I often tell people that you can’t be a farmer if you don’t love the weather. More precisely, I mean that we must accept the fact that the weather is beyond our control and we adjust our schedule and practices accordingly. It’s important to keep this in mind as we ride the roller coaster that is harvest.
This week, we’re experiencing our annual Indian Summer—that last bit of warm weather that finishes harvest. We’ve had some of the warmest weather of the year during this period, with temperatures in the high 90s. This is due to high pressure moving over our area and the presence of Santa Ana conditions—a warm offshore flow as opposed to our typical pattern of cool onshore breezes. This mini heat wave came right on the heels of a rainstorm last week that dumped just over an inch of rain in the Arroyo Grande Valley.
At this point, everything on our ranches has been harvested with the exception of some chardonnay in the Rincon Vineyard, which we will finish on Monday. The other exception is about three tons of sauvignon blanc in Oliver’s Vineyard that we will attempt to make into a sweet dessert wine. The rain we received last week created perfect conditions for botrytis cinerea, often referred to as the “noble rot.” Botrytis is a fungus that grows ongrapes due to wet conditions and which causes the grapes to shrivel and the sugar and acid to become extremely concentrated. This is undesirable in most of the wines we produce, and we typically go to great lengths to prevent it, including leaf removal and thinning of infected grape clusters. Botrytis is critical for the production of white dessert wines and sauvignon blanc is one of the white grape varieties most suited to make this wine. Consequently, we decided to leave those grapes on the vine with the hope to let botrytis grow and to make our second ever late harvest sauvignon blanc. The only other time we did this was in 1994, when we had a very rainy harvest. That wine was legendary.
So here’s another way of expressing my “learn to love the weather” mantra: when you have lemons, make lemonade. When you have rain, make dessert wine!
This past summer Brian Talley packed his bags and set out to meet with some of the top food and wine writers in the country to share our 25 year portfolio of chardonnays. This precarious mission to meet with these most discerning reviewers and host a retrospective tasting has proven to be an incredible success. Over the past few months, numerous articles have surfaced in magazines and around the web about the true age worthiness of our wines. One of the most flattering in our recent accolades was when Food and Wine Magazine named Talley Vineyards as one of “The World’s Most Trustworthy Wineries”. We’ve been regularly sharing this press with our friends on Facebook, but just in case you missed it, here are a few exciting highlights of what the experts had to say:
I would confidently put any of the Talley wines toe-to-toe with Grand Cru French Burgundy. Talley’s wines definitely made a statement; not all California Chardonnays are equal, and California Chardonnays crafted in a classical style and grown in cooler climates deserve a second look. They also merit a place in your cellar, to be savored today and twenty years from now.- Katie Kelley Bell, Forbes
Talleys wines don’t have to be old to taste good. We also tasted five delicious Chardonnays that were brand new. The important thing about these wines is that they have generous acidity and restrained fruit. In other words, they are far more reminiscent of a European wine. - Austin Chronicle
Made in a Burgundian-style with an emphasis on the vineyards and creating a true sense of place, instead of manipulation in the winery, Talley Vineyards succeeds in delivering a lively white filled with citrus and stone fruit notes, balanced with layers of spice and nuttiness. Enjoy a bottle young, and then let one age for a few years and you’ll see the flavors develop into rich caramel notes while maintaining the acidity and brightness of the fruit. - Hayley Hamilton
The two best surprises came from the oldest bottle we tasted, the 1994 Talley’s Vineyard, as well as the 2001 Rosemary’s Vineyard which both maintained their consistency in structure, balance and acidity, proving that these wines could easily continue to age an additional number of years. – D Magazine
- Talley remains one of the great estates in California that has yet to be fully discovered. As a result, prices remain exceedingly fair considering the quality of what goes into the bottle. - Antonio Galloni, The Wine Advocate
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.
I probably shouldn’t include this one in my top ten list of over-used phrases in the tasting room. I hear very similar questions almost every day, about whether the blueberries, strawberries, and buttered biscuit are actually added to the wine. I only include this in the over-used list because lots of people ask just to be facetious, and it certainly doesn’t help that we have tons of rosemary planted in our parking area. When someone asks this question seriously, it’s awesome because it gives me the opportunity to completely enlighten a customer about the world of wine. This is all the more rewarding this time of year because I have the ability to actually show guests the winemaking process from beginning to end without them having to visualize it.
