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!
“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!
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, firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you race day! BT
April is just around the corner and here at Talley Vineyards that means a few things; the release of our Single Vineyard Chardonnays and the kick-off to what is a seemingly endless list of parties throughout the year. Being the Event Coordinator means much of what I spend my time doing is booking all the music and food for those parties, which works out really well as they are two of my favorite subjects. As a former music blogger, an avid member of some online music clubs and a record collector, I truly am the right woman for this job. Since my move here in November of 2012 and working here at Talley Vineyards, I’ve gotten to know the music community of Central California Coast pretty well and I’m always on the lookout for new acts that might fit the various levels of events we have at our winery. That also means on my off hours I’m always checking out bands and live music whenever I get the chance. Lucky for me it’s one of my favorite past-times.
This year at our summer music series, Tunes at Talley, we have an exciting and well-rounded musical roster of everything from Monte Mills and His Lucky Horseshoe Band to Prōxima Parada to Soul Sauce. We also have a wine club member party featuring Valerie Johnson and The King Bees, a seven-piece Dixieland jazz band. Classic rock singer songwriters Liv & Rob are playing our TFP Pick-up Party and the Gypsy Jazz Trio will be playing our Chardonnay Release Day. Also this spring we look forward to having both the SLO Winds Chamber Ensemble here and our annual Jazz in The Vines event where the Arroyo Grande High School Jazz Band will play in our courtyard while selling snacks to benefit their music program. Please check our Events page for dates and specifics.
As far as the upcoming food related portion of this spring goes, I’ve recently had the pleasure of figuring out a mouthwatering New Orleans-inspired menu for our Estate Subscriber Party this spring with Phil Lang from Bon Temps Creole Café in San Luis Obispo. I’ve also scheduled all of the delicious Food Trucks we have on scene at each Tunes at Talley event and this year we’re bringing back our favorites Salt & Pepper, Gusto on The Go and Haute Skillet. Between all of that foodie excitement, as well as co-hosting the next food and wine Sensory Pairing event we have coming up on the 19th of April, my job is jam-packed with thoughts of delicious eats. That and the exciting reality that springtime is almost here and with it all the parties, music and food that goes along with our world-class wines.
For the past several weeks, my co-worker Christina Bailey and I have been doing food and wine pairing research in order to come up with a sensory experience to offer Talley customers as a fun way to delve a little deeper into our wines, as well as to help them plan a nice meal at home featuring a Talley Vineyards or Bishop’s Peak wine. Looking back, I think of what a couple of rookies we were back then, with no clue of what a Pandora’s Box we’d opened of convoluted, contradictory information at every turn. Show me a website that says Pinot Noir pairs well with salmon and I’ll show you two that say the metallic taste in your mouth from such a pairing will make your teeth ache. Caesar salad; is it wine’s natural enemy? Or is the garlicky anchovy dressing a dream come true when paired with a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc? (For me, it’s the latter.) Also this news flash: NEVER pair chocolate with red wine. Am I the last to know?! Apparently you’re not to pair chocolate and red wine because the tannins in chocolate ruin the many nuances and complexities of the wine. Port or Muscato wine paired with dark chocolate is the possible exception but it’s one of the few cases where the wine is the sweeter item. So why did I love the milk chocolate Hershey’s kiss with our Estate Pinot Noir so much? I could pair a whole bag of them with a bottle and call it dinner. Is my knowing it’s ruining the wine even though they taste so delicious together to me, still a good enough reason not to do so? Is someone else tasting what I am when I pair these items and actually not enjoying it? And if so, whose right?
Don’t get me wrong, this is the most fun research I’ve ever had to do, as well as a fairly privileged dilemma to have on my plate. Given that, what started out as an exciting journey of putting together a menu quickly spiraled down a rabbit hole into a disorienting world of do’s and don’ts, rules and exceptions, and utter frustration when I myself loved a pairing one day and completely disagreed with myself the next. And then there was the trial tastings with various tasting room, winemaking, sales and production staff members. Not a consensus among them and their tastes when it came to the good, the bad and the ugly. This ironically, has been quite helpful, because I learned even more from the reasons behind their varied opinions. Also, the things you learn about your co-workers when asking them to try such pairings is priceless. Watching Christina struggle to nibble on a tomato (not her favorite food) and choke it down with our Cabernet Sauvignon was an exercise in hilarity. She is the epitome of professionalism in the name of research. And finding out there wasn’t a single food item on our list that our Tasting Room Manager was even willing to eat was even more amusing. In the end, we decided our best bet is to find a majority rules item within all the opinions that makes good pairing sense and not worry about the fact that you can’t please every palate.
After the many weeks of research I’ve put into this project, I should be qualified to hold entire weekend long seminars on the subject. And yet with all the knowledge I’ve absorbed, it seems to be falling back on the old adage “the more you know, the more you don’t.” Not only that, but every food and wine pairing “rule” based on a particular varietal can be discounted entirely given a particular winemaker’s take on that varietal. Until you pair a particular bottle with a particular food item, expect curve balls. For a person like myself, who spends a great deal of free time reading food and wine blogs just for fun, it’s been a most humbling experience trying to put together a fun, educated and eye-opening sensory experience to help people learn how to make smart choices when putting together a nice dinner party. Or helping our customers choose a winning food and wine combination when spending their hard-earned money dining out. But we’re getting there. I mean, it’s not rocket science…but it is science.
