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Talley Vineyards

Winegrower's Blog

Brian Talley, Vintner
November 21, 2012 | Brian Talley, Vintner

I Am Thankful this Season

Thanksgiving is upon us, which is a great time to consider those things that make life so special.  These are some of the things that I am thankful for.

I’m thankful for my wonderful family, both those who are with me now as well as those who came before.  I was so lucky to work with both my grandfather and my dad and to learn many of the valuable lessons about integrity and respect that I try to practice every day. I’m blessed to be married to my wonderful wife and to have two great daughters.  Johnine and I appreciate living so close to our mothers and our extended families.

I’m thankful for the work that I do.  I’m privileged to work with a great group of people who bring passion and commitment to work every day.  I love to spend time with passionate people.  I’m  also proud to produce tangible things that people enjoy—whether it’s a special bottle of wine or the latest shipment of Talley Farms Fresh Harvest.

I’m thankful to live on the Central Coast.  Not only is this one of those special places on Earth capable of producing world class chardonnay and pinot noir, it also has beautiful weather year round and all kinds of fun stuff to do.

I hope this causes you to reflect on those things that are special in your life and that you are thankful for.

Best wishes for a joyous Thanksgiving!

Time Posted: Nov 21, 2012 at 2:37 PM
Andy McDaniel, 2007-2013
November 16, 2012 | Andy McDaniel, 2007-2013

Holidays in the Tasting Room

Talley Vineyards Tasting RoomWinter and the holidays have most definitely arrived here at Talley Vineyards. As I write this blog, the skies are grey, it has started to rain, and the vines continue to turn various shades of yellow and orange. This week, our talented staff put the finishing touches on a very festive display of holiday décor and gift items in our tasting room.  That’s right; the reindeers are out, the unseasonably skinny barrel stave “Santa” is on the wall, and the large wreaths on the door have covered me in festive glitter more than a few times. It’s a very manly look!  Yes, this is my favorite time of the year here in the tasting room – and coming soon is one of my favorite events!

On Friday, December 7th we will host our annual holiday open house here in our tasting room. From 4:30-7:00 pm, we have lots for our members and friends to do and see. To start, we will have special vendors displaying their products, including balsamic vinegars and olive oils by Robbie Robbins, art by Lorri Trogdon, recycled barrel art by Rerun Productions, and Arbonne products by our very own Marian Fiorentino. We will have great bites by our house chef Sarah Matthews and live music by local guitarist Casey McDonald. To cap it all off, what is more fun than getting a great deal on wine? Getting a great deal on wine out of a holiday stocking! Everyone that comes to our open house will receive a stocking with a surprise wine discount up to 50% off or a gift card to use on gifts and wine in our tasting room.  It really is a fun night.

I look forward to seeing you all this holiday season!

Time Posted: Nov 16, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Anna Heacock, 2007-2013
November 9, 2012 | Anna Heacock, 2007-2013

Don't Take My Word For It

Thanksgiving always gets me thinking about food, and thinking about food always gets me thinking about wine.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes…pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, there’s a lot of great choices on this annual day of total over-indulgence.  Recently the whole staff at Talley Vineyards was asked what wines they’ll be bringing to Thanksgiving dinner.  I have my own ideas, but this really got me thinking, what IS the best wine for this unique dinner? —What do the sommeliers recommend?

I met with Todd Brown, Sommelier at Lido, Dolphin Bay Resort in Shell Beach and he had a lot to say about this topic. Todd points out, “The problem is that we don’t serve Thanksgiving Day dinner in courses where we can pair each dish with a different wine.  With all the dishes and condiments on the table we pass the plate and load up on a little bit of everything all at once.”   So with that in mind, I asked him what the best solution would be- and I really liked what he had to say. 
He recommends a ½ glass of Rosemary’s Pinot Noir AND a ½ glass of Rosemary’s Chardonnay. (I’ll take a full glass of each, thank you.)

