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.
Summer is officially here! This is my favorite time of year, it’s beautiful outside and there are wine events to attend almost every weekend. Whether we’re hosting an event here at the winery, or pouring off site it’s very inspiring to be surrounded by great wine, good food and a happy group of wine enthusiasts.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of pouring at Pinot Days, San Francisco with our assistant winemaker Nicole Pope. For those unfamiliar, Pinot Days is a varietal specific event held in the Fort Mason Building in the heart of the city. This event draws a large crowd of serious Pinot Noir drinkers from all over the country. Now in its eighth year, Pinot Days has certainly garnered the respect of the top pinot noir producers in California as even the smallest, and top reviewed wineries can be found pouring their finest selections.
We poured our flagship 2010 Estate wine and a preview of our 2010 Stone Corral and Rincon Vineyard Pinots. These wines are already showing beautifully. As usual, and right on schedule, Stone Corral’s enticing bouquet is already well developed and Rincon is beginning to reveal its layered depth and rich minerality. It was great to see such excitement about our wines so early in their youth - we had many repeat tasters! It’s always so rewarding to get such a positive response to our wines, especially in a venue of such great company.
Some other noteworthy wines we tasted: 2009 White Rose from Dundee Hills, 2009 Failla from Sonoma Coast and a 2006 Scherrer from Russian River.
Every year around early summer I feel that the previous year’s Pinot Noirs start to turn the corner. The flavors have matured to a point that they start to taste like wine and are no longer as young and awkward tasting as they were in the winter. Once the wines have “turned the corner” the winemaking staff is involved in hours of tastings which ultimately leads to the finale of blending of the various estate and single vineyard wines. This is a great time of year because we can really get a vision of how the vintage faired and honestly, we can see if we did our job in the vineyard and winery.
As much as I love making the Rosemary’s and Rincon Vineyards blends I have to say that I am extremely intrigued when it comes to the Stone Corral Pinot Noir. The Stone Corral Vineyard is unique in that the Talley family collaborated with local winemakers, Stephen Ross Dooley (Stephen Ross Wines) and Don Othman (Kynsi), in a long-term lease arrangement to share the grapes. The vineyard is divided into 5 distinct vineyard blocks, with each block divided into thirds and designated for Talley Vineyards, Stephen Ross Wines and the Kynsi Winery.
Around this time of year the production staff from all three wineries, get together and taste the previous year’s pinot noir from the Stone Corral Vineyard, block by block. I always look forward to this tasting because it clearly shows the influence of the winery’s house style. It amazes me how different the wines are, they are all very distinctive. If I didn’t know, I would swear the pinots were from different vineyards across California. Even though you have the same grapes, the wines are still defined by the winery. I guess that’s what makes this process so interesting for me.
As the summertime nears, guests in our tasting room are starting to wonder if the weather is ever less than perfect here in the Arroyo Grande Valley. While we do get our fair share of weather, I’m often left scratching my head to think of the last gloomy day. It’s a great time for picnickers, who are loving our new patio tables and lounge furniture – not to mention our outside bar and sauvignon blanc on tap - which we have available on the weekends.
The main feature right now, however, is our lineup of world-class Chardonnays. Displaying the perfect balance of rich fruit and refreshing acidity, it is my secret pleasure to show guests how truly amazing this varietal can be. To learn more about this classic grape, join us for The Chardonnay Experience on June 16th. This is a fun, intimate event that includes tastings of past, present, and future releases from our estate Rincon Vineyard, a winery and vineyard tour, and lunch.
Later on this month, we are gearing up for Roll out the Barrels on June 23rd. This is one of my favorite events of the year – though let’s be honest – I’m going to be at any event that includes a barrel tasting. New this year is the music of Matt Suarez and the Movement, a great local singer-songwriter with a distinct blues/reggae sound. For more information on these and other events this summer, check out our events page. - Andy
|Chardonnay Vine 4/23/12|
Springtime is a beautiful time of year in most places. Here in Arroyo Grande, springtime means that the hills are green, the wildflowers are blooming, and our vines are growing. Bud break occurred the first week of March in many of our vineyards and the longest shoots are now 4-5 inches long. As the days get longer, the soil warms and growth accelerates.
This rapid spring growth means two things. First, we have to protect the tender young shoots. Even in our exceedingly moderate climate, frost is a danger. On the coldest nights we run wind machines or sprinklers for protection. The danger typically passes in mid to late April. Rapid vine growth also means shoot thinning--the removal of excess shoots from the vine to allow the remaining shoots to grow more evenly.
|Char Cluster 4-23-12|
Finally, spring time also means the release of our chardonnays. The 2010 Estate Chardonnay, the 25th anniversary bottling, has just been released. It’s perfect with local halibut or the salmon that are rumored to be running off the coast of California right now. On May 1, we release our three single vineyard bottlings from Oliver’s Vineyard, the Rincon Vineyard and Rosemary’s Vineyard. What can be better than springtime, chardonnay and fresh local seafood?