Tablas Creek can now ship to Connecticut and South Dakota! Why did it take so long?

In 2021, I wrote a Wine Shipping State of the Union, in which I broke out the 50 states and the District of Columbia into seven tiers based on the cost and convenience for a winery to ship to that state's consumers. If this isn't something you follow, you might be surprised that it can vary so much from state to state, but blame the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition. That Amendment, intended so that states that wished to remain "dry" could do so, gives states broad leeway to regulate the sale of alcohol within their borders, and this has meant that no two states are alike in the licensing, fees, reporting, and restrictions that they've put in place.1

Each winery makes a different calculation as to which states are worth the costs of doing business there. Some smaller wineries only ship to their home state, but most wineries with significant direct-to-consumer business ship to most of the 33 states that I put in my tiers I - III. There are another 12 states (my tiers IV - VI) in which shipping is possible for most wineries, if they're willing to absorb the costs and jump through the right hoops, and 6 to which it's essentially prohibited (my tier VII). At the time, we shipped to 8 of those 12 in tiers IV - VI. I am pleased to announce that we've done the work to add two more shipping states to our list: Connecticut and South Dakota. Our new shipping map:

New Shipping States October 2023

What do South Dakota and Connecticut have in common? They're both states with label registration requirements. You might think that the federal label registration that we have to go through to sell our wines in America would be enough, but these two states have seen a potential revenue opportunity, and ask any winery that wants to sell its wines in that state to individually register each label with the state government. For South Dakota, it's $25/year for registering the first label and $17.50 for each subsequent label, paid to the South Dakota Secretary of Revenue. For Connecticut, it's $200/label, with each registration lasting three years and being transferrable across vintages, as long as you don't change the varietal mix or need a new federal label approval.

A quick look at our online order form will show our challenge: we currently list 34 different wines, and if you count different sizes and vintages there are a total of 51 different products listed. Each vintage of our blends is a little different, and we believe that it is important that our labels reflect that. All that leads to a lot of additional expense and hassle for the states which require us to register labels. The biggest reason that we haven't worked with those two states to date has been our worry that something will slip through the cracks and we'll get in trouble for sending wine we aren't registered to sell, as well as the burden this places on our back-office team. But I'm generally a believer that we need to do everything we reasonably can to make our wines available to the customers who want to buy them, even if the costs of doing so are high. So, we've jumped through these hoops2 and I'm pleased to announce that customers from Connecticut and South Dakota who wish to order wine or sign up for one of our wine clubs can now do so.

That said, I still hope that these two states see reason and realize that the amount of revenue that these registration requirements bring in is a drop in the bucket of their state's budget. I don't know how it compares to the amount that they have to pay staff to administer the programs, but I'm guessing it's a wash. And like most state protectionism, it's ultimately the state's citizens who lose by paying higher prices and having less selection. 

The next state in our sights is Alabama. The state legislature there passed a shipping law in 2021, but it included some unworkable provisions that needed to be ironed out by the state ABC board, mostly owner citizenship and residency requirements that were unworkable for wineries with foreign partners like us. It appears that's been done. Stay tuned. Meanwhile we've at least found a work-around for Alabamans: while we can't ship to private homes or businesses yet, we can ship orders to a state ABC store for pickup. If this is something you'd like to try, please give us a call

Every time I dive into the arcana that is our alcohol regulatory framework, it drives home the wisdom of the founding fathers in including the Commerce Clause into the US Constitution. This clause prohibits state interference in interstate commerce, which means that the producers of most products don't have to hire compliance companies or dedicate staff members to making sure that all the different licenses, reports, and remissions are done properly. That clause is probably most eloquently explained in the 1949 Supreme Court decision H.P. Hood & Sons vs. Du Mond:

"Our system, fostered by the Commerce Clause, is that every farmer and every craftsman shall be encouraged to produce by the certainty that he will have free access to every market in the Nation… Neither the power to tax nor the police power may be used by the state of destination with the aim and effect of establishing an economic barrier against competition with the products of another state or the labor of its residents."

We may not be close to "free access to every market in the Nation"... but at least we've increased the number of those markets from 41 to 43. Number 44 is on the horizon. That's something to celebrate.

