As we head into the final month of our 30th Year at Talley Vineyards, I'm taking a moment to reflect on all the things that I'm grateful for. It's rained over four inches so far and even though this has had no measurable effect on Lopez Lake, it has made the hills green which puts me in a good mood. I'm thankful to be finished with my cookbook. From the day after Thanksgiving 2015, when I called publisher Bob Morris to discuss my idea for a farm to table cookbook, it has been almost exactly a year. I expect the final files to be delivered to the printer within days and Our California Table will be released in March of 2017. Follow this link for a sneak peak. I'm grateful to farm and make wine in such a special part of the world that affords me the opportunity to produce such a diverse array of fruits, vegetables and truly distinctive wine.
But when I reflect on what I'm truly grateful for, it's the people in my life. Johnine and I have enjoyed 21 years of marriage and are blessed with our daughters, Elizabeth and Olivia, who are growing into thriving young women that I'm really proud of. At Talley Farms, it's a privilege to work so closely with my mother and my cousins. I'm aware that many families struggle in their relationships and I appreciate the love, trust and respect we share, both at work and away from the farm. At both Talley Farms and Talley Vineyards, I'm grateful to be surrounded by dedicated and passionate people who strive every day to make the vegetables we grow and the wine we make better than ever, and to ensure that the connections with our customers are more meaningful. Finally, I appreciate the support of our customers and partners who love what we produce and share it with the world. Best wishes to you and your family this holiday season.
A few weeks back I brought a bottle of Bishop’s Peak Elevation with me to a relative’s house up in San Francisco. I knew that the wine would be well received, but what I wasn’t expecting was how it would spark our topic of conversation for the next 45 minutes. As the bottle was passed and poured, everyone was genuinely intrigued, not so much about what was going into their glass, but rather about what exactly was on the label itself—Bishop’s Peak. I’m not going to lie, at first I was a bit surprised that no one knew what Bishop’s Peak was. Sure it’s not Mount Whitney, Muir Woods, or any other major hiking destination in California, but for the County of San Luis Obispo, Bishop’s Peak is kind of a big deal.
Bishop’s Peak is iconic of SLO; a climb to the top is every newcomer’s rite of passage. Like many, I was introduced to the mountain back when I first moved into town as a freshman at Cal Poly. I quickly learned why Bishop’s Peak is such an integral part of the community. On any given day, you can expect to find the avid hiker, leisurely sightseer, or thrill-seeking rock climber. This is one of the things that I love most about Bishop’s Peak—the fact that it is enjoyed by so many people with varying agendas. And, not to forget, the hike is also thoroughly enjoyed by happy dogs everywhere.
At 1,546 feet, Bishop’s Peak is the tallest of the Nine Sisters. The Nine Sisters are a series of volcanic peaks that stretch throughout San Luis Obispo County. Not all can be hiked, but of the ones that can, Bishop’s Peak is definitely #1. The hike to the top is a noteworthy two mile stretch. Taking the Highland Drive entrance, the trail begins in a tranquil wooded grove and eventually winds up through a series of scenic switchbacks. The sun can be a bit intense towards the end, so bringing a hat and plenty of water is definitely a must. Once at the top, there are two benches and plenty of rocks that offer a place to catch a breath and absorb the stunning 360-degree view of San Luis Obispo County. This is where hikers can fully revel in the beauty that all of San Luis Obispo has to offer. To the East are expansive views of the Cal Poly campus, downtown San Luis Obispo, and Sister Mountain, Cerro San Luis. To the West are epic views of Morro Bay, Montaña de Oro, the Pacific Ocean, and beyond. Because there is so much to take in, it is common for people to spend more time hanging out at the top of the mountain than on the hike itself.
So the next time you’re in town, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend a trip to the top of Bishop’s Peak. Hikers will be rewarded with a great workout, excellent views, and yet another excuse to open up a bottle of your favorite Bishop’s Peak wine (once you get home, of course!).
Recently, a friend and I decided to venture up to Napa to enjoy a girls’ trip and do a little wine tasting. We both work in the wine industry so this was purely for educational purposes. When homework consists of tasting wine at various locations to learn and stay informed, I am sure to get an A+.
We arrived in Napa late afternoon and immediately enjoyed a tasting at Frog’s Leap Winery. We had a very nice seated tasting with a view of the beautiful Napa Valley hills, a great start to the trip. The following day, our first stop was the gorgeous chateau that is Domaine Carneros. Because I love bubbles, we indulged in the sparkling wine flight on the patio overlooking the vineyards. Their sparkling wine was incredible and something that you DO NOT mix with orange juice. Next on our journey was Robert Sinskey Winery, where we enjoyed the picturesque gardens complemented by wonderful wine. I had to take home a bottle of Robert Sinskey’s stunning Cabernet Franc as well as the Abraxas, a light and refreshing blend of Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer. The adventure continued at Cliff Lede Vineyards, just a short distance away. I loved that Cliff Lede named each vineyard block after his favorite rock songs or albums. Mixing classic rock music and wine? You can’t go wrong there. Finally, we finished our day at Mumm Napa, because when you start your day with sparkling it is only natural to finish your day with a little more delicious sparkling.
Visiting Napa Valley is definitely a different experience than what I am used to in the small and peaceful Arroyo Grande Valley. I admit that I felt like a little fish in a big pond at times. However, Napa was incredibly scenic and offered many amazing and delicious wines. I can’t wait to plan my next visit.
Eric introduces us to one of our harvest interns, Graham Walker -
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The National Anthem, because it's my favorite song.
