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.