Footnotes:

  1. If you'd like to get involved in the push for more open direct shipping laws, the nonprofit Free the Grapes, on whose board of directors I serve, has information, resources, and templates for contacting state representatives. 
  2. Thank you to the Wine Institute for intervening with Connecticut to help us overcome the largest hurdle: that because we sell our wine wholesale through Vineyard Brands (an importer with a wholesaler network in all 50 states) instead of directly to a wholesaler there, the state needed to make accommodation for the same winery to have its labels registered by two different companies. Until recently, this wasn't possible.

That Wine Enthusiast headline about $50 average tasting fees in Paso Robles is… just not true.

Last week, the Wine Enthusiast published a piece by Matt Kettmann celebrating the recent decision by Matt Trevisan to lower his base tasting fee at Linne Calodo Cellars from $40 to $20 in order to entice newer wine drinkers to experience his wines. I applaud Matt (Trevisan)'s decision, and think it's great that Matt (Kettmann) decided to write about it. In his intro, Matt (Kettmann) says "Tasting room fees have jumped to more than $50 per person at many wineries, even reaching $100 in some cases, triggering alarm amongst tourists and industry folk alike." While I'd quibble with his characterization of there being "many" wineries in Paso with $50+ tasting fees -- I'll share the actual numbers shortly -- that's a judgment call. But then the Wine Enthusiast made a much more inflammatory claim on social media. Do you notice it?

WE Twitter Paso Robles

The authors of articles don't generally write their headlines, let alone the copy that's used to promote the articles over social media. But saying that many fees are high is a far cry from saying that the average tasting fee is that high. And (spoiler alert) this second claim just wasn't true. This information isn't hard to find or verify. According to the 179 listings on the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance winery guide, the most common tasting fees are between $20 and $29.99, with an average of $24.36. Eight wineries (4.5%) show tasting fees of $50 or more:

Tasting Fees in Paso Robles  by Number of Wineries

I became aware of the controversy through British wine writer Jamie Goode's Twitter post, which has as of this morning received 49 replies, 21 re-tweets, and 176 likes. I was sure it wasn't right, given what I see around town, and made a quick response, breaking a self-imposed Twitter hiatus to do so:

The reaction to the Wine Enthusiast's posts was predictable. There was a chorus of voices saying, essentially, "California wineries are all greedy and overpriced" while another chorus of people with connections to Paso Robles pointed out, with varying degrees of outrage, that this data didn't seem right. A few of the 49 comments to the Wine Enthusiast's Facebook post will give you a sense:

WE FB Paso Robles Comments
Finally, this morning, there was a correction posted to the Facebook post, adding "UPDATE: A previous version of this post indicated that average tasting room fees jumped to over $50 per person. This was misleading and has adjusted accordingly." No correction yet on Twitter that I can find. But to my mind, the damage has already been done. The original characterization became a lead story in the widely-distributed industry news roundup Wine Industry Insight and continues to echo around the wine ecosphere:

Wine Industry Insight Paso Robles Fees
To what extent does this color the general perception of a place like Paso Robles? It's not insignificant, I don't think. The Twitter post got something more than 34,000 views. Facebook doesn't make view counts public, but given Wine Enthusiast’s 417,000 fans and the number of comments, reactions, and shares their post got, it's probably even more. And then there's the reach of the emails, which mostly go out to people in the business and in a position to further influence consumer behavior. I suggested to the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance that they ask for a public retraction, but don't know if they will.

All this matters because it plays into a narrative that is convenient and ultimately destructive. The Lettie Teague article Who Can Afford Napa Now? Not This Wine Columnist in the Wall Street Journal last April -- to which I wrote a response on this blog -- is probably the highest-profile such piece. The temptation is to look at the most expensive options in a region and conclude that those are representative. But they are no more representative than the least expensive, such as the local example that Eberle Winery still doesn't charge a tasting fee. And wine is always susceptible to claims of elitism, given its historic association with aristocracy and the way it's often portrayed in popular culture. Perception drives customer behavior, and if people think that Paso Robles (or Napa) has gotten too expensive, they'll decide to go elsewhere. 

All this is why I think that what Matt Trevisan is doing is such a good thing. I wrote about the dilemma wineries face in my response to Lettie Teague's piece:

Do they raise their prices to keep up and risk losing their historic audience? Do they keep their prices and risk being seen as less elite than their neighbors? Or do they try to split the difference (as, if I read between the lines in the article, it seems that the lovely, historic Spottswoode Winery has done) and feel guilty about it? Unfortunately there's not a great solution once a critical mass of wineries has set dramatically higher prices for themselves.

