella, black raspberry, cinnamon bread, and dry autumn leaves. On the palate, like all the parts of a plum, from the sweet juice to the bite of the skin, with additional flavors of luxardo cherry, clove, and cocoa powder. The finish brings out a nice bite of tannin and more sweet, earthy spice.
  • Mourvedre (330 cases): A lovely focused nose of red currant, sugarplum, new leather, and an enticing meaty, herby complexity like a leg of lamb that has been rubbed with bay and thyme. On the palate, currant and milk chocolate, red apple skin, and loamy earth. Pure and lovely.
  • Lignée de Tablas Fenaughty Vineyard (560 cases): This blend of 67% Grenache and 33% Mourvedre is one of two new entries into our Lignée de Tablas program. A savory, classically Sierra Foothills nose of dusty blackberry, juniper, and caramel. On the palate, flavors of sweet cream butter, elderberry, and a licorice note that dances between red and black. The finish becomes more savory again, with notes of flint, iron, and black raspberry. More on this wine soon. 
  • Patelin de Tablas (7000 cases): A pretty, savory nose of black pepper and teriyaki marinade. Lovely on the palate with black fruit and black licorice in front leavened by plum skin acids and a finish with sweet sarsaparilla and smoky oolong tea notes. Somehow both serious and playful, and should be a great introduction for people into the category of California Rhone-style blends. The blend ended up 45% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 23% Mourvedre, and 2% Counoise.
  • Syrah (800 cases): A nose of warm dark leather, baker's chocolate, and dark roast coffee. The mouth is plush with flavors of dark chocolate, blackberry, prosciutto, and black licorice, with rich, powerful tannins, minty spice, and an iron-like mineral note coming out on the finish.
  • Lignee de Tablas Shake Ridge Syrah (350 cases): The second new entry into our Lignée de Tablas program. A higher-toned nose than our Syrah, reflective of the high elevation of the Shake Ridge site, of blackberry preserves, brown sugar, bramble, and pencil shavings. The mouth is lively and herby with black raspberry and toasted walnut flavors, and the finish shows more dark fruit and graphite. More on this wine soon too. 
  • Tannat (980 cases): A generously juicy, minty nose of black cherry, graham cracker, and cocoa powder. The mouth is vibrant too, with a lovely chocolate-covered cherry note, salted butter, and boysenberry pie flavors . The finish shows Tannat's characteristic good acids, grippy tannins, and a lingering floral note like violets.
  • En Gobelet (760 cases): A pretty, refined nose of cinnamon toast and strawberry preserves. On the palate, flavors of strawberry-rhubarb pie, baking spices, sweet earth,  and candied orange. Nice lift on the long, gentle finish. Elegant and expressive.
  • Le Complice (360 cases): A lovely umami nose of soy, crushed rock, mint, sweet tobacco, and melted licorice. On the palate, more translucency than the nose suggested, with flavors of tangy black raspberry and plum skin and a clean mineral note reminiscent of wet stone. The long finish shows both sweet and savory herbs, and tannic grip cloaked in black fruit with a graphite-like mineral impression at the end. Memorable and impressive.
  • Esprit de Tablas (3500 cases): A serious nose of pipe tobacco, both red and black currant, licorice, and a little minty lift. The mouth is on point with flavors of black raspberry, mint chocolate, meat drippings, and loamy earth. Deep and full but structured as well, with fine-grained tannins and a finish of sweet spice and dark red fruit. 
  • Panoplie (800 cases): A deep, pure nose of plum pudding, chocolate mousse, meat drippings, hoisin, and leather. On the palate, the purity of the Mourvedre fruit shines: currant and black plum, sweet earth and duck fat. The finish has chewy tannins and a lovely saline persistence with notes of spun sugar and mocha. This should be a great Panoplie to lay down, though it may be so appealing young that a lot of it won't get that far.   

A few concluding thoughts. 

  • What a treat to have both Christian and Valentin around the blending table, and to see their excitement with what we were tasting. Christian, who worked for a long stretch at Domaine Tempier in Bandol and has for the last several years overseen the Famille Perrin operations in Gigondas and Vinsobres, is a somewhat intimidating addition to a blending session that's going to dive deep into Mourvedre. But seeing their enthusiasm for the freshness and lift of the wines they had in front of them, and living vicariously through their first visit to this special place we get to grow grapes and make wine, felt like serious validation of our work. During one of the final lunches, Christian stood up to give a toast, in which he roughly said (I'm translating here) "we are excited to learn that there is in fact paradise on Earth, and it's here in Paso Robles."
  • One of my favorites of Neil's sayings is "hang time is great... until it isn't". The 2023 vintage gave us incredibly long hang time, with harvest not starting until mid-September and not finishing until mid-November. That we got that long, slow ripening essentially without a single heat spike is a rare luxury. The consistent depth and intensity of the lots that we tasted was noteworthy. We know that this vintage is likely an climatic outlier, but that doesn't mean we aren't going to glory in what it gave us. I'm not sure I can remember another vintage with such a well-defined character, which is going to make future retrospective tastings a lot of fun.
  • One very interesting facet of this blending was that we've started to get more significant production off of some of our newly replanted (and mostly head-trained, dry-farmed) blocks. Those young vines, which are healthy and as yet unaffected by the virus we know we have in the vineyard, were consistently among our favorite lots. It will be interesting, as we move forward, integrating those juicier, more powerful lots into the more elegant, mineral-driven lots from the older vines. We want to make sure that we maintain the elegance and freshness that we've come to love (and our fans have come to expect) while also incorporating the more robust, juicy lots that we'll get from the young vines.
  • In terms of vintage comps, I'm not sure we have a great one for 2023. (For some examples, look at last year's blog post diving into vintage character.) It seems like 2011, with its dark fruit profile and lovely acids, is likely the closest to what we saw in 2023, but that was a frost year in addition to a cool year, and there's a generosity of fruit in 2023 that I don't find in 2011. There's something of the weightless elegance of 2015 in 2023, but the wines are more structured and Grenache, in particular, is stronger. It will be a pleasure to get to know these wines as they rest in barrel and eventually (or in the case of the Alouette Grenache, pretty soon) make their way to you.
  • Speaking of the Alouette, this blending session really drove home the value of the collaborative approach we use. It's not up to any one person to come up with a solution to the year's challenges. Ideas can come from anyone around that table, and if the blind tastings we do support them, we'll do it. If you'd told me, three years ago, that we'd conclude a blending session with three Famille Perrin members by deciding to add a chillable red -- and one that we'd market solely in box and keg -- to our lineup I'd likely have looked at you like you'd sprouted a second head. But I think it's going to be a gorgeous wine and a lovely addition to our portfolio. I can't wait to share it with you. 

