When I tell people that I started drinking wine at dinner at eight years old I know they think I had negligent parents. My folks gave me little sips to start with because I was curious and my recollection is that I kept asking and they finally just let me have a little half glass every now and then. This was around 1977 and the wine industry wasn’t exactly booming at the time so the family wine of choice was Almaden French Colombard in a gallon jug. When my parents wanted to splurge it was on Mateus or Lancers and I was absolutely not allowed to touch it…that was the good stuff.
My fascination with wine really took off when my mom and grandma started stopping at Bargetto Winery during our yearly trip they took me and my brother on to Santa Cruz every summer. I loved hanging out with my two favorite ladies at the wine bar watching them sip and swirl and have fun with the tasting room attendant. I enjoyed the smells and the vibe and really everything about the lifestyle that it seemed to represent. It was also my first sense that wine was something special as I listened in on how grapes were grown, learned about different varieties and what foods they went with. It was so much more than milk or soda and I wished I could start experiencing those flavors and food pairings and I hated that I was too young.
Ultimately my parents discovered Dry Creek Valley, Anderson Valley, Napa and the Sierra Foothills and would come home with glorious wines from Rafanelli, Dry Creek Vineyards, Quivira, Navarro and Lava Cap. I was a high school student by this time and they always let me have wine with dinner allowing my wine education to grow with theirs. My mom was a great cook who loved to match her meals with something they found while wine tasting and it was always fun to share these wines with them. It really was a way that I connected with my parents early on. I enjoyed listening to the stories behind their trips and the wines and looked forward to my own wine tasting journeys when I was old enough.
That first wine tasting trip happened when I was living in New Zealand studying abroad in 1991. I had my ultimate wine epiphany when I stopped at Cloudy Bay winery in Blenheim with my travel companions. As I was sipping some Sauvignon Blanc I looked out at the vines which were turning golden red and the sun was glinting off the dew and it was beautiful and I said out loud to my friends, “This is what I want to do for a living”.
When I came back to the States I had my plan, work at a tasting room while still in college and ultimately become a tasting room manager. Luckily for me, our local SLO Wine region was starting to grow and I found a job at Maison Deutz Winery, now Laetitia, and my wine journey began. A couple years later I became the tasting room manager at Talley Vineyards, my parents were incredibly proud and Brian has told me that I got the job because I said my favorite wine was Rafanelli Zinfandel so I truly have my parents to thank for my job. Twenty-two ½ years later, I’m still here and still loving the path I chose.
My reminiscing about my wine journey has come about as I reflect on Talley Vineyards celebrating its 30th year and I realize that I’ve been here for over two-thirds of that time. I started when the tasting room was the adobe and the only other building on the property was the winery. We were a small outfit but the care and concern for the vineyards, wines, land, employees and customers has been here since the beginning. I’ve been truly blessed to be a part of this family winery for such a long time.
I encourage you all to spend a little time reflecting on your wine journey. Mine connects me to my mom, who passed too young, and my dad who I still get to drink great wines with. I’d love to hear how some of you found your love of wine, so pour a glass of Talley Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, reminisce a little and let us know. Cheers!