But the same way that having a critical mass of wineries raising prices on visits puts pressure on their neighbors to do the same, having wineries publicly cutting those prices leaves room for other wineries to forge their own path. That's likely to keep visits to Paso Robles approachable, which should help set us up as an appealing destination whether you're a first-time visitor to wine country or a regular who makes several trips a year.

So, kudos to Matt. Go visit Linne Calodo. And thanks to all of you out there who stuck up for Paso Robles over the last few days.


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.


The Benefits of Marketing Interns in the Wine Industry

By Ian Consoli

Over the past two summers, we have extended the opportunity for one individual to participate in a marketing internship at Tablas Creek. We contacted local universities, and posted on LinkedIn, Paso Wine Careers, and other job listing sites. The response to the listings was immediate and enthusiastic, as individuals looking to make their start in wine marketing found the post and applied. This September, our second marketing internship concluded, and for the second internship in a row, the accomplishments we made during the three months created a lasting impact on our marketing program. Two internships may be a small sample size, but it is enough for me to realize we are on to something.

One of the purposes of this blog is to share success stories, whether in sustainability, farming, recipes, wine marketing, or an array of other categories. With a general feeling of success, I thought we would share how and why we developed an internship program, its structure, and its results. My hope is for other wineries to feel inspired by our results and create a wine marketing internship program of their own.

Day in the life of a wine marketing internVideo: Day in the Life of a Wine Marketing Intern

The idea

Marketers ponder. (In fact, that pondering time is crucial for marketers to develop innovative ways to help brands develop, but that’s a piece for another time). In one of those ponderings, I thought back to my marketing internship in college and the value it brought me with the suffix, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could offer that opportunity to someone?” The answer was that we absolutely could. In fact, we might be one of the better-positioned wineries to offer one. We are large enough to employ a full-time marketing person (me) yet small enough that one marketing person is responsible for every aspect of the department. The idea made sense, but we needed to ensure the benefits outweighed the cost of bringing someone on board. We developed a program with three potential beneficiaries in mind:

Benefits to the candidate. The candidate would study and observe all parts of marketing throughout our organization. We employ one of the most intensive social media programs in the wine industry, with daily postings on three major platforms and weekly contributions on four more. What an opportunity for someone to learn every aspect of a professional marketer!

Benefits to the company. That intensive social media program requires many ideas and a lot of time. Social media is always changing, and the next generation fuels much of that change. We felt a current student or recent graduate would give us a Gen Z perspective, refresh our social media, and help us better understand social media’s current climate. If we repeat the program every summer, we will continue to refresh that understanding. After a month of shadowing, the candidate should be comfortable enough to contribute to our social media, email campaigns, website, public relations materials, and more. That alleviation of the marketer’s workload means more time for those pondering sessions.

Benefits to the industry. Summer internships are, by design, temporary positions. If we do not plan on employing the intern after three months of work, then what’s the point? Well, that temporary position could translate into a permanent position at another winery in the region. My personal philosophy is that the wine industry, at least locally, has a long way to go when it comes to understanding and respecting the value of employing a full-time marketer. I also believe that as more dedicated marketing professionals emerge, the better our marketing as a region will become. By power-training an enthusiastic candidate, we may help that candidate emerge as one of the top wine marketers and make significant contributions to the wine industry.

The Execution

For this internship to be well-rounded, we needed to look at every aspect of a marketing director’s duties, strip them down to their basic intent, and format a learning program that gets to the fundamentals of those duties. This practice is, within itself, a benefit to the marketing team and the company. Here’s a shortened description of the responsibilities we came up with:

  1. Social Media: Assist and implement daily social media posting and focus on developing a video strategy.
  2. Content Creation: Develop photography, videography, and copywriting skills (complete one piece for the Tablas Creek blog).
  3. Print Media: Assist with inserts for our wine club shipment and participate in printer negotiations.
  4. Public Relations: Write one press release and present it to local news outlets.
  5. Email: Observe, collaborate on, and take the lead on monthly email campaigns.
  6. Hospitality: Spend one day a week in the tasting room to connect front-of-house and back-of-house mentality.
  7. Events: Participate in one on-site and one off-site event.
  8. Major Project: Pick one significant project to complete over the course of the three-month internship.

