As we do every spring, last weekend we hosted two wine club member parties that we refer to as our Annual Appreciation Events. While Appreciation Event has a nice ring to it, I ended the weekend reflecting on how accurate the term is.
On Friday evening we had a small dinner party for the Elite level members of our Estate Subscriber Program. That was followed by a party for all Estate Subscriber members the next afternoon. For me, it was a long, busy weekend, but one that felt so rewarding in the end.
During the course of the Appreciation Events, I was struck by just how many reasons I had to be grateful that weekend. I thought about the many people who are responsible along the way for the food and wine that was so enjoyed. I was thankful that everything is seen as a team effort by my colleagues and many of them spent a lot of time helping make the events a great success. But more than anything, I thought about how lucky we are to have so many wonderful wine club members. The weekend’s festivities are meant as a gesture to show our appreciation for their membership, but it inevitably ends up being one of the times when I feel the most appreciated. It is nearly impossible to express how uplifting and meaningful it is for me when Estate Subscriber Program members take the time to say thank you. It reminds me why I am lucky to have the job I have and lucky to serve the customers Talley Vineyards has. Something to appreciate!
Holiday festivities have been in full swing at Talley Vineyards including our Talley Vineyardcrew holiday dinner at Ember Restaurant in Arroyo Grande. If you haven’t visited yet, it should definitely be on your list. Your taste buds will thank you! Chef/Owner Brian Collins cooks amazing artisanal meals, focusing on locally sourced ingredients and served in a cozy setting.
We started with delicious appetizers, including dungeness crab with cilantro & lime, prosciutto wrapped artichokes, and polenta. We then moved on to several amazing entrees such as grilled swordfish, seared scallops, and red wine braised short ribs. Everything basically melts in your mouth and is a fantastic combination of flavors; everything perfectly cooked. Some of the ingredients I have never even heard of, but they combine to form a fantastic food experience. Desserts were mouth-watering bites of oven toasted marshmallow ice cream cake and apple tart tatin.
Oh, and of course, the wine. To start the night, we toasted each other with our Talley Vineyards sparkling wine, which is always a treat. We only produce a very small amount of this, so it’s only brought out for special occasions such as our holiday party. And of course it’s always fun to try some of our library wines: we had a wonderful 2011 Rosemary’s Pinot Noir magnum (my favorite of the night), and a 2010 Oliver’s Chardonnay magnum that was also quite tasty. We even opened a 1991 Talley Vineyards estate pinot noir while some of our staff shared stories about what was going on in their lives during that particular year.
It was a great night to spend with our entire staff, their guests, and the Talley family. It’s fun to see everyone dressed up outside of a work setting and hear the laughter as stories are shared. We get to know each other a little bit more and strengthen our relationships.
Great camaraderie, fantastic food, excellent wine. Doesn’t get much better than that! It was a perfect conclusion to our 30th anniversary year and we are looking forward to what 2017 will bring. Happy holidays to you and yours, from the Talley Vineyards team.
“Summertime and the livin’s easy...” which I get to see every day outside my office window and it makes me happy. I work in the upstairs office in the winery and just below me is a lawn area which is home to a couple of Corn Hole games and hula hoops and around the corner is a ping pong table. As I’m working away on my spreadsheets I get to hear the sounds of laughter and competition which often gets me out of my chair to look down and see who is having the fun. Sometimes it’s little kids playing (who are usually throwing the corn hole bean bags at each other instead of into the game) while their parents are enjoying some wine at a nearby picnic table and often it’s couples in a guys vs. girls battle, wine glass in hand, laughter in the air and intermittent hooting. Even though I’m jealous that these visitors are outside enjoying the beautiful day while I’m crunching numbers, it’s a great reminder to me that I work at a special place, with great people and exceptional wine. And, I make it a point to eat my lunch outside on a daily basis to soak in the beauty that our guests experience when they come here and take pride in what we’ve created as a staff.
Summer is my favorite time here because the beauty of our winery is really showcased. The spring winds have dissipated, the Rosé wine is released for our growler program and on the weekends the outside bar is up and running and the free concerts start at the winery. That’s right, I said free concerts. Starting on Sunday June 26th, our annual Tunes at Talley begin with the first band of the year, Bear Market Riot and food truck, The Pairing Knife. These concerts last from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm and it’s always great to see so many people enjoying glasses of wine while sitting in their lawn chairs or dancing away, and enjoying some really great food from our local food trucks. We are having five Tunes at Talley concerts this year on Sundays, June 26th, July 10th, July 24th, August 7th and August 21st. If you’ve never been out for one of these I encourage you to make a trip as we showcase some excellent local bands and food trucks and of course, our wonderful wines. Check out our website events page for the band and the food truck for each date.
