This is the first in a series of blogposts that I plan to write about our four most important vineyards. I’m starting with the Rincon Vineyard because it’s our largest vineyard and where the story of Talley Vineyards began back in 1982.
Reflecting on the history of the Rincon Vineyard, it’s hard to know exactly where to start. A logical place is when Ramon Branch built the Rincon Adobe in the 1860s. Ramon was the son of Francisco Ziba Branch, the founder of the 16,955 acre Rancho Santa Mañuela, the Mexican Land Grant that underlay what is now the Rincon Vineyard, and just about all of the land we own and farm to this day. The area around the adobe forms a distinct ranch that was historically called El Rincón (the corner or nook in Spanish). The Rincon Adobe served as our original tasting room, and is where we now welcome members of our wine clubs. Pictured on our label and built from bricks made of soil from the area, it’s an enduring symbol of Talley Vineyards because it reflects our four generation family farming legacy and our commitment to producing wines that capture the special character of our place.
Fast forward to 1974, which is when my family purchased a 270 acre parcel we refer to as the Adobe Ranch. As with all of the land we have purchased over the years, we bought this property to grow vegetables, which is what my grandfather (Oliver) father (Don) and uncle (Kenneth) had been doing on the Adobe Ranch since the mid 1960s. In addition to fertile flatland, the site included two hillsides: the western slope was planted to an abandoned avocado orchard and the eastern hillside was used to grow hay, a low value crop in our area. My father thought that both sites could be put to much better use growing different crops.
After research and analysis, coupled with his observation of the explosion of the wine industry in the neighboring Edna Valley and Santa Barbara County areas, my dad became convinced that wine grapes would be the best crop. In 1982, he planted small blocks of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Cabernet Sauvignon on the west hillside. Four of the five varieties were successful. The Cabernet Sauvignon tasted just like the green bell peppers we were famous for growing on the vegetable farm, which holds little appeal in wine. Consequently, those vines were grafted to Riesling, my grandfather’s favorite variety. Between 1982 and 1985 both hillsides were planted, predominantly to Chardonnay with small blocks of Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Over time, we added plantings in the adjacent canyons.
Today’s Rincon Vineyard is the largest of the six vineyards that we farm at 74 acres. It has the most diversity of soils, including four different types, mostly calcareous clay and sandstone. It also hosts the greatest varietal diversity: predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but also including small blocks of Syrah and Grenache. Wines from the Rincon Vineyard display profound minerality, belying the calcareous clay soils of the site.
I refer to the Rincon Vineyard as our home vineyard: it’s where our winegrowing endeavor began almost 40 years ago; it’s where we built our winery and tasting room, where make our wines and welcome visitors. It’s also the place I go to work every day. And every day I take a moment to reflect on the small sign at the foot of the eastern hillside of the vineyard that memorializes my father’s planting of those vines back in 1984. Without his vision and foresight, Talley Vineyards would not exist today.
As 2018 winds down, I’m reflecting on the highlights of the year that marked our 33rd harvest at Talley Vineyards and our 70th year of farming at Talley Farms.
In March we added some varietal diversity to our vineyards when we grafted parts of the West Rincon Vineyard to Syrah and Grenache as well as one acre of Gruner Veltliner in Oliver’s Vineyard. While we were able to harvest a little of the Gruner and Grenache this year, I look forward to the first “real” harvest next year and subsequent releases in 2020 and 2021.
In June, we welcomed Grant Talley to Talley Farms as the first of our Fourth Generation (G4) to work in a leadership role at Talley Farms or Talley Vineyards. Grant now heads up our irrigation maintenance department and brings a fresh perspective to work every day. I look forward to a day in the near future when I’m working with more G4s, including my daughters Elizabeth and Olivia.
Later in June, we spent seven days cruising the Danube from Vienna to Budapest on Crystal Cruises with a wonderful group of Talley Vineyards’ fans. While we enjoyed lots of Talley Vineyards wines along the way, we also spent time visiting one of the world’s greatest producers of Gruner Veltliner, Schloss Gobelsburg, in Austria.
Our grape harvest kicked off August 22 and finally concluded November 12.
Spanning 83 days, it was one of the longest in our history, and the biggest since 2014 with a little more than 600 tons crushed. It shares many of the characteristics of the 2016 vintage in that it was very cool throughout most of the summer and fall.
Speaking of the 2016 vintage, it has come to be recognized as our most successful ever with twin 96 point scores for our Rosemary’s Vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir awarded this fall. These wines are very nearly sold out, so follow this link if you’d like to secure a few bottles.