We feel these responsibilities give our interns a taste of most of the daily tasks of a wine marketer while allowing them to focus on their primary skillset.

The Results

We hired two interns with entirely different skill sets. The first, Nadia Nouri, specialized in social media. She joined the team in the summer of 2022 when short-form videos started to gain recognition in the wine industry. That medium was a second language for her, one she spoke fluently. We developed multiple series and videos during her internship.

The understanding we developed inspired me to speak on short-form video at the DTC Wine Symposium in 2023. Our following grew by over 2,000 people, engagement was up, reach was up, and, more importantly, our content had a burst of life. That’s something a new perspective always brings. Here are a couple of my favorite posts from that time.

Shelby Burns was our most recent intern, and is a graphic design and communications specialist finishing her last quarter at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I can navigate the Adobe suite of design tools, but working side-by-side with a collegiately trained graphic designer helped simplify processes and improve our print media. Her big project was developing a single booklet combining three handouts into one. The booklet she created will minimize our printing, saving resources and money in the long run. My favorite piece from her project was a consumer-facing vineyard map that will help guests enter our vineyard in a fun and educational way. I mean, check it out!

2023 Tablas Creek Vineyard - MapKey takeaways

Not all interns are the same, and thank goodness they aren’t! Lean into the talent of your interns. In going from a social media specialist to a graphic designer, we realized both interns would benefit more if we focused on developing their specific skill sets while giving them a taste of all other aspects of the position.

Evaluating your processes is always a good thing. Nothing drives your expertise home like teaching. Developing this internship program forced us to take a good look into what we were doing, and helped us tighten up our marketing efforts. Also, sharing what you have learned always feels good.

You can always use a fresh perspective. It is rewarding when one of your key motivators becomes a key takeaway. We felt that adding a fresh perspective to our content room (my name for the marketing office) would help us grow, and we were right. More perspectives bring more understanding. We can’t wait for next summer’s marketing intern to add to what we’re doing at Tablas Creek.


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


Assessing the 11 Paso Robles sub-AVAs after their first decade

In September of 2013, the TTB published a notice of proposed rulemaking that gave a preliminary stamp of approval on the Paso Robles wine community's proposal to subdivide the Paso Robles AVA into 11 new sub-regions. I celebrated this milestone with an article on this blog where I laid out why I thought it was such an important development for our region. It's worth remembering that at the time there was some resistance to the proposal as being disproportionately complex given that up until that point everyone had used just the single overarching Paso Robles AVA. I tried to summarize why I thought it was important:

These new AVA's will be a powerful tool for wineries to explain why certain grapes are particularly well suited to certain parts of the appellation, and why some wines show the characteristics they do while other wines, from the same or similar grapes, show differently. Ultimately, the new AVA's will allow these newly created sub-regions to develop identities for themselves with a clarity impossible in a single large AVA.

The proposal was ultimately approved in October of 2014, and we started using our own sub-AVA (the Adelaida District) on the labels of our estate wines with the 2014 vintage. Our Patelin de Tablas wines, which are sourced from several of the sub-AVAs, continued to use the umbrella Paso Robles AVA. Of course, there was no requirement that wineries use these sub-AVAs. From my conclusion of that 2013 blog:

Wineries who wish to continue to use only the Paso Robles AVA are welcome to. And many will likely choose to do so as the new AVA's build their reputation in the market. Not all the AVA's have a critical mass of established wineries, and it seems likely that a handful of the new AVA's will receive market recognition first, while the reputation of others will take time to build. But I believe that it will be several of the currently less-developed areas that will benefit most in the long term, through the ability to identify successful winemaking models and build an identity of their own. We shall see; having a newly recognized AVA is not a guarantee of market success, just a chance to make a name for yourself.

All this came back to me last week when I fielded a call from veteran writer Dan Berger, asking my thoughts on the success of the AVAs given that most of the big Cabernet producers he sees haven't been using them. To my mind, that's neither here nor there, since those producers are typically large enough that they're sourcing grapes from multiple sub-AVAs and therefore can only use the umbrella Paso Robles AVA anyway. And there are exceptions even to this, most notably Daou, which uses the Adelaida District AVA on all its estate wines. But it did make me wonder the extent to which the different AVAs were appearing on labels and therefore being presented to consumers as a point of distinction. 

