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Winegrower's Blog

David Block, National Sales Manager

Lunch with the Dalai Lama

Two weeks ago I was working with our distributor in New Orleans selling our wine.  After our Friday morning sales meeting where I introduced the 2011 single vineyard chardonnays, I had a sales appointment (along with our rep Jeff Heaviside) at Restaurant August.  This restaurant is a very fine dining establishment in New Orleans (not your typical Cajun Creole hang out).  When we arrived, just before 1:00pm, there was a curious scene out front with several armed policemen and stretched limos.  As we entered the building, we noticed that an exceptionally busy lunch crowd had already collected before our appointment. 

Now earlier in the week, this same security scene was visible at the Roosevelt Hotel, but we later learned that was for the Governor’s Convention.  This time it was even bigger.  The Dalai Lama, yes, the religious leader of the Buddhist people of Tibet-- was dining at Restaurant August!  They were eating in the private room upstairs, and we were in the main dining room where everyone was totally on edge, anxiously awaiting their opportunity to say “Hello Dalai”. 

Now, the closest I got to him was when I went to use the washroom…upstairs.   As I made my way down the hall, I passed Head Chef John Besh, two plain clothes security men, the Maitre de, an armed policeman, a man wearing a turban, and another man wearing a yarmulke. An eclectic bunch.

Later, as the Dalai Lama left the building, we were all looking out the window watching him get escorted to his limo.  It was a real sign of the times, with everyone holding their arms in the air aiming their smartphones in his direction in an attempt to capture a picture.   It actually reminded me of a Grateful Dead concert.  Needless to say, lunch at August was a divine experience.  Jeff, and the Dalai Lama had the vegetarian risotto.

Brian Talley, Vintner
May 24, 2013 | Brian Talley, Vintner

New York State of Mind

Brooklyn Bridge

Regular readers will note that my last blog post was about my trip to Florida.  This week I’m in New York.  This may bring to mind some obvious questions, such as “Why do you travel?” and “How much do you travel?” Taking the second question first, I travel about 60 days per year, but much of it is focused this time of year.  This is because springtime is when we release our chardonnays, and it’s a great time to visit and share the new releases.  Springtime is also when many wine buyers are preparing for the summer season, so the timing is perfect.

Historic Bedford Sign

There are several reasons why I travel.  First, I really enjoy meeting the people who buy and sell our wines.  I spend days with dynamic people in all aspects of the wine business—sales people, retailers, sommeliers and wine directors, as well as the managers and principals of our distributors.  This is an invaluable way for me to learn about what is happening in our industry, which helps inform our decision making at the winery.  Second, the wine industry is fundamentally a people business.  It’s no longer good enough to make great wine—you need to effectively communicate what makes your wine special to be successful in this business.

Sunset over the Hudson River

This has been a great visit to New York.  I’ve caught up with old friends from New York City, Westchester and New Jersey.  I’ve learned how the demand for world class chardonnay and pinot noir continues to grow.  I’ve enjoyed some great meals, including the best rendition of Tuscan Kale I’ve ever eaten.  We are blessed to do business with two great distributors in the New York area—Michael Skurnik Wines for Talley Vineyards and T. Edward for Bishop’s Peak.  Reconnecting with old friends, making new ones and sharing the story of Talley Vineyards—that’s why I travel.

Travis Monk, 2008-2014
May 17, 2013 | Travis Monk, 2008-2014

Vineyard Update

It’s time for another vineyard update. Since my last blog in mid April, following a few frosty mornings, the paradise weather has returned here in the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys. We’ve had some above normal temperatures so far in May, one day over 100 degrees, and even a little rain. The weather has been pretty ideal. The month of May can always be a weird weather month for us as we begin to see the marine layer move in during the night and morning hours with windy afternoons. This weather is not ideal, because typically in the middle of May, clusters on the vines are starting to bloom. Warm weather and low winds lead to a faster bloom and a more successful fruit set. Fruit set refers to the cluster stage immediately following bloom, where we get our first real look at this year’s crop. Some of our pinot noir blocks are finishing up with bloom and we’re at about 70% bloom in our chardonnay. In the next 2 weeks we’ll get our first real glimpse of the 2013 vintage. 

In the vineyards our crews are extremely busy completing a number of different tasks each day. We will be finished with shoot thinning by the end of this week, as we have about 7 acres left in Oliver’s vineyard Riesling and sauvignon blanc to shoot thin. Shoot thinning is a pass we make through each of our blocks to remove undesirable or excessive shoots from canes and spurs in order to manage the canopy and the crop.  Along with shoot thinning, we have been busy lifting trellis wires and shoot positioning in our pinot noir. This allows us to keep our canopies tight and vertical in an attempt to get as much sunlight into the canopy as possible. Leaf pulling will be our next big task in the vineyard, and will most likely start in pinot noir early next week. Leaf pulling is simply the removal of excess leaves in the fruit zone of the vines. This is done to increase sunlight exposure to the cluster which will help the cluster mature. Leaf pulling also opens up the canopy providing more air flow and less compaction. It is one of the most important things we can do to help ripen the year’s crop.

Well, with all that said it sure looks like we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, so I better get back to it. Cheers!

Belinda Christensen
May 10, 2013 | Belinda Christensen

Our Annual Estate Subscriber Wine Club Event

Every year we hold an appreciation event for your Estate Subscriber Program wine club members.  This year, Alyssa decided it would be fun to have a pizza maker and pasta.  Out on the lawn in front of the winery building, on a perfect afternoon, our club members enjoyed pizzas, wonderful wines and a lovely pasta meal.  Words cannot describe the "fun" but a few photos might.

Estate Subscriber event in progress
The pizza maker Pizzas fresh from the oven
Toss a cork, win a magnum of wine Great library and current wines
A fun day at Talley Vineyards


Eric Johnson, Winemaker

The Times They Are a-Changin'

Every once in a while things need a little face lift. Maybe that means a fresh coat of paint or a new addition to a familiar sight. In Talley Vineyards’ case, it means a winery renovation. The Talley Vineyards winery was built in 1991.  At the time, it was the eponymy of a modern day winery. Concrete tank stands, modern drains, and plenty of space for day-to-day winery activities. After twenty vintages in this space, we felt it was time to give the winery a revitalization.

Knock down of wall in progress. New catwalk in the winery.

The first thing we did was knock out a wall to give us more space for fermentation and barrel work. The area we gained was more than we ever imagined. Next, we tore out our old catwalk that accessed the top of our tanks and replaced it with a stunning aluminum catwalk.  Not only does it look clean but it makes it much easier for us to clean around the tanks.

The last renovation we had done was completely resurfacing the concrete floor in the winery. We patched all cracks and seams and through a long process, added a special coating. This coating consists of a polyurethane matrix system. It’s anti-microbial, durable and skid resistant that will hold up to heavy machinery, high traffic and dust.  And more importantly, it makes the winery look really clean.

This is by far, the biggest upgrade of the facility since the winery was built. We’re all really excited to move back into our “new” winery.  I’ve always felt there was a romantic quality to our 20-year old winery and I believe that after this renovation we’re prepared for the next 20 vintages.