Todd explained that the Talley wines are a great choice because of their balance, particularly their higher acid, lower alcohol and mild tannins that enhance the flavors of food so well.  He says “The higher acidity in the wine lets it pair with heavier, starchier foods like potatoes and turkey with dressing.  The lower alcohol doesn’t over-exert itself and mask the flavors of the food.”  Todd explains that there’s a necessity for both wines because chardonnay and pinot noir go great with turkey.  The oaky, yet crisp elements of chardonnay are great with starches while pinot noir’s earthiness is a best bet for complementing vegetable sides like brussel sprouts and green beans as well as the fruitiness of cranberry sauce. 

So take this for what it’s worth, but most importantly don’t limit yourself. I would like to thank Todd for his insights, but mostly for his permission to open 2 bottles of Rosemary’s Vineyard wines.

Time Posted: Nov 9, 2012 at 9:53 AM
Brian Talley, Vintner
November 2, 2012 | Brian Talley, Vintner

Thanksgiving is Just Around the Corner

Thanksgiving, is just around the corner.  It's my favorite holiday because I love to cook. This year I plan to brine my turkey then roast it in my wood burning oven. Every year people ask me what I drink with the meal. My favorite choice is our Estate Pinot Noir because of its balance and elegance, which I find works well with the complex flavors of the meal. The magnums we're featuring this month are perfect for extended family. I asked our crew here at Talley Vineyards what they plan to serve. Best wishes to everyone for a joyous Thanksgiving!

Nicole Bertotti-Pope, Assistant Winemaker, 2010 Rincon Pinot Noir

“Pinot Noir is a great match for turkey and all the usual side dish suspects, and what better excuse than Thanksgiving to pull out those single vineyard pinots you've been saving all year!  The 2010 Rincon Pinot Noir is tasting great right now, and has just the right balance of fruit, spice and earthiness to pair with just about everything on the table.  I think it will go perfectly with my dish of maple chipotle mashed sweet potatoes.”

David Block, Sales Manager, 2011 Bishop’s Peak Riesling

“I vote for the 2011 Bishop’s Peak Riesling. I would serve that as the cook’s prep wine to be consumed in copious amounts with light snacks such as seasoned nuts like Rosemary almonds or wasabi spiced peanuts.Drink up sailors it’s time to cook!”

Alyssa Ball, Direct Sales Manager, 2010 Oliver’s Vineyard Chardonnay

“One of my favorite fall foods is butternut squash and I always like to include it in my Thanksgiving meal.  This year I plan to roast the butternut squash and serve it with browned butter and fresh herbs.  I recommend enjoying a glass of Oliver’s Vineyard Chardonnay along with this delicious and simple side dish.”

Eric Johnson, Winemaker, 2010 Rincon Chardonnay

“At the Thanksgiving meal, my favorite food on the plate is stuffing.  I like a stuffing that uses tart green apples as a primary ingredient, because the apples add so much extra flavor.  Rincon Vineyard Chardonnay is the perfect wine to pair with apple stuffing and I plan to enjoy a glass or two for the holiday. ”

Michele Good, Director of Business Operations, 2010 Talley Vineayards Estate Chardonnay

“I’m going Estate Chard.  Love that wine and goes good with Turkey, gravy, potatoes, appetizers, and everything else I eat on T-day.”

Anna Heacock, Marketing Manager, 2005 Rosemary's Pinot Noir

“I plan on bringing a few bottles.  I’m finally going to open a 2005 Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir.  While I know this wine still has many good years left, I’m not very patient and I know it’s drinking beautifully now.  I will savor this wine from appetizer to dessert- it doesn’t need a complement. Because I will want to enjoy at least a full glass (or two), I need to provide a distraction that I can feel good about.  For that, I will also bring a few Bishop’s Peak Chardonnays, absolutely delicious as an aperitif and a perfectly refreshing pairing to all the traditional Thanksgiving flavors of savory, nutty and fruity.”