For our wine club members and in honor of our 30th Anniversary, we are opening up the Rincon Adobe, which was the tasting room I first worked in and managed when I started here 22 years ago. The Adobe will be open on Saturday’s and Sunday’s and there are seated areas both inside and outside that you’ll be able to relax in and try some special wines. The Adobe will be open starting this weekend and I invite our club members to come out and experience Talley Vineyards as it was when we originally started the winery. If you are not in one of our wine clubs, you are welcome to join when you are out here and will immediately have the option to taste and relax in the Adobe.
I encourage you all to come out and see what we have to offer over this summer season - always exceptional wine, multiple picnic areas, fun games and some free music. And, if you see someone looking out an upstairs window while you are in a furious battle of hula hooping, I’m not being creepy, just happy that others get to experience the fun and beauty at the place I love.
It’s March, which is crazy (where did January and February go?) and also means that it’s time for the Mano Tinta label design competition. For a quick recap, Mano Tinta is the name of the charity wine that we produce with the profits going to The Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers, an endowment that the Talley’s established to support programs in our area that help farm workers and their families.
Each March we ask area artists to submit artwork, which can be paintings, drawings, decoupage, photos, really anything that they feel represents vineyards, farm workers, etc. that we can then reproduce for our label. We also ask the artists to do a little write up explaining what their inspiration was for their piece of art and those write-ups can have an impact on the voting process. We then display the artwork in our tasting room and anyone who visits during the month has an opportunity to vote on their favorite design. At the end of the month, the votes are tallied and the staff takes those votes and write-ups into consideration when choosing the winner. Past winners have included a 9 year old boy, professional artists and locals who just like to paint.
The winning label will be on the 2014 Mano Tinta Red Wine which will be released next year. We also etch the label on a magnum of wine which we keep on display in our tasting room along with all of the past winning labels. If you are a current or budding artist, or know someone who might be interested, please fill out the Entry Form and bring in your artwork sometime in the next couple of weeks. It is always fun for us to see the unique, fun and beautiful art that people create. Also, while you are here, purchase some Mano Tinta Sauvignon Blanc, which is the first time we’ve created a white wine for the program and will be on sale during the entire month. You can enjoy a great wine and know that the money you paid for it is going to a good cause.
That’s me, Alyssa, on the right in the picture. Next to me is my awesome colleague Alicia. Talley Vineyards is a small company, but we seem to have a knack for hiring same name employees. Of course, Alicia and I don’t have the same name. But our names are just close enough to confuse customers into believing we are one and the same person.
Both Alicia and I have jobs that require a lot of interaction with customers by phone and email. Theoretically, our customer communication is centered around different topics. Alicia is typically scheduling customer visits, following up on tasting room purchases, and answering questions about upcoming events. My customer contact tends to be focused on wine club shipment details, updating customer information, and assisting with online orders. But as you can imagine, there is a whole lot of overlap.
The end result of that overlapping communication and our similar names is both complicated and fun. Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a conversation and you feel like you missed something vital? Both Alicia and I have those phone calls on a regular basis; we know it is because the customer had previously spoken to one of us and is now continuing the conversation with the other. We both love trying to catch on quickly and take care of the customer as seamlessly as possible. Our sound alike names means we are also often tempted to take credit for one another’s achievements. When I receive an email complimenting me on the wonderful visitor experience I recently offered, I want to tell the customer how glad I was to do it… even though I didn’t do it at all. We have a favorite threat that we hold over one another, as well. If I receive a call from an unhappy customer I can always say, “I think you wanted to speak to Alicia, not Alyssa!”
I hope it isn’t disconcerting for our customers to learn that they might not be sure exactly who they are corresponding with. However, I can guarantee that whether you end up communicating with Alicia or Alyssa, it will be someone who loves helping customers and ensuring everyone is happy. I think that makes the two of us a pretty good team!
My job provides for a lot of interaction with our wine club members via phone or email. While I enjoy this, I sometimes regret that I get very little face to face time with them. I am sure the members aren’t suffering at all; when they visit we have a fantastic tasting room staff who knows how to treat them right. But when the opportunities arise, I look forward to meeting wine club members in person.
