Eric listens to Paul Draper of
Last week I took Winemaker Eric Johnson and Vineyard Manager Travis Monk on a field trip to visit some of my favorite wineries in California. I find it inspiring to visit people who are as passionate and committed as we are here at Talley Vineyards. We started on Monday with a visit to Ridge Vineyards, the legendary producer of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon located high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, overlooking the Silicon Valley. Paul Draper, one of the icons of California wine, shared with us the amazing history of Monte Bello, the estate vineyard that produces one of California’s most highly regarded Cabernets. Before we knew it, three hours had passed and we were scrambling to make it to San Francisco in time for dinner at Restaurant Gary Danko.
Tuesday was all about pinot noir and chardonnay. Longtime Williams Selyem Winemaker Bob Cabral shared his insights on the evolution of his iconic pinot noir over the last 17 years. We finished with a tour of the estate vineyard which features a field blend of various pinot noir clones before joining our friends David Fischer and Cameron Frey for lunch and a comprehensive tasting of Ramey wines. Much like Talley Vineyards, they focus on flavor development and balance in their elegantly crafted chardonnays.
Eric and Travis at Williams Selyem.
The Sonoma County chardonnay and pinot noir theme continued on Wednesday. We took an extensive tour of the Littorai property just outside Sebastopol with much focus on Ted Lemon’s biodynamic farm and a tasting of some of the most elegant chardonnay and pinot noir produced in California. After that, we joined Geoff Labitzke for a tasting at Kistler Vineyards, which many consider to be the benchmark for Sonoma County chardonnay.
Thursday’s visits were focused in the Napa Valley. Failla is a winery owned by Winemaker Ehren Jordan that is located south of Calistoga on the Silverado Trail though the majority of this wines come from grapes grown on the Sonoma Coast. We were impressed with Ehren’s outside the box thinking with respect to winegrowing and the impeccable balance of his wines. Our final visit of the trip was to Tim Mondavi’s Continuum Estate on Pritchard Hill in the Napa Valley. It was great to tour this amazing site, though it was even better to talk to Tim Mondavi, taste the current release of Continuum and learn how his long tenure as the Winemaker at Robert Mondavi informs his approach now. It was an inspiring and thought provoking week and I can’t wait to do it again!
April is just around the corner and here at Talley Vineyards that means a few things; the release of our Single Vineyard Chardonnays and the kick-off to what is a seemingly endless list of parties throughout the year. Being the Event Coordinator means much of what I spend my time doing is booking all the music and food for those parties, which works out really well as they are two of my favorite subjects. As a former music blogger, an avid member of some online music clubs and a record collector, I truly am the right woman for this job. Since my move here in November of 2012 and working here at Talley Vineyards, I’ve gotten to know the music community of Central California Coast pretty well and I’m always on the lookout for new acts that might fit the various levels of events we have at our winery. That also means on my off hours I’m always checking out bands and live music whenever I get the chance. Lucky for me it’s one of my favorite past-times.
This year at our summer music series, Tunes at Talley, we have an exciting and well-rounded musical roster of everything from Monte Mills and His Lucky Horseshoe Band to Prōxima Parada to Soul Sauce. We also have a wine club member party featuring Valerie Johnson and The King Bees, a seven-piece Dixieland jazz band. Classic rock singer songwriters Liv & Rob are playing our TFP Pick-up Party and the Gypsy Jazz Trio will be playing our Chardonnay Release Day. Also this spring we look forward to having both the SLO Winds Chamber Ensemble here and our annual Jazz in The Vines event where the Arroyo Grande High School Jazz Band will play in our courtyard while selling snacks to benefit their music program. Please check our Events page for dates and specifics.
As far as the upcoming food related portion of this spring goes, I’ve recently had the pleasure of figuring out a mouthwatering New Orleans-inspired menu for our Estate Subscriber Party this spring with Phil Lang from Bon Temps Creole Café in San Luis Obispo. I’ve also scheduled all of the delicious Food Trucks we have on scene at each Tunes at Talley event and this year we’re bringing back our favorites Salt & Pepper, Gusto on The Go and Haute Skillet. Between all of that foodie excitement, as well as co-hosting the next food and wine Sensory Pairing event we have coming up on the 19th of April, my job is jam-packed with thoughts of delicious eats. That and the exciting reality that springtime is almost here and with it all the parties, music and food that goes along with our world-class wines.
