February in the Arroyo Grande Valley is typically characterized by ample amounts of rain followed by green hills. But this February in the AGV, we’ve seen weeks of temperatures nearly triple digits followed by freezing this week. At this time last year, the vines were all dormant and we were at around 266 growing degree days. Checking Weather Underground this morning, we’re already at 443 growing days. At this date last year, we had received more the 27 inches of rain. It was an exceptional rain year, but the less than 3 inches of rain received so far in 2018 is beyond depressing.
As a result, the hills have not turned that familiar, almost electric neon green and we’ve experienced some early bud break. Bud break in mid-February is not great because of the chance it can be followed by cold weeks like this one. This week has been exceptionally cold with temperatures as low as 25 degrees in spots. The frost conditions damage the tender buds, severely deforming the growth that becomes plant shoots and fruit, so we use wind machines and overhead sprinklers for protection. The wind machines circulate air, pushing the cold air out of the plant zone. Meanwhile, the overhead water creates ice that acts as a layer of insulation over the plants. It sounds counterintuitive, but it is actually the better of the two methods.
My crew and I will be keeping a close eye on the vineyard blocks that saw early bud break, inspecting for any damage to the buds. A couple of us have been working through the night, turning on the wind machines and water to protect the plants. We’re all very hopeful that we will have a wet March, because it has been a very challenging February.
I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about someone who is very vital to the winemaking process, but doesn’t get as much recognition as others because he is a behind the scenes kind of man. Today I introduce to youTalley Vineyards Cellar Assistant, Connor Bonetti.
He came to us with a wide array of winemaking experience, starting with his 2007 graduation from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with degrees in Agribuisness, Marketing and Wine and Viticulture. Connor then went on to work at various wineries domestically and internationally including Laetitia (Arroyo Grande, CA), Paraiso (Soledad, CA), Saint Clair (Blenheim, NZ), Ravenswood (Sonoma, CA), Kosta Brown (Sebastopol, CA), D’Arenberg (McLaren, AU), Brands Ciara (Coonawarra, AU), Sojourn (Sonoma, CA), and Bien Nacido (Santa Maria, CA). He has been with us at Talley for over two years now.
Now that Connor has been at Talley Vineyards for over two years, it is time you get to know him like we do.
Q: Where are you from?
A: Corral de Tierra in Monterey County
Q: Why did you get in the wine industry?
A: My Dad was an avid wine drinker and my Grandfather made his own wine, so it has always been around me from an early age. I also fell in love with the farming side of winemaking.
Q: What makes you passionate about you role at Talley Vineyards as a Cellar Assistant?
A: I love making great wine, especially Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. My role is very diverse and always changing. I also love the creative aspect of winemaking.
Q: Describe a Typical day at Work:
A: It really depends on the time of year. Harvest is very different than the rest of the year. During harvest, I am processing grapes, barreling down wines, cleaning, pressing whites and punching down fermenters.
The rest of the year we are participating in group tastings, making blends, topping barrels, and adjusting sulfur levels. That is just to name a few tasks. Today I am stacking pallets on the bottling line. Like I said my job is very diverse.
Q: What are two truths and one lie about you?
A: I traveled in a van for two months in New Zealand and lived in severel surf commune/hostels. I drove a donkey cart taxi in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. I won trivia night at a bar in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. (Note: Think you know which of these is a lie? Add your guess and email address in the comment section. The first reader to guess correctly will win a complimentary copy of Brian Talley's cookbook, Our California Table.)
Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?
A: I am really into History and Anthropology.
Q: What is something you feel is unique or interesting about a place you traveled?
A: I really loved Manchu Picchu. I love places that have historical significance. Ancient Cultures fascinate me.
Q: If you were stuck on a deserted island, what three things would pick to have with you?
A: My 6’2’’ surfboard, my 9’ surfboard, and a fishing pole
The New Year is always a great time to start fresh and take on new adventures.
I don’t typically like to make resolutions, but more goals for the upcoming year. Sometimes it’s as simple as trying something new or reverting back to a good habit. One of my goals this year is to hike more often, and we are so fortunate to live on the Central Coast, there are so many amazing places to hike! Especially since we have great weather most of the year!