Three times per year we host our Talley Family Program wine club members for a pickup party. It isn’t what you’re thinking – the only thing getting picked up is wine! I love these events because they present me with a rare chance to visit with members. This past Sunday we welcomed about 300 Talley Family members to our October pickup party to sample wine, listen to live music from the Delmore Boys, have a bit of food, and pick up their club wines. I spent the afternoon enjoying chats with as many people as I could, some whom I’d never met and some who I’ve gotten to know fairly well over the years. I am always happy when I get to interact with our members and let them know how much I appreciate them.
It seemed that what was making everyone else happy was the food. It is likely that anyone who has been to an event at Talley Vineyards has had the chance to sample something tempting prepared by Sarah Matthews. For Sunday’s pickup party, Sarah served Butternut Squash Lasagna and, because person after person after person asked for the recipe, I am including a link to it here. RECIPE
For all of our members, please know that it is a pleasure to have you in the club and even if we never get the opportunity to meet, you are greatly valued!
Since everyone loves a good list…here is my list for the Top 10 Things to Do when you are visiting our area (or if you live here and need some refreshers on what makes this area so great). But this week you only get the first 5. Stay tuned for 6-10 in a later blog.
#1. Wine tasting at Talley Vineyards! Of course, this is the number one thing-to -do. For the best experience plan ahead and schedule a private tasting in our Rincon Adobe. You’ll have the opportunity to taste some older vintages, learn a little history and have some nice snacks. Then wrap up your tasting with a picnic on the grounds and a little game of Ping Pong or Corn Hole.
#2. Take a hike…up a hill or along the coast or up a creek. My passion is hiking and there are so many exceptional hikes or walks within an hour or so of Arroyo Grande ranging from an easy stroll to a heart pounding climb. I use an App called All Trails which is a great resource for finding every type of walk or hike imaginable. You can take an easy stroll on the Bluffs Trail in Montana de Oro, or get your heart rate up hiking the Lizzie Street trail to the tower in San Luis Obispo. There are about 50 different options locally for all ranges of fitness and I’ve done most and always find something worth seeing, whether it’s the view from the top of Ontario Ridge or the cool trees in the Elfin Forest (which is good walk if you have strollers or wheel chairs with awesome views of Morro Rock).
#3. Head out to Montana de Oro outside of Los Osos. This state park has no entry fee and a range of activities. My 10 year old nephew loves to go out there and jump off of the sand dunes before heading to the tide pools. This is also a great location to whale watch, hang at the beach, walk along the bluffs, go on a mountain bike ride, hike a peak, surf or have a picnic. Truly a great place to spend a day and they have a campground there, as well.
#4. Check out the Point San Luis Lighthouse in Avila Beach. My favorite way to go to the lighthouse is by paddleboard or kayak. It’s relatively easy to paddle out of Port San Luis through the bay and around the point to the west and park your kayak or paddleboard on the beach. Then it’s a very short walk to the lighthouse where you can swing on a swing hanging from a giant eucalyptus tree before cruising around the grounds. There are guided tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. If you aren’t into paddling you can sign up for a guided hike or a trolley trip to the lighthouse. You can find all of the tour, hike and trolley information at www.sanluislighthouse.org.
#5. Enjoy the local Craft Brewery explosion. We are blessed in this area with so many great brewmasters. Each has their own unique offerings. In SLO you can enjoy the cool corrugated building and patio of Bang the Drum, or the fire pit and patio of Tap It, or the great live music at SLO Brew. If you head north a little, one of my favorites is Barrel House Brew with its outdoor grassy area and bands playing on an old flat bed truck. In Arroyo Grande you can head to Figueroa Mountain Brew which has taprooms up and down the central coast.
Big cities, glamorous restaurants, sensational wines, and celebrity chefs are things that come to mind when considering the life of a sommelier. This week at Talley Vineyards we had the opportunity to show sommeliers what the life of a Central Coast farmer looks like. In conjunction with Tablas Creek Vineyard, we hosted seven sommeliers and beverage directors from across the country for a week of activities here on the Central Coast.
When they flew into San Luis Obispo , it was most of the group's first time to our little slice of heaven and as we drove into Pismo Beach a pod of whales near the pier put on an exceptional show. I tried to take credit for the spectacular welcome, but they didn't buy it. After a little sightseeing, it was time for dinner at Lido Restaurant at Dolphin Bay Resort in Shell Beach. From the ocean front reception and appetizers, to the selection of 2010 Talley Vineyards and Tablas Creek wines, to the dessert course, the meal (and wines!) offered the perfect welcome to the Central Coast life.