For me, harvest is the time of year when I can give my voice a rest and let the winery do the talking. Harvest tours are perfect for explaining the process because every step is going on at the same time. One batch of pinot noir is being sorted while another is just beginning to ferment. Chardonnay and pinot noir are being pressed, though one is releasing juice from the skins and another is turning into wine. Why stop with the sights and smells? If there is fruit, juice, or wine to be tasted on tours – then we will certainly taste. How better to learn about fermentation than to taste the juice before, and the wine after? You may ask why malolactic fermentation and barrel aging is important in many wines? Put your glass under the press and catch a little pinot noir on its first day of being wine to find out.
Be careful, however, on harvest tours – you might just be put to work! “Learn by doing” as they say at Cal Poly, is the second best way to learn about wine other than tasting. You might be convinced to do a few punch-downs or even try your hand at sorting clusters. Don’t worry – I won’t make anyone wash any harvest bins or clean out any tanks – we’ll leave that up to the pros. If nothing else, you’ll learn that Rosemary is a person and that none of the herb is used in our wine production.
August has arrived in seemingly no time at all, which is great because I look forward to this month the entire year. While summer traffic begins to die down, a whole new crowd descends on our tasting room. They are here to taste our Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs from Stone Corral, Rincon, and Rosemary’s Vineyards. These three wines, all set to be released on August 25th, represent the best of what each respective vineyard has to offer. If you enjoy the Edna Valley and Estate Pinot Noirs, these wines share the same winemaking style, but with more structure and intensity. I have admitted that it is the Chardonnays here at Talley Vineyards that are my favorites, though I have two reasons to love our pinots – the vast range of food pairings and the even better people watching.
For instance, if you enjoy Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, how many clones of those varietals can you name? If the answer is none, it may not be that you don’t love your favorite wine varietal as much as “Pinophiles” love theirs. It’s just that while you are drinking your favorite wine, they are spouting off a list of letters and numbers from 2A to 777. Pinot Noir drinkers as a whole tend to want to be more educated more about their wine – they want to know about the punch downs, the cold soak, the yeast, the forests from which the wood for the barrels was harvested. If the last sentences leave you feeling lost, but you want to learn more, visit us for a Harvest Tour to learn all about how we make our Pinot Noirs.
Now to explain my blog title. Pinot Noir drinkers love the word “revisit,” especially as it pertains to tasting more of one of our most popular wines, our Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. This definitely qualifies as one of the “well-used phrases in the tasting room,” although it is rarely said so eloquently. My favorite version: “Can you hit me again with another shot of that Rosemary’s Pinot?”
Whether you are a diagnosed Pinot Noir addict or just appreciate the varietal, visit us on August 25th for our annual Pinot Noir Release Day. We will be featuring a flight of all five of our 2010 Talley Vineyards Pinot Noirs, plus a secret selection from our library in a five-liter format. Not to mention there will be food available for purchase by a great new food truck, Anna Andriese’s Haute Skillet, and music by Doug Groshart of the JD Project. I hope to see you there!
It’s the middle of summer and there’s lots of fun stuff going on. I just returned from a wonderful family vacation to San Diego. This is an annual family get-together that includes the entire extended Talley family. San Diego has lots of fun things to do: we visited college campuses, we went to the zoo, we went to Sea World, we went shopping, we hung out by the pool.
We had some wonderful food and wine experiences during the trip. Highlights included dinner at JRDN at Tower 23 in Ocean Beach. They pour our Estate Chardonnay by the glass, which is a great match for all the seafood they have on the menu. Everyone loved Donovan’s, widely regarded as one of the best steakhouses in the United States. 2009 Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir and prime New York steak is a great pairing. The biggest revelation was dinner at the Marina Kitchen, the signature restaurant at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. Beverage Manager Josh Orr is a Cal Poly graduate who started in the wine industry in San Luis Obispo before moving to Las Vegas where he met chef Seth Aaron. The combination of a well selected and well priced wine list, and “modern comfort food” featuring local sustainable food, was unbeatable. We finished the evening with a fireworks display over the marina and the signature Makers Mark Milkshake with fresh baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Three generations of Talleys were in heaven after that dinner!
Closer to home, veraison makes for fun in the vineyard. This is the time of year when the grapes change color and begin to accumulate sugar. Its our signal that harvest is just around the corner. To learn more about veraison, check out my short video on the subject.
Best wishes for a great summer to you!
Believe it or not, Mimosas and Bloody Marys aren’t the only beverages that can be enjoyed with brunch! A few years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a food and wine pairing seminar that featured a variety of creative wine pairings for common breakfast items such as oatmeal and a Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich! That experience made me realize that wine pairing isn’t just for dinner. So, with summer upon us and fresh white wines tasting so delicious, I thought I’d share a little idea I had for the next time you feel inspired at breakfast.
