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Winegrower's Blog

Brian Talley, Vintner
 
July 5, 2013 | Brian Talley, Vintner

A day in the life at Talley Farms and Talley Vineyards

As I thought about what to write about for this week’s blog post, it occurred to me that so many things are going on around here that it would be fun to include them in a video montage, shot in a single day.  For those who would rather read than watch video, here are a few highlights.

The sun rose just after 6AM over the beautiful fog laden Arroyo Grande Valley.  At Talley Farms, we’re in the full swing of things, harvesting cilantro, nappa cabbage, lettuce and spinach.  We’re also packing harvest boxes and there’s some fun video of that.  Meanwhile, we’re planting bell peppers, our key fall crop.

On the vineyard side, our crews are focused on two aspects of canopy management.  The men are lifting wires and tucking shoots (included in the video), while the ladies are removing leaves (visit our archive for that video).  The goal in both cases is to expose the clusters to air and sunlight to prevent mildew and botrytis and to promote even ripening and optimal flavor development.  In the winery, we’ve just completed racking together the 2012 Chardonnays, so the crew is busy washing barrels.  You can watch Nacho Zarate and Pat Sigler discuss the finer points of barrel washing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour of Talley Farms and Talley Vineyards on a typical July day.  Cheers!

Travis Monk, 2008-2014
 
June 21, 2013 | Travis Monk, 2008-2014

Summertime in the Vineyards

Well it’s official, today marks the first day of summer. So what does summertime mean for us in the vineyard? Well first, it means we are no longer pruning. I say it jokingly as it is one of the questions people always ask me “So what’s going on in the vineyard, lots of pruning?” Pruning is the first task of the season and was completed in early February. There’s more to it than just pruning.

Monte Sereno Vineyard
after leaf pulling

 

Summertime is also synonymous with vacation…but not in the vineyard. It’s a busy time of year for us with a lot of different things going on. Leaf pulling is about 70% complete for all the vineyards. We have finished leafing in all of the pinot vineyards, and are close to 30% through our chardonnay vineyards. Our vine canopies have nearly reached full growth so we are trying to finish shoot positioning.  Shoot positioning is where we go through tucking shoots through their last catch wire, which keeps the shoots tight and vertical for optimal sun exposure. We are still irrigating in a handful of blocks, but will start to shut the water off, in an attempt to stop growth and focus the vines energy on ripening the clusters. A little stress on the vines will lead to a more mature cluster later in the season.

 

Hedge Trimmed Monte Sereno Vineyard

Another tool we have to convince the vines to slow their growth is hedging. During hedging, we make a pass through the vineyard topping the vines about 8-10 inches above their last catch wire. This tells the vine to stop growing up and usually pushes lateral shoot growth. New leaves that grow on lateral shoots lead to more energy for the vine and will help with ripening. Speaking of ripening, we are about 3 weeks away from Veraison in our earliest pinot noir. Veraison is the change of the cluster maturity. Berries will soften up and gain color as they are ripening. I have heard reports of the start of veraison in the earliest areas of the state, so certainly it won’t be long until we start to see it in our vineyards. Once clusters begin to color up, we will begin putting out bird netting, which covers the fruit zone of the vines and protects them from the birds that like to eat them.

Last, summertime marks a unique time of year here at Talley Vineyards because we have some new faces in the vineyards. Students have joined us to help in our efforts to grow the best chardonnay and pinot noir possible. Each summer, Talley Farms invites the children of our employees to join us for part of their summer vacation. It gives them some hands on experience with farming, an opportunity to make some fun spending money, and helps them appreciate the hard work their parents do all year

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!

Travis Monk, 2008-2014
 
March 15, 2013 | Travis Monk, 2008-2014

Bud Break in the Vineyards

Following a cold winter with less than average rainfall, the vineyards here at Talley are finally deciding to wake up. There’s no denying it now, another season is upon us! We began pruning in early January in the Rincon and Rosemary’s vineyards. We finally wrapped up pruning the last week of February at Oliver’s vineyard in the Edna Valley.

The first week of March brought us about a half inch of some much needed rain and this week we are experiencing some summertime weather with bright su nshine and temperatures in the mid 70’s. With St. Patty’s day just around the corner, the vineyards are all getting their green on. This warm weather has triggered a frenzy in our vineyards, as about 30% of our vineyards are now at “bud break.” Bud break refers to the time when the dormant grapevine buds begin expanding and give emergence to the first leaves of the year. This is a very exciting time of year for us in the vineyard as we get our first glimpse of this years’ coming crop.  It is also a very crucial period in our farming, as this new growth is very delicate in its early stages. For me,  this time of year can be a bit nerve racking as nighttime frost risk leads to quite a few sleepless nights. I’m going to be optimistic this year though, and gladly welcome this summertime weather we are experiencing.

