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!
When it comes to wine, we all have different tastes, thoughts, and preferences but there is one tool that we all have and use to make those decisions. It will help us decide what flavors we can find in a certain varietal, and more importantly, will guide us to what wine we enjoy. The Palate, defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a person's appreciation of taste and flavor, especially when sophisticated and discriminating”, is that tool. Whether you are a first-time wine drinker, or a seasoned veteran of wine tasting, this is what will ultimately make you decide whether you enjoy a wine, a winery and/or a winemaker’s style.
Some people are naturals at discerning different flavors in wine but for most of us it takes time and the most enjoyable part of learning about wine, practice. I like to think of the Palate as a muscle that needs to be worked out to grow. Now, unlike the gym, this muscle does not get bigger, but instead gets smarter. As you drink more wines, your palate will become more sophisticated as it has had more exposure to different types of varietals, winemaking and wine regions. As you exercise your Palate, you will start to hone in on what you like, and don’t like, which will help guide you to wineries and wines you will love.
I will end this with a challenge to those of you who want to exercise your Palate; go out and try a wine you have never had. Whether that is a varietal you have never had, a new winery you have never been to or a wine region you have never exposed yourself to. Sit back and enjoy a new wine, exercise your Palate and explore what you truly enjoy about wine.
There are many ways to set a table. You can set a table on a mountaintop during a hike, a blanket at the beach, the folding table in your backyard, a grassy lawn under the stars, or with fine china in your dining room.
At Talley Vineyards, we work hard to create delicious wines for every table. Whether formal or casual, planned or spontaneous, large or small, any gathering is enhanced with a great bottle of wine shared with the people you love.
As we release our 2015 Pinot Noirs, I’ve been reflecting on the word “delicious." The Merriam Webster definition of delicious is: affording great pleasure: delightful; appealing to one of the bodily senses, especially of taste or smell. Delicious is a word that doesn’t get used often enough in the world of wine, but it perfectly describes Pinot Noir at its very best. It also sums up a fundamental goal that many winegrowers, myself included, don’t readily acknowledge.
Now I can openly admit it: I’m striving to produce delicious Pinot Noir!
What are the characteristics of delicious Pinot Noir? First of all is the appearance. Truly delicious Pinot Noir has a uniquely translucent garnet color. If it’s opaque or purplish black, chances are that it was either harvested too ripe, over extracted or blended with another variety. The delicacy of the color extends to the perfumed aroma of Pinot Noir, featuring red fruits like strawberry or raspberry enhanced with complex elements of mineral or earth (crushed stone, iron) and often just a hint of damp earth. Floral notes, especially in wines fermented with whole clusters, are common as well.
The flavor will have a suggestion of sweet fruit, even though the wine is bone dry. It will be perfectly balanced with enough acidity to provide energy and length, but not so much to be tart. It’s not overly tannic, but has enough structure to pair with a variety of foods, including red meat. A hint of smoky French Oak is the perfect finishing touch. Fundamentally, it is so interesting and refreshing that you can’t wait to have another sip. In a word, it’s delicious!
Now that I’ve described what delicious Pinot Noir looks, smells and tastes like, the obvious question is, how do you make it? First, one has to start in a place with the potential to produce delicious Pinot Noir. These places tend to be cool growing regions with moderately vigorous soils. The most noteworthy examples are the Cote d'Or region of Burgundy, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and the most coastal parts of California, including the Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys where we are based.
The final ingredient is people with the passion and commitment to capture all of the potential of these places, typically farming for low yields and employing classic old world winemaking techniques.
Those of you familiar with our approach at Talley Vineyards will note that we have all those ingredients here: the distinctly cool climate and marine sedimentary soils of the San Luis Obispo Coast region and a commitment to classical winegrowing reflected in our four generation family farming legacy.
For complete details on the 2015 Talley Vineyards Pinot Noirs, including tasting notes, vist our Pinot Noir section on our website. Our newest releases perfectly capture my vision of delicious Pinot Noir. I hope you agree! BT
Every harvest has its memorable attributes, but 2017 will definitely go down as one of the strangest ever. First of all, it started on August 21, the day of the Solar Eclipse. Granted, no one here could see the eclipse due to the fog. Since that first day, we’ve experienced a heatwave over Labor Day weekend which culminated with monsoon conditions, and a little rain on September 3 and 4.