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.)
What began on the third day of August, finished up this last weekend on the first day of October. Two straight months of sleep deprivation, hard work, and compromised immune systems ended as we picked our last blocks of grapes. Some refer to this season as “vintage”, but we’re a farm-centric vineyard and winery, and we refer to it as HARVEST. Harvest is the culmination of all the work and input we’ve brought into our vineyards from the previous year. It’s hard as hell and can be quite frustrating when Mother Nature throws you a curve ball, but it’s also pretty freaking awesome to see the fruits of your labor. No pun intended, because I think that saying was meant for this kind of thing.
For the majority of our harvest, we had perfect weather conditions. Clear, cool night starts at 2am would get us on our way. At around 4 in the morning, the marine layer would come in and keep the fruit and pickers cool into the early daytime. With a lot of help from winemaker Eric Johnson, we were able to have a good heads up on picks and get in those blocks to pick the fruit just right. Everything was going just great, and then we got a 4 day heat wave at the end of September. This heat wave suddenly made blocks that we thought would be ready in a week, ready to be picked immediately. We scrambled, we huddled, we got a plan, and we picked nonstop. The fruit came in and we were done.
To anyone in the wine world, you’ve probably noticed a great deal of hype around harvest. That hype is no joke. For grape growers and winemakers, picking the grapes at the right time is crucial and can be close to impossible at times. However, you find a way to get it done. You dig in and work beyond what you normally think is possible. Sometimes, it means running down to the local coffee shop and buying coffee for 36 pickers to keep them going and 6 dozen donuts to show them our appreciation. I personally go through a box of 5-hour energy that’s supplemented with a lot of Emergen-C.
Now that we’re done, it’s our time to button up the vineyard but more importantly show our appreciation for the people who make up my vineyard team. We have our own taquero at Talley Farms, Juan Rico, who will make unlimited tacos for our crew, production team, and winery staff. It’s a great day for everyone to meet up, play soccer, eat, and enjoy the end of another successful season.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
It's been said that truth is stranger than fiction, and in 2016 that has been confirmed numerous times. Within the wine industry we have seen purchases of stalwart brands by very unlikely suitors. We have witnessed the consolidation of wholesale distributors which continues to grow some of these companies beyond what we might consider reasonable or functional. Some of these trends are just a continuation of the patterns that we have started to become accustomed to in our world amongst the vines.
But looking around can anyone say they could predict how this year would develop? Globally, a new heightened sense of security in almost every corner of the world permeates our collective consciousness. The levels of violence and unrest are unlike anything I have ever witnessed, and I am a child of the 60's. The political arena is so far beyond any previous examples that we all constantly ask what could possibly be next? There truly is no predictability during this campaign season. Recently I was speaking with a wine making friend about this crazy scenario that we are all living in. He and I agreed that this whole year has been scripted and is being prepared for the silver screen by one very bright and ingenious mogul of the film industry.... Quentin Tarantino. That's it, we are all part of his next mega hit "2016" Volume 1. I'm not sure how this one will end, and I certainly wouldn't spoil it for you if I did. But I do know that at the end of every Tarantino film I have viewed I usually need some relief.
Maybe the relief is a deep breath of some fresh air, but oftentimes an adult beverage is the required remedy. Whatever path I choose it must be one of predictable reliability and satisfaction. I happen to keep a small collection of Talley Vineyards and Bishop's Peak wines (among other brands, of course) at my disposal for just such an occasion. If I want something reliably refreshing, crisp on the pallet, and comfortably silky in texture, then I must reach for our Talley Estate Chardonnay or our Bishop's Peak Chardonnay. Soon the new vintages will be available for these wines, and because I have had the opportunity to preview them I am overjoyed at the prospect of having both the 2014 Talley Estate Chardonnay and the 2015 Bishop's Peak Chardonnay ready in my cellar. I'm happy to report that within the next few weeks all fans of Talley Vineyards will be able to follow this same path and add two of the most refreshing, and predictably delicious wines to their own wine selection. I heartily suggest that you prepare for the conclusion of this epic we call 2016 and make sure these consistently comforting wines are in your cellar.
Well hello there… this is the very first blog I have ever written and, to be quite frank, I needed a good reason to be inducted into the world of blogging for Talley Vineyards. Turns out, that reason is a cellular phone app called POKEMON GO.
When I was younger I would spend my lunches at school battling classmates, trying to commandeer their charazar. Now Pokémon has evolved from a 5-inch binder full of Pokémo cards to simply downloading an app on a mobile device. (With the disclaimer to keep safe and stay aware of your surroundings. You would think that would be understood, but I have known many people who’ve fallen or run into inanimate objects while staring down at their phones!) So here I am, almost 26 years old, and still using my lunch break for Pokémon. Not in my wildest dreams would I have expected to be able to catch a Pikachu from the comfort of my chair in the Talley Vineyards courtyard. But this dream is a reality!
For a Pokemon Go lover like me, there are several great spots to visit at Talley Vineyards. I can go to our very own Rincon Adobe, which is actually a Pokémon Gym where players can battle one another. We also have 2 Poke stops here on the property: our succulent filled fountain right in front of the tasting room and the SLO wine trail sign at the base of our driveway. At these locations, you can obtain more Poke balls to catch Pokémon. On our property alone I was able to catch an Eevee, Paras, Pidgey, and Clefairy.
So, whether you are already playing or you’re ready to join this Pokémon Go craze, I hope you’ll come out to Talley Vineyards. Enjoy a glass of wine while trying to catch ‘em all!