 

 

Brian Talley, Vintner
 
February 8, 2013 | Brian Talley, Vintner

Winter at the Winery

It’s winter time, which might seem like a slow time around the winery, but that’s not the case.  In reality, some of the most important activities in our winegrowing happen now.

In the vineyard, this is when we prune.  Critical decisions that will affect the crop for this season, as well as subsequent years, are made right now.  It all depends on how many buds we leave on the vine.  More buds mean more potential crop, but less vigorous growth.  These decisions are made on a block-by-block basis depending on previous growth and our production goals.  This is an area where quality, focus and attention to detail really pay off, and I’m proud of our vineyard team.  To see a video of pruning, check out our pinot noir pruning video .

In the winery we are focused on nother critical activities.  One of these activities is our assessment of the quality of the previous vintage.  Eric Johnson, Nicole Pope, Travis Monk and I conducted a complete tasting of every wine we produced from the 2012 vintage (more than 150 separate lots) on January 14 and 15.  As we suspected, quality is excellent across the board with juicy approachable wines reminiscent of the highly successful 2005 vintage.

It is during these blind tastings that we first recognize special wines that are likely candidates for our single vineyard bottlings.  Last January, we discovered how much we enjoyed the 2011 Monte Sereno Vineyard Chardonnay and East Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir; so much so that we decided to release these as separate Single Vineyard Selections for the first time ever.  We bottled only two barrels of each of these—so I anticipate that they will sell out immediately upon release. Enjoy!

Brian Talley, Vintner
 
January 11, 2013 | Brian Talley, Vintner

New Year, New People

It’s the New Year and we are focused on planning for our 65th year of farming in the Arroyo Grande Valley.  While most of the effort is directed toward things we’ve done many times before, things like pruning, planting schedules and budgets, there are some truly new happenings to announce, especially related to people.

On the vineyard side, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Travis Monk as our new Vineyard Manager.  Travis has worked with us since 2008 when he started in the Tasting Room.  Lucy Parkin was extremely impressed with his work ethic, great attitude and especially his BBQ skills.  After graduating from Cal Poly with a degree in Agricultural Business Management in 2009, Travis joined former Vineyard Manager Kevin Wilkinson as Viticulturalist and was appointed Assistant Vineyard Manager at the end of 2011.  Travis worked closely with Kevin this past year to ensure a seamless transition to his new role.  He oversaw the planting of more than 20 acres of avocados and now turns his attention to the replanting of the Rincon Vineyard, which will start in 2015.  In his spare time, Travis enjoys hunting and golf.  I’ve enjoyed working with Travis and look forward to the new ideas and the commitment to quality that he brings to our vineyard operations.

We’ve added another full time cellar worker in the winery.  Patrick Sigler was one of three harvest interns who helped us during the 2012 harvest.  Pat’s main responsibility was grape sampling, but he proved to be dedicated, conscientious and hardworking in the cellar as well.  Pat just graduated from the Wine and Viticulture program at Cal Poly.  In addition to his studies, he enjoyed much success on the Cal Poly soccer team, scoring the game winning goal against arch rival UCSB in 2011.  Pat was raised in Sonoma County where he was exposed to the wine industry through friends and looks forward to becoming a winemaker someday.

Brian Talley, Vintner
 
November 21, 2012 | Brian Talley, Vintner

I Am Thankful this Season

Thanksgiving is upon us, which is a great time to consider those things that make life so special.  These are some of the things that I am thankful for.

I’m thankful for my wonderful family, both those who are with me now as well as those who came before.  I was so lucky to work with both my grandfather and my dad and to learn many of the valuable lessons about integrity and respect that I try to practice every day. I’m blessed to be married to my wonderful wife and to have two great daughters.  Johnine and I appreciate living so close to our mothers and our extended families.

I’m thankful for the work that I do.  I’m privileged to work with a great group of people who bring passion and commitment to work every day.  I love to spend time with passionate people.  I’m  also proud to produce tangible things that people enjoy—whether it’s a special bottle of wine or the latest shipment of Talley Farms Fresh Harvest.

I’m thankful to live on the Central Coast.  Not only is this one of those special places on Earth capable of producing world class chardonnay and pinot noir, it also has beautiful weather year round and all kinds of fun stuff to do.

I hope this causes you to reflect on those things that are special in your life and that you are thankful for.

Best wishes for a joyous Thanksgiving!

Brian Talley, Vintner
 
September 21, 2012 | Brian Talley, Vintner

2012 Dream Harvest--Perfect weather, a great team and the right tools

So far harvest 2012 looks like a dream come true.  After the vintages of 2010 and 2011, which featured excellent quality, but lower yields, 2012 looks to be one of those very special years that combines exceptional quality and good production, especially for pinot noir.  Best of all, the weather forecast for the next few weeks looks just like what we've had for the past two months--highs in the mid to upper 70s.

