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.
It's summertime, which is a great time to celebrate simplicity in the kitchen matched with a cool and refreshing drink. One of my favorite wine pairings features two of my favorite things we grow: avocados and Chardonnay. In fact, Coastal San Luis Obispo County is one of few places in the world where avocados and world class Chardonnay grow side by side.
The key reason why this combination is successful is because the Chardonnay we produce in our cool coastal climate is so refreshing and balanced due to high natural acidity in the grapes and our very light use of new French Oak. A great example of this style is our 2014 Estate Chardonnay, which just happens to be on sale right now.
Perfect for summer, is my Guacamole recipe, with the preparation simple and the results luxurious. Best of all you can whip it up in 15 minutes without cooking anything.
The recipe below comes from my new cookbook,
Our California Table.
For more recipes and great wine pairings, you should purchase a copy.
Profit from the sales of the book benefit The Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers, which supports the farm worker community in San Luis Obispo County.
3 medium-size ripe Hass avocados
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 medium jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 small ripe tomato, chopped (optional)
Combine garlic, cilantro, half the jalapeño, and tomato, if desired, in a bowl large enough to accommodate finished guacamole. Add avocados, leaving the mixture as chunky as possible. Add half the lemon juice and salt to taste. Depending on how spicy you like it, add more jalapeño. Add more lemon juice if needed.
Since the weather has warmed up a bit, I have been riding my bike to work a few days a week. It’s great exercise and beautiful scenery. There are many great bike routes in the area and I’m lucky that my commute is one of them. I live in Arroyo Grande, and it’s about 8 miles out to the winery and takes me about 45 minutes. It’s nice to be outside, hear the birds chirping, and ride down the road through the farm fields. On the way home, it’s a great way to decompress, clear my head, and get some sunshine.
We try to be very wellness-minded and environmentally friendly here at the winery, and I am always looking for new ideas to share with our staff. So far though, I’m the only one who is riding my bike to work, although the staff does like to cheer me on. However, we are a pretty active group and many of our team members enjoy mountain biking, yoga, hiking, and surfing during their down time. There are many excellent choices here on the Central Coast!
For those of you who ride your bike, Lopez and Orcutt roads are popular for cyclists and are very scenic as you ride past vineyards and farms. Fortunately, both roads lead to Talley Vineyards! So, no matter which way you go, it’s a beautiful ride. And that glass of cool chardonnay is very refreshing when you get here; you earned it! Be sure to take a couple bottles with you to enjoy later—they will fit perfectly in your panniers :-)
We have another new team member to introduce you to in this week’s blog— meet Larry Lemire! A Los Angeles native, Larry moved to the Central Coast in back in 2001 where he has explored living in various locations across the County before most recently settling down in Nipomo. Since relocating to the Central Coast, Larry has worked in the courier industry where he gained freight and warehouse experience. Here at Talley Vineyards, Larry’s position as Warehouse Coordinator is vital to the success of our day in and day out operations. But because Larry’s position is a bit behind-the-scenes to those visiting the winery, I’ve asked Larry some ice breaker questions for you all to get to know him!
Where are you from originally and where have you lived since?
I grew up in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. I've always felt L.A. was too crowded and spread out. In 2001, a friend of mine who operated a courier company here on the Central Coast had just landed Mid-State Bank as a client and was in desperate need of drivers. I thought that was a golden opportunity to leave LA, and I've never looked back.
What brought you to Talley Vineyards?
In 2015, my friend decided to retire and sold his courier company. Initially I was grandfathered in as one of the operational managers, but after almost 15 years in the delivery business, I was ready to look at a different line of work.
What aspect your job do you like best so far?
The friendly and positive vibe that the staff here projects. When you come from work environments with unhappy and overly negative people, it makes one really appreciate how much more productive the workplace can be.
What’s your favorite happy hour drink?
After 8+ hours of being on my feet, I will never turn down a cold pint.
If you could spend the day with any 2 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?
Oh, living for sure. Not being much of a conversationalist myself, hanging out with two dead guys would make for a very boring afternoon.
What’s something on your bucket list?
I have always wanted to witness the totality of a solar eclipse. Before, time or money constraints were always an issue as it would have involved traveling to another country to see one. This coming August, I hope to cross this one off of my list.
If you had an extra hour every day, what would you do with it?
I've learned over the years, that magic hour is between 4:00-5:00AM. You cannot believe how much one can get done before the rest of the world has even got out of bed.
What is one thing you could not go a week without?
Probably my AM cup of coffee. Or my internet connection!
What would be your ideal vacation?
Any destination with a minimal agenda. My wife and I went to Maui for the first time a few years ago. Outside of lodging and a rental car, we just made up every day as we went. If we felt like zip-lining, we did that. If we felt like napping on the beach, we did that. It was the most fun I have ever had. Someone once told me retirement is like that. Hope to get there some time.
If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which one would it be?
A hippopotamus. My wife said she wanted one for Christmas.