Belinda Christensen, Direct Sales Assistant, assorted Talley and Bishop's Peak wines

“If you were to come to the Christensen family Thanksgiving table, you would find Prime Rib, not turkey.  And at the very crowded table, would be multiple bottles of wine including Stone Corral Pinot Noir, some Rincon Pinot Noir,  Bishop’s Peak Cabernet,  maybe some Elevation Red, a bottle of Riesling for my mother, and a bottle of Rosemary’s Chardonnay for those white wine drinkers.  Something for everyone."

Time Posted: Nov 2, 2012 at 10:00 AM
Andy McDaniel, 2007-2013
October 26, 2012 | Andy McDaniel, 2007-2013

Wine on Tap

When I joined the Talley Vineyards blogosphere, I vowed to not use my blog to sell anything. That thought is out the window for this blog, because I’m so excited about what we are about to offer our customers! At our annual Harvest Open House on Sunday, November 4th, we are going to start pouring wine on tap and filling growlers! What is a growler, you say? Those of you who are craft beer fanatics like I am probably already know that growlers are reusable containers that you can continue to have refilled where you purchased them. The first commonly-used growlers were metal-lidded pails that would “growl” as carbon dioxide gas escaped from the lid, though ours will be a more convenient and well-sealed 1.89 liter glass container.

On November 4th we will be starting off with a crisp Edna Valley sauvignon blanc. We will then be adding more taps and additional wines, allowing us to offer a variety of wines including some special, seasonal offerings on rotation. One of my favorite aspects of visiting breweries has always been the ability to taste and take home very limited run brews that were not produced in significant quantities for bottling. For the winery, that means that we can make special, small batches of wine and maybe even run a few trials. Additionally, wine on tap and growlers mean less packaging, which is environmentally friendly and reduces costs that we can pass on to you – the customer.  So come on by for our open house, grab a growler full of wine and come back regularly to see what’s on tap!

Blog Contest

I thought you might like to see the answers to my blog contest on some of our tasting room attendants I posted a few weeks back.  Thank you to all who participated.

Mike A.       Worked for thirty years as a school teacher and gives tours at Talley Vineyards
Lucy B.       Our Tasting Room Manager who has been at Talley Vineyards for over nine years
Jane C.       One of two attendants who work on Mondays and match their outfits, also our lead tasting room attendant
Sharon D.       Has worked at Talley Vineyards for over 20 years and considered our “tasting room mom”
Sarah E.        One of two attendants who work on Mondays and match their outfits, also our in-house chef
Marian F.        Runs in marathons including the 2011 Boston and Big Sur Marathons

G.       Is a retired doctor and drives to Talley Vineyards weekly from Cambria

Bobby H.       Aspires to be a Brewmaster and brings a new beer for the staff to try almost every Saturday


Time Posted: Oct 26, 2012 at 11:04 AM
Brian Talley, Vintner
October 19, 2012 | Brian Talley, Vintner

Love the Weather

I often tell people that you can’t be a farmer if you don’t love the weather.  More precisely, I mean that we must accept the fact that the weather is beyond our control and we adjust our schedule and practices accordingly. It’s important to keep this in mind as we ride the roller coaster that is harvest. 

This week, we’re experiencing our annual Indian Summer—that last bit of warm weather that finishes harvest.  We’ve had some of the warmest weather of the year during this period, with temperatures in the high 90s. This is due to high pressure moving over our area and the presence of Santa Ana conditions—a warm offshore flow as opposed to our typical pattern of cool onshore breezes.  This mini heat wave came right on the heels of a rainstorm last week that dumped just over an inch of rain in the Arroyo Grande Valley.

At this point, everything on our ranches has been harvested with the exception of some chardonnay in the Rincon Vineyard, which we will finish on Monday.  The other exception is about three tons of sauvignon blanc in Oliver’s Vineyard that we will attempt to make into a sweet dessert wine.   The rain we received last week created perfect conditions for botrytis cinerea, often referred to as the “noble rot.”  Botrytis is a fungus that grows ongrapes due to wet conditions and which causes the grapes to shrivel and the sugar and acid to become extremely concentrated.  This is undesirable in most of the wines we produce, and we typically go to great lengths to prevent it, including leaf removal and thinning of infected grape clusters.  Botrytis is critical for the production of white dessert wines and sauvignon blanc is one of the white grape varieties most suited to make this wine.  Consequently, we decided to leave those grapes on the vine with the hope to let botrytis grow and to make our second ever late harvest sauvignon blanc.  The only other time we did this was in 1994, when we had a very rainy harvest.  That wine was legendary.