The best way to measure this would be label approvals from the TTB, but I don't think there is a way to search their publicly available database by AVA. Origin, sure... you can search, for example, by California. But not by Adelaida District. But there are proxies available that can give a good indication: the major publications to whom wineries submit thousands of wines each year. So I dove into the review databases at Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and Vinous. Because each publication receives and reviews a different subset of the wines that are produced, I've included a summation of all three, with the number of reviews that a search for each sub-AVA produces for vintages since the new AVAs were announced. The total for the Paso Robles AVA (reviews that don't list a sub-district) is at the bottom:

Paso Robles Wines Reviewed, by AVA, 2013-2022 vintages
  Wine Enthusiast Wine Spectator Vinous Total % of Total
Adelaida District AVA 611 249 773 1633 16.8%
Willow Creek AVA 427 261 674 1362 14.0%
Templeton Gap AVA 154 26 115 295 3.0%
Santa Margarita Ranch AVA 49 33 38 120 1.2%
Geneseo District AVA 34 5 55 94 1.0%
El Pomar AVA 45 2 40 87 0.9%
Paso Robles Highlands AVA 44 9 27 80 0.8%
Estrella District AVA 28 2 49 79 0.8%
Creston District AVA 8 0 25 33 0.3%
San Miguel District AVA 5 0 14 19 0.2%
San Juan Creek AVA 0 0 0 0 0%
Paso Robles AVA 3531 709 1691 5931 60.9%

So, nearly 40% of all the wines reviewed by these publications carried one of the 11 new AVAs on their label. Is that surprising? I'm not sure, but I do think it's an encouraging sign that the producers here think that the AVAs are or will become meaningful in the marketplace. When you figure that many of the rest of the wines (like our Patelins) weren't eligible for one of the sub-AVAs, the clear implication is that most Paso Robles wineries are using the smaller, newer designations when they can. Even J. Lohr, whose founder Jerry Lohr was quoted in Dan's article as saying "We’re not selling our Cabernets based on the sub-appellations," has used the El Pomar AVA on at least three wines, the Adelaida District on at least three others, and the Estrella District on yet three more.

And yet, while all the new AVAs except San Juan Creek have appeared on labels, it's worth considering why more than three-quarters of the wines that use the sub-AVAs are coming from the Adelaida and Willow Creek districts. Some of that is the profile of the wineries who have settled in these two AVAs, which include many of Paso Robles' highest-end producers often making dozens of small vineyard-designated bottlings each year. Willow Creek wineries -- including Saxum, Denner, Epoch, Caliza, Paix Sur Terre, Thacher, and Torrin -- and Adelaida District wineries -- including Daou, Alta Colina, Adelaida Cellars, Law, Villa Creek, and Tablas Creek -- account for a much more significant percentage of the wines reviewed in these databases than they do the percentage of production within the broader Paso Robles AVA. The choice that these high-profile wineries have made to put their AVAs on their labels encourages their neighbors to do the same.

Will the other districts -- many of which have more planted vineyard acres than Adelaida and Willow Creek -- eventually catch up? I'm not sure. As long as much of that acreage is going into wines whose production is measured in the hundreds of thousands or millions of cases, and therefore being sourced from multiple sub-AVAs, maybe not. But I've always thought that some of the AVAs with the most to gain are ones like El Pomar and Creston whose cooler climates and higher limestone soil content makes them more akin viticulturally to the more prestigious regions to the west, but whose location on the east side of the river tends to get them lumped in with warmer, sandier regions like Geneseo and Estrella to their north.

Paso Robles AVA map - PRWCAPaso Robles AVA map from the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance website

Ultimately, time will tell whether more of the 11 Paso Robles AVAs join Willow Creek and the Adelaida District as something that people look for on their labels. Meanwhile I think it's healthy that Paso Robles as a region remains centered in people's awareness. Although in Dan's article Gary Eberle implies that the decision to advance a conjunctive labeling law -- which requires that Paso Robles be used on the label alongside whatever sub-AVA is used -- was a controversial one, I don't know any producer here who opposed it. It's a good thing that the recognition for Paso Robles continues to grow even as people start to understand what makes the different parts of the broader AVA unique. And promoting Paso Robles isn't incompatible with also building recognition for the diversity within it -- in fact, doing so will help consumers understand why the wines that they love have the character that they do, and give them guidance for how to further explore this region.