I'm happy to introduce our new Tasting Room Manager, Evan Jones. He joined the Talley team back in March after moving from Portland, Oregon to the Central Coast with his family. Evan has worked in the wholesale side of the Wine Industry for the past 7 years and is excited to be involved with the Tasting Room atmosphere. I asked Evan a few questions about himself, to get to know a little more about him, and we found out some fun facts! Please make sure to say Hi and introduce yourself to Evan next time you visit us in the Tasting Room!
Why did you want to work at Talley Vineyards? I wanted to work at Talley Vineyards because of their commitment to the community and my own personal taste for Burgundian wines. It was also important for me to work for a family owned and operated company.
What is the best thing that has happened to you so far this week, besides working with your Assistant Manager Alicia? I finally got my brand new John Deere mower and mowed my lawn..cutting down the time from an hour to 20 minutes. It made me a very happy Evan.
What makes you most excited about being on the central coast? The weather, obviously. And living in a place that has a sense of community; especially, after living in big cities for so long. I love the Central Coast, especially the 5 cities and have been visiting the area since my sister attended Cal Poly. I actually got engaged on the Avila Beach Pier 5 years ago.
Favorite music genre? Country
Where did you go to college, what did you study, and how did you end up in wine? I went to the University of Arizona and studied Agricultural Economics (the same as Brian Talley). I ended up in the wine business after working 4 years in multiple sales roles trying to find the industry that I wanted to work in long term. Eventually, I got a job in the wine industry and instantly knew that I wanted to be a part of this industry for the rest of my life.
Where do you see yourself 20 years from now? General Manager of a winery
If you could live in any decade, which would it be and why? I would want to live in the late 1950s because I appreciate the simplistic beauty of that decade
What is your favorite thing to do on your days off? I play with my 8 months old daughter and spend time with my family.
Name one thing that most people don’t know about you? I am a published poet. I wrote a poem my senior year in High School.
If you were stranded deserted island and could bring 3 items to help in survival, what would those items be? 30-30 hunting rifle (loaded w/ ammo), a fire starter, and a machete
What phenomenon do you wish you could solve or figure out? Are ghosts/spirits a real thing? And, if so, do they still wander the Earth?
When I joined Talley Vineyards as the East Coast Regional Sales Manager at the beginning of March, I learned that the guiding principle of the winery is to go above and beyond. While that sounds admirable, I got to put those words into action when I recently embarked on an adventure with Brian Talley in a fourth floor walkup in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
Out in the national market, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to sell wine in the face of industry consolidation, the proliferation of brands, and our distributors are often overwhelmed with myriad priorities. So recently, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to try something different, to cut through all the noise and get our message out to the market.
On a recent trip to New York and Connecticut, Brian and I decided to add some twists to the typical market visit. In addition to our normal routine of going with a local distributor sales representative to visit prospective accounts, which is the way it’s always been done, we invited some of the newer sales representatives and prospective accounts to a dinner event in a loft on the Bowery in Manhattan. That Brian and I would prepare. Ourselves.
We chose some recipes from Our California Table and modified them to fit in an actual NYC kitchen, which is quite a rare thing apparently, and went to work. We chopped, sliced, and roasted our butts off, and pretty much pushed that little kitchen to the brink of its capabilities. Did I mention New York kitchens are small? And we introduced an enthusiastic group of potential buyers and salespeople to our wines, paired with food from Brian’s cookbook.
And at the end of the evening, the consensus was that they had never had an experience like this with any other winery. The food was excellent, if I do say so myself, and the wines showed well. The goal was to make a lasting, positive impression, and we definitely hit it out of the park. I’m very confident that this event and our future adventures will help to build the Talley story for generations to come.
We may be on the cusp of releasing our 30th vintage, but we are definitely willing to learn some new tricks and go above and beyond to share the story of what makes Talley Vineyards so special.
One of my favorite days of the year is just around the corner. Sunday, June 4 will mark the 24th 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. The Fun Run unifies several important themes in my life. First it reflects a commitment to healthy living, both in the training that leads up to the big day as well as the exertion during the event itself. Second, it’s our single biggest event at the winery and brings together a diverse array of people, many of whom only visit once a year. We are thankful for the sponsorship support of many local businesses, especially our biggest sponsors, Fresh Harvest, Cavaletto Brothers, Running Warehouse, E.C. Loomis and Son, Makor Wines, Wallace Group, Praxis, RRM Design and LeftLane Sports. Finally, it’s the key fundraiser for the Marianne Talley Foundation, which has contributed nearly $300,000 in scholarship money to college bound students from Arroyo Grande High School. 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, then started the Fun Run in 1994 to both support the scholarship program and 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 sixth 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 $25 tickets you can purchase by selecting the "Donate" option at www.raceroster.com for a chance to win some special prizes including a tour and tasting at Talley Vineyards with me and then lunch for 8.
I hope you can join us on Sunday, June 4. For all the details, including registration information, go to our Fun Run webpage. For questions, email Race Director Marian Fiorentino at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you race day!