I'll let Neil have the last word: "I thought the wines across the board were really strong, with good depth and good structure. It's super exciting to see the new blocks coming on; they're going to be a game changer for us. And, of course, how exciting to have our first-ever Muscardin!"

From all of us, cheers.

Lunch table during 2023 red blending

Footnote:

  1. Alouette, if your curious, means “lark” in French, with both of its meanings: the songbird but also something done on a whim, or for fun. For us to make a wine we're really excited about, in a category we've never explored, feels like a lark indeed!

2023 white blending trials suggest that we're looking at a truly special vintage: "each grape was clearly itself, but more so"

We spent four days last week around our blending table, working to turn the 37 different lots we made from our white grapes in 2023 into the blends and varietal bottlings we'll be releasing to you in coming months. Overall, we were really happy at the end of the week; the quality of what we tasted was uniformly outstanding, and quantities a lot better than what we saw in 2022. However, 2022 was so scarce -- due to the combined impacts of drought, frost, and our decision to pull out one underperforming Roussanne block -- that even with quantities of estate white grapes 55% higher in 2023 the wines will still be in short supply. So we still had some constraints on our blending this year that meant we entered the blending week with some fundamental questions. Would there be enough outstanding lots to give us choices with the Esprit de Tablas Blanc? Would the improved yields allow us to make a Cotes de Tablas Blanc? Would we have anything left to make varietal wines, and which ones? For the answers to these questions and more, read on.

If you're unfamiliar with how we do our blending, you might find it interesting to read this blog by Chelsea that she wrote a few years ago. And for a different behind-the-scenes glimpse, Neil recorded and posted little video updates of what we were working on and what we were thinking each day, which I enjoyed watching a lot at the time and found great fun to look back on now that we're done. If you missed them, they're on his Instagram feed.

Our first step was to taste each variety in flights, give each lot a grade, and start assessing the character of the year. Our grading system is simple; a "1" grade means the lot has the richness, elegance, and balance to be worthy of consideration for Esprit Blanc. A "2" grade means we like it, but it doesn't seem like Esprit, for whatever reason. It may be pretty, but without the concentration for a reserve-level wine. It might be so powerful we feel it won't blend well. Or it might just be out of the style we want for the Esprit, such as with too much new oak. A "3" grade means the lot has issues that need attention. It might be oxidized or reduced. It might still be fermenting and in a place that makes it hard to evaluate confidently. Or it might just not have the substance for us to be confident we'll want to use it. Most "3" lots resolve into 2's or 1's with some attention. If they don't, they end up getting sold off and they don't see the inside of a Tablas Creek bottle. Then, we start from the top of our hierarchy (with the whites, that's the Esprit de Tablas Blanc) and brainstorm possible blends, taste those blind against one another, rank our favorites, and come to consensus, sometimes through multiple iterations. Once we've determined the blend and quantity for the Esprit Blanc, we set aside the lots needed and look at what we have left for possible Cotes de Tablas Blanc and varietal bottlings. Finally, we taste everything we're going to make to be sure that each feels complete and individual. A snapshot of my notes is below. If you look closely, you'll see just how many 1's there are and how few 3's:

2023 White Blending Notes

The team which assembled for the entire week included Neil, Chelsea, Craig, Amanda, Austin, Kaitlyn, and myself. We had a few days when Gustavo and Erin joined us. I'm conscious of the fact that these blending weeks are like final exams for the cellar team, where their work is suddenly made public and evaluated. The high quality across the board is a great testament to their work over the last six months. I'm also grateful for the work that goes into these tastings, including pulling hundreds of individual lots, careful measuring and assembly, and then the lab work to get the samples clean and ready to taste. I captured this photo of Amanda, Craig, and Austin on Wednesday morning, tools of the trade in hand:

2023 White Blending Team

As usual, we took the first two days to taste through all the individual lots, with the core varieties we use for Esprit Blanc (Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, and Picpoul) on Monday, and everything else on Tuesday. My quick thoughts on each variety are below. For context, in a normal year, for every 10 lots we might see three or four "1" grades, five or six "2" grades and one "3" grade. When we think a lot is right on the cusp between two grades, we can note that with a slash ("1/2", or "2/3"). In rough harvest order:

