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Winegrower's Blog

Brian Talley, Vintner
August 15, 2014 | Brian Talley, Vintner

Harvest Update

We are in the midst of the earliest harvest in our history, and it’s not just grapes--this is the first time I can remember having heirloom tomatoes in Arroyo Grande in July.  I looked back through my records and our previous early grape harvest occurred in 1997 when we started on August 5.  This year, we started August 1, almost exactly a month before we started last year.

What explains the early harvest?  The obvious answer is the weather, starting with unseasonably warm weather in January, which caused early budbreak.  A persistent high pressure weather system resulted in warm temperatures and dry conditions through the winter, spring and into the early summer.  Consequently, every step of our growing season occurred earlier than normal.  The weather turned foggy and much cooler in July, though by then the die was cast for an early harvest.

To date, we’ve harvested 18 tons of pinot noir and 12 tons of chardonnay from the West Rincon, Rosemary’s and Monte Sereno Vineyards. We are seeing excellent ripeness at lower sugars, and lower acidity than normal.  We attribute this to the warmer nights we’ve been experiencing lately, which tends to cause the respiration of malic acid.  Yields are very close to our projections and the crop is slightly smaller than 2013.

Our early harvest didn’t prevent us from hosting the fourth annual Picnic in the Vineyard luncheon last Saturday.  This popular event is open to members of our wine clubs and features tables under tents set up right in the middle of the East Rincon Vineyard.  This year’s lunch was dedicated to the memory of Travis Monk, our Vineyard Manager who passed away this spring. It was a beautiful day in the vineyard, made more meaningful when we reflected Travis’s hard work, commitment and dedication to his job.   As we bring in the harvest of 2014, we are truly finishing what Travis started.

Eric Johnson, Winemaker
August 1, 2014 | Eric Johnson, Winemaker

First Day of Harvest, 2014

Eric Johnson, Winemaker at Talley Vineyards, narrates the first morning of harvest.


Alyssa Ball, Direct Sales Manager

Cruising: It’s a Tough Job

Shortly after I began my career at Talley Vineyards, I realized there was a huge disparity between my job and how others envision my job.  When I tell someone, “I work in the wine industry”, they tend to hear only wine and not work.  There is a romanticized perception that my days are made up of leisurely wine tastings, pleasant strolls through the vineyard and the occasional barefooted stomping of some grapes.  Because my days really don’t look like that - because I actually work really hard at a job that can be as complicated, frustrating and demanding as any other - I sometimes feel resentful when others don’t see that.  But now that I am home from the cruise, things have changed.  Since I was recently on the receiving end of the all time greatest workplace perk, I have put all resentment aside and admit this industry is a pretty fantastic one to work in.     

So, let me tell you a bit about the cruise.  I was invited to join the Talley family, as well as a handful of our customers, aboard the Crystal Serenity as it cruised from Istanbul, Turkey to Civitavecchia, Italy.  It is a tremendous understatement to say that this was the trip of a lifetime.  Every morning I woke up in a new and exciting port, always a place I had never before visited, and had the day to explore another remarkable location.  As a novice to international travel, I was in awe of the ancient sites we visited.  Is it too simplistic to say that places like Ephesus and Pompeii amazed me because they were really, really old?  Other highlights of our time in port included learning about the breathtaking architecture in Istanbul, swimming in the warm, clear waters of Greece, and visiting the Vatican City.  Lowlights?  Hmmm… I guess there weren’t any.  Our time onboard the ship actually managed to be as enjoyable as our port visits.  First of all, I loved meeting and getting to know other travelers, especially the Talley Vineyards customers, some that I had a prior phone or email relationship with.  In addition, the quality of the accommodations, the caliber of service and the delicious food - there was so, so much food - all added to the experience.  I continue to marvel at my good fortune to have had such an opportunity.

If my experience leaves you feeling that you “missed  the boat” (sorry, I couldn’t help it) by not joining us on this cruise, don’t despair.  Talley Vineyards will be back onboard the Crystal Serenity June 21-28, 2015.  Next summer’s cruise will be from Venice, Italy to Monte Carlo, Monaco and we will be joined by our friends at Ancient Peaks and Qupe wineries.  I am certain that it will be another incredible adventure.  If you are interested in being a part of it I encourage you to contact Millennium Travel to learn more or book accommodations.  In the meantime, I will be back in my office at Talley Vineyards working hard, but also quietly trying to figure out the best way to get myself back on that ship next year.  Bon voyage!    