So here’s another way of expressing my “learn to love the weather” mantra: when you have lemons, make lemonade.  When you have rain, make dessert wine!

Time Posted: Oct 19, 2012 at 9:54 AM
Anna Heacock, 2007-2013
October 12, 2012 | Anna Heacock, 2007-2013

In Case You Missed It...

This past summer Brian Talley packed his bags and set out to meet with some of the top food and wine writers in the country to share our 25 year portfolio of chardonnays.  This precarious mission to meet with these most discerning reviewers and host a retrospective tasting has proven to be an incredible success.  Over the past few months, numerous articles have surfaced in magazines and around the web about the true age worthiness of our wines.  One of the most flattering in our recent accolades was when Food and Wine Magazine named Talley Vineyards as one of “The World’s Most Trustworthy Wineries”.   We’ve been regularly sharing this press with our friends on Facebook, but just in case you missed it, here are a few exciting highlights of what the experts had to say:

  • I would confidently put any of the Talley wines toe-to-toe with Grand Cru French Burgundy.  Talley’s wines definitely made a statement; not all California Chardonnays are equal, and California Chardonnays crafted in a classical style and grown in cooler climates deserve a second look. They also merit a place in your cellar, to be savored today and twenty years from now.- Katie Kelley Bell, Forbes
  • Talleys wines don’t have to be old to taste good. We also tasted five delicious Chardonnays that were brand new. The important thing about these wines is that they have generous acidity and restrained fruit. In other words, they are far more reminiscent of a European wine. - Austin Chronicle
  • Made in a Burgundian-style with an emphasis on the vineyards and creating a true sense of place, instead of manipulation in the winery, Talley Vineyards succeeds in delivering a lively white filled with citrus and stone fruit notes, balanced with layers of spice and nuttiness. Enjoy a bottle young, and then let one age for a few years and you’ll see the flavors develop into rich caramel notes while maintaining the acidity and brightness of the fruit. - Hayley Hamilton
  • The two best surprises came from the oldest bottle we tasted, the 1994 Talley’s Vineyard, as well as the 2001 Rosemary’s Vineyard which both maintained their consistency in structure, balance and acidity, proving that these wines could easily continue to age an additional number of years. – D Magazine
  • Talley remains one of the great estates in California that has yet to be fully discovered. As a result, prices remain exceedingly fair considering the quality of what goes into the bottle. - Antonio Galloni, The Wine Advocate
Time Posted: Oct 12, 2012 at 9:45 AM
Nicole Bertotti Pope, 2010-2014

Harvest Continues Nonstop

Wow, it’s already October, which means we have been harvesting for over a month now!   Almost daily picks of Pinot Noir kept us busy all September, with the sorting table and destemmer going nonstop.  The winery has been at capacity, with fermentors of grape must in every open corner, and hand punchdowns happening nonstop.  Now that many of the Pinot fermentations have been finishing up,   we’ve been able to start pressing dry lots and racking them to barrel, where they can finish malo-lactic fermentation and give us a chance to start focusing on the Chardonnay.

With last weekend’s heat wave, many of our Rosemary’s and Oliver’s Chardonnay blocks got just the push they needed to finish ripening.   As the seemingly endless bins of Chardonnay arrive we will send them straight to the presses to be whole cluster pressed and then put straight to barrel for fermentation.  

During hot weather weeks like this, we really see what a difference it makes that our vineyard crews hand harvest at night.   On big pick days the crews will start anywhere from 8 PM to midnight and continue until sunrise, delivering beautiful, cool fruit that’s ready to be processed at the winery.   Big thanks to the vineyard crews for all their hard work and crazy hours to get us the best fruit possible!