  • Roussanne (10 lots): The quality of the Roussanne was outstanding, with excellent richness and texture across the board, and surprisingly good acids for this usually low-acid grape. I gave six lots, with characters spanning the spectrum between focused and mineral-driven, and opulent with a kiss of sweet oak, "1" grades. One other, to which I gave a "1/2", was less vibrant but pretty, while three others got "2" grades for various reasons, two were a touch softer than I'd like for the Esprit (but will be delicious in a varietal Roussanne) while one (which ended up going into Cotes Blanc) was high toned with great acids but without the characteristic Roussanne breadth.
  • Grenache Blanc (9 lots): A great Grenache Blanc showing, with six lots getting "1" grades, one "1/2" and two "2" lots that in other years could have been 1's. Everything was mouth-filling but electric with green apple and key lime acids, long finishes, and good minerality. The two that I gave "2" grades to were still sweet enough I was reluctant to earmark them for Esprit, but in all likelihood will when they're dry be just as good as the ones I gave "1" grades to.
  • Picpoul Blanc (4 lots): A little like the Grenache Blanc, I had trouble not giving all four lots "1" grades, as they all showed what we like best about Picpoul: its tropical fruit, creamy texture, and electric acids. I ended up marking one lot down to a "1/2" because it was a little less expressive than the others, but in reality it could have been a "1".
  • Viognier (4 lots): A Viognier vintage with good richness and good acids, but with a little less Viognier character than I was expecting. The two lots that had that luscious tropicality along with the richness and acids got "1" grades, while the other two got a "1/2" and a "2".
  • Marsanne (4 lots): Although I gave the same grades I did to Viognier (two 1's, a 1/2, and a 2) I felt like it was a really good Marsanne vintage, and I feel like in retrospect I was grading a little harshly. The top lots had pretty luscious honeydew character with nice texture and a salty mineral note. The "1/2" was still a little sweet but heading in the right direction, while the "2" lot was a touch on the dense side, more like Roussanne than Marsanne.
  • Picardan (1 lots): Only one Picardan lot this year, but it was lovely, with kiwi and pear fruit, nice minerality, and a little pithy bite on the finish. I gave it a "1".
  • Bourboulenc (3 lots): Three lots, all quite different from one another. My favorite, textured with nice cantaloupe fruit, rich texture, and salty minerality, I gave a "1". Another that was darker and nuttier, but still within the boundaries of what we consider characteristic for Bourboulenc, got a "2". And the third, which was still sweet and unfinished, had an unusual coffee grounds character that I wasn't sure what to make of. I gave it a "2/3" but am sure it will in the end become something worthwhile. This tasting also suggested that it was to Bourboulenc that we would look to find the small Tablas Creek component for Patelin de Tablas Blanc in 2023.
  • Clairette Blanche (1 lot): Just one two-barrel lot of Clairette Blanche in 2023, with classic peppered citrus character and a clean minerality that I loved. I gave it a "1".
  • Cotes Maduena Blend (1 lot): From a newly replanted block, we made a small field blend of Clairette Blanche (61%) and Roussanne (39%). It was still sweet, seemingly at this point more dominated by Clairette than Roussanne and without a super well-defined character though pretty enough. I gave it a "2". 

We finished Tuesday by brainstorming ideas for the Esprit Blanc. We've figured that our bare minimum of Esprit Blanc that we need to sell here and around the country and world is around 1700 cases, and that's what we've made the last two years. But given that we're already sold out of our 2021 Esprit Blanc, six months before the 2022 will be released, I wanted to increase our production back up to around 2100 cases. At that quantity, we didn't have infinite options (so, for example, we couldn't make a blend that was 70% Roussanne or 25% Picpoul because the quantities just weren't there) and we decided to make one blend that used our maximum possible Roussanne (around 55%), another that used our maximum Grenache Blanc (around 25%) and another that leaned more heavily into the brighter varieties like Picpoul and Bourboulenc and see where that took us. All three blends were going to use our full production of Picardan and Clairette, which were only going to amount to 5% and 2%. It's a bummer knowing that we won't have either of those as varietal wines, but with so little it didn't make sense to split up what there was. 

Wednesday morning, we started on our blending work by tasting three possible Esprit de Tablas Blanc blends. To my surprise, our least favorite was the one that leaned most heavily into Grenache Blanc. It had good texture and plenty of acids, but felt less expressive than the other two glasses. Our second-favorite was the one that maxed out Roussanne. It had the deepest flavor, and lots of length, but felt a little one-dimensional. Our consensus favorite turned out to be the glass with the least Roussanne (still, at 48%, 15% more than we were able to use last year) which left more room for Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, and Bourboulenc. It was the most charming on the nose, with the most evident fruit, great acids, and plenty of texture and length. And thinking about it, I can understand why. The difference between 48% and 55% Roussanne doesn't sound huge, but at 48% we were using roughly the top 60% of the Roussanne that we produced this year. The additional Roussanne required to get to 55% meant that we were using some Roussanne lots that received "2" grades instead of just the consensus "1" lots. It isn't surprising that replacing that "2" rated Roussanne with "1" rated Picpoul, Grenache Blanc, and Bourboulenc made for a better wine. And the concentration of the vintage meant that we didn't have any worries about it not having sufficient presence to stand proudly in the historical lineup of Esprit Blanc. Final blend: 48% Roussanne, 22% Grenache Blanc, 13% Picpoul Blanc, 10% Bourboulenc, 5% Picardan, and 2% Clairette Blanche. Side note: I love that it again includes all six of the white grapes legal in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

In 2022, it was clear that we didn't have the quantity to both make a Cotes de Tablas Blanc and the number of varietal wines we needed to satisfy our wine club and tasting room. So, we made the difficult choice to sacrifice Cotes Blanc for a year. I'd been hoping that quantities would rebound to the point that making Cotes Blanc again would be an easy choice, but instead it was a difficult choice. We need about 1300 cases of Cotes Blanc for the various uses we make of it (wine club, tasting room, and wholesale sales) and if we made that quantity, that would leave about 1750 cases of varietal wines in some combination. In that mix, we needed one wine of at least 800 cases (to go out to our wine club in the "classic" mix) and at least three others at 150+ cases (to go out in our "White Wine Selection" mix). Add those up and it works... but leaves only a little wiggle room. Given our post-Esprit quantities, the only variety with enough gallonage to include in a classic shipment was Grenache Blanc. So for our Cotes Blanc trials Chelsea put together three options, one using our maximum amount of Viognier and Marsanne, another using our maximum amount of Viognier and Grenache Blanc, and another reducing our Viognier a bit and making room for a little more of everything else. If we didn't love any of the options, we could bail on the Cotes Blanc and just make varietal wines.