Michele Good, Director of Business Operations

Celebrating the First Week in July

It’s July and I’m so happy that we are in the first week of this lovely summer month.  The way I’m celebrating this first week of July is, of course, with food and drink.  To start the month I poured myself a glass of our Albarino from my Talley growler and whipped up a Talley Farms harvest box inspired pasta using up a lot of my remaining veggies.  It was the perfect pairing to start the month and will hopefully inspire my beloved San Francisco Giants to get over their “June Swoon” and start winning some games.  On Tuesday, a group of us from Talley went to a local restaurant, Rooster Creek Tavern, to watch the USA-Belgium soccer game.  It was great to experience the “Collective Joy” and watch the game with a group of people all rooting for the same outcome.   Team USA didn’t pull off the upset, but my co-workers and I had a fun time and I enjoyed a tasty sea bass taco salad and a Figueroa Mountain Red Lager.

To continue my week, my family went to a SLO Blues baseball game.  If you are ever visiting San Luis Obispo in July, make it a point to go to a Blues game.  The Blues are our local semi-pro team made up of Division I college baseball players.  This is one of the best family outings in our area with tickets only $6 each (young kids are free) and you can sit in stadium seating or bring your own lawn chairs and watch quality baseball.  There is also great food with the Rib Line cooking up the classic central coast meal of Tri-tip sandwich, beans and garlic bread or you can do what I do and eat their award winning chili.  It’s so good with either a glass of local red wine or some ice cold beer.  If the Blues hit a home run, beer and wine is 1/2 off  for the next inning!

It’s my dad’s birthday today and although I won’t be with him to celebrate I’ve already set aside a bottle of 1997 Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir to eat with the grilled salmon salad we’ll be having for dinner tonight.  This is one of my favorite meals and here is a link to the recipe.  I often drink this with one of our chardonnays but my dad is more of a red wine guy so that’s why I chose the Pinot.  The big finish of the week will be spending time with some out-of-town friends.  The plan is to head to the beach for some kayaking and paddle boarding, a little hiking, and of course a Fourth of July BBQ where I’ll be serving up some Bishop’s Peak 2011 Petite Sirah with Apple, Goat Cheese stuffed Turkey burgers.  Their visit will finish up on Sunday enjoying Tunes at Talley with the band Proxima Parada and food truck Gusto on the Go.  I’m so fortunate I work at a place that I want to hang out at on my day off.  I’ll bring some lawn chairs, some wine glasses from home, lots of sunscreen and will enjoy sharing a bottle of wine and food with my long time friends. 

I clearly can always find a reason to celebrate and encourage you all to fill your weeks with fun times, great friends, good food and always tasty Talley wine!   

Kelly Soares, Tasting Room Ast. Manager

Barrels in the Plaza

Although it’s the 24th annual SLO Wine Country Association’s Roll out the Barrel’s event, it was my first time pouring wine at the grand tasting Barrels in the Plaza event at the historic Mission Plaza. Our Talley table felt fortunate to get paired with Granada Hotel & Bistro this year where Executive Chef Justin Casey designed a Black Mission Fig Crostini with Goat Cheese served up by General Manager Keilah Smith and Matt Corella that was truly a “grown here, made here” Perfect Partner pairing with our 2012 Estate Pinot Noir.

It was a beautiful sunny evening and the air was filled with sexy sounds of gypsy swing music thanks to the Hot Club of SLO band. We also poured our Talley Vineyards 2012 Estate Chardonnay which went beautifully with the kale salad being served by Mother’s Tavern to the left of us and our 2012 Bishop’s Peak Cabernet Sauvignon which was a perfect match with Chipwrecked’s Potato Chip with Blue Cheese crumbles and Balsamic Reduction. In between pouring for the packed crowd I even managed to sneak in some wine tastes from our friends at Wolff Vineyards - an elegant 2011 Petite Sirah - as well as a delicious 2011 Brut Rose from Laetitia Vineyard and Winery.

My favorite part of the event was the camaraderie and “behind the table trading” of treats and tastes amongst the all the wineries and restaurant staff. As busy as we all were serving up our wares, we managed to develop an instant rapport with all of our table mates. Set to good music, good weather and happy event-goers, it was a beautiful event and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.