Last year some of the Talley employees had the opportunity to hike the Pismo Preserve. I had hiked it once before, but I was still looking forward to it. We went on a different trail and it was beautiful! Plus, an added bonus of bonding with your co-workers isn’t so bad either. The views are amazing! You can see all of Pismo Beach, Shell Beach, Avila Beach and south toward Guadalupe dunes. A lot of history is in the mountains, so going on the docent led hike makes for an interesting and unique hike.
They have not officially opened the Pismo Preserve to the public yet, but you can visit their website and request a docent led hike.
Being born and raised in Arroyo Grande, I always enjoy exploring new areas and taking advantage of our beautiful weather by getting outside to be active. Hope you venture out to the Pismo Preserve, or any other hike in the San Luis Obispo County and make sure to visit us at Talley Vineyards for a relaxing glass of wine after! Happy hiking!
The employees here at Talley are incredibly lucky to come to work everyday in such a beautiful place and we want to share this one-of-a-kind Winery with everyone. We have offered a Tour and Taste at Talley Vineyards for a long time, and is a great way of being able to get a “behind the scenes” view of our Winery and Vineyards!
We have had so much fun doing these tours that we wanted to give everyone a chance to get a more in-depth and elevated tour. I am happy to introduce our Talley Estate Experience which will begin with a tour of our Tasting Room, East Rincon Vineyard, Winery, and Barrel Room. Once you have had a chance to see our grounds here, we will head up to the El Rincon Adobe for a comparative tasting of our Single Vineyard wines accompanied by a cheese plate. Your host will guide you through this tasting as well as a full background and history of Talley Vineyards, Talley Farms and El Rincon Adobe.
We all love sharing Talley Vineyards special characteristics and think this is a great way to really get a chance to see what we do here. Whether you are a first-time customer looking for a fun and educational time or a long time Wine Club member looking for an incredible new experience here, I highly recommend this amazing experience.
I look forward to seeing everyone in 2018!
I have to admit that I’m glad 2017 is behind us. There were many monumental events in the news: from ongoing political upheaval, to the tragedy in Las Vegas, to the worst fires in our state’s history. Meanwhile, the rhythms of our farming and winegrowing operations continue just as they have since my grandfather and parents founded Talley Farms and Talley Vineyards so many years ago: we plant, prune, tend and harvest our vines and vegetables throughout the course of the year, often on a schedule immune to outside events and dictated by Mother Nature. On the other hand, we are committed to ongoing evolution and improvement in every aspect of what we do. Here’s a brief list of some of the things I’m especially excited about in the coming year.
70 Years of Farming. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the year that my grandfather, Oliver Talley, began farming in the Arroyo Grande Valley in 1948. While many of our farming practices have evolved, the fundamental vision to strive for excellence in everything we do has stayed the same. We look forward to celebrating this milestone in special and creative ways and welcome you to join us in the celebration.
30th Anniversary Releases. We’ll be releasing wines from the 2016 vintage, which marks our 30th Anniversary since my parents, Don and Rosemary Talley, founded Talley Vineyards in 1986. Our Single Vineyard Selections will have new packaging and all Talley Vineyards wines will have a special back label commemorating the anniversary.
New Production in our Vineyards. New Pinot Noir vines that we planted in the West Rincon Vineyard in 2016 will bear their first crop in 2018. This is some of the very best land that we farm: one area produced the legendary West Rincon Pinot Noir bottlings of 2000 and 2001, regarded by many as among the best we’ve ever produced. Meanwhile, we have chosen to add new varieties to our mix in both West Rincon and Oliver’s Vineyards. While we are still finalizing the selections, the most likely new varieties will be Grenache, Chenin Blanc and Gruner Veltliner. Grafting will occur in the winter of 2018, and the first wines will be produced in the 2019 vintage.
Scholarships for Farm Workers. After discussions with Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, Johnine and I are thrilled to announce that we will be starting a scholarship for sons and daughters of farm workers who work in San Luis Obispo County. Part of the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers held at the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County, we anticipate granting the first scholarships for incoming freshmen or transfer students in the fall of 2018.
Best wishes to you and your family in the coming year. Cheers to a great 2018!
It can be stressful purchasing gifts for many different people, and if you are wondering what to bring to the next holiday party or gathering, I have some fun ways for you to give the gift of wine!