What it comes back to, for me, is that the science for subdividing the Paso Robles region is pretty conclusive. This morning's Paso Robles agricultural forecast, as an example, shows different weather stations within the region recording high temperatures yesterday ranging from 74.2°F to 92.9°F, low temperatures yesterday morning ranging from 42.9°F to 55.7°F, and heat accumulations for the growing season from 1533 growing degree days to 2510. Vineyards in Paso also vary by elevation (between 600 feet and 2400 feet), rainfall (between 7 and 30 inches annually) and soils (a dozen major soil types encompassing everything from high pH calcareous to low pH alluvial and loam).

The roughly 60 local vineyards and wineries who together commissioned and funded the Paso Robles AVA proposal -- which included both Gary Eberle and Jerry Lohr -- agreed, as a region, to bring scientists in from UC Davis and Cal Poly, and to defer to their findings as to where the lines should be drawn between the different AVAs. We knew at the time that this would likely mean that there would be AVAs drawn that didn't have a critical mass of wineries yet to help spearhead that sub-AVA's recognition. And we decided that this was OK. If the lines were drawn in the right places, over time, the AVAs that were capable of doing so would achieve recognition in the marketplace. Back in 2015, I laid out in a blog why the wisdom of this decision would only play out over time. A decade in, I think that we're well on our way.


Veraison 2023 suggests a mid-September kickoff to harvest... plus photo updates on every Rhone red

Veraison, if you're unfamiliar with the term, is a physiological stage of grape development where the berries stop accumulating mass and start accumulating sugar. More visibly, red grapes start their color change from green, while white grapes take on more of a yellow tint. Both red and white grapes start to soften. The onset of veraison comes roughly six weeks before the beginning of harvest, and gives us our best estimate for what sort of schedule we're likely looking at. And it's lovely. Witness this Tannat cluster, roughly halfway through veraison as of this morning:

Veraison 2023 - Tannat

The fact that I'm writing about veraison in late August is remarkable enough, though anyone following the progress of the vineyard this year will know that we're looking at our latest harvest since at least 2011. But at this point, with the weather turned warm and perfect, things are moving fast. I thought I'd take a quick romp through all the different red Rhone varieties to give you a sense of where each stands. At the end, I've included a chart with how this year compares to other recent years and made some predictions about when we're likely to start picking.

We spotted our first color in the vineyard in Syrah on August 7th. Now, a little more than two weeks later, every variety is showing at least the first stages of color change, and the early grapes are mostly red. I'll start with Syrah, as usual the first Rhone red to enter version and the fastest to change colors, and go roughly from most-veraison to least. The cluster here is a bit ahead of the average in the vineyard, and I'd estimate that we're probably around 70% through veraison in Syrah overall:

Veraison 2023 - Syrah

Next is probably Muscardin. I'm not sure whether this is unusual or not, since it is our newest arrival and we don't have many years of history. It's not as dark red as Syrah (nor will it be at harvest) but overall it looks like it's about 50% of the way through:

Veraison 2023 - Muscardin

Next, somewhat surprisingly, is Mourvedre. That doesn't mean that we're expecting it to start coming in before mid-October, but it's not unusual that we're seeing fairly advanced color change at this point. It just takes longer than the others between this stage and being ready to pick. These clusters are fairly typical, and I'd estimate it's 30% through overall:

Veraison 2023 - Mourvedre

Grenache is next in line, at roughly 20% veraison overall. It's always a particularly pretty grape to watch change color, with the berries turning jewel-like in the sun. Look for lots more Grenache pictures in the next month:

Veraison 2023 - Grenache

Terret Noir is at a similar percent through veraison as Grenache, maybe 20% overall, though it's a little more uniform because we only have one block. This was one of the most advanced clusters. Note the characteristic large berries:

Veraison 2023 - Terret Noir

Vaccarese was still mostly green. We're getting into grapes where it was often a challenge to find clusters with more than a few pink berries, and I'd estimate Vaccarese at 2-3% veraison:

Veraison 2023 - Vaccarese

Cinsaut was similar, which was a surprise to me. It's not a super late ripener, and the literature says it ripens pretty much in synch with Grenache. But the cluster below was one of just a few with any color at all:

Veraison 2023 - Cinsaut

Finally, Counoise. It took some searching to find any color. This cluster, with a few pink-purple berries in a sea of green, is about as advanced as it gets. I'd estimate we're around 1% on Counoise, overall:

Veraison 2023 - Counoise

Although it's less exciting visually than with reds, white grapes too go through veraison. The grapes turn from green to something a little yellower, and soften and start to get sweet. They also become more translucent. The process happens over a continuum as it does in the reds. Viognier goes first, followed by Vermentino, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc, with Picpoul and Roussanne bringing up the rear. You can see the slightly golden tone that these clusters of Viognier (left) and Grenache Blanc (right) are starting to pick up:

Veraison 2023 - Viognier

Veraison 2023 - Grenache Blanc

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

While six weeks is a good basic guide for the duration between the onset of veraison and the beginning of harvest, it's not totally constant, and will be influenced by the weather that we get in the interim, as well as by the amount of fruit the vines are carrying and the inherent tendencies of the different varieties. For example, a consistently cool summer and a plentiful crop in 2010 gave us a full seven weeks between veraison and our first harvest, while 2021's consistent heat and low yields gave us just a five week interim. Each vintage since 2010 is compiled in the chart below, with each year linked to my blog post about that year's veraison:

Year First Veraison Noted Estate Harvest Begins # of Days
2010 July 30 September 16 49
2011 August 5 September 20 47
2012 July 25 September 5 42
2013 July 17 August 26 40
2014 July 9 August 23 45
2015 July 18 August 26 39
2016 July 13 August 18 36
2017 July 20 August 30 41
2018 July 29 September 10 43
2019 July 30 September 4 36
2020 July 21 August 25 35
2021 July 21 August 24 34
2022 July 12 August 17 36
2023 August 7 ? ?

Using the range of durations between first veraison and first harvest (34 to 49 days) we can have good confidence that we'll begin picking sometime between September 10th and September 25th. The weather between now and then will determine where in the range we'll fall, influenced as well by the crop levels, since lighter crops ripen faster than heavier ones. It looks like we're seeing medium crop levels this year, better than the last few years but not at the levels we saw in a year like 2017, which suggests we'd trend toward the middle of the range above. But it has been a cool summer, and you'd expect it to be cooler in late August and early September than you would in late July and early August. I'm not expecting to have to wait into mid-September this year or to challenge 2011 as our latest start to harvest ever, but time will tell. 

What's next for the vineyard? We'll watch the different grapes go through veraison. That progress is already happening fast, and the view in the vineyard is changing daily. We'll be posting regular photos of veraison's progress on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages. In a few weeks, we'll start sampling the early varieties, looking for the moment when the flavors are fully developed and the balance of sugars and acids ideal. In the cellar, we've already started to get ready by finishing our blending of the 2022s and pulling out and checking on all the tanks and equipment we'll need once harvest begins. It's likely too that we'll see some grapes from Patelin or Lignée vineyards, and from the Haas Vineyard Pinot Noir, before anything comes off our estate. Those grapes should start coming in a couple of weeks.

So, now we wait, and enjoy the show. We have an idea of how much time is in our hourglass, and we know it's been turned over.


Shatter, sunburn, and millerandage: the challenge of estimating crops in a year like 2023

Exactly one year ago we started the 2022 harvest with four tons of Viognier off the estate. Not this year. Here we're still in such an early stage of veraison that there's a lot more green than red out there in the vineyard. On a positive note, the more time that the grapes have on the vines, all other things being equal, the more complexity of flavors. The flip side to that is that the same things that caused us to be behind can potentially impact our yields. I'll dive into the three main issues we're seeing in this blog, and share some conclusions, as best we can tell at this point, at the end. 

Shatter

When grapevines flower, you hope for benign weather: warm (but not too hot), dry, and no major wind events. A month like May of 2017 is a great example of what we're hoping for. That month, our average high was 78.4°F (with our hottest day topping out at 94.2°F). Our average low was 45.7°F (with our coldest night bottoming out at 35.8°F). We saw just 0.18" of precipitation for the month, and no major wind events. June warmed up further and stayed dry. Sound like this year? Not exactly. Because of our late budbreak, we didn't see the early stages of flowering until mid-May, and didn't finish until the second half of June. If you look at this year's flowering period (so roughly the last 10 days of May and the first 20 days of June) our average temperature was 74.2°F, more than four degrees colder than last year's flowering period even though it was three weeks later this year. We didn't have any significant rain, and wind was moderate, but eight days topped out at 65°F or below.

