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Talley Vineyards

Brian Talley, Vintner
April 14, 2017 | Brian Talley, Vintner

2015 Single Vineyard Selection Chardonnays: Purity as a Virtue

This week marks the release of our 2015 Single Vineyard Selection Chardonnays, our 21st anniversary vintage for this series which started in 1994.  This is a great time for me to discuss my philosophy about chardonnay and how that links to these wines.  I believe that, grown in the right place and treated with respect, the chardonnay grape produces the world's greatest dry white wine.  Coastal San Luis Obispo County is one of the best places in the world to grow chardonnay due to the cool climate and marine sedimentary soils of the region, which yields flavorful grapes with high natural acidity, the perfect ingredient required to make world class wine. Our approach to producing chardonnay embraces the idea that purity of aroma and flavor is the ultimate virtue.  This means that every step of the process-- sustainable vineyard practices, whole cluster pressing, native yeast fermentation, extended barrel aging with minimal new French oak, and careful bottling without filtration--is meant to capture all of the potential of our remarkable place.

What does all of this mean with respect to what the wines actually taste like?  It means that our wines are more elegant, with a lighter and more refreshing feel than most other California chardonnays.  Each of our Single Vineyard Selections has its own distinctive personality driven by the soil and microclimate of each site, as opposed to variations in winemaking.  Citrus notes, ranging from lemon to tangerine are predominant.  Oak flavors and aromas play a background role.  For detailed winegrowing and tasting notes, see our Chardonnays on the website.

Fundamentally, these are wines that are refreshing to drink, evolve slowly in the glass over the course of a meal, and taste best with food.  These are not big wines made to appeal to certain wine critics or beauty contest wine competitions.  These wines reflect our mission:  to make and share distinctive wines that capture the special character of our place.  

My favorite food pairing with chardonnay celebrates one of my favorite items we grow:  avocados.  In fact, Coastal San Luis Obispo County is one of the unique places in the world where both chardonnay and avocados thrive.  Whether with a simple guacamole or using avocados to accompany local seafood such as Petrale sole, Black Cod or White Sea Bass, chardonnay and avocado is a match made in heaven.  Try it yourself with one of our 2015 Single Vineyard Selection Chardonnays.  Cheers! - BT

Time Posted: Apr 14, 2017 at 9:00 AM
Eric Johnson, Winemaker
October 21, 2016 | Eric Johnson, Winemaker

Intern Spotlight on Graham Walker

Eric introduces us to one of our harvest interns, Graham Walker -

  • What made you come to Cal Poly to major in Wine & Vit?

I visited Cal Poly for an expo day at the College of Agriculture. I heard from Ag Business and liked it, but when I went to Wine & Vit’s presentation I thought to myself  "All I want in life is to live in SLO, be a head winemaker at a winery in Arroyo Grande with a large farm around it, and drive a mid-to-late 2000's GMC SUV."

  • Why wine?

I grew up with parents and grandparents that have a love for wine, so I've been trying wines with them from a young age.  In high school I was forced to take an art class as a part of California's requirements to graduate.  I wound up with quite a fondness and appreciation for art and being creative. Knowing how difficult and unusual it'd be to pursue  a career in ceramics I sought out a much more mainstream and unoriginal, but creative, profession in the wine industry.

  • How is your internship going and what do you think of the wine industry so far?

My internship has been going phenomenally well thus far. I couldn't be happier with the small bit of experience in the wine industry that  I've been fortunate enough to be a part of here at Talley. I get to wake up every day and go to work in a beautiful place with exceptionally supportive coworkers in a much more favorable climate than I'm used to coming from Los Angeles.

  • Do you think this internship changed you in any way?

Yes, mentally  it has given me a greater appreciation for what my life could potentially look like after I graduate, as well as a good goal to look forward to and work hard for while I am in school. Physically, I now walk with a limp and have a permanent crick in my neck.

  • What is going to be your next step?

I hope to continue to work hard while I'm in school and pursue more opportunities to work harvests in the industry so that I can come out with as much experience and as many valuable relationships as possible.

  • Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

Assuming that I can get my classes fast enough, hopefully graduated from Cal Poly 5 years from now. And, should my luck hold, I can see myself still working in the wine industry.

