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Winegrower's Blog

Kelly Soares, Tasting Room Ast. Manager
 

Finding the Perfect Pairing, or Not

For the past several weeks, my co-worker Christina Bailey and I have been doing food and wine pairing research in order to come up with a sensory experience to offer Talley customers as a fun way to delve a little deeper into our wines, as well as to help them plan a nice meal at home featuring a Talley Vineyards or Bishop’s Peak wine. Looking back, I think of what a couple of rookies we were back then, with no clue of what a Pandora’s Box we’d opened of convoluted, contradictory information at every turn. Show me a website that says Pinot Noir pairs well with salmon and I’ll show you two that say the metallic taste in your mouth from such a pairing will make your teeth ache. Caesar salad; is it wine’s natural enemy? Or is the garlicky anchovy dressing a dream come true when paired with a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc? (For me, it’s the latter.) Also this news flash: NEVER pair chocolate with red wine. Am I the last to know?! Apparently you’re not to pair chocolate and red wine because the tannins in chocolate ruin the many nuances and complexities of the wine. Port or Muscato wine paired with dark chocolate is the possible exception but it’s one of the few cases where the wine is the sweeter item. So why did I love the milk chocolate Hershey’s kiss with our Estate Pinot Noir so much? I could pair a whole bag of them with a bottle and call it dinner. Is my knowing it’s ruining the wine even though they taste so delicious together to me, still a good enough reason not to do so? Is someone else tasting what I am when I pair these items and actually not enjoying it? And if so, whose right?

Don’t get me wrong, this is the most fun research I’ve ever had to do, as well as a fairly privileged dilemma to have on my plate. Given that, what started out as an exciting journey of putting together a menu quickly spiraled down a rabbit hole into a disorienting world of do’s and don’ts, rules and exceptions, and utter frustration when I myself loved a pairing one day and completely disagreed with myself the next. And then there was the trial tastings with various tasting room, winemaking, sales and production staff members. Not a consensus among them and their tastes when it came to the good, the bad and the ugly. This ironically, has been quite helpful, because I learned even more from the reasons behind their varied opinions. Also, the things you learn about your co-workers when asking them to try such pairings is priceless. Watching Christina struggle to nibble on a tomato (not her favorite food) and choke it down with our Cabernet Sauvignon was an exercise in hilarity. She is the epitome of professionalism in the name of research. And finding out there wasn’t a single food item on our list that our Tasting Room Manager was even willing to eat was even more amusing. In the end, we decided our best bet is to find a majority rules item within all the opinions that makes good pairing sense and not worry about the fact that you can’t please every palate.

After the many weeks of research I’ve put into this project, I should be qualified to hold entire weekend   long seminars on the subject. And yet with all the knowledge I’ve absorbed, it seems to be falling back on the old adage “the more you know, the more you don’t.” Not only that, but every food and wine pairing “rule” based on a particular varietal can be discounted entirely given a particular winemaker’s take on that varietal. Until you pair a particular bottle with a particular food item, expect curve balls. For a person like myself, who spends a great deal of free time reading food and wine blogs just for fun, it’s been a most humbling experience trying to put together a fun, educated and eye-opening sensory experience to help people learn how to make smart choices when putting together a nice dinner party. Or helping our customers choose a winning food and wine combination when spending their hard-earned money dining out. But we’re getting there. I mean, it’s not rocket science…but it is science. 

Alyssa Ball, Direct Sales Manager
 

Giving Thanks… for Pinot Noir

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday of mine.  As I child, Thanksgiving meant anxiously awaiting the arrival of out of town relatives, including a large contingent of cousins whose appearance turned our home into a kid free for all.  In retrospect, I wonder if my parents were as anxious for the holiday weekend to end as I was for it to start! 

As an adult, I still love Thanksgiving.  A big part of that is due to the pleasure of having family and close friends together.  But I also love to cook - and I really love to eat - so Thanksgiving is certainly a day that speaks to me on that level.  The last few weeks I have started excitedly working on the Thanksgiving menu and planning what I will put on the holiday table.

