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Winegrower's Blog

Brian Talley, Vintner
December 27, 2013 | Brian Talley, Vintner

Christmas 2013

For the Talley Family, Christmas of 2013 was special in so many ways.  It should come as no surprise that it revolved around food and family.  We kicked things off with our traditional Christmas Eve celebration and a meal featuring tamales and Christmas lima beans from our Fresh Harvest box.  Our dinner table featured a handmade candle holder that cellarworker Patrick Sigler created out of a barrel stave and gave to me as part of our Secret Santa gift exchange.  We enjoyed some nice wines, including a magnum of 2003 Rosemary’s Vineyard Chardonnay and some 2012 Blanc de Noir Sparkling wine that we made from Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Christmas breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the year and we celebrated with homemade cinnamon rolls, omelets and ham. Our family exchanged gifts, including more handmade gifts than ever before--knitted hats, scarves and a Christmas stocking from Olivia.  Elizabeth created craft cork items, a beautiful photo book of our summer vacation and a custom puzzle featuring our family in the Swiss Alps.  After our big breakfast, Olivia and I took a walk and enjoyed the unseasonably warm Christmas weather.  At 83 degrees, it was the second warmest day on record in San Luis Obispo.   The celebration continued Christmas night with a special dinner at my mom’s house featuring grilled filet of beef, (perfect with Rincon and Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir magnums) an assortment of vegetables from our Fresh Harvest box and my mother’s wonderful cheesecake.

Johnine and I are thankful to enjoy the bounty of our land, to work with so many passionate and dedicated people, and to live close to our families so that we can savor these special experiences.  Best wishes to you and your family this season and for all of 2014!

Alyssa Ball, Direct Sales Manager

Bottles to Celebrate the Holidays

It is a much loved Talley Vineyards tradition for some rare large format bottles to make their way out of the wine library and appear at our annual company holiday party.  For obvious reasons, this generates a lot of excitement among staff members.  But this year an additional level of excitement was added when Brian Talley suggested using the unlabeled bottles as a blank canvas for group art projects.  The various departments turned into artistic teams and heads were put together to come up with some unique and festive decoration.  Of course, in typical Talley Vineyards fashion, what could have been an all in fun creative endeavor quickly devolved into a (mostly) good natured competition.  A great deal of trash talk took place, some still continues a full week later, as self declared winners explained why their bottle was the best.

So who were the true winners the night of the holiday party?  I am going to say it and I don’t care how cheesy is sounds -  we were all winners!  While each of the large format bottles may have looked imaginative and festive on the outside, it was trying the amazing wine inside that was truly a win.  The standout for me was a magnum of 1996 Rincon Vineyard Chardonnay.  Despite the many years spent in bottle, the wine remained bright and balanced with great structure and a remarkable amount of vibrant fruit on the palate.  It is always a special treat to try these remarkable old vintages and a great reminder that we are fortunate to work for a company that produces incredible wine.

Eric Johnson, Winemaker
December 16, 2013 | Eric Johnson, Winemaker

The Storm After the Storm

I sometimes feel that we winemakers are gluttons for punishment. We go through a long, painstaking event like harvest and then almost immediately follow up with the most painful winemaking process of all, bottling.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t completely hate bottling, but I feel like we have a love/ hate relationship.  Bottling is obviously a pivotal part of winemaking, but I don’t think most people realize how stress inducing it can be. You have to get the wine in the perfect state before putting it to its final resting place.

Is the SO2 level right? Are we going to filter? If not, how will we make sure the wine has the appropriate clarity? Is the amount of dissolved oxygen high? Should we sparge the tank? Is the wine heat stable? Is it cold stable? These are just some of the questions that go through my head when planning a bottling. Remember if you screw up, there is no going back. That wine is cemented in history.

Preparing the wine is only the beginning. Once the wine is ready to bottle you have to make sure you purchase the right packaging materials. That might not sound like a big deal, but if any of the packaging is slightly off or flawed, it can create a series of problems. For example, in the past we had glass delivered for a very important bottling. We inspected the bottles as we always do and since they looked like the same ones that I have purchased for years we went ahead with our planned bottling. But once the bottling began we realized there was something different about this particular shipment of glass because the labels were wrinkling . It turns out the shape of the bottle was off by just a couple of millimeters. Only a couple of millimeters and that slight change in shape meant labels completely wrinkled beyond repair. We had to cancel bottling, send the crew home, ship the glass back to the supplier and plead for new glass. Then a week or two later we start the process all over again and hope for the best.

There have been times I’ve wished I could just cut out the middle part of the process and find a way to get our wine straight from a barrel into our customer’s glass.  If it were possible, I would not hesitate to sell off our bottling line.  In the meantime, I have to maintain my love/hate relationship with bottling in order to make wines people can enjoy.

Travis Monk, Vineyard Manager

One of My Favorite Days at Work

Well it's official, winter is here. Unfortunately winter has not yet brought us any rain, but it's sure been cold. I'm sure many of you have seen on the local news the threats that frost brings to farmers here on the Central Coast.  A few people have been asking me what the cold weather means for us at Talley Vineyards. Luckily on the vineyard side of things, the cold winter frosts do not do us much harm. Most of the vines have shut down for the year and are going into dormancy. The leaves have mostly dried up and blown off with the strong winter winds we've been having. Colder temperatures will help to keep these vines dormant until mid to late February. So what the heck do we do the rest of the year? Well, there's still quite a bit going on.

                Our vineyard crews are busy getting ready for next year. There's quite a bit of maintenance work fixing broken end posts, tightening trellis wire and dropping the training wires back down to get them out of the way for next year's growth. The crew has also been busy helping the winery with their winter bottling. The tractor drivers have completed the cover crop planting and will begin to focus on some winter weed control. With the lack of rain, our irrigator has stayed busy getting water to the vines and I've been busy on the computer working on budgets and coming up with next year's pruning plans. We will most likely begin some pre-pruning at the end of the month.


So what else is going on at Talley Vineyards? Well today is one of my favorite days of the year to work here at Talley.  Today is the Talley Farms Annual Ranch Barbecue. All the employees from Talley Vineyards and Talley Farms, along with many of our local growers and vendors, will congregate at the packing shed tomorrow around lunch time for a Santa Maria style feast. The tostadas are the biggest hit! It's my favorite event of the year, because it is the one time of the year that nearly all 200+ employees can come together and celebrate the year. It is a great time to let us show thanks to all of our employees for the hard work that makes our business possible. One of the big events of the day is the long term employees photo. Each year the Talley's take an updated group photo with all the employees that have been with the company 20 years or longer. It's amazing how large this group has become and really shows what a great place this is to work. I'm only bringing about 6 years with Talley to the table, so I still have a ways to go before I'm photo worthy, but it's amazing how quickly the seasons pass by. This season is winding down, but the next one is just right around the corner. I hope everyone can enjoy the end of the season and best wishes for a Happy Holiday.