While weather is important to the quality of the finished wines, the key role that our production team plays can't be understated.  Winemaker Eric Johnson has been with us 5 years and has come to know the characteristics that make each of our vineyards special and unique.  He is ably assisted by Assistant Winemaker Nicole Pope, Cellarmaster Ignacio Zarate (who just celebrated 30 years in our family farming operations), Nicole Morris and a great team of Cal Poly interns.


The vineyard team is charged with farming our vineyards and ensuring that the grapes are harvested as gently and efficiently as possible.  This team is lead by Vineyard Manager Kevin Wilkinson and Travis Monk, who will assume the role of Vineyard Manager after this harvest. Longtime Vineyard Foreman Daniel Martinez leads a dedicated and experienced vineyard crew during late night and early morning harvests to ensure that the grapes arrive at the winery early and cool.

The final element that will make the wines of 2012 so special is the deployment of the right tools to capture all of the potential quality of the vintage.  These include a state-of-the-art destemmer that very gently removes the grapes from the stems, vibrating tables that allow for careful sorting of clusters and individual berries, and a stainless steel basket press that gently extracts the wine from the skins. 


Perfect weather, a great team, and all the right tools--it all adds up to what I believe will be a very special vintage.

Anna Heacock, 2007-2013
 
September 14, 2012 | Anna Heacock, 2007-2013

Talley Vineyards is in Arroyo Grande Valley, San Luis Obispo County, California

It’s been quite a year for Talley Vineyards in the press.  If you’re our friend on Facebook, follow our Twitter feed or read this blog, I’m sure you’ve seen some of the fantastic accolades our wines have garnered this year.  It seems that there is a consensus in the trade that our wines are “ageworthy”, “world-class” and according to a recent Food and Wine Magazine article, Talley Vineyards is one of the “World’s Most Trustworthy Wineries”.  With all that in mind, I have to pose the question…Why doesn’t anyone know where we’re located?

For the record, Talley Vineyards is located in Arroyo Grande, California.  I get it, Arroyo Grande is a fly-over city, but so was Anaheim before Walt built Disneyland.  I’m not suggesting Talley Vineyards is a destination like Disneyland, but it is a special place. Our terrior, the sense of a place that influences and shapes our wines, has been nationally recognized by some of the most highly regarded names in the wine industry.  With that in mind, I think it’s important that people understand where we are located in order to better appreciate what environmental influences are contributing to our wines. And equally important, so they can visit us!

When most people think of California wine growing regions they think of Napa and Sonoma. Some may know about Monterey and Santa Barbara Counties. The very savvy are familiar with Paso Robles.  But where exactly does that leave Talley Vineyards?  I’ll tell you where.  Halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, more specifically halfway between Santa Barbara and Paso Robles, sits San Luis Obispo County’s tiny little coastal town of Arroyo Grande Valley, home of Talley Vineyards, where we grow world class chardonnay and pinot noir.  So next time you hear about Talley Vineyards, we hope you think of us here at home in the Arroyo Grande Valley.

 
Brian Talley, Vintner
 
September 7, 2012 | Brian Talley, Vintner

Harvest Kicks Off

Regular readers of the Winegrower’s Blog might point out that Winemaker Eric Johnson announced the start of harvest in his August 17 post.  Indeed, we harvested two small lots of pinot noir for a rosé and a sparkling wine.  Both of these wines are made in a low alcohol, clean crisp style that calls for harvest much earlier than for our classically styled pinot noir.  Removing these two outliners from the equation, our harvest started about 1 week later than it has over the past 2 years.

If you visit the winery now, you can watch our cellar crew making wine, but you will be hard pressed to see anyone harvesting grapes.  This is because almost all of our harvesting is done at night.  This keeps the grapes as cool as possible and also helps with harvest flow because the first grapes are already at the winery when the winemaking team arrives in the morning.

Many people ask me, “how is 2012?”  It’s a very simple question, but the answer unfolds over time as we gather more information.  Here’s what I can say now.  Because this was a relatively dry growing season, we’ve experienced less mildew and botrytis pressure than normal.  This generally implies better quality.  The crop is about average in size for chardonnay, and above average for pinot noir.  I sum it up as “good quality, good crop.”  We will have a much better idea after we’ve harvested more and the first wines go dry. 

In January, when we conduct our first extensive tastings of the vintage, we can draw more conclusions.  Finally, in the late spring of 2013, we will conduct the tastings that will determine the Single Vineyard Selections and the Estate wines for the vintage.  That’s when I can more definitively answer the question “how was 2012?”

If you want another person’s perspective of our 2010 vintage wines, I invite you to check out the Wine Advocate Reviews that just came out.