Most wine producing regions have a member association committed to growing awareness of the local wines and wineries and promoting the area’s unique qualities. The member association responsible for that task for the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys is SLO Wine Country. Among other things, SLO Wine Country coordinates annual events such as Roll Out the Barrels and Harvest Celebration, works with media to spread the word on the region’s great wines and organizes regular association mixers that help build a spirit of camaraderie and (my favorite part) give wineries a chance to try one another’s wines.
SLO Wine Country also provides their association members with occasional opportunities for education. One such opportunity occurred this past week with a seminar featuring panels of speakers sharing their expert knowledge on different aspects of our growing region. The first panel of speakers covered four important and interesting topics – the history of the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys, climate, soils and sustainability. I am always fascinated by historical information and refuse to be embarrassed by how often I frequent local history museums, centers and societies. So I happily soaked in all the tidbits the panel shared about how the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys turned into wine producing regions. I also learned that I had some substantial gaps in my understanding of climate, including not realizing there are meso-climates in addition to micro and macro-climates. How had I made it this far without knowing that?
Much as we all enjoyed and learned from the first panel of speakers, the start of the second panel created a buzz of excitement. Because the second panel had brought wine! What a treat to taste a flight of wines made up of Claiborne & Churchill Riesling, Edna Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Chamisal Chardonnay, Stephen Ross Pinot Noir and Wolff Vineyards Syrah. But this tasting wasn’t just for fun, there was a lot to learn during this segment of the seminar as well. Our second panel of speakers were the winemakers who had made each of the wonderful wines we were tasting and they had interesting information to share. As we tasted through the wines, each of the winemakers explained how their wines are a result of both the unifying conditions of our region and the unique characteristics of their specific vineyard. It was a fascinating (and delicious) exercise and more than anything I came away realizing the terrific quality of wine coming out of SLO Wine Country.
This past week we celebrated the 14th year of the World of Pinot Noir at the Bacara Resort in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara. Bacara is a new venue for WOPN and luckily for us it was entirely indoors during the multiple storms that were pummeling the Central Coast. For those of you who haven't attended, WOPN is a Central Coast event centered around Pinot Noir from around the world with daily seminars and tastings. Year in and year out, many of the top winemakers and Sommeliers participate at WOPN because of the caliber of consumers who attend.
Not to minimize other great events, but WOPN is my favorite of the year. For a Pinot Noir winemaker like myself, this event is especially beneficial. My week started by joining 60 other winemakers for a two day in depth tasting of 2013 Pinot Noirs called the Technical Symposium. The Technical Symposium is a winemaker only event. Since no consumers are present, I feel like this allows winemakers to be straight forward and to the point about what's going on at their winery. And honestly, I don’t think consumers would want to taste these 2013 wines since they are still babies in the grand scheme of things. During this time of year Pinot Noir can be in an awkward stage, but with so many winemakers tasting and sharing notes it still possible to figure out the quality of the wine and identify possible faults. What's great about the Tech Symposium is that everybody who participates is trying to help each other out. Though we all are competitors in some sense, we don’t act that way. There are winemakers lined up to offer suggestions for improvement when another winemaker has a problem in their vineyard or with a certain wine.
During WOPN, education doesn’t happen at just the Tech Symposium. Every year WOPN has educational seminars featuring some of the most well known people in Pinot Noir. I was able to listen in on some of the seminars this year and the panelists and discussions were fantastic. One of my favorite topics discussed was the soil types in the different appellations in Oregon. Who knew the extreme difference in soil types that the state has to offer? I also really enjoyed the Maison Louis Jadot tasting seminar with winemaker Frederic Barnier. It's not every day you get to try Jadot from 1985!
The grand tastings on Friday and Saturday were full of amazing wines, as always. I poured for Talley Vineyards during the Friday tasting, but was able to sneak out and taste a couple of gems. I have to say that Friday’s consumers were some of the most educated tasters I've poured for and I enjoyed talking to them. Saturday’s tasting had some of the heavy hitters in the Pinot Noir world. Kosta Browne, Williams Selyem and Patz & Hall were all pouring their wines, just to name a few. There were rock star winemakers and winery owners everywhere and it was definitely a great event for people watching.
After a week of Pinot tasting I definitely needed Sunday to take a break from my favorite grape. But as a new week begins I am already dreaming about next year's World of Pinot Noir. I recommend everyone make the trip to Bacara Resort next year for the 15th Annual World of Pinot Noir. You won't regret it.