Brian Talley, Vintner
June 6, 2014 | Brian Talley, Vintner

Marianne Talley Fun Run

This past Sunday marked the 21st Annual Marianne Talley Memorial Fun Run.  With about 500 participants, including runners, walkers, volunteers, and sponsors, this is the single biggest annual event we host at the winery.  My appreciation goes to Race Director Marian Fiorentino who organizes and orchestrates the whole thing.  Along with our Cioppino Dinner, the Fun Run is one of two key fundraising activities for the Marianne Talley Foundation, which grants college scholarships to Arroyo Grande High School students.  To date, the Foundation has donated more than $200,000 and supported the college education of 42 students.

The Fun Run has special meaning for me because it’s a way to celebrate my sister’s life that I know she would have enjoyed--she was an avid athlete who competed in sports throughout her life.  It’s also a fitness motivator for me because, since the first year, we’ve given special t-shirts to everyone who beats me in the race.  This year, 14 people “Beat the Vintner” and earned one of the coveted t-shirts.  Overall winners were Audrey McClish and John Nichols in the 5K, Kara Thorne and Kevin Cooper in the 10K and Taylor Jones and Joshua Bell in the Youth Mile.  Complete results, photos and video are available on the Marianne Talley Fun Run Page. (link)

As much as I enjoy the friendly competition, it’s really the sense of camaraderie and community I feel when everyone gathers to support a worthy cause, get some exercise and enjoy a beautiful morning that makes me feel good.  I also feel inspired by people with physical challenges who come out and compete:  people like four year old Trevor Bell who completed the mile run with his prosthetic leg and 10 year old Heaven Vallejo, who is blind, and ran the 5K with two guides assisting her every step of the way.

Next year’s fun run is already scheduled for Sunday, June 7.  There’s something for everyone—a 5K, 10K, 1 mile walk and 1 mile youth run.  For those of you who came out this year—come on back.  If you haven’t participated before, I urge you to join us for a truly special day.  Cheers!


Brian Talley, Vintner
May 19, 2014 | Brian Talley, Vintner

A Great Day

One of my favorite days of the year is just around the corner. Sunday, June 1 will mark the 21st Annual Marianne Talley Fun Run which serves as a key fundraiser for the Marianne Talley Foundation as well as a celebration of my sister’s life.  Marianne was born a little more than a year after me and was an avid athlete all of her life, a high school league champion in swimming and a finisher of the famed Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.  She passed away suddenly in 1993 after a brief workout with one of her personal training clients.  We established the Marianne Talley Foundation to support college bound students from Arroyo Grande High School and have now granted more than $200,000 in scholarships since that time.  We established the Fun Run in 1994 to financially support the scholarship program, but also to bring together many of my sister’s friends in the running and fitness community for a day of celebration.

Since the beginning, the event has been special day for our family, but now it’s bigger and better than ever.  The most popular feature is the 5K, both because it’s a distance that many people feel comfortable running or walking and because everyone who beats me gets a special t-shirt that says “I Beat the Vintner.”   This will be the third year we’ve had a 10K, a popular fun run distance.  We also have a 1 mile walk and a 1 mile youth run for those 13 and under.  After the run, we have an awards ceremony, a great raffle and this year we’ve added a bonus raffle with $10 tickets and a chance to win some special prizes including a complete dinner for 8 at Ventana Grill.

I hope you can join us on Sunday, June 1.  For all the details, including registration information, go to the Fun Run page of our website.  For questions, email Race Director Marian Fiorentino,  I hope to see you race day!  BT

Belinda Christensen
May 9, 2014 | Belinda Christensen

Have You Had Your Veggies Today?

If you are reading this blog, you probably know at least a little something about Talley Vineyards.  But you might not know that the Talley family has another operation right across the road from us, Talley Farms.  For the last few years, Talley Farms has offered membership in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), called Talley Farms Fresh Harvest. Each week, Talley Farms Fresh Harvest puts together a beautiful box of fresh, local vegetables and fruit grown by Talley Farms or by one of our neighboring farms.  These lovely boxes are delivered to convenient locations throughout the area where customers can pick them up.

So, what do the Talley Farms Fresh Harvest boxes have to do with a winery blog?  Well, if our blog is meant to reflect what is important here at Talley Vineyards, then it is about time we write about veggies.  Among Talley Vineyards employees, there are frequent conversations about the contents of last week’s box, what we most enjoyed and how we prepared each item.  And there is always much anticipation for each Thursday when our new box is delivered.

Last night I unpacked my Talley Farms Fresh Harvest box and immediately began snacking on the delicious raspberries and sweet blueberries. They never even made it into the refrigerator!  For last night’s dinner I finally mastered the art of grilled artichokes.  Fresh artichokes cooked on a hot grill, adding just a hint of smokiness, are perfection.  I’ve realized there are two tricks – one is to not overcook the artichokes before grilling and the other is to use the best ingredients possible. 