When you have cool, windy, or rainy weather during flowering you can get shatter, or the incomplete fertilization of the flowers and a resulting snaggle-toothed look of a cluster with only some of its berries, like this Grenache bunch:

Shatter Aug 2023

Different grapes have different proclivities toward shatter, with Grenache being amongst the most shatter-prone. Shatter is far from universal around the vineyard this year, but it's also more prevalent than I can remember seeing in recent years. 

Sunburn

Unlike shatter, sunburn is pretty much exactly what you think. If it's really hot for an extended stretch, exposed grape clusters can suffer direct damage as cell membranes break down, compromising a berry's skin and allowing the liquid inside to evaporate away. The result is hard, brown, sour raisins, as in this west-facing Grenache cluster: 

Sunburn Aug 2023

The temperatures required to cause this sort of cellular damage in grapes is typically around 125°F. Even in a climate like Paso Robles, we don't ever see ambient temperatures this hot. But fruit that's exposed to the sun can see temperatures 20°F-25°F higher than the ambient air. So, when the temperatures top 100°F, we start to be at risk.

Why would a cool year like 2023 set us up for sunburn damage? Because opening up the clusters to the sun can accelerate ripening and can also significantly reduce your risk of a mildew outbreak by allowing the easier circulation of light and air. That is one reason why many vineyards tie up their canes in early summer, and some even pull leaves away from the fruit zone to further help along this process. These techniques more often come into play in a chilly year, where mildew risks are elevated and where you have reason to worry that you might not get the fruit in before the winter rains start.

Even in this overall-cool year, we've had 13 days top 100°F, including nine in a two-week stretch in late July. We were fortunate that none of those days were hotter than 104°F. When you start to get up closer to 110°F it becomes more and more of an issue. We do what we can to make sure that the clusters are shaded by the canopy. And there isn't much sunburn out there. But there's some.

Millerandage

While we deal with shatter and sunburn to some degree each year, millerandage (also known as hens and chicks) is something we haven't seen much of. Its causes are similar to those of shatter, basically cool or wet weather during fertilization. The result is a mix of full-sized berries and those that are smaller, and often much smaller, like this Syrah cluster: 

Millerendage Aug 2023

Typically, these tiny berries don't have seeds and therefore don't get the same attention that the larger berries do from the plant in ripening. That can mean that when the larger berries are ready to pick, the small ones can still be green, hard, and sour. That always means reduced yields, but often isn't a big deal in quality as those smaller unripe berries stay connected to the clusters during destemming and never make it into our fermentation tanks.

What Does All This Mean?

There is bad news, good news, and news we don't know yet. The bad news is that all three of these issues reduce the quantity of fruit that is available for us to harvest and ferment. I had been hoping for a plentiful vintage (this would have been our first such vintage since 2017) but instead I'm now hoping for something more like average. A silver lining is that after all our rain this past winter, we could afford to see some reduction in crop. In fact, if we hadn't gotten some shatter, we'd likely have to have thinned the fruit pretty aggressively. And if this chilly spring had happened after a dry winter, the starting cluster sizes would have been smaller and we could be looking at fruit levels more like a frost or severe drought vintage like 2011, 2015, or 2022. I don't think that will be the case.

Other than the "it could have been worse" the best news is that none of these three issues are typically negatives in terms of fruit quality and can even be an asset. Quantity will be negatively affected, sure. But in terms of quality we're looking at a very strong year. Berry sizes are small. Clusters are loose and therefore less prone to mildew and rot. Yields per acre should be right in line with our favorite years. We should see outstanding intensity in what we harvest.

There are two things we don't know yet. The first is just how much these three issues are likely to reduce our yields. Typically, we estimate crop by counting clusters and using average cluster sizes. The wide variability between clusters because of shatter and millerendage make estimating more difficult. Plus, different varieties appear to have been impacted to different degrees. The second thing that contributes to uncertainty is that we're still a long way from harvest. If we don't start until mid-September, as I'm guessing, and don't finish until mid-November, that's at least a month and as much as three months for other unknowns to take place. Last year, we had the worst heat wave in our history in early September. There have been years where we've gotten significant rain in October. There could be fires. Heck, next week it looks like we might see some precipitation from a tropical system that is forecast to wander into southern California.

If 2023 is teaching us anything, it's not to count our chicks (and hens) before they're hatched. Stay tuned.