Happily, all three of the test blends were good, and we truly loved the last one, which reduced Viognier to 34% and included more Marsanne (31%), Grenache Blanc (20%), Roussanne (13%), and a little Clairette Blanche (2%) that came along for the ride because it was in the Cotes Maduena field blend. The Viognier-heavier blends both felt rich and dense, perhaps a bit too much so despite their bright acids, while the blend we chose showed more elegance and translucency to its flavors while still being mouth-filling and luscious. It felt like just what we wanted for this lovely vintage. Added advantage: we're able to make a varietal Viognier, which I hadn't been expecting.

On Thursday, we convened to re-taste the blends we'd decided on as well as the varietal wines that our blending decisions resulted in and the two non-estate wines that weren't included in the blending. Our main goal in this tasting is to make sure that there is definition between the different wines that share a lead grape (say, our Viognier and our Cotes de Tablas Blanc, or our Roussanne and our Esprit de Tablas Blanc) as well as the estate and non-estate wines (like our estate Grenache Blanc and the Lignée de Tablas Grenache Blanc that we made from Zaca Mesa Vineyard grapes this year). To make these comparisons easier, we tasted in two flights of five wines, in the order below. My brief notes on each wine, with the rough quantity we'll be bottling this summer:

  • 2023 Bourboulenc (175 cases): A pithy nose, but rich, with mineral, almond, and mango notes. One the palate, quite rich, still a little sweet, with flavors of cumquat and baked apple, marmalade and toasted graham cracker. There's a nice pithy bite at the end. But when it's bottled, this is going to taste quite different than it does now.
  • 2023 Picpoul Blanc (175 cases): A high-toned nose of kiwi, honeydew melon rind, crushed rock, and lemon verbena. On the palate, fresh pineapple and green apple fruit, creamy texture, and lovely acids that reveal a wet stone minerality on the finish. Lovely. 
  • 2023 Grenache Blanc (900 cases): A classic Grenache Blanc nose of baked green apple, chalky minerals, anise, and sage butter. On the palate, flavors of lemon drop and apple galette, lovely rich texture kept in check by vibrant acids and Grenache Blanc's phenolic architecture that offers a hint of tannin on the finish.
  • 2023 Lignée de Tablas Grenache Blanc Zaca Mesa Vineyard (220 cases): A nose reminiscent of sauvignon blanc, with notes of gooseberry and sea spray, elderflower and ripe pear. Similar in the mouth, with white grapefruit and green herb flavors like lemongrass and thyme. Fresh and lively, lighter in body than our estate Grenache Blanc. Pretty and fun.
  • 2023 Patelin de Tablas Blanc (4300 cases, plus some wine for boxes and kegs): A plush nose equally balanced between Grenache Blanc and Viognier right now: apricot and ripe pear, oyster shell minerality, and a little pithy note. On the palate, white grapefruit and honeycrisp apple, anise, chamomile, orange oil, and a chalky mineral note on the finish. Lovely acids. Exciting that we have a solid supply of this! Final blend: 50% Grenache Blanc, 23% Viognier, 10% Roussanne, 8% Marsanne, 8% Vermentino, 1% Bourboulenc.
  • 2023 Marsanne (100 cases): A lovely nose of grilled peach, honeycomb, sweet green herbs, warm straw, and petrichor. In the mouth, gentle but persistent, with flavors of cantaloupe and preserved lemon, lovely texture, and a little gentle minty lift.
  • 2023 Viognier (150 cases): So very young on the nose, with high-toned mandarin peel and pear blossom aromas, a little pepper spice, and some barely-ripe apricot. The mouth is lush with flavors of nectarine, cumquat, and Meyer lemon. The finish is long, with a pithy bite and a lingering saline note.
  • 2023 Cotes de Tablas Blanc (1300 cases): A plush nose of buttered popcorn, white flowers, melon, and salted caramel. On the palate, a burst of sweet bright fruit like baked lemon squares with additional notes of honeydew melon and crushed rock. The long finish shows lemongrass and mineral notes.
  • 2023 Roussanne (260 cases): Absolutely characteristic of Roussanne on the nose, with aromas of honey and cedar and lanolin. On the palate, notes of vanilla custard, white flowers, a little kiss of sweet oak, and surprisingly bright acids maintaining order on the long finish.
  • 2023 Esprit de Tablas Blanc (2100 cases): A nose equally poised between Roussanne and brighter notes, including kiwi, honeycomb, baked apple, lemongrass, and toasted pine nuts. On the palate, mouth-filling with flavors of quince and pear, rich texture, lovely acids, and notes of jasmine and salty minerals on the lingering finish. We can't wait to see where this goes with the additional 8 months of barrel aging it will get before its December bottling.