The next morning I picked up everyone bright and early and headed to Talley Vineyards where we met with our harvesting crew and Viticultural Technician Ben Taylor in West Rincon Vineyard block 704 to put the sommeliers to work! Hand-harvesting grapes can produce an array of emotions. Anxious energy when you first begin, confidence as you start moving through the vines, and humbled respect as the crew laps you with minimal effort. Our visiting sommeliers experienced the whole range, but luckily left the vines with all their fingers. We returned to the winery to decide on the winemaking process for our ton of chardonnay, then continued the afternoon with tours and tastings.
That evening we were joined by Winemaker Eric Johnson and National Sales Manager David Block and his wife Julie, at Brian and Johnine Talley's home. The wood burning pizza oven and exceptional selections of wines from the Talley cellar were only complemented by the breathtaking views of the Arroyo Grande Valley. We dined on homemade pizzas, Hearst Ranch tri tip, and a bounty of fresh vegetables grown at Talley Farms. The food was enhanced by bottles of Pierre Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Champagne, Patrick Piuze Chablis Les Forets, Domaine Huet Le Mont Vouvray Sec, and 1997 Talley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay, plus a beautiful trio of dessert wines, including a 1994 Talley Vineyards Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.
The following morning we said goodbye to the seven sommeliers and they made their way to Paso Robles to visit Tablas Creek Vineyard. A week like this reminds me how amazing this area is. I was so thankful this awesome group made the trek and we were able to share the best of the Central Coast, and (after fermentation and some barrel aging) hopefully we’ll all enjoy the fruits of our labor.
We are in the midst of the earliest harvest in our history, and it’s not just grapes--this is the first time I can remember having heirloom tomatoes in Arroyo Grande in July. I looked back through my records and our previous early grape harvest occurred in 1997 when we started on August 5. This year, we started August 1, almost exactly a month before we started last year.
What explains the early harvest? The obvious answer is the weather, starting with unseasonably warm weather in January, which caused early budbreak. A persistent high pressure weather system resulted in warm temperatures and dry conditions through the winter, spring and into the early summer. Consequently, every step of our growing season occurred earlier than normal. The weather turned foggy and much cooler in July, though by then the die was cast for an early harvest.
To date, we’ve harvested 18 tons of pinot noir and 12 tons of chardonnay from the West Rincon, Rosemary’s and Monte Sereno Vineyards. We are seeing excellent ripeness at lower sugars, and lower acidity than normal. We attribute this to the warmer nights we’ve been experiencing lately, which tends to cause the respiration of malic acid. Yields are very close to our projections and the crop is slightly smaller than 2013.
Our early harvest didn’t prevent us from hosting the fourth annual Picnic in the Vineyard luncheon last Saturday. This popular event is open to members of our wine clubs and features tables under tents set up right in the middle of the East Rincon Vineyard. This year’s lunch was dedicated to the memory of Travis Monk, our Vineyard Manager who passed away this spring. It was a beautiful day in the vineyard, made more meaningful when we reflected Travis’s hard work, commitment and dedication to his job. As we bring in the harvest of 2014, we are truly finishing what Travis started.
One of my favorite days of the year is just around the corner. Sunday, June 1 will mark the 21st Annual Marianne Talley Fun Run which serves as a key fundraiser for the Marianne Talley Foundation as well as a celebration of my sister’s life. Marianne was born a little more than a year after me and was an avid athlete all of her life, a high school league champion in swimming and a finisher of the famed Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. She passed away suddenly in 1993 after a brief workout with one of her personal training clients. We established the Marianne Talley Foundation to support college bound students from Arroyo Grande High School and have now granted more than $200,000 in scholarships since that time. We established the Fun Run in 1994 to financially support the scholarship program, but also to bring together many of my sister’s friends in the running and fitness community for a day of celebration.
Since the beginning, the event has been special day for our family, but now it’s bigger and better than ever. The most popular feature is the 5K, both because it’s a distance that many people feel comfortable running or walking and because everyone who beats me gets a special t-shirt that says “I Beat the Vintner.” This will be the third year we’ve had a 10K, a popular fun run distance. We also have a 1 mile walk and a 1 mile youth run for those 13 and under. After the run, we have an awards ceremony, a great raffle and this year we’ve added a bonus raffle with $10 tickets and a chance to win some special prizes including a complete dinner for 8 at Ventana Grill.
I hope you can join us on Sunday, June 1. For all the details, including registration information, go to the Fun Run page of our website. For questions, email Race Director Marian Fiorentino, email@example.com. I hope to see you race day! BT