If you’ve visited the Talley Vineyards tasting room, you would know that we have a lot of faces behind the bar. It takes a lot of people to cover our staffing needs to be open seven days a week and it’s not very often that we can get them all in the same place at the same time. Earlier this month, however, we were able to get sixteen of us together for an awesome day of wine tasting in Paso Robles.
Entrusting our tasting room to ex-tasting room employees Michele (now our operations manager), Alyssa (now our direct sales manager), and Belinda (now our direct sales assistant), all sixteen of us were chauffeured to Paso Robles, in style, on the Central Coast Trolley. We hit some of the best on the far west side of Paso Robles – Justin, Tablas Creek, Halter Ranch, and Jack Creek.
Beyond tasting a broad variety of different wines, from the delicious cabernets and Bordeaux blends at Justin and Halter Ranch, to the Rhone varietals at Tablas Creek and Jack Creek, the day was a great opportunity for the staff to build camaraderie. Many of our staff members work a few days or less a month, some only on the weekends, and some only during the weekdays. The ability to have our entire team together, learning about wine and witnessing how other wineries operate and being able to socialize and catch up with one another was priceless. It was also a great success in that staff members have given us valuable feedback on the experience, including many ideas that could really strengthen us as we move forward.
For me, the one universal theme that I noticed is that what impressed our group wasn’t so much about the actual winery, but more about how the staff presented them. A visit to the new tasting room at Tablas Creek, the vineyards and caves at Justin, and the new winery facility at Halter Ranch are enough to make anyone in the wine industry very jealous. Following those up with a stop at Jack Creek, an equally remarkable facility at a sliver of the size of the other three, allowed us to see that it’s not all about size of the building. With great hospitality at all four locations, and knowing what a beautiful place and great people we have here at Talley, the key thing I learned is that a successful winery isn’t all about the facility, it is about a group of people with enough passion to produce a great product anywhere.
August has arrived in seemingly no time at all, which is great because I look forward to this month the entire year. While summer traffic begins to die down, a whole new crowd descends on our tasting room. They are here to taste our Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs from Stone Corral, Rincon, and Rosemary’s Vineyards. These three wines, all set to be released on August 25th, represent the best of what each respective vineyard has to offer. If you enjoy the Edna Valley and Estate Pinot Noirs, these wines share the same winemaking style, but with more structure and intensity. I have admitted that it is the Chardonnays here at Talley Vineyards that are my favorites, though I have two reasons to love our pinots – the vast range of food pairings and the even better people watching.
For instance, if you enjoy Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, how many clones of those varietals can you name? If the answer is none, it may not be that you don’t love your favorite wine varietal as much as “Pinophiles” love theirs. It’s just that while you are drinking your favorite wine, they are spouting off a list of letters and numbers from 2A to 777. Pinot Noir drinkers as a whole tend to want to be more educated more about their wine – they want to know about the punch downs, the cold soak, the yeast, the forests from which the wood for the barrels was harvested. If the last sentences leave you feeling lost, but you want to learn more, visit us for a Harvest Tour to learn all about how we make our Pinot Noirs.
Now to explain my blog title. Pinot Noir drinkers love the word “revisit,” especially as it pertains to tasting more of one of our most popular wines, our Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. This definitely qualifies as one of the “well-used phrases in the tasting room,” although it is rarely said so eloquently. My favorite version: “Can you hit me again with another shot of that Rosemary’s Pinot?”
Whether you are a diagnosed Pinot Noir addict or just appreciate the varietal, visit us on August 25th for our annual Pinot Noir Release Day. We will be featuring a flight of all five of our 2010 Talley Vineyards Pinot Noirs, plus a secret selection from our library in a five-liter format. Not to mention there will be food available for purchase by a great new food truck, Anna Andriese’s Haute Skillet, and music by Doug Groshart of the JD Project. I hope to see you there!
I’ve decided to start each of my blogs with a segment that I like to call “well-used phrases in the tasting room.” Some apply to Talley only, some are universal. Here’s one for this week: “Wow, you really must get tired of looking at this view all the time!” For those of you who haven’t been to our tasting room, we have big picture windows that overlook rolling hills, our vineyards, and vegetable fields.
I’ve heard people comment on the view thousands of times, as this July marks my fifth year at Talley Vineyards. During this time, I have met guests from all different corners of the world and enjoyed the pleasure of working with a great group of people over the years. Early on I noticed that this is not the place to work for the private, mind-your-own-business type – this is like having a whole other family. "When are you going to graduate?" "When are you getting married?" "When are you going to wash the 'Just Married' off of your truck?" I’m not complaining here, by the way. I have co-workers and customers who have become friends, on top of having one of the best views from any office, anywhere.
As I’ve enjoyed watching the company grow, I have seen lots of changes and lots of things that have remained the same. The most important things that have stayed the same are the great people which I’ve already mentioned, as well as our lineup of wines. One such wine is our Bishop’s Peak Petite Sirah, a single-vineyard wine entirely from Ranchita Canyon Vineyard in Paso Robles. We have purchased old-vine Petite Sirah grapes from this family vineyard for over a decade, and it is a consistent favorite in the tasting room. During the summertime, you wouldn’t expect our most full-bodied red to be our best seller – though it is! People are flocking in for this wine – and why not? – it’s rich, smooth, and reminds me of a juicy, ripe plum. Come join us for a glass while it lasts!