My name is Nicole Morris and I am the cellar assistant here at Talley Vineyards. As you may have heard, 2013 was a plentiful and intense harvest. Harvest 2013 was my seventh in the wine industry. As much fun as it was, I am glad it is over.
Now that we have time to sit back and reflect on the long hours and craziness we have just endured, there are still many winery tasks that need to be accomplished. Currently we have over twenty fermenters that are in the late stages of fermentation. They are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, and Syrah. Towards the end of harvest, the cooler temperatures in the cellar contribute to a slower fermentation time. Most of these reds varietals, which are from the Paso Robles area, will be finished fermenting and pressed off by next week.
Another task we are working on is the consolidation of the chardonnay barrels. Chardonnay that is fermented in barrels is initially filled only three-fourths full. The head space is left for the fizzle and foam of fermentation. So a 60 gallon barrel is only filled with chardonnay to 45 gallons. A barrel filled to the top would overflow leaving the liquid gold, as we call the foam, all over the barrel room floor. Still, some barrels do end up overflowing during fermentation. Once the fermentation is complete the barrels are consolidated, filled and topped off. They will now go through secondary fermentation and age in the cellar.
Eventually, all barrels in the barrel room will be topped off and stored. From here on out, barrel topping will happen about once a month because about a half a gallon of wine evaporates from a barrel each month. This head space from evaporation puts wine in a more vulnerable state for spoilage organisms to take over. Topping the barrels prevents this from happening.
The intensity of harvest is coming to an end and we are being rewarded by the beautiful autumn colors in the vineyard. Even though we are we are still keeping busy with these “end of harvest” activities, one cannot help but feel accomplished and surprised that yet another harvest has passed. We here at Talley Vineyards are very excited to see the results of the 2013 harvest, and even more excited about having a whole weekend off.
Last March Andy McDaniel, our then Guest Services Coordinator, contributed a blog entry entitled Playing in the Dirt. In that blog Andy described the complicated logistics of collecting soil samples from our various vineyards in the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys. He also shared the reason behind this dirty effort - the creation of a soil sample display for our tasting room.
The end result of all that digging can now be viewed by tasting room visitors. At first glance it may appear that we’ve simply filled seven large cylinders with dirt. But take a closer look and I think you will agree that it is much more than that. To even my untrained eye, it is remarkable to see the variation in color, texture and structure of the soils displayed. These differences are not just evident when comparing the different vineyards, but exist even within the layers of a single vineyard site. Seeing the uniqueness of the soils, I can’t help but think how that is all a part of what makes each of our wines so distinctive. It makes it easy to embrace the concept of terrior, that sense of place, and to realize how Talley Vineyards wines are truly a reflection of the vineyard site they originate from.
Next time you visit our tasting room, I encourage you to spend some time looking at each of the soil samples, as well as the beautiful vineyard photographs alongside them. Enjoy your wine tasting, pay special attention to the vineyard source for each wine you try and think about the diversity of the soil sample displays. I believe there is a lot to learn from those cylinders of dirt!
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!|
Today marks the start of the 27th harvest since Talley Vineyards was founded back in 1986. We began harvesting pinot noir in two sections of Rosemary’s Vineyard. Our August 30 start date was very typical: 5 days earlier than last year, 4 days later than 2011 and 1 day later than 2010. At 2.95 tons, the crop was just under Travis Monk’s estimate of 3 tons, and almost exactly what we harvested from these sections last year. Our expectation is that the pinot noir crop will be very similar to 2012 and I expect a slightly larger chardonnay crop.
Every harvest has themes or storylines that play out as we progress through our vineyards. After only one day, there’s not much of a story to tell, except that 2013 is a severe drought year (fortunately, we are blessed with adequate ground water) and the crop looks healthy. We also expect a more condensed harvest in 2013 as many areas of our vineyards appear to be ripening simultaneously. In particular, I anticipate more of an overlap between pinot noir and chardonnay than we typically see.
Will 2013 be a great vintage? This is the million dollar question that everyone wonders about, and I go into every harvest expecting to make the very best wines we’ve ever produced. The fruit is exceptionally clean with very little evidence of botrytis or mildew, the two fungal diseases that can dramatically reduce quality in our area. So far, we like the ripe flavors we taste at lower sugar levels, and acidity appears to be higher than 2012 and more in line with 2010 and 2011. This bodes well for refreshing wines of depth and concentration—just the kinds of wines we seek to produce every year. I hope you follow along to see how the story of 2013 unfolds.
|Cellar crew sorting pinot noir grapes on first day of harvest.||First light on the first day of harvest in Rosemary's Vineyard.|
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
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!
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!
With a little over a week left before we celebrate the coming of 2013, I wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year! While it is not my style to get sentimental and reminisce about highlights of the year gone past, 2012 is a little bit different. In the most succinct terms possible, it really was a great year.
As it pertains to my life and what I’m passionate about, two amazing things happened this year. First, and most importantly, this is the year I married my amazing wife, Erin. On April 14th, the Talley family was gracious enough to allow us to host our small, intimate wedding ceremony in the barrel room. After six years of dating and now over six months of marrage, I am happy to be able to tell everyone that married life is great!
Secondly, 2012 was an awesome vintage for just about every region of California, especially here on the central coast. While I am proud to have been a part of Talley Vineyards for what has been a really excellent string of vintages (2007-2012), this year is special because it is the first year in a while with both high quality and above-average yields. Some of you may know that I dabble in wine production. This is the second year that the Talleys have allowed us to tend a section of vines in Edna Valley and make a small batch of wine. I, my wife, and co-workers, Mike and Ken, harvested twice the fruit as last year and so far we think the wine may be twice as good! Furthermore, now that some of the wines in the barrel room have had a few months of age, we are really starting to see that the Talley chardonnays and pinot noirs are going to be very special wines.
For a wine geek like myself, there is no better feeling than knowing that I can stock up on the 2012 vintage when they come out and be assured that the quality of the wine is going to reflect the way I feel about the year in which the fruit was grown. Since we have some time before those wines come out, I’m going to go back to my first vintage here at Talley and enjoy a bottle of 2007 Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir for Christmas. For the rest of you, I suggest that you pull out a great bottle and share some stories with loved ones about the special things that happened in your lives this year. Cheers!
Harvest is finally over. Well almost over. Theoretically harvest is over because there are no more early mornings and long work days but the lasting effects of harvest are still present.
|Looking inside a barrel with malolatic fermentation|
Here at Talley we have a certain affinity with native fermentation both primary and secondary. Primary fermentation is just about wrapped up and we are now beginning secondary fermentation called malolactic fermentation. Simply put, we allow the native lactic acid bacteria to convert the malic acid in the wine to lactic acid. I like to say that malic acid is the apple acid and lactic acid is the milk acid. Malic acid is more acidic and lactic acid is smoother and is less acidic. Because we do not inoculate, our wines, our secondary fermentations tends to take longer. We allow this to happen in the majority of our wines excluding out Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Bishops Peak Chardonnay. The majority of our Chardonnays go through a very slow secondary fermentation with most not finishing until late spring and in some years, early summer.
|Special fermentation bung allows gas to escape without letting air in.|
So why are we doing this? Well first off we want the malic acid converted to lactic acid for the mouth feel. Secondly, we let malolactic fermentation happen intentionally so it doesn’t happen unintentionally in the bottle when it gets to your house. If you have ever had an “active” fermentation occur in bottle, you know it is not a fun wine to drink. Stale beer comes to mind when I think of this.
I didn’t write this to teach everyone about secondary fermentation but to explain that once the harvest is over, it’s not really over.