Finally, I’m proud of our ongoing commitment to our community as expressed through the Fund for Vineyard and Farmworkers and the Marianne Talley Foundation. We hosted a special lunch to celebrate the partnership between The Fund and the Noor Clinic, which provides free medical care in San Luis Obispo County. We were happy to present them with a check for $16,000 at the lunch. Meanwhile, the Marianne Talley Foundation granted $22,000 in scholarships to Arroyo Grande High School students, bringing our total grants to more than $300,000 since we established the Foundation in 1993.
In closing, 2018 was a wonderful year at Talley Vineyards and Talley Farms. I look forward to revisiting what made it so special as we release the wines from this memorable vintage, starting next spring. Cheers! BT
The holiday season is the perfect time for a little DIY action. On a budget? Save some money. Throwing a party? Create something memorable.
DIY-ing is also another great excuse to get together with friends, share some appetizers, and open a bottle of your favorite wine. Because that’s what the holidays are all about, right?
But with so many bloggers and crafters bombarding the internet these days, it can be tiring to sift through all the DIY ideas out there. So, for those looking for some instant inspiration, I’ve curated a list of a few favorite DIY ideas. And the best part? They’re totally versatile and can be used throughout the year. Enjoy!
DIY wreath. This is an instant statement piece.
Change out the flowers and greenery to match the occasion.
Holiday Wreath Idea
DIY wrapping paper. Instead of dealing with a slew of wrapping paper that takes up storage space, consider purchasing a plain roll of mailing paper. Now you just have one roll to deal with throughout the year, and a blank canvas for you to get creative with.
Wrapping Paper ideas
DIY dip dyed napkins. My favorite part in prepping to host a party is setting the table. It’s the centerpiece of a room and where most good memories are made. So why not have fun with it? These dip dyed napkins not only look great but can also easily be stored until the next event.
Dip Dyed Napkins
On a foggy morning in August, we began picking Pinot Noir in Rosemary’s Vineyard. We picked a little shy of 2 tons that day and with the cool conditions were able to sleep in and start at 6:30am. The exact date was the 22nd of August; with the cool summer we had experienced we had thought our harvest would begin a week or two later. Typically, our harvest runs about 6 weeks, so on the 22nd we all felt excited to be done by Halloween. I’ve got two young kids, so Halloween is a good benchmark for me to be liberated and able to walk blissfully house to house, with the kids in whatever the hell costume they’ve come up with and my favorite libation hidden in an insulated coffee mug. (Lately it’s been Spritzes with ½ Campari and ½ Aperol- I’m a sucker for light Italian cocktails)
Returning to the topic at hand, heres what actually happened. Mother Nature took our dreams of finishing harvest by Halloween, crumpled them into a metaphorical wad of newspaper, and tossed tossed dreams into a metaphorical dumpster fire that quickly consumed any thought of wrapping up harvest in the usual amount of time. After 10 whole weeks of waking up in the middle of the night to pick grapes, we “wrapped up” harvest on November 12th, my youngest kid’s 4th birthday. It was one for the books!
Why the long harvest? Well, remember my mention that it was a cool summer? It’s ok if you don’t, I’ll say it again. It was a cool summer meaning it took a while for some vineyard blocks to ripen and prior to plants going through veraison (the ripening process of grape berries) there was a long berry development phase. With all that extended time prior to ripening, fruit clusters got big, especially in the Chardonnay blocks. The result was that harvest continued on and on, early mornings and long days continued, and our team tried not to get sick of each other.
Luckily, we have an amazing crew here at Talley Vineyards and we found ways to keep motivated and pick on! In the end, we brought in a lot of fruit, we are very pleased with the quality, and we can finally call harvest complete!
Last week I was serving a delightful couple from Alabama who were vacationing on the Central Coast. They were visiting Talley due to a recommendation from friends to try our excellent wines, and they just HAD to stop in. They loved our Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs so much they wanted to ship a case of wine to their home in Alabama so they could share it with their wine-appreciating neighbors. Unfortunately, when I checked our list of state alcohol laws I discovered that we could not ship into Alabama. They were disappointed, and had to settle for purchasing two bottles that they could safely put into their checked baggage on the fight home.
Although I had experienced this before, this incident interested me to investigate further why certain states allowed unlimited shipments to their residents, and others did not. Come to find out, the after-effects of Prohibition are still with us today.