One thing I am always eager to serve at Thanksgiving is Talley Vineyards Pinot Noir.  That might surprise those who are well acquainted with my wine preferences.  It is not an easy thing to admit considering who signs my paycheck, but the truth is that I’ve never been a huge fan of Pinot Noir.  However, over the past several years my appreciation for the varietal has grown by leaps and bounds.  How could it not considering the many Talley Vineyards wines I’ve been given the opportunity to taste?  And the Thanksgiving meal, with its many complex flavors, surely gives our beautifully balanced Pinot Noirs the chance to shine.  When I open a bottle (or two or three) for the Thanksgiving dinner crowd, I know that I am offering them something really special that will be truly enjoyed.  That is definitely something to feel thankful for!        

Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving for each of you.  Here’s to hoping you have something special in your glass to toast with!

Brian Talley, Vintner
 
November 15, 2013 | Brian Talley, Vintner

El Niño, La Niña or La Nada

Harvest is over and our weather wishing has changed accordingly.  During harvest, the last thing we want is rain.  Rain during harvest makes a mess, dilutes the flavors and causes the growth of various molds, including botrytis.  We were blessed with a beautiful dry harvest this year.  Now we want rain.

Long range weather forecasting has improved dramatically since I started farming full time about 25 years ago.  Much of the focus of the long range winter forecast is directed toward determining whether we have the formation of El Niño or La Niña conditions.  There is a great explanation of these phenomena on Wikipedia. In a nutshell, El Niño refers to warming of the equatorial ocean water off of South America which accompanies high air surface pressure in the western Pacific and which typically results in more rainfall on the Central Coast of California.  La Niña refers to cooler ocean water and dryer conditions in this area.

So what do we have in store for the winter of 2013/2014? According to an article on GRIST, the current condition is stuck somewhere between the extremes of El Niño and La Niña, which writer John Upton refers to as “La Nada”.  The upshot is that it will be harder for forecasters to predict what kind of weather to expect this winter.  What we do know now is that it’s dry.  The little bit of rain that was predicted for this week was dialed back.  This makes it easier for us to work in the field, to clean up our fields after harvest, to plant cover crops and vegetables, but dry isn’t good for us in the long term.  Please join me in praying for rain—ideally about 25 inches, about 1 inch at a time, every 2 weeks between now and April 15.  Cheers!

The Rincon Adobe photo taken with green hills after rain in prior years.
The Rincon Adobe with brown hills because of the lack of rain.
Nicole Morris, Cellar Assistant
 

The Calm After the Storm

My name is Nicole Morris and I am the cellar assistant here at Talley Vineyards.  As you may have heard, 2013 was a plentiful and intense harvest. Harvest 2013 was my seventh in the wine industry. As much fun as it was, I am glad it is over.

Now that we have time to sit back and reflect on the long hours and craziness we have just endured, there are still many winery tasks that need to be accomplished. Currently we have over twenty fermenters that are in the late stages of fermentation. They are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, and Syrah. Towards the end of harvest, the cooler temperatures in the cellar contribute to a slower fermentation time. Most of these reds varietals, which are from the Paso Robles area, will be finished fermenting and pressed off by next week.

Another task we are working on is the consolidation of the chardonnay barrels. Chardonnay that is fermented in barrels is initially filled only three-fourths full. The head space is left for the fizzle and foam of fermentation. So a 60 gallon barrel is only filled with chardonnay to 45 gallons. A barrel filled to the top would overflow leaving the liquid gold, as we call the foam, all over the barrel room floor. Still, some barrels do end up overflowing during fermentation.  Once the fermentation is complete the barrels are consolidated, filled and topped off. They will now go through secondary fermentation and age in the cellar.

Eventually, all barrels in the barrel room will be topped off and stored. From here on out, barrel topping will happen about once a month because about a half a gallon of wine evaporates from a barrel each month. This head space from evaporation puts wine in a more vulnerable state for spoilage organisms to take over. Topping the barrels prevents this from happening.

The intensity of harvest is coming to an end and we are being rewarded by the beautiful autumn colors in the vineyard. Even though we are we are still keeping busy with these “end of harvest” activities, one cannot help but feel accomplished and surprised that yet another harvest has passed. We here at Talley Vineyards are very excited to see the results of the 2013 harvest, and even more excited about having a whole weekend off.