A few concluding thoughts:

  • It was very nice to be out of the painfully scarce 2022 vintage, but the tasting drove home that white wines are still going to be in short supply in 2023. And I noted that in my 2023 harvest recap: that while white yields were up 55% in 2023, they were so low in 2022 that we still ended up below our historical averages. Once you set aside what we need for wine club shipments and our wholesale commitments, we're still looking at releases of most of our varietal wines in the 50-150 case quantities. If these are wines you look forward to, keep an eye on your emails. They will go fast.
  • Why were things low? I think a lot of it can be attributed to the toll taken on the vineyard in the 2020-22 drought and the 2022 frost. The buds for a growing season are set the year before, so a grapevine that's under extreme stress one year will usually not set a big crop the next year even if it gets ample rain and no frosts that winter. But with the ideal 2023 growing season and the lovely wet-but-benign winter we've gotten so far, I have high hopes for 2024. Fingers crossed, please, that we dodge frost.
  • In terms of what vintage in our history might be a good comp for what we saw in 2023, I feel like we need to go back to 2011 to get something that reminded me of what we saw in 2023. That 2011 vintage was historically cool (cooler even than 2023) with yields reduced by spring frosts. The result was a late-ripening vintage with both concentration and vibrancy, a lot like what we saw around the blending table last week. Sure, there are differences; we've got more grapes in production now than we did then, I think our farming is stronger; and we didn't get the disruption of a spring frost. But those 2011 whites were outstanding, and if that's our baseline I think we'll be happy.
  • I asked everyone around the table at Thursday's tasting to give a brief overview of their thoughts on 2023, and wanted to share a few of the answers. Chelsea contributed, "Everything is so perfectly poised with florality, minerality, and acidity. There's a great balance between fruit and non-fruit elements." Austin added, "Purity. Each component was clearly unique and varietally characteristic." Craig said, "Elegance and acidity. That's the throughline." Amanda called them "Confident and stately." Kaitlyn called the lineup "super delicate and pretty." Neil praised the wines' "great balance and intricacy, especially the blends." I'll end with Gustavo's contribution, which I thought captured my own thoughts well, that each grape was clearly itself, but more so, almost the platonic ideal of Rhone whites: "Each wine is what it is and I enjoyed that."

Now that the blending decisions have been made, we can move forward in getting the wines racked, blended, and given time to settle and integrate. The Patelin Blanc will be the first to go into bottle, in May. The Cotes Blanc, Lignée de Tablas Grenache Blanc, and all the estate varietal wines except Roussanne will be next, in June. And the Esprit Blanc and Roussanne will go into foudre and have another nine months to evolve before their scheduled December bottling.

It's not always easy coming into a blending week with high expectations. But it was exciting that the wines exceeded even what we'd been hoping for them. There wasn't a single "3" grade given out by anyone around the table all week. And the finished wines that we made showed all the promise of their components, and more. We can't wait to share them with you. We do apologize that while better than 2022, quantities are still scarce and these wines will go fast. We promise, they're worth making an effort to secure.

2023 White Blending Wines


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!


Harvest 2023 update: a deep exhale as warm weather brings the finish line in sight

Three weeks ago we were all pretty nervous. We'd had the coolest September in our history, and not just by a little. High temperatures were more than 7.5°F cooler than average, which on top of the delayed growing season meant that as the calendar flipped to October we'd only finished about 10% of the harvest off the estate. With el nino brewing in the Pacific, we were facing a real risk of serious rain coming while significant quantities of our fruit were still out on the vine. We were hoping that the warmer weather that began with the onset of October would stick around long enough to have a real impact on the ripening of our grapes and the timeline of our harvest. Spoiler alert: it did.

Harvest chalkboard October 24th

Not only have the last three weeks been warmer than normal, they've been nearly as warm as we'd expect September to be. In essence, the months have flipped places. While September's average high was 80.9°F, since October 1st our average high has been 84°F. This has reversed the trend in Growing Degree Days and brought 2023 back up away from the record-cool years of 2010 and 2011:

Growing Degree Days 2010-2023 thru 10-23

Even better, that warm weather has come just the way we prefer it. Although we've had eight days in the 90s, the highest high temperature was just 96.4°F. Both of the warm stretches (October 4th-8th and October 18th-20th) were followed by at least three days that topped out in the 70s. That meant that the grapevines could continue to build sugars without losing their acids and without being under an unhealthy amount of stress. And as often happens when a delayed harvest finally gets some heat, the fruit came rolling in. Most days we've had a lineup of bins in our parking lot, waiting to be processed, as we're running presses of newly-harvested whites and newly-fermented reds. The dance of the forklifts is something to behold.

Bins of grapes everywhere

These harvest days start before sunup and finish after dark, with what seems like endless rounds of washing in between. After all, every tank we have will get used five or six times this year. Every press gets used three or four times each day. And all the equipment gets cleaned up and put away every night. I love this photo I got of Gustavo cleaning the red press today as the sun was setting:

Gustavo washing the press

The fruit that we've been getting, and the young wines that we've been tasting, look tremendous. We're seeing some of the deepest colors we can remember. The grapes have lovely freshness and lift. I spoke to Chelsea last week for an Instagram Live harvest update, and she described what we were seeing as "dream chemistry". Now maybe you have to work in a winery cellar to dream about chemistry at this time of year, but it gives you a sense of the lovely balance of sugars and acids that we're seeing.

