One of the things that I have always enjoyed about my job at Talley Vineyards is that I have a lot of freedom to do unique projects. This last week, I had the opportunity to go out in the field with our vineyard manager Travis Monk and irrigation supervisor Ben Jauregui to dig out soil pits and collect soil samples from our six vineyards in the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys. Our goal is to create displays in the tasting room that show the uniqueness of the soils in our growing region, and also to help to explain the differences in our wines from each of these sites.
I think it’s important to mention that Travis and Ben are both exceptionally talented. Ben, the best dressed of most Talley employees, is a madman on the big John Deere backhoe. If, for any reason you need a wedge-shaped pit dug six feet deep in less than five minutes, Ben’s your man. Travis made light work of the pickaxe/hand hoe and kept me from getting dirty, though I did come ready to work. I suppose it was a good thing that I didn’t get dirty, because this work that I expected to take a whole day or two was skillfully done in one morning before lunch.
As we moved from vineyard to vineyard, we were really struck by the uniqueness of the soils from location to location. The biggest fear is that we would take all of these samples and find the soils too similar to each other for our displays. On paper, the soils are all very different, with many changes in soil even within the same vineyard, but you really don’t know what to expect from a single dig site within a vineyard. The challenge now is to rebuild these unique soils in clear cylinders to display in the tasting room. This will involve carefully drying the soils and scaling each layer down to the correct depth to fit the cylinders, which are still pretty big at 42 inches tall.
If you visit our tasting room in the summertime, be sure to check out our Rincon Room which will be a fun, educational room dedicated to the uniqueness of the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys. We will have history, timelines, vineyard maps and photos, as well as soil displays and multimedia presentations – all of which we hope will enhance your wine tasting experience here in the tasting room!
Readers of this blog are aware that I’ve used this space to introduce new employees. Today, I’d like to recognize the service of two members of our team who have worked with my family for 20 years apiece, and who have been critical to our success.
Ignacio (Nacho) Zarate is our Cellarmaster. He leads our cellar crew and ensures that the workorders created by Winemaker Eric Johnson are executed accurately and efficiently. I first met Nacho in 1978 when we picked beans together at Talley Farms. Over the years, he worked in a number of different roles on the farm until 1995 when we had an opening at the winery and he came to work here. Since that time, he has mastered all of the key cellar tasks including operating our presses, destemmers and bottling equipment. Most recently, he has taken charge of the operation of our state-of-the-art cross flow filter, and he filtered the 2012 Bishop’s Peak white wines that we bottled a few weeks ago. Nacho is widely regarded to have the best sense of humor at the winery and especially enjoys pranks and practical jokes.
Our Director of Business Operations, Michele Good, joined us in 1993 as our Tasting Room Manager. At that time, the full-time employees consisted of Winemaker Steve Rasmussen, Cellarmaster Jose Cuevas, Johnine and me. Michele had graduated from Cal Poly’s business school with a concentration in marketing and had worked in the tasting room at Maison Duetz (now Laetitia). Over time, Michele’s role changed and grew. As is the case with any small but growing business, she had to cover many bases: harvesting grapes, punching down pinot noir, bottling wine, handling collections and pouring at countless events. In her current role she oversees all aspects of winery and vineyard administration and is a critical member of our management team. Michele is the pragmatic member of our team who isn’t afraid to tell me I’m crazy.
Nacho and Michele have the longest tenures of service of any of the full-time employees here at the winery. I’m thankful for their dedication to Talley Vineyards and for their contribution to our success.
Following a cold winter with less than average rainfall, the vineyards here at Talley are finally deciding to wake up. There’s no denying it now, another season is upon us! We began pruning in early January in the Rincon and Rosemary’s vineyards. We finally wrapped up pruning the last week of February at Oliver’s vineyard in the Edna Valley.
The first week of March brought us about a half inch of some much needed rain and this week we are experiencing some summertime weather with bright su nshine and temperatures in the mid 70’s. With St. Patty’s day just around the corner, the vineyards are all getting their green on. This warm weather has triggered a frenzy in our vineyards, as about 30% of our vineyards are now at “bud break.” Bud break refers to the time when the dormant grapevine buds begin expanding and give emergence to the first leaves of the year. This is a very exciting time of year for us in the vineyard as we get our first glimpse of this years’ coming crop. It is also a very crucial period in our farming, as this new growth is very delicate in its early stages. For me, this time of year can be a bit nerve racking as nighttime frost risk leads to quite a few sleepless nights. I’m going to be optimistic this year though, and gladly welcome this summertime weather we are experiencing.
Last weekend marked the 13th Anniversary of the World of Pinot Noir, probably the world’s most comprehensive celebration of the varietal. This came just a week after another pinot centric event we held at the winery, our annual Pinot/Cioppino fundraiser for the Marianne Talley Foundation.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 13 years since the inaugural World of Pinot Noir when Archie McClaren and I, along with a group of vintners from the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, decided to host a world-class pinot noir event right here in our own backyard. This was the pre-Sideways era when there was enthusiasm for pinot noir, but not the frenzy that occurred just a few years later after the release of the film that ignited the pinot noir craze. We started out with around 50 wineries, a single walk around tasting and some great seminars held at the Cliffs Resort and nearby wineries. This year’s event included more than 150 wineries, a two day technical symposium for winemakers, and tents spanning the bluff from the Cliffs Resort to Dolphin Bay, all overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Talley Vineyards was featured with a special retrospective tasting of our 2007-2010 Rincon and Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noirs. It was truly a special weekend.
The week before, we held our annual Pinot/Cioppino fundraiser with longtime friends Tim Sugishita and Louie Bonino. Tim had approached my dad back in the mid-90’s with the idea for the dinner. Cioppino is the classic San Francisco seafood soup, featuring a tomato base and lots of Dungeness crab and Tim and Louie had been hosting cioppino dinners in their hometown of San Martin. Inspired by our friend, local restaurateur Leonard Cohen, we decided that pinot noir would be the best wine to match with the dish. For the 2013 dinner, we celebrated with a beautiful selection of wines including a 5 liter bottle of 2004 Rosemary’s Vineyard that was the highlight of the evening.
In addition to enjoying great fellowship, food and wine, this evening also serves as the key fundraiser for the Marianne Talley Foundation which funds scholarships for Arroyo Grande High School students. Marianne was my sister and we established the foundation in her name after she passed away in 1993. Later, we added scholarships to honor my dad and grandfather. To date, we’ve distributed almost $200,000 to recipients of the Marianne Talley, Oliver Talley, and Don Talley Memorial Scholarships. I truly appreciate the community support for this worthwhile effort. In addition, everyone seems to enjoy the side benefit of the pinot noir that accompanies dinner.
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.