Regular readers of this blog know that I pay special attention to the weather. In my line of work, the weather is critically important—rain, heat, frost, fog, and wind all profoundly affect our activities and ultimately the quality of our products.
Sometimes, especially this time of year, I can simply observe and enjoy the weather and associated phenomena. Lately, we’ve had a series of beautiful sunsets. One of my favorite things to do is sit outside with Johnine, watch the sunset over the Pacific and enjoy a glass of wine. Our daughter, Elizabeth, captured the moment especially artfully this past Sunday evening as we shared some chardonnay.
During the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, I hope you too can sit with those you love and appreciate what makes life so special. Best wishes for a joyous holiday season!
Last night we had our annual Talley staff Christmas party at Giuseppe’s Restaurant in Pismo Beach- and no, the night didn’t end with karaoke. As you can imagine, this is an exceptionally fun event where we have the amazing opportunity to taste a wide variety of rare, old vintages of Talley single vineyard wines. Even better, the wines are all from large format bottles which are not only festive, but are known to age better than small format bottles. The only difficult part is pacing oneself enough to fully appreciate what you’re tasting.
We kicked off the night with a 5 liter bottle of 2001 Rosemary’s Vineyard Chardonnay- which in the words of our direct sales manager Alyssa Ball, “Smelled and tasted rich, nutty, and delicious like a perfectly aged chardonnay”. I totally agree with her, and I’ll add that it was a wonderful complement to the creamy stuffed mushroom appetizer they were serving. That bottle disappeared pretty quickly (there were a lot of us), so we moved on to another 5 liter bottle, the 2007 Rincon Chardonnay. The Rincon was surprisingly fresh and citrusy, showing very youthful. If you have this wine in your cellar, it is drinking well now, but it definitely has a lot of years left to age.
So, with dinner on the way, we needed to fill our seats and our glasses- this time with a few pinot noirs. It was a moment I was waiting for, the ceremonious opening of the 9 Liter bottle of 2001 Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir. We recently revisited this wine in our library tastings and I remember it scoring top rankings. The larger format bottle didn’t seem to differ from its 750 ml equivalent. It had very distinctive earthy characteristics, and the palate was silky and smooth.
Since I don’t have room to fill in the details about all the wines we shared, I would like to finish with the highlight of my evening, the 1999 Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. This wine had bright and distinctive fruit with perfectly balanced acidity and a silky, tannin structure. This delicate yet robust pinot noir is still a star after roughly 12 years in bottle.
Once again, I was reminded of what a wonderful producer we work for. Even though those incredible wines were all made before my time at Talley Vineyards, it was very special to get to experience these vintages with the family that produced them.
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!
Thanksgiving, is just around the corner. It's my favorite holiday because I love to cook. This year I plan to brine my turkey then roast it in my wood burning oven. Every year people ask me what I drink with the meal. My favorite choice is our Estate Pinot Noir because of its balance and elegance, which I find works well with the complex flavors of the meal. The magnums we're featuring this month are perfect for extended family. I asked our crew here at Talley Vineyards what they plan to serve. Best wishes to everyone for a joyous Thanksgiving!
Nicole Bertotti-Pope, Assistant Winemaker, 2010 Rincon Pinot Noir
“Pinot Noir is a great match for turkey and all the usual side dish suspects, and what better excuse than Thanksgiving to pull out those single vineyard pinots you've been saving all year! The 2010 Rincon Pinot Noir is tasting great right now, and has just the right balance of fruit, spice and earthiness to pair with just about everything on the table. I think it will go perfectly with my dish of maple chipotle mashed sweet potatoes.”
David Block, Sales Manager, 2011 Bishop’s Peak Riesling
“I vote for the 2011 Bishop’s Peak Riesling. I would serve that as the cook’s prep wine to be consumed in copious amounts with light snacks such as seasoned nuts like Rosemary almonds or wasabi spiced peanuts.Drink up sailors it’s time to cook!”
Alyssa Ball, Direct Sales Manager, 2010 Oliver’s Vineyard Chardonnay
“One of my favorite fall foods is butternut squash and I always like to include it in my Thanksgiving meal. This year I plan to roast the butternut squash and serve it with browned butter and fresh herbs. I recommend enjoying a glass of Oliver’s Vineyard Chardonnay along with this delicious and simple side dish.”
Eric Johnson, Winemaker, 2010 Rincon Chardonnay
“At the Thanksgiving meal, my favorite food on the plate is stuffing. I like a stuffing that uses tart green apples as a primary ingredient, because the apples add so much extra flavor. Rincon Vineyard Chardonnay is the perfect wine to pair with apple stuffing and I plan to enjoy a glass or two for the holiday. ”
Michele Good, Director of Business Operations, 2010 Talley Vineayards Estate Chardonnay
“I’m going Estate Chard. Love that wine and goes good with Turkey, gravy, potatoes, appetizers, and everything else I eat on T-day.”
Anna Heacock, Marketing Manager, 2005 Rosemary's Pinot Noir
“I plan on bringing a few bottles. I’m finally going to open a 2005 Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. While I know this wine still has many good years left, I’m not very patient and I know it’s drinking beautifully now. I will savor this wine from appetizer to dessert- it doesn’t need a complement. Because I will want to enjoy at least a full glass (or two), I need to provide a distraction that I can feel good about. For that, I will also bring a few Bishop’s Peak Chardonnays, absolutely delicious as an aperitif and a perfectly refreshing pairing to all the traditional Thanksgiving flavors of savory, nutty and fruity.”
Belinda Christensen, Direct Sales Assistant, assorted Talley and Bishop's Peak wines
“If you were to come to the Christensen family Thanksgiving table, you would find Prime Rib, not turkey. And at the very crowded table, would be multiple bottles of wine including Stone Corral Pinot Noir, some Rincon Pinot Noir, Bishop’s Peak Cabernet, maybe some Elevation Red, a bottle of Riesling for my mother, and a bottle of Rosemary’s Chardonnay for those white wine drinkers. Something for everyone."
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!