Bishop’s Peak Riesling paired with Salmon Scramble (scramble recipe from Rachel Ray)
Ingredients - (Serves 6)
1/4 pound sliced smoked salmon
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
12 to 15 blades of fresh chives, finely chopped
*Creamy goat cheese and/or dill would make a delicious addition to this recipe
Reserve 2 slices of salmon for garnish. Chop the remaining salmon into very small pieces.
Whisk your eggs and cream together. Add 1/2 of your chopped chives and season eggs with salt and pepper. Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Melt butter in the pan and add eggs. Scramble eggs with a wooden spoon. Do not cook eggs until dry. When eggs have come together but remain wet, stir in chopped salmon. Remove pan from the stove and place on a trivet. Garnish the eggs with remaining salmon and chives and serve right out of the warm pan.
Pour yourself a glass of Riesling and enjoy!
It feels like harvest is right around the corner. Although it will be over a month until the first grapes are picked, you can’t help but feel the buzz and anticipation start to build at the winery. After bottling the 2011 Bishop’s Peak Chardonnay and Pinot Noir last week, and now blending and aging the rest of the wines until next year, the work on the 2011 vintage is winding down and the preparations for the 2012 vintage have begun.
New oak barrels have started arriving from our favorite French cooperages, and soon enough we will be dusting off the de-stemmers, presses, and picking bins that have been in hibernation since last fall. The cleaning tasks are not glamorous and are never-ending, but there is nothing like having a sparkling crush pad and freshly power-washed barrel room to get you (or just me!) excited about bringing in those first grapes of the season.
I think most winemakers can agree that the weeks before harvest bring out all kinds of emotions, from hope to excitement to anxiety. With how the 2012 growing season is going so far, it looks like there should be nothing but excitement for the grape quality this year.
I’ve decided to start each of my blogs with a segment that I like to call “well-used phrases in the tasting room.” Some apply to Talley only, some are universal. Here’s one for this week: “Wow, you really must get tired of looking at this view all the time!” For those of you who haven’t been to our tasting room, we have big picture windows that overlook rolling hills, our vineyards, and vegetable fields.
I’ve heard people comment on the view thousands of times, as this July marks my fifth year at Talley Vineyards. During this time, I have met guests from all different corners of the world and enjoyed the pleasure of working with a great group of people over the years. Early on I noticed that this is not the place to work for the private, mind-your-own-business type – this is like having a whole other family. "When are you going to graduate?" "When are you getting married?" "When are you going to wash the 'Just Married' off of your truck?" I’m not complaining here, by the way. I have co-workers and customers who have become friends, on top of having one of the best views from any office, anywhere.
As I’ve enjoyed watching the company grow, I have seen lots of changes and lots of things that have remained the same. The most important things that have stayed the same are the great people which I’ve already mentioned, as well as our lineup of wines. One such wine is our Bishop’s Peak Petite Sirah, a single-vineyard wine entirely from Ranchita Canyon Vineyard in Paso Robles. We have purchased old-vine Petite Sirah grapes from this family vineyard for over a decade, and it is a consistent favorite in the tasting room. During the summertime, you wouldn’t expect our most full-bodied red to be our best seller – though it is! People are flocking in for this wine – and why not? – it’s rich, smooth, and reminds me of a juicy, ripe plum. Come join us for a glass while it lasts!
Early in my winegrowing career, I handled the sales of our wines in Northern California. During that time, I called on a wine shop called Pacific Wine Company, one of the most iconic wine merchants in the United States. It was a badge of honor to sell wine here because they carried an amazing collection of Burgundy and the very best California wines.
In addition to a world class wine selection, Pacific Wine Company was also known for a monthly catalog that featured a distinctive cartoon cover. The cartoons were a collaboration between artist Bob Johnson and Pacific Wine Company owner Mike Lynch. Sadly, Pacific Wine Company closed its doors in the mid 90s after an ill fated move to a new location. But, the cartoons lived on as a feature in Wine Enthusiast Magazine. After a 3 year run there, Mike and Bob moved on to other projects, and the classic “Lynch Bob” cartoon series came to an end…….until now.
As we were brainstorming ideas to get people thinking a little differently about Talley Vineyards, we hit upon the idea of bringing the cartoons back. I’m pleased to announce the first in the series. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If you do, be among the first 100 people to mention it in our Tasting Room and receive a free copy.