We don't have to look far to know that the clock is ticking. The fall foliage colors on the vines, like this Counoise block below, are telling us that the end is near: 

Fall colors in Counoise

Still, the grapes that are still out on the vines are there because they need this time. The two clusters below (Counoise, left, and Roussanne, right) are looking and tasting great, but they're sitting only at about 20° Brix and will benefit from another week or two out in the sun:

Counoise cluster cropped Roussanne cluster

The mornings are usually starting with a little low-lying fog:

Fog lifting between Counoise rows

Walking around the vineyard, there are more blocks where the grapes have already been picked than there are with crop still hanging. That gives us the chance to give some of the younger vines (like this three-year-old Syrah) a little post-harvest drink:

Post-harvest irrigation

We're also giving a little sigh of relief because it looks like yields are significantly recovered from last year. It's most dramatic in the varieties that were frozen last year; we've harvested double the quantity of Grenache Blanc that we did last year and Vermentino is up 49%. But even grapes like Viognier, Marsanne, and Syrah, none of which were impacted by last year's frosts, are seeing crops something like 10% higher than last year. We've already picked 30 more tons of Grenache than we did in 2022, with a couple of blocks still to come. And it seems clear that Roussanne will come in with higher quantity than last year, when it finally gets ripe. Now our biggest unknown is Mourvedre, and when I saw Neil today he sounded more relaxed than he has in weeks. We're no longer worried about whether the fruit will be good, or whether it will get ripe. Now we're just worrying about where we're going to put it. And that's a huge relief.


Harvest Update: After a Record-Cool September, Things Heat Up (Thankfully)

This week, we got our first Grenache off of Jewel Ridge, from an early morning pick. The fruit was lovely, as was the view west over the lines of hills:

IMG_5825

Even a few days ago, a view like this would have been hard to come by. We've had consistently chilly, often foggy nights, and a string of days where temperatures have been well below average. For the month, 25 days were below average, with only two above our norms and three others almost exactly average:

High Temperatures September 2023 vs Average

And it's not like it was only a little cooler than normal. The daily highs in September were a full 7.5°F cooler than average, meaning that this September has seen temperatures about what an average October would bring. A good way of measuring heat accumulation is Growing Degree Days (GDDs). The average year 2010-2022 saw September accumulate 558 degree days, with a high of 655 in 2020 and a low of 505 in 2013. September of 2023 looks like it's a data error: just 393 GDDs. This has meant that our overall heat accumulation (the dotted red line) is trending away from average, back down toward the very cool years of 2010 or 2011:

Growing Degree Days 2010-2023

All this explains why, two days before we finished harvest last year, we're only about one-third of the way done, and still working on early-ripening grapes like Viognier, Syrah, and Vermentino:

IMG_5821

Still, at around 200 tons picked (roughly one-third of our projected total) there's still lots of activity in the cellar. All that Syrah is getting processed, with the portion that's being fermented whole-cluster needing to be foot-treaded twice daily:

Cellar 3

Samples are being pulled in all our blocks that look like they might be getting close, with sugars and acids measured and flavors and colors evaluated:

Cotes Maduena - Sample

Once Neil and the team in the cellar have decided that something is ready to pick (in this case, the first Grenache from Jewel Ridge) we cue up our crew and get them out early in the morning so that the pick is comfortable and the fruit is cool when it goes into the bins:

Jewel - Bins

Its next stage brings it to the sorting table, where any leaves or other unwanted material is removed before the grapes are de-stemmed and sent to a tank to ferment:

Sorting Table

So even though we haven't reached harvest's peak, there's still plenty going on. But we're still grateful for the warmer weather we got this week. If we continue on at the pace we've seen so far, we will surely be picking into mid-November, and with el niño building out in the Pacific, that gets risky. Plus, with the moisture in the ground and the lack of hot weather, we're seeing little pockets of botrytis, a form of rot typically rare in California. While some regions (most notably Sauternes) have harnessed botrytis to make sweet wines, we would definitely prefer to get our fruit in unaffected. And the last few days have delivered. It hit 90 yesterday for the first time since September 10th, surpassed that today, and is supposed to stay warm over the weekend. Typically, if it's been cool late in the growing season, even a short warm-up has a big impact on grapes that are nearly ready. We're expecting a wave of Grenache Blanc, Syrah, Viognier, and even Muscardin off our estate next week, as well as more Patelin components for red, white, and rosé.

If you'd like the detailed version, I decided to change things up with my semi-weekly Instagram Live broadcast and instead of bringing in a guest from outside, to sit down with Neil and have him share what he's seeing. That half-hour conversation is on our Instagram feed or embedded below:

One thing that I thought was memorable in my conversation with Neil was his comment that a cool harvest and long hang time is great... until it isn't, because you get rain. Everything that we've gotten in so far looks outstanding. We should hit harvest's midpoint next week. The forecast going forward looks great. Still, that only takes us about 10 days. Harvest will likely last another five weeks. We're optimistic, but still, it's been a while since we had a year that pushed us into November and even longer since it did so in conjunction with an el niño. If you see any winemakers out there looking nervously over their shoulders, that's why. Fingers crossed, please, everyone.


A Picture Worth 1,000 Words, 2023 Harvest Edition

This morning I was standing on the crushpad talking to Chelsea. I asked her whether the fermentations had started on the grapes we picked last week. She said that they were just getting going, and mentioned that the plan was to bring the barrels outside so that they could benefit from some of the heat when it warms up. Then she looked at the sky, still densely overcast, and corrected herself: "If it warms up."

The overcast did start to break up at lunchtime, though as of 1:30pm it was still as much clouds as sun in the sky and our temperatures were still only in the low-70s. I got a photo I love, looking up from underneath the canopy of our Bourboulenc block toward that still-mostly-cloudy sky:

Overcast September - Under Bourboulenc

In a normal harvest, an overcast day like this would be a rare treat and a chance to catch up after several days of sustained heat. But not in 2023. We haven't had a single 100°F day in the last month, a period in which our average high has been 85.8°F, more than 5°F lower than the long-term average of 91.1°F. We haven't even had a day hit 90°F in the last two weeks. Most of those days have started with several hours of overcast. The full picture since veraison:

Average High Temperatures 2023 vs normal through Sep 17

The next week looks similar, with forecast highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s. And there's no big warm-up coming; today's ag forecast suggests that we're looking at below-average to average temperatures through the end of September.