The Talley Farms Fresh Harvest avocados have spoiled me to the point where I will never eat a store bought avocado again.  The bell peppers, both green and red, are huge, delicious and picture perfect.  I’ve even found ways to enjoy the kale, a vegetable that has never been my favorite.  I love Thursdays and learning what is inside the Fresh Harvest box of goodness.  Add a glass of Talley Vineyards wine and it makes for a perfect meal every time!

Michele Good, Director of Business Operations

Let the Good Times Roll!

This past weekend we held our annual Estate Subscriber Program “Thank You” parties.  The events over the weekend are an opportunity to give back to some of our most loyal and long term fans with some great food and exceptional wine.  A few of the attendees have been Estate Subscriber members since we first started the program back in 1998!  When I helped run the tasting room and wine clubs back then, I signed up a few of these members and it is always a pleasure to see familiar faces from my early days.

The weekend started on Friday for our Elite tier members, as they were treated to a fantastic dinner at Novo Restaurant in downtown SLO.  They were joined by Alyssa Ball and Belinda Christensen, our Winemaker Eric Johnson, Vineyard Manager Travis Monk and of course Brian and Johnine Talley.  The Elite tier members enjoyed some wonderful older vintages of Talley Vineyards wines in magnums with outstanding food prepared by the fine folks at Novo.  The group had a great time and created some new friendships that are sure to last.

The fun continued on Saturday with a New Orleans themed event for all of our Estate Subscriber members.  The day featured the musical styling’s of Valerie Johnson and her King Bees and local restaurant Bon Temps Creole Café provided tasty muffuletta sandwiches, red beans and rice, jambalaya and blackened salmon.  Snap Cubby photo booth added to the festivities by providing Mardi Gras masks and hats to enhance the photo experience.  The pictures I saw come from the photo booth were fun and funny and clearly proved members “Had a Time” while here.  

We had ordered up some beautiful weather for the party, but unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.   The spring winds, which are usually manageable in the 10 mph range, kicked up a substantial notch.  The blustery elements made our Bead Toss Game much more difficult, but many of our guests braved the winds and correctly calculated the trajectory for tossing the Mardi Gras beads, winning themselves a magnum of Estate Chardonnay. Of course, guests were also excited to try the current release of the Single Vineyard Chardonnays, a preview of the newly bottled Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs and many different older vintages from magnums and jeroboams.  All in all, it was a great day, no one blew away in the wind and we were able to let some of our very best customers know how much we appreciate them.

If you would like to find out more about how you can join the fun next year, please check out our wine club page or contact Alyssa Ball at and she can guide you through our Estate Subscriber Program options and help you join the party.

Time Posted: May 2, 2014 at 3:08 PM
Brian Talley, Vintner
April 25, 2014 | Brian Talley, Vintner

My Girls

I have two teenage daughters and one of the questions people ask me all the time is, “do either of your girls want to take over the winery?” or something along those lines.  My honest answer is that I don’t know.  My hope is that my girls follow their passion, get a good education and do what makes them happy.

Elizabeth & Olivia, 2005   Olivia & Elizabeth, 2014

We just spent three wonderful days in Southern California looking at potential universities for Olivia.  She is leaning toward UC Berkeley and would become the fourth generation in our family to attend that school, but she also really likes Boston College and UCLA.  Elizabeth has been accepted to Cal Poly (following in her mother’s footsteps) and will start next fall in the Agricultural Communications Department.   The girls have come to enjoy and appreciate certain aspects of the business, especially the part that involves travel and dining in restaurants like Spago in Beverly Hills or Gordon Ramsay in New York.  They’ve become very adept at helping us entertain and can do everything from setting the table, assisting in the kitchen, baking dessert and serving the meal to cleaning up at the end.  Elizabeth has extensive knowledge of social media and photography and gives me tips about how to better engage our customers.  Olivia is currently working as an intern for our local Assemblyman where she’s learning the finer details of constituent service.  They both sound like absolute naturals for this business….

We have an understanding in the family that anyone in the fourth generation (between my cousins and me, we have a total of 10 kids) who wants to work for either Talley Farms or Talley Vineyards in a leadership position will need an undergraduate degree and at least two years of experience working outside of our businesses.  I would be thrilled if my girls decide to work in this business, but ultimately, I want them to have passion for what they do because that’s the way I feel about my work.  After all, what can be better than loving to come to work every day?  Cheers! BT