On any given day of driving around the vineyards, I will see quite a few different species of mammals (besides the human kind), reptiles (besides the human kind, again), amphibians, and insects. Some of these critters are not the most welcome inhabitants of our vineyards, such as the California Ground Squirrel, pocket gophers, and leaf hoppers. Ground Squirrels and gophers love burrowing under our vines and chewing on things that we’d rather not have them eat and destroy. Leaf hoppers like to chew on leaves, which reduce the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. Fortunately, we have things like hawks, snakes, coyotes, barn owls, and lacewings. These predators help us keep the pest population down. They also work for free!
Our farm ecosystem is something we hold near and dear. One way that we encourage biological means of pest control is with our owl boxes that our placed throughout the vineyards. These nocturnal creatures can be seen swooping just above our canopy during the night and early morning hours. They do a great job of keeping the nocturnal vertebrate pests in check, like gophers, field mice, and voles. Typically, a barn owl will eat 3-4 rodents a night, which can amount to 4000+ rodents a year to feed them and their offspring! We don’t use any poison to kill gophers in our vineyard, because we don’t want to poison the owls.
Most of our new owl boxes are made by Walt Weller of Central Coast Owl Boxes. Walt is a very friendly gentleman, who crafts his owl boxes to very high standards. His boxes have a separate room to keep offspring safe from predators. They are painted with UV resistant paint to keep the owls cool, and they are very easy to clean and maintain. Walt loves to visit Talley Vineyards and checks his boxes for inhabitants, providing a list of all the new inhabitants every spring!
Because our first vintage of wine was in 1986, we have been looking for opportunities to celebrate Talley Vineyards 30th anniversary throughout the year. We’ve had some fun with 1980’s themed parties, old pictures on our social media sites, and some anniversary logoed items. But we’ve also realized that there is a lot of work to do here in 2016 and it is hard to focus too much on 1986!
In conjunction with SLO Wine Country’s Roll Out the Barrels weekend, we hosted a lovely event last Saturday; it highlighted some of the special things we’ve done here over the last thirty years. The event started with a retrospective tasting of some of our best vintages of Talley Vineyards Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. That was followed by a farm to table lunch featuring fresh produce from Talley Farms Fresh Harvest, Talley Farms’ CSA (community supported agriculture) program.
Certainly the wine enjoyed during the retrospective tasting focused attention on how consistently delicious our Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs have been. Comparing wines from 2006 through 2014 showed a nice age worthiness in the older vintages and a fresh approachability in the new releases. It was an excellent opportunity for both our attending customers and Talley Vineyards staff to acknowledge that our thirty years of winemaking is something to celebrate.
The lunch that followed included plenty of delicious produce provided by Talley Farms Fresh Harvest. While Talley Vineyards is happy to celebrate a 30th anniversary, Talley Farms has a much longer history. Founded in 1948, Talley Farms has steadily grown into a company that grows, packs, and ships a variety of high quality vegetables and fruits. These showed up on the lunch table in everything from the green salad to the lemon pound cake everyone enjoyed at dessert.
There isn’t always a lot of time to ponder the past, but Talley Vineyards 30th anniversary has inspired us to think about where we started and how far we’ve come. Without a doubt, last Saturday’s tasting and lunch reinforced for everyone that over the years we have made some great wine and grown some wonderful food!
As we wrap up our spring shipping season, it makes me reflect back to the very early days of the Estate Subscriber Program, back in the mid-1990s before wine clubs were as common as they are now. We began that program within a couple of years of releasing our first Single Vineyard Selection Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs because we wanted to make sure that our best customers had access to our best and most sought after wines. We started a precedent in those early years of having great parties where we shared special wines from older vintages or large format bottles to show appreciation to our most loyal customers. That tradition continues to this day. Our Estate Subscriber Program is still the best way to ensure that you can get the very best from our Estate, direct from the winery.
In 2000, we introduced our Bishop's Peak wines, which expanded our offering beyond estate grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to include other varietals from Paso Robles. In short order, we learned that many customers were interested in receiving a more diverse selection of wines, so we introduced the Talley Family Program to celebrate this diversity. To my way of thinking, this is more of a sampler program where people can get an overview of what we do and taste a greater array of wines. It's also a fun way to engage with us and other like minded people at our regular "pick up parties" throughout the year.
Our newest "club concept" doesn't include wine at all--it's a vegetable subscription club from Talley Farms. We started Talley Farms Fresh Harvest in 2012 as a way to share our produce, along with that of other local growers, with the San Luis Obispo County community. The response to the program has been overwhelming. I often hear people say that they view it as a weekly gift to themselves. We are currently working on a new website that will facilitate expanding the program to include more overnight home delivery throughout California. I'd like to figure out a way to someday include wine in those produce shipments.
If you're a member of the Estate Subscriber, Talley Family, or Fresh Harvest Programs, I offer my sincere thanks to you for your loyal support for what we do. If you're not a member, but like what we do, I encourage you to learn more and consider joining one of our clubs--it's the best way you can support what we do in a truly sustainable way.
“Summertime and the livin’s easy...” which I get to see every day outside my office window and it makes me happy. I work in the upstairs office in the winery and just below me is a lawn area which is home to a couple of Corn Hole games and hula hoops and around the corner is a ping pong table. As I’m working away on my spreadsheets I get to hear the sounds of laughter and competition which often gets me out of my chair to look down and see who is having the fun. Sometimes it’s little kids playing (who are usually throwing the corn hole bean bags at each other instead of into the game) while their parents are enjoying some wine at a nearby picnic table and often it’s couples in a guys vs. girls battle, wine glass in hand, laughter in the air and intermittent hooting. Even though I’m jealous that these visitors are outside enjoying the beautiful day while I’m crunching numbers, it’s a great reminder to me that I work at a special place, with great people and exceptional wine. And, I make it a point to eat my lunch outside on a daily basis to soak in the beauty that our guests experience when they come here and take pride in what we’ve created as a staff.
Summer is my favorite time here because the beauty of our winery is really showcased. The spring winds have dissipated, the Rosé wine is released for our growler program and on the weekends the outside bar is up and running and the free concerts start at the winery. That’s right, I said free concerts. Starting on Sunday June 26th, our annual Tunes at Talley begin with the first band of the year, Bear Market Riot and food truck, The Pairing Knife. These concerts last from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm and it’s always great to see so many people enjoying glasses of wine while sitting in their lawn chairs or dancing away, and enjoying some really great food from our local food trucks. We are having five Tunes at Talley concerts this year on Sundays, June 26