  • If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?

The National Anthem, because it's my favorite song.

  • If you were on a deserted island, what three things would you bring?

200 yards of paracord, a multitool with a corkscrew and fire starter on it, and a pallet of 375 ml bottles of Oliver's Chardonnay. I'd have everything I'd need, including 672 bottles for messages once they're empty. (But only if I'm 21 when I'm stuck on this island, of course.)

Time Posted: Oct 21, 2016 at 11:30 AM
Alyssa Ball, Direct Sales Manager

An Old Favorite

The first cookbook I ever owned was given to me as a birthday gift from my grandparents.  I received it on January 3, 1984, and I still have it.  In fact, I still use it.  The cookbook title is Easy Basics for Good Cooking and I’ve always found the title to be true.  The same recipes that felt accessible to me as a child are continuing to serve me well all these years later.

Shortly after receiving Easy Basics for Good Cooking, my best friend Heather and I used the Fettuccine Verde recipe in the book to cook a special meal for our parents.  It turned out well and I remember the two of us feeling very proud of our accomplishment.  I don’t know if it stems from that moment of satisfaction, but I still frequently use that recipe as one of my “go to meals” when I have dinner guests.  Over the years, I’ve tweaked the forgiving recipe in many ways.  I’ll often up the nutritional content by adding a variety of sautéed vegetables or add some protein with roasted chicken.  Because I have to worry about things I didn’t consider in 1984, I always cut the amount of butter and replace the heavy cream with half and half.  Of course, now I am fortunate to have a great variety of Talley Vineyards wines accessible so I can choose the perfect pairing.  (I always go with a Chardonnay but, full disclosure, Chardonnay tends to be my top choice no matter the scenario!)

Here’s the recipe for anyone who’d like to give this easy basic a try:

Fettuccine Verde

  • 12 ounces fresh fettuccine, or 8 ounces dried fettuccine noodles
  • Boiling salted water
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup sliced scallions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Following package directions, cook fresh or dried noodles in a large kettle of boiling salted water until al dente; then drain.

While noodles are cooking, melt butter in a wide frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add scallions and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.   Add cream and boil rapidly until slightly thickened and large shiny bubbles form (about 2 minutes).  Add hot drained noodles to pan and toss gently.   Add ½ cup of the cheese and toss until noodles are evenly coated.  Add another ½ cup cheese and salt and pepper to taste; toss again.  Sprinkle nutmeg over the top just before serving.  Makes 4 servings.  Pairs beautifully with Oliver’s Vineyard Chardonnay!

Time Posted: Sep 23, 2016 at 9:20 AM
Brian Talley, Vintner
September 9, 2016 | Brian Talley, Vintner

2016--Our Best Harvest Ever?

Our 30th Anniversary harvest is shaping up to be our best ever.  I'm not making any predictions about the wines just yet, but things are coming together for a spectacular vintage. Since harvest really got rolling in mid-August, we've had perfect weather with lots of foggy mornings followed by afternoons that top out in the mid-70s. The grapes have ripened slowly, but steadily and the acid profiles are excellent.

Misty Morning in Rosemary's Vineyard


Ben Taylor and Kevin Wilkinson and their teams have done a great job in the vineyard this year.  So far yields are significantly better than last year, and will probably end up just below our 5 year averages of about 3 tons per acre in Chardonnay and 2 1/2 in Pinot Noir. Harvest days have been starting between 2AM and 4AM, and we've harvested just about all of the Pinot Noir as of today, with only a little bit of fruit in the Rincon Vineyard remaining. We've picked about 30% of the Chardonnay at this point.

...essence of raspberry


To capture the amazing potential of this fruit, we have an inspiring production team and our cellar is running like a well-oiled machine. Eric, Nicole, and Nacho may have been nervous to have two new members of the team going into harvest, but Connor Bonetti and Aubrey Kommer, both of whom joined us this past spring, have stepped up big time, as have interns Will Talty, Graham Walker and Megan Coletti. We started using a new Armbruster Rotovib destemmer this year, which is both more efficient and more effective than its predecessor. The Pinot Noir fermentation room is filled with the most intense raspberry aromas that I can remember.