The Wine Duo
If you don’t know whether the recipient prefers red or white, tie one of each together as a thoughtful gift. It gives them two nice options versus one. Our Rincon Pinot Noir and Rincon Chardonnay are a delightful duo!
Wine for the Cheese Lover
A nice cheese board and some yummy cheeses, paired with a beautiful Talley Vineyards Pinot Noir, always makes for a tasteful gift. You might even add a set of cheese knives to complete the set.
Wine and All the Supplies
A lovely bottle of Talley Vineyards Chardonnay, a set of wine glasses, and a wine opener is a wonderful gift for the individual who is just jumping into the wine world.
Wine for the Cyclist
A sleek leather bicycle wine carrier wrapped with our Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir is a sure win for the wine lover who likes to ride!
A bottle of Talley Vineyards wine is a fabulous present, but combining it with another gift makes it even more special. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season!
Last week we learned the 2015 Monte Sereno Vineyard Chardonnay received 96 points from a prominent wine magazine (to be released February 2018). Anytime we receive a score in the 90’s, we obviously feel great pride. But to receive such high praise for a wine we have been making since only 2011, and with fruit from a fairly young and unknown vineyard, brings a great feeling of satisfaction throughout the production department.
Monte Sereno Vineyard was planted in 2006 mainly to Chardonnay clones 4 and 548. Early on, the wine showed promise but was a little disjointed and simple, characteristics that are very familiar to anyone making wine from a younger vineyard. As the vines aged, we started to notice the very unique characteristics the vineyard possessed. Initially the palate reflected a sweet pineapple flavor with dominating tropical nuances. As someone who has had a part in Talley Vineyards winemaking for the past 11 years, this was a very different flavor profile than I was used to. To be honest, it took some time for everyone to embrace it, as our customers were used to the power and elegance of the Rincon and Rosemary’s Vineyard Chardonnays and this wine was a nonconformist in the Talley Chardonnay world. However, as the vineyard matured the flavors became a kind of hybrid of those early Monte Sereno days and the flavors of Rincon Vineyard Chardonnay. There is a balance of more stone fruit and less tropical fruit, yet it still expresses that unique sweet pineapple characteristic that makes the Monte Sereno Vineyard Chardonnay so special. Clearly the age of the vines and the flavor development that came with time contributed to the recent success and the 96 points.
Personally, I embraced the Monte Sereno Vineyard Chardonnay from the beginning; that’s because I'm a wine nerd and that’s what we wine nerds do when something as unique as this Chardonnay is in our glass. This vineyard will continue to produce exceptional Chardonnay for at least the next 20 years and I can’t wait to see where it goes. If it receives 96 points in 2015 what can we expect in 2025?
And I’m not just talking about plates and silverware. The concept of setting your table goes further than the place settings (but don’t get me wrong, sometimes styling the table is half the fun!)—it is about the moments we share with our friends and family. The food we eat. The wine we drink. You can set your table anywhere—from the dining room to the living room, even a blanket sprawled on the beach.
Thanksgiving is the perfect occasion to set your table.
So here’s to making memories this Thanksgiving.
In case you want a peek into how others spend their turkey day, I’ve asked the Talley crew to share some of their most memorable Thanksgiving moments:
“Flippy Cup” AKA flip cup. Great for those who love some friendly competition. This drinking game will get your floors messy, but definitely worth every spill.
We always try to eat our meal early so we have time for a beach walk before sunset. If it's not raining ...
We take in the stray dogs (friends with no thanksgiving plans). This year will be the biggest in a while with 16 people. We cook all day, feast, and then my father-in-law busts out his intense collection of liqueurs and brandies. Drambuie is my jam!
We listen to a lot of music…lots of Adele…
My aunt Ella, who recently passed away, would always bring her green Jello. I remember it being at every Thanksgiving I can remember. I would always put it on my plate but never tried it until last year.
If the weather is nice, which is usually the case here in SLO, my family will head out to the beach, wetsuit up, and go for a morning surf or boogie board session.
My dad makes a Pernod Shrimp appetizer with Crustini that he flambé's and my husband usually smokes our turkey which makes it juicy and flavorful and I watch football all day while cooking the sides.