Night Harvest at Rosemary's Vineyard
In addition to the abnormal weather conditions, our picking order has been atypical. For the first time in our history, we started harvest with pinot noir in the Stone Corral Vineyard, as opposed to Rosemary’s Vineyard, where harvest has started for the last 5 years or so. Usually Stone Corral comes in about half to two-thirds of the way through our pinot noir harvest, and my theory for why things changed is that the calcareous clay soils of our other vineyard sites retained more moisture from the 30 inches of rain we received this year. Stone Corral is a very sandy site, and was unaffected by this phenomenon.
(pictured at right: Connor Bonnetti inspecting pinot noir on the berry sorter, the final sorting of a 3 step process to eliminate botrytised clusters)
Speaking of rainfall, the return of a more normal growing season has caused a return of conditions and challenges we haven’t experienced since before the drought of 2012-2016. First of all, our harvest start date is the latest since 2011, which was a nice relief. On the other hand, more vigorous vine growth and moist conditions have increased the incidence of botrytis cinerea, the “noble rot” associated with sweet dessert wine, but the enemy of dry wine. Botrytis is a fungus that reduces our crop and causes rot in the clusters that results in off aromas and flavors in the finished wines. We’ve mitigated this by sorting heavily, both in the vineyard and at the winery, to eliminate damaged clusters from the mix. In our most important section of Rosemary’s Vineyard, we sorted out 1100 pounds or 14% of the 3.95 tons harvested. While this adds cost and difficulty to the harvest, it’s the only way to ensure that we produce the distinctive wines that are consistent with our mission and that you have come to expect from us.
(pictured below right: Harvest intern Mark Poindexter and Winemaker Eric Johnson, cluster sorting Rosemary's Vineyard Pinot Noir.)
Regarding yields, things are trending behind 2016 (average yields) and ahead of 2015 (much below average), which means that we’ll likely finish the season slightly below our targets of 3 tons per acre in chardonnay and 2 tons per acre in pinot noir. As of September 5, we had harvested 65 tons of pinot noir and 39 tons of chardonnay, whereas on this date last year, we had harvested 106 tons of pinot noir and 28 tons of chardonnay.
While not as smooth and seamless as our most recent harvests, I have high hopes for 2017. I am appreciative of our dedicated harvest and production teams who go above and beyond to ensure that only the very best fruit ends up in our fermenters. Often, we do our best work when challenged by Mother Nature. Cheers! BT
(pictured left: the winery is full of fermenting pinot noir)
The 2017 Harvest at Talley Vineyards has begun! It was a little later start than last year, but we are very excited to see what this year will bring! With the help of 3 new interns this year, it will be another successful harvest.
Here's to early mornings, night harvesting and a lot of fun!
The crew processing Pinot Noir.
Aubrey and Mark sorting through the Pinot Noir grapes.
Our Vineyard crew picking in the early morning.
Pinot Noir in the Stone Corral vineyard.
Longtime friends of Talley Vineyards will remember the days when tastings were conducted in El Rincon Adobe, the historic building pictured on the Talley Vineyards label. Built in the early 1860’s by original settlers of the Arroyo Grande Valley, the adobe had a long life as a private residence before becoming our tasting room in 1988.
By the time our new tasting room was completed in 2002, the space had definitely been outgrown, but the abode has still been put to use over the years.
A few months ago, the adobe started serving a new purpose when three of my colleagues and I relocated our offices to the upstairs of the building. The impetus for the move was to create a shared office space for the four of us, who all work closely. Our destination had to be to the adobe as that is the only Talley Vineyards location with enough room to accommodate all of us, but I had some reservations about the space. While it is long on charm, the adobe can feel a little… well, old.
As it turns out, I’ve quickly gotten over my worries. Small doorways, low ceilings, and poor lighting have been heavily outweighed by the enjoyment I’ve felt in the space. That is in no small part due to how convenient and how fun it is to share an office with my colleagues. But I have also embraced the homey atmosphere of the adobe and am happily settled in. If you’d like to know more about the history of El Rincon Adobe, please take a look at our website.