Left to right: Aubrey, Nacho, Connor, Nicole, Graham, Will and Eric. Megan is missing


Finally, harvest always coincides with the Single Vineyard Selection Pinot Noir release. We just started shipping the 2014s on September 1. Very much in keeping with the 2012s and 2013s, the wines are distinctive reflections of 4 different vineyards: Stone Corral, Rincon, East Rincon and Rosemary's Vineyards. Jeb Dunnuck just gave them glowing reviews in the Wine Advocate.  

Cheers to Harvest 2016--we’ve been at it for 30 years now, and I love it more than ever! - BT

Time Posted: Sep 9, 2016 at 9:00 AM
Michele Good, Controller
August 26, 2016 | Michele Good, Controller

My Wine Journey

Dinner with high school friends circa 1986. Styling in a bow tie


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.

My parents stomping grapes here at Talley during one of our grape stomping parties.


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.

At the Harvest Festival, circa 2008.


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!

Time Posted: Aug 26, 2016 at 9:00 AM
Brian Talley, Vintner
June 17, 2016 | Brian Talley, Vintner

Evolution of our Clubs

As we wrap up our spring shipping season, it makes me reflect back to the very early days of the Estate Subscriber Program, back in the mid-1990s before wine clubs were as common as they are now.  We began that program within a couple of years of releasing our first Single Vineyard Selection Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs because we wanted to make sure that our best customers had access to our best and most sought after wines.  We started a precedent in those early years of having great parties where we shared special wines from older vintages or large format bottles to show appreciation to our most loyal customers.  That tradition continues to this day.  Our Estate Subscriber Program is still the best way to ensure that you can get the very best from our Estate, direct from the winery.

In 2000, we introduced our Bishop's Peak wines, which expanded our offering beyond estate grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to include other varietals from Paso Robles.  In short order, we learned that many customers were interested in receiving a more diverse selection of wines, so we introduced the Talley Family Program to celebrate this diversity.  To my way of thinking, this is more of a sampler program where people can get an overview of what we do and taste a greater array of wines.  It's also a fun way to engage with us and other like minded people at our regular "pick up parties" throughout the year.

Our newest "club concept" doesn't include wine at all--it's a vegetable subscription club from Talley Farms.  We started Talley Farms Fresh Harvest in 2012 as a way to share our produce, along with that of other local growers, with the San Luis Obispo County community.  The response to the program has been overwhelming.  I often hear people say that they view it as a weekly gift to themselves.  We are currently working on a new website that will facilitate expanding the program to include more overnight home delivery throughout California.  I'd like to figure out a way to someday include wine in those produce shipments.

If you're a member of the Estate Subscriber, Talley Family, or Fresh Harvest Programs, I offer my sincere thanks to you for your loyal support for what we do.  If you're not a member, but like what we do, I encourage you to learn more and consider joining one of our clubs--it's the best way you can support what we do in a truly sustainable way.

Time Posted: Jun 17, 2016 at 9:00 AM
Michele Good, Controller
March 11, 2016 | Michele Good, Controller

Mano Tinta Month

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.

Time Posted: Mar 11, 2016 at 9:00 AM
Christina Bailey, Marketing & Sales

Sommelier Camp

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. 

Time Posted: Sep 11, 2015 at 4:00 PM
Michele Good, Controller
August 14, 2015 | Michele Good, Controller

Bishop’s Peak Elevation at Elevation

I have a bit of a backpacking bug that started about 18 years ago when my best friend from high school, who was living in Lone Pine, CA, invited me on a backpacking trip with some other lady friends of hers to the Mt. Whitney wilderness area.   I hadn’t been backpacking since a very inauspicious trip as an 8 year old with my dad and brother where it rained all night and our dehydrated spaghetti and meatball meal never fully hydrated so I was cold, wet and eating crunchy meatballs and noodles.  It didn’t really make me want to go again.  However, I saw this trip as a chance to have a break from hanging out with my  toddler daughter and  drove the 5 + hours from SLO to Lone Pine and hiked up to above 10000 feet with my friend and a couple other ladies and I’ve been hooked ever since.  On that first trip as an adult, I decided I didn’t want to hike up a hill for hours without a reward at the top so I took a bottle of wine with me.  I didn’t know any better, so I actually packed up a full bottle and corkscrew and it was worth the extra 3 lbs. of weight and the space in my pack and the need to pack it out.  On that trip, we drank a bottle of Saucelito Canyon Zinfandel, which was a wine we used to sell out of the Talley Vineyards Adobe tasting room back when I first started in 1994, and my hiking partners were as thrilled as I was to have that wine after a long trek uphill.