We started walking on the beach in the morning the last few years, makes you feel a little better before eating so much delicious food later! Then walk “across the street” to my Grandma’s, decide which of the many wines we want to start with for dinner (which is always a hard decision). We always say we’re going to play a game, but never get around to it. I think we end up enjoying the wine too much….
My brother-in-law and I always make ‘competing’ turkeys for Thanksgiving. He usually fries one and I use various roasting or smoking methods. Everyone wins.
Thanksgiving seems to be one of the days when my family and I remember how much we enjoy games. After we finish the traditional meal, we love to pull out board games or cards for some spirited competition.
We roll pumpkins down our hill after our Thanksgiving meal. Dixie Pearl chases them.
The day before Thanksgiving, I go to my mother’s house and we bake 4 to 5 different pies. I make the filling and she makes the crust. Half way through the day we have a Mexican cocktail AKA shot of tequila. We tell everyone that we need just a touch of something to keep us going and warm us up. I look forward to this day all year. I have been watching my mom make pies since I can remember. No matter how hard I try to make her pie crust, it never turns out just right. 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of butter, and ½ cup of cold water is all that she uses; yet it tastes like there is so much more in there. Maybe it is her magic rolling pin. Nothing crazy, just some women baking!
The grapes are all harvested, the leaves are changing colors and they are beginning to fall from the vines; all signs that another growing season has come and gone at Talley Vineyards and it is time to put the vineyard blocks to bed. It seems like we should kick back after picking the fruit (and it would be super great if we could), but this is a very important and busy time in the vineyard. This is the time when we rip vineyard rows and spread compost and, most importantly of all, we sow our cover crops.
Our cover crops are hugely valuable to our vineyards in a multitude of ways. For one, they root in the soil and keep sediment from eroding downhill, preserving the soil structure of our vineyards and neighboring roads. They also attract beneficial bugs, such as lacewings, as well as beneficial mycorrhizae with their roots. Mycorrhizae are “the symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular host plant.” These fungi colonize the root system, making it easier for plants to absorb water and nutrients, which is clearly vital.
The types of cover crops we plant vary based on the unique needs of individual vineyard blocks. The majority of our blocks are planted with a legume and oat seed mix. The legumes are great for adding nitrogen to the soil that will be used during the vine growing season. The oats add organic matter to our vineyards’ soils and, in turn, the bacteria and fungi in the soil decompose the organic matter, releasing carbon dioxide and nutrients that the vines can use. Some vineyard blocks get a cover crop of oats, vetch, and beans. This particular seed mix is helpful in the same ways as the legume and oats, but is additionally good for aerating soils with the deep root system of the vetch plants. This aeration helps break down heavy clay soils, helping us when it comes time for tillage in the spring.
It isn’t easy to be busy sowing cover crop when everyone is tired after harvest. However, we know that the work we do now is vital to the health of our vineyards and will benefit us in the long run.
One of the common comments I hear from people, especially those in the wine trade who have the opportunity to visit many wineries, is how surprised they are when they visit Talley Vineyards.
Partly this is due to the natural beauty of our place in Coastal San Luis Obispo County, tucked up against the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, and surrounded by our ever changing vegetable fields.
Another thing they are surprised about is the close proximity of all the key elements we use to make and share our wines. The Rincon Vineyard, our winery facilities, the tasting room and Rincon Adobe are all immediately adjacent one-another. Not only is this nice to look at, it's fundamental to the quality of our wines for several reasons. First, we control our vineyards and winery, which affords us greater control over the finished product. Second, grapes are processed immediately after harvest as opposed to being transported over a long distance. Since grape quality begins to degrade immediately after harvest, the sooner the grapes are processed, the better.
This proximity and complete control are succinctly represented on our wine labels with the term "estate bottled." Estate bottled wines are those produced entirely within the control of the winegrower from grapes grown in the same viticultural area as the winery. Estate bottled wines are the best wines in the world, not only for these reasons, but also because the term implies the singular vision of the winegrower from start to finish, from planting and tending the vines, through fermentation, aging and bottling the finished wines.
Check out our video below of a morning Pinot Noir pick in the Rincon Vineyard at Talley Vineyards during harvest 2017 to see for yourself what it means to make estate bottled wines. It's even better if you enjoy a glass of our Pinot Noir at the same time. Cheers!