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.
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!
Another harvest is already here! We’ve only been harvesting for a week and the winery is already packed with fermenters. With this warm weather, everything seems to be ripening quickly and it is looking like it is going to be an exceptionally fast and intense harvest.
The 2013 vintage will definitely be a memorable one for me. This is the ninth grape harvest I’ve worked, my fourth harvest at Talley Vineyards, and my first harvest as a new mother. The notion of being tired new parents will take on a whole new meaning once we add the onslaught of grapes to the equation. My husband and I will be passing in the night as he manages night picks at Halter Ranch; and I’m just hoping that our son, Grayson, recognizes our efforts and lets us have some uninterrupted sleep every once in awhile!
Grayson may not understand it yet, but this is just the first of many harvests to come during his childhood, when his parents will be blurry eyed, sticky, and purple handed for weeks on end. Without a doubt he will become familiar with smells of fermentation in the winery and the sights and sounds of grapes being picked and processed.
We are planning to start a tradition of saving wines from Grayson’s birth year to share with him when he turns 21, and what better wines to save than the age worthy Talley Pinots and Chardonnays that I had a hand in making! If the beautiful growing conditions continue, the 2013 wines should be spectacular. Twenty-one years from now, I look forward to opening these wines together and recounting the crazy and wonderful memories we will have from our first vintage as a new family. Okay, time to get back to those grapes!
|Pinot noir fermenting in the cellar.||Grayson reacts to the news harvest has started!|
The focus of my blog post this week is crop thinning, a critical activity that occurs every year at this time. Below is a video featuring Vineyard Manager Travis Monk discussing how and why we thin chardonnay. In summary, we remove clusters from vines where the clusters have a tendency to pile up on one-another. If we don’t remove some of these clusters, we risk botrytis or mildew, which reduces both quality and the size of the crop. Enjoy the video!
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!
The wine industry is an amazing industry to work in. Wine is made in so many places throughout the world. We have the ability to travel around talking to growers and winemakers to learn more and more about refining our craft. One of the many perks.
Last week I was lucky enough to travel to France with Brian Talley and explore the Mecca of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Burgundy, France. I have been visited Burgundy before but not like this. This time I felt that I was really able to ingrain myself in the area, the vineyards, the wines, and the culture. We were staying in the middle of Burgundy at the Francois Frères house in St. Romain, a small town outside of Beaune. Francois Freres are our main supplier of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay barrels at Talley. The Francois’ are such an amazing family and their hospitality is unlike anyone I have met.
From St. Roamin we traveled to Domaine Jacques-Frederic (Freddy) Mugnier in Chambolle- Musigny. He is a very humble man with a masterful winemaking touch. I absolutely loved his wines. We were lucky enough to barrel taste his 2012’s and taste through most of his 2011’s. He even brought out a 1993 Chambolle-Musigny that blew everyone’s mind. For its age, it still had great youth and energy.
From Chambolle we would travel to Gevrey-Chambertin for a visit to Domaine Fourrier. We were able to taste through a vast majority of their 2011’s. Great wines with amazing structure. These wines will have no problem ageing for years to come. From Gevrey-Chambertin we traveled south to the illustrious home of white Burgundy Puligny-Montrachet and a visit to the famed Domaine Leflaive. Leflaive has been one of my favorite Chardonnay producers for a while now and it was amazing to be able to visit and taste through their 2011’s. The depth of flavor, finesse, and searing acidity leaves no doubt in your mind as to why Domaine Leflaive is one of the greatest Chardonnay producers in the world.
Our last visit was to the jack of all trades Domaine Comte Lafon. I say that because owner/ winemaker Dominique Lafon not only produces amazing Meursault and Montrachet but just as amazing Volnay and Monthelie. It’s pretty unique that Lafon produces red and white Burgundy especially at the quality that they do. His wines have an amazing intensity but a beautiful elegance that drifts throughout the palette. I would say Dominique was the most open winemaker we spoke to. It didn’t matter how technical or intrusive the question was, he answered it. I have to say I probably learned the most speaking with Dominique. Looking back at my notes, Most of them involve things he said regarding the way he likes to make wine. My favorite topic was how to achieve the optimal amount of “noble” reduction in his white Burgundies. A technique that has eluded me in the past yet one that I would love to figure out because I find this characteristic irresistible in Chardonnays.
My Burgundian travels reminded me why Burgundy is the Mecca of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is the mother land when it comes to these grapes and there really is no place like it. As we were leaving Domain Mugnier I asked Freddy Mugnier what advice he could give to a young winemaker such as myself. He stood silent for a moment until his eyes lit up saying, “I always accomplish more when I do less.” The perfect advice that I will never forget
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|
This weekend is WOPN! World of Pinot Noir is the must-attend event for any serious pinot noir enthusiast. This experience features hundreds of pinot noirs from all over the globe through seminars, walk-around tastings and dinner events. Renowned producers of this coveted varietal pour tastes of their current release wines at the grand tastings, while rare and old vintage wines are usually poured in special seminars and dinners. As an added bonus, the event is primarily held on the bluff in Shell Beach at both the Dolphin Bay and Cliffs Resorts, overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean. (Oh, and Brian Talley was one of the founders of this event!)
This year, Talley Vineyards will be the focus of one of the educational “breakout sessions”. This sold-out seminar will feature Rosemary’s and Rincon Vineyard wines from 2007-2010. It is my opinion that these wines are some of the best we’ve ever made, and now is a wonderful time to taste them side by side. Many pinot noirs have a relatively short shelf life, but the Talley wines are known for their exceptional ageability. Our pinot noirs show incredible structure and depth and can begin peaking more than 4-5 years after bottling. Brian Talley and Eric Johnson will be hosting this special event and discussing what is unique about each vintage and what contributes to the beauty of these wines today.
If you want to taste as many pinot noirs as possible, I recommend going to both the Friday and Saturday afternoon tastings. Each day features a different group of wineries. If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, it’s not too late. You can still purchase them at http://www.worldofpinotnoir.com. This event provides the opportunity to enjoy the many variations of this wonderful varietal in a fun, educational and beautiful environment.
It’s that time of year again. The winery seems to move into hibernation mode after harvest, with the 2012 wines aging in barrel and the vines dormant. And then the bottling line gets started up and the clanking of bottles begins. To be honest, bottling days don’t usually rank high as a favorite winemaking activity among winemakers and production staff. The stringent quality control guidelines, repetitive work, and endless bottling line repairs and adjustments just can’t compete with the fun of harvest days, fermentations, tastings, blend trials, and all that other good stuff we get to call work.
|Bottles before the labels||Bottles after the labels|
The bright side of bottling is that we are always excited to see our finished wines going into bottle. It is the point when the wines leave our hands to begin the bottle aging process and eventually be released to the public. Last week was an especially enjoyable bottling run because we got to see the delicious 2011 Single Vineyard Chardonnays get bottled! This week was equally as enjoyable as we bottled the 2011 Estate Pinot Noir which by all indications, will be a great bottle of wine.
We are also excited to announce that we have added a new Single Vineyard bottling to the already great lineup of Rosemary’s, Rincon, and Oliver’s Chardonnays. The 2011 Monte Sereno Chardonnay comes from our smallest vineyard, located just a couple miles west of the winery in the Arroyo Grande appellation. The 2011 bottling is a blend of the two blocks comprising both clone 548 and clone 4. The finished wine showcases beautiful tropical aromas and a rich, creamy texture on the palate. We only made two barrels of this delicious wine, so if you can get your hands on it you’ll be in for a treat!