Since that first trip 18 years ago, I’ve gone with a group of ladies almost every year since.  When my girls were younger, this trip for me was a lovely mini-break from work and my family and I have always brought a bottle of something to enjoy at my destination.  It’s a nice little treat that I know I have earned by carrying 40 pounds up a thousand feet or so for 5 to 7 miles.  Sometimes I bring a port, sometimes a nice bottle of Talley Pinot Noir, and up on the mountain those first sips are always the best tasting wine I’ve ever had.  The one difference from my first trip to now is that before I start hiking I pour the wine out of the bottle into a special backpacking wine carrier (yes they do make these) so that I have a smaller and lighter container to pack in and out. 

One year when my kids were about 8 and 10, Brian Talley invited my husband and daughters to go backpacking with him and his daughters over the same weekend as I was going.  It turned out that Brian picked the same backcountry lake as my friends for our trip, completely coincidentally, so my little get-away from work and the family was a bit less of a get-away.  Luckily, the lake was big enough so we ladies stayed on one side of the lake while my boss, husband and girls were on the other.  The rule for everyone on the other side of the lake was that I would say hi and give hugs if we saw each other but that no one could ask me to do anything for them.  It ended up being lovely…having my family with me in the mountains but not having to do “mom” duties.  And Brian stuck to the rules of not talking to me about work.   It was nice to see their fire across the lake as I was laughing and drinking wine with my friends around our fire without having any responsibilities.

Backpacking is on my mind because I just returned from a wonderful trip with my family and friends where we hiked into the Yosemite Wilderness to Middle Chain Lake.  We brought along a bottle of Bishop’s Peak Elevation and some port.  We camped at a beautiful location and after a long day’s hike enjoyed our wine around the fire while looking out at the spectacular Sierra Nevada wilderness.  I know that not everyone enjoys dirt and sleeping on the ground, so my advice is that wherever you find your happiness, it’s worth the effort to include a nice bottle of wine (especially if its Talley or Bishop’s Peak!).  With harvest now upon us, hiking, relaxing around a mountain lake and sharing a glass of wine with my husband and friends was a great way for me to unwind before the crazy that is about to begin.  Cheers!

Time Posted: Aug 14, 2015 at 12:00 PM
Brian Talley, Vintner
April 27, 2015 | Brian Talley, Vintner

Dry Riesling

Riesling has a special place in my heart.  Not only do I consider it to be the second most profound and exciting white wine varietal, after chardonnay, but its history at Talley Vineyards dates to our origins.

There’s consensus in the fine wine world that riesling is one of the truly noble grape varieties because, along with pinot noir, it is considered to be the most reflective of the place it’s grown.  It also produces a wide variety of wines, from low alcohol/high acid German Spatlese, to the dry and moderate alcohol wines of Alsace to the legendary Trockenbeerenausle produced entirely from botrytis affected grapes.  Riesling is also incredibly ageworthy. 

One must ask, why doesn’t riesling enjoy a better reputation in California? I think it’s because the traditional wines produced here were made in a softer off dry style produced from grapes grown in warmer regions.  In fact, this is the kind of riesling my grandfather loved and the kind of wine he encouraged my father to produce way back in the early 1980s when we started planting our vineyards.  Consequently, my dad included riesling in the original plantings in 1982.  We have made riesling at Talley Vineyards ever since our first vintage in 1986.  Most of the wines have been made in the off dry style that my grandfather liked.


Brian, Oliver and Don Talley

After thinking carefully about our Riesling program, and especially about the wines we really like, Eric Johnson and I decided that we would prefer to make a more “serious” dry style.  The 2014 has classic aromas of peach, tangerine with the typical riesling touch of kerosene.  It has steely minerality and crisp acidity and will taste great with Thai food or shellfish.  Think of my grandfather, Oliver Talley, as you enjoy it.

Time Posted: Apr 27, 2015 at 12:08 PM
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