Prohibition in the United States was enacted through the Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (effective on January 17, 1920), and effectively established the prohibition of intoxicating liquors in the United States by declaring the production, transport, and sale of intoxicating liquors (though not the consumption or private possession) illegal. There were certain intoxicating liquors excluded, for example, those liquors used for medical and religious purposes. Forty six states ratified the amendment, with Connecticut and Rhode Island rejecting it.
The Amendment was in effect for the following 13 years. It was repealed in 1933 by ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment, and essentially shifted regulation of the production, sales and distribution of alcohol from the federal government to the states. So, how does that affect our current shipping policies? The federal government, in returning the control of alcohol distribution to the individual states, opened the door for 50 different thoughts on how alcohol distribution should be controlled, and as a result, we have 50 different regulations to deal with. Currently seven states prohibit wine shipments to residents: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Utah.
While some states specifically prohibit the direct shipment of alcoholic beverages to consumers, some have statutory provisions that require orders to be processed and shipped through licensed wholesalers. Still others have regulations that allow wine to be shipped into the state, but only when purchased by the customer on-site at the winery. (So you can ship to yourself, ONLY if you are physically in the winery when you place that order you are shipping from.)
Also, most states have some limit to the amount of wine you can have shipped to consumers within a year – ranging from two cases per calendar year (Minnesota and Missouri), increasing to “unlimited” (California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, and Washington). My favorite state’s restriction is Alaska, which limits the quantity to “a reasonable amount”! Now, THAT’S not ambiguous at all!
The individual states’ regulation control sometimes have several groups of interest involved. For example, many states have liquor control boards that forbid or restrict retailers to offer anything but what the state brings in. Middleman wholesalers have become monopolies in these states and the only wines you can buy are the wines they carry.
Generally, the cost of alcohol based goods in state run markets are going to be much higher in cost due to the amount of taxation they endure. There are benefits in having aggressive laws from a state perspective, as the state Legislature can help protect its business’s (such as Distributors) and make sure that the taxes are generating money for the state.
Daniel Posner, president of the National Association of Wine Retailers, and owner of “Grapes the Wine Company”, commented - “As in anything in business, this is pure greed. There are very few industries that are so regulated. We have an authority that looks over us, that makes sure we pay our bills on time. We have a very rigid system in place, state by state,” he said. “These wholesalers, they hold all the cards.”
Wholesalers on the other hand, suggest that the need to enforce the interstate laws is to protect the public from under-aged drinking and fraud. Craig Wolf, president and chief executive of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, expressed that “The tight laws will keep states honest and held accountable for their commerce, whereas before “allowing retailers to sell out of state created a scenario for an unregulated system.”
Things are changing, albeit slowly. For example, just a few months ago, Oklahoma lifted their prohibition to incoming wine shipments direct to consumers, and now only requires a Direct Wine Shipper’s Permit to do so.
Bottom line? Prohibition is gone, but the individual state imposed carry-over controls are not. So keep enjoying wines in our tasting room, and, if you like what you are tasting and want to ship some home, keep your fingers crossed that you live in a state where that’s possible.
Would you like to see winery shipments open up in your state? You might want to check out this organization:
Free the Grapes! is a national, grassroots coalition of consumers, wineries and retailers who seek to remove restrictions in states that still prohibit consumers from purchasing wines directly from wineries and retailers.
A few weeks ago I sat with our harvest interns for our weekly staff lunch. They started asking me some thought provoking questions, which inspired the idea that they would interview me. Check out this YouTube video for our conversation.
It’s hard to tell with the warm weather we’ve had lately, but fall is in the air! It’s one of my favorite times of the year. I love seeing all the gourds and pumpkins in the field, and lined up in front of the Tasting Room and Adobe.
To kick off the fall season we had our 2nd annual Sip n’ pick in early October. The windy afternoon didn’t stop people from coming out to the Adobe and enjoying wine, music, pizza and of course picking out their own pumpkin from the patch!
Last week we hosted a Succulent Pumpkin workshop with Zest it Up and was a huge success! I was excited to attend and had a great time! I felt like a kid again, going to the patch picking out my own pumpkin, carving it and then decorating with beautiful succulents (which I can transplant later). It was such a great experience and fun to watch other attendees walking around curious to see what beautiful creations others did. I heard many say how much they loved the way others decorated theirs.
October to me is the beginning of the crazy, fun holiday season, and to be able to attend 2 wonderful events hosted at work makes it more enjoyable. I look forward to what the rest of the year has to bring.
If you need a pumpkin, there's still time to come out and pick your own!