Time Posted: Oct 5, 2012 at 10:30 AM
Andy McDaniel, 2007-2013
September 28, 2012 | Andy McDaniel, 2007-2013

How Well do you Know the Tasting Room Staff?

To start, I’ve been told that I have a fluffy and lengthy style of writing – so if you want to get to the meat, scroll down to find a game that could win you a prize!

Continuing the tradition of the most frequently used phrases in the tasting room, my line for this week is “How long have you been at Talley Vineyards?”  I usually can determine that they are asking about me personally, but I like to play dumb and tell people that Talley Farms has been in business since 1948 and Talley Vineyards was established in 1982. “Oh, you meant me personally?” I finally tell them that I’ve been here since the summer of 2007.

Almost everyone that comes in to the tasting room seems to be interested in knowing about their servers, which we encourage by having enough staff so that we can really make connections with our customers. If you are what we jokingly refer to as a “frequent flyer,” you may very well know a little bit about all 18 tasting room attendants. That’s right, 18, and all with very unique personalities.

Below, you will find a column with 8 different tasting room attendants and a column with 8 different facts about each of these attendants. The first to match all 8 correctly will win a private winery and vineyard tour for 4 people! Just cut and paste the table below into an email and send your answers to

Staff Contest - Match the Staff Member to their Fact

1. Sharon 4. Mike 7. Sarah
2. Jane 5. Marian 8. Lucy
3. Bobby 6. Dick  
  A.       Worked for thirty years as a school teacher and gives tours at Talley Vineyards
  B.       Our Tasting Room Manager who has been at Talley Vineyards for over nine years
  C.       One of two attendants who work on Mondays and match their outfits, also our lead tasting room attendant
  D.       Has worked at Talley Vineyards for over 20 years and considered our “tasting room mom”
  E.        One of two attendants who work on Mondays and match their outfits, also our in-house chef
  F.        Runs in marathons including the 2011 Boston and Big Sur Marathons

G.       Is a retired doctor and drives to Talley Vineyards weekly from Cambria

  H.       Aspires to be a Brewmaster and brings a new beer for the staff to try almost every Saturday


Time Posted: Sep 28, 2012 at 9:35 AM
Brian Talley, Vintner
September 21, 2012 | Brian Talley, Vintner

2012 Dream Harvest--Perfect weather, a great team and the right tools

So far harvest 2012 looks like a dream come true.  After the vintages of 2010 and 2011, which featured excellent quality, but lower yields, 2012 looks to be one of those very special years that combines exceptional quality and good production, especially for pinot noir.  Best of all, the weather forecast for the next few weeks looks just like what we've had for the past two months--highs in the mid to upper 70s.

While weather is important to the quality of the finished wines, the key role that our production team plays can't be understated.  Winemaker Eric Johnson has been with us 5 years and has come to know the characteristics that make each of our vineyards special and unique.  He is ably assisted by Assistant Winemaker Nicole Pope, Cellarmaster Ignacio Zarate (who just celebrated 30 years in our family farming operations), Nicole Morris and a great team of Cal Poly interns.

The vineyard team is charged with farming our vineyards and ensuring that the grapes are harvested as gently and efficiently as possible.  This team is lead by Vineyard Manager Kevin Wilkinson and Travis Monk, who will assume the role of Vineyard Manager after this harvest. Longtime Vineyard Foreman Daniel Martinez leads a dedicated and experienced vineyard crew during late night and early morning harvests to ensure that the grapes arrive at the winery early and cool.

The final element that will make the wines of 2012 so special is the deployment of the right tools to capture all of the potential quality of the vintage.  These include a state-of-the-art destemmer that very gently removes the grapes from the stems, vibrating tables that allow for careful sorting of clusters and individual berries, and a stainless steel basket press that gently extracts the wine from the skins. 

Perfect weather, a great team, and all the right tools--it all adds up to what I believe will be a very special vintage.

Time Posted: Sep 21, 2012 at 10:23 AM
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