How big a deal is this? Maybe it's actually a good thing. I know I'd definitely prefer this to hundred-degree temperatures. It's not like it's in the 50s°F and 60s°F every day. The grapevines are photosynthesizing. Sugars are rising, and acids are falling. Even better, acids are falling slowly, which is giving us something like dream chemistry in the samples we're taking. The vines are thriving in this moderate climate, and looking back at previous years (like September 2014, for example) drives home just how much greener the foliage is now than we're used to seeing in September, which bodes well for their ability to withstand this marathon.

What this weather is doing is shifting our risks from the beginning of harvest to the end. At some point, these low pressure troughs that are bringing this overcast weather will start to come with real moisture and rain. If we're still in the middle of picking -- particularly if we're still picking thin-skinned grapes like Grenache -- that could be a problem. If it's chilly during the harvest season, that will likely mean that our fermentations, which are all done with native yeasts, will likely take longer to complete. But that's a problem for future Tablas Creek. For now, we'll take it. And if you're visiting in the next few weeks, you're in for a treat.


Harvest 2023 begins. What a difference a year makes!

On Tuesday, we brought in our first two lots, both for Patelin: a little less than seven tons of Viognier from a vineyard called New Creations and a little more than six tons of Syrah from Tofino. Both looked great. Yesterday, we brought in the Pinot Noir from the vineyard my dad planted. Today we got the first picks off the estate, seven bins of Vermentino and two bins of (surprise) Roussanne, as well as another Patelin de Tablas lot of Roussanne from Nevarez. And we're off:

Harvest Chalkboard - First 3 days
All this is a far cry from last year, when sustained heat pushed us to one of our earliest-ever harvests. We started bringing fruit in off the estate on August 17th, and by the 14th of September we were nearly three-quarters done:

Finished Harvest Chalkboard

I'll share some thoughts at the end of the blog as to what this all means, but first I want to set the scene for you and share some of the images of these early days of harvest. I'll start with the first bins of Viognier, from Austin Collins' viewpoint on the forklift:

First Patelin Viognier from Forklift

Neil got a photo of the first bin of Syrah, waiting in front of the sorting table for de-stemming. He pointed out that it just happened to be in bin #1:

First bin of Syrah in Bin #1

The pick of Pinot Noir from our place is always a milestone, and the cellar team traditionally joins the vineyard crew for it. Viticulturist Jordan Lonborg got some great photos. First, the scene as dawn broke:

Picking Pinot at Dawn - JL

Next, a view of the bins on the back of the trailer. That's Vineyard Manager David Maduena overseeing things... the beginning of his 30th harvest here at Tablas Creek!

Bins of Pinot with David

The fruit looked great. Those are Jordy's boots:

Looking down on Pinot bins - JL

And finally the whole crew, all smiles at the end of the pick:

Harvest crew at Haas Vineyard Cropped

After those two mellow starting days, today is starting to feel like harvest is getting into full swing. We're pressing Vermentino and Roussanne, which made a surprise early appearance here thanks to the higher elevation and healthy young vines on Jewel Ridge. We've had perfect conditions, with chilly nights and warm but not hot days. The last wisps of fog were still lifting as Neil snapped this shot at the end of the Roussanne harvest:

Harvesting Roussanne on Jewel Ridge

The Roussanne was textbook; note the classic russet color of the berries, one of the signifiers that they've reached ripeness:

Roussanne looking russet

We're also doing a wide sampling across all the relatively early-ripening varieties, including this Syrah. The color is amazingly dark given that this is just a sample and it hasn't been left to macerate:

Sampling

If you're wondering why we're so much later than last year (OK, the last several years) you need look no further than the cumulative growing degree days, a common measurement of heat accumulation during the growing season. Although July was warm enough that we jumped ahead of the 2010-2011 vintages that we'd been tracking, it cooled back off in August and we're still significantly cooler than any year since 2011. What's more, we're a whopping 23% cooler as measured in growing degree days (dotted red line) than we were last year (dotted pale blue line):

Cumulative Growing Degree Days through September 13th

It's too early to say much about yields. The Pinot Noir harvest came in roughly where last year's did, but conditions in the Templeton Gap are different than they are out at the winery, and it didn't suffer any frost damage last year. Neil is thinking that we'll likely see healthy crops, up measurably from last year and maybe even a bit above our long-term averages. Jordy is thinking a little more conservatively, predicting that the combination of plentiful but small clusters, small berries, and some loss due to shatter and millerandage is likely to combine to produce yields above last year but still below our long-term averages. We'll know more in a few weeks, once we've completed the estate harvest of a few more grapes. 

One thing that is clear is that we're looking at a harvest that seems more like a marathon than last year's sprint. There isn't any major heat in the forecast, with most of next week supposed to top out in the 70s and low 80s. That's ideal for quality, and likely to give us the flexibility to bring things in gradually and in multiple passes. But it does mean that we will almost certainly still be harvesting in November. That wouldn't have been unusual in the 2000s, but it's been a while since it's happened. With el nino building in the Pacific, our current worry is whether we'll be done before we get our first winter rains. That's likely a ways off, but anyone who has a line to the weather gods, please put in a good word.

Meanwhile, we'll enjoy the sights, aromas, and energy of harvest. Stay tuned for updates.


While We Wait for First Fruit: An Interview with our 2023 Harvest Interns

By Ian Consoli

Every year, we like to sit with our newest harvest interns and introduce them to the Tablas Creek Blog audience. We typically do this about this time of year, when they have at least a week of harvesting fruit under their belt and an idea of how harvest is going. Well, as you have likely read on this blog, that's not the case this year! One week into September, this new batch of interns eagerly awaits the first fruit to drop into the cellar. So, this year, we sat down before the rush. What stood out to me is how different their personalities are, yet they are motivated by the same thing: seeing what's next. It is kind of a theme for harvest interns. It is a step towards a career in winemaking for some and a chance to see the process and get closer to the grape for others. This group has a mix of both motivations. They are all awesome, and I can't wait for you to meet them.

Tablas Creek 2023 Harvest Interns - Web

Tablas Creek Harvest Interns. From left: Joanna Mohr, Sarah Schultz, Trevor Pollock

 Who are you?

I am Sarah Schultz. I am a cellar intern at Tablas Creek.

I'm Trevor Pollock. I'm from Paso Robles, California. I'm 23 years old and doing an internship for this harvest.

I'm Joanna Mohr. That's a loaded, vast question I ask myself every day. But yeah, Joanna, and I'm from Minnesota, born and raised.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Bakersfield, California, and went to college at Cal Poly. I have lived in SLO for five years.

Sarah Schultz - Web2023 Harvest Intern Sarah Schultz

I grew up in Paso, but I've moved around a lot. Most recently, I lived in Colorado for about a year and a half, working at a ski resort and being a ski bum. I moved back about seven months ago.

I'm from Minnesota, but I have lived in many places. I worked for a marketing agency that had offices all over the world. I moved with them to Australia for three years and then to London after that. That's how I got into wine, actually.

How did you get into wine?

I went to a wedding at a winery during my sophomore year of high school, and I thought it was the coolest thing that people got to make wine for a living. So that's how I got into it. Now, I want to be a winemaker.

Well, I'm getting into wine right now. I studied plant science over at Cuesta and worked on some farms. I found this opportunity to work at a winery and decided that if I was going to work at a winery, I wanted it to be a place as biodiverse as Tablas.

I went to all the wine regions in Australia and liked it, but I didn't think I would do anything with it. When I moved to London, there were more opportunities to work in wine, and my friend recommended I go to wine school. That sounded great, but I didn't even know what a sommelier was at the time. I went through WSET, and I just loved it. So, I left marketing and became a sommelier.

Have you ever worked in grape harvest before?

I have; this is my fourth harvest. My first was at Phase Two Cellars in San Luis Obispo, then King's Family Vineyard in Virginia, Patson Hall in Sonoma, and now here at Tablas Creek!

Nope, my first one.

I helped pick and prune at a couple wineries in Minnesota, but I haven't done a full harvest. Vineyards in Minnesota are a little different varietally because of the cold climate, but the process is pretty much the same. Except it's a bit more gnarly in terms of the cold; we had a harvest in a snowstorm one year, and it was minus 30, so it was pretty intense in October.

How did you end up working harvest with us?

My goal is to work a harvest in as many locations as possible to figure out where I want to settle. I knew I wanted to come to Paso, then I saw Tablas's job listing, applied, and here I am.

I was in Europe over the summer and heard about his opportunity. I decided to cut my trip short and come back to start harvest.

Trevor Pollock - Web2023 Harvest Intern Trevor Pollock

I got super into biodynamics when I was in Europe, and Tablas always stood out as a winery I was interested in working at in the United States. I applied for the internship two years ago, but it was full by the time I applied. I didn't plan on applying this year, but I saw [Senior Assistant Winemaker] Chelsea's post about looking for interns, and I was like, I'll just shoot a shot. I sent her an email and resume, she remembered me, and here I am.

How is everything going so far?

So far so good. I love all the people. And how can you not be happy when you come to work and you're surrounded by dogs?

It's going great. Getting everything clean and ready for harvest, just prepping stuff.

Everything's good! It's nice to have time to come before the chaos happens and learn the ropes without getting thrown in. Being quite green at it, it's nice to have an idea of what to do. Everyone's super awesome to work with, and it's a really good crew. So far, so good.

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

The best bottle of wine I've ever had was Shooting Star Riesling from Lake County Steel Wine. I don't know. It's my favorite wine.

That's a tough one. Recently, I had a really good Viognier with my mom in our backyard. Memorable wines are all about the whole experience of where your surroundings are and who you're sharing it with. I don't remember specifically what the bottle was, but it was a nice Viognier and a nice environment.

Ironically, Chateau de Beaucastel. I was in the South of France and tasted a bottle of Chateau de Beaucastel that shifted something for me. I feel like anyone who has had a best bottle of wine understands how it shifts wine from just being wine to being something else entirely. It is hard to put into words. The wine becomes something that connects you to a place, a time and a memory and something deeper within. And that was before Tablas, so it was cool to find out they were connected. That was kind of like an icing on the cake.

Joanna - Web2023 Harvest Intern Joanna Mohr

What's next for you after your harvest?

Honestly, I don't really know yet. I think that's future Sarah's problem. I don't know. Again, I want to go to as many locations as possible. So somewhere, but I don't really know where yet. I want to do some harvest hopping and go to Australia or New Zealand, but we will see.

I'm not sure. I want to travel a lot more, so I'm thinking about doing a harvest in the Southern Hemisphere. I'd love to go to South America, Australia, or New Zealand.

Not sure. I kind of roll with wherever the wind takes me. I've wanted to do a harvest ever since I first got into wine, just because I want to learn this side of wine. I've been on the sommelier side for so long. I want to learn everything I can here, and I'm super passionate about biodynamics. We will see what happens at the end and where the path goes from here.

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

I think that's it, man. I'm ready for harvest 2023, baby. Let's go!

I'm excited to make wine for you guys this season!

Tablas Creek 2023 Harvest Interns working - Web