For upcoming events, visit our events page. Hope to see you at an upcoming event!
A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to pour for our wine club members at the Adobe Member lounge, and I can say it was one of my favorite days working here at Talley Vineyards. After being promoted recently, it took me a few months to truly settle into my new position and a lot of my time I dedicated to hours in the office acquainting myself with the ins and outs of our company. During that period, I missed out on the exhilarating and rewarding experience of pouring alongside our gifted staff and serving our loyal club members. However, this Saturday renewed my love for what I do and inspired me to continue to generate new ideas to show our members just how much they mean to us.
Our member lounge is our way of expressing our appreciation for our members and allows us to interact with our guests in a way we couldn’t before. Our staff works diligently to continuously improve the experience, whether it’s through showcasing the delicious seasonal produce we have available from the Farm, pouring special library wines we’ve secretly fallen in love with, and providing the highest standard of service we can to our guests. We appreciate everyone who takes the time to come out and visit us at the lounge, and we hope you all continue to enjoy the experience as much as we do.
Stay tuned for a special winter edition of the Member Lounge, coming soon!
The warehouse being located on one corner of the winery gives me an unobstructed view of our East Rincon vineyard and the surrounding hills.
Shortly after I started working here I told my brother that I work in a warehouse. Immediately he tells me about the mental picture that came to mind of some nondescript building in some anonymous industrial park. It was not until I had sent him some pictures (and a bottle of wine) that he confessed he now daydreams of giving up his cubicle if we have a job opening.
Having worked here now for a full year I've been able to see the 4 seasons through the vineyards. I've watched the leavesturn in the late fall. I'll take notice of the bare grapevines on a chilly January morning. I've witnessed the first buds break with a hint of green color in the early spring. I've seen the vineyards transform through the summer as the fruit comes in. Then in the fall, we come full circle with harvest time and the grape leaves turning into their kaleidoscope of colors again.
As with every job, I get consumed with the task at hand. I have my desk, my computer, and paperwork that define my workday. Every once in a while, usually when I'm preoccupied with filling orders, moving pallets, packing, etc. I will hit the "open" button on the automated warehouse door and, like a theatre curtain rising, the vineyard, the hillsides, and the sky will come into view and make me stop for a moment and just say, "Wow."
My brother who lives in Los Angeles keeps promising to visit. I've told him, "The invitations open my man, pull your convertible out of the garage, buy Cindy (his wife) a nice hat, and come up and check out the view here."
We started our 33rd Harvest here at Talley Vineyards on Wednesday, August 22 with a little bit of Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir that we picked from the section directly behind my mother’s house. Things really kicked off over Labor Day weekend, and we picked the very best Pinot Noir that we farm, from the section that my dad planted in 1987 in front of my mother’s house, on Labor Day.
Every harvest has its theme: in 2016 it was the perfect growing season (“chill AF” according to Vineyard Manager Ben Taylor), that resulted in some of the best Pinot Noirs we’ve ever made. Last year it was general weirdness as reflected by the solar eclipse that we couldn’t see because it was so foggy.
This year, the theme feels like “something old/something new.”
Not quite so old, but getting there:
This harvest marks Eric Johnson’s (pictured right) 12th harvest at Talley Vineyards and his 9th as the Winemaker. Even with all that experience, he’s still the youngest winemaker in the San Luis Obispo Coast region.
Vineyard and Orchard Manager Ben Taylor (pictured left) joined us in 2013, so this marks his 6th harvest. He admits that harvesting grapes and avocados, at the same time as he’s planting new avocado and lemon orchards, is what makes him feel old.
Our two full time production workers, Edwin Amador and Emma Lyon, joined us this summer. Edwin comes with a wealth of production experience in the Paso Robles region while Emma is a brand new Cal Poly graduate (class of 2018, along with my daughter Elizabeth) who got her start at Claiborne and Churchill Winery just a few miles up the road.
Fulltime Cellar Crew:
Emma Lyon, Ignacio Zarate & Edwin Amador
Our harvest interns are all brand new, but that happens every year. So that’s really kind of something old.
Pictured left: harvest interns Noah Knebel, Rachel Martin, Jeremy Retornaz, & Allie Donegan
A great bottle of wine expresses the dichotomy of old and new--Mother Nature, old vines, and respect for tradition mashed up with youthful vigor, new ideas and the ever changing growing season--all come together to produce the ultimate expression of our interaction with Earth. It’s a story that changes every year and I love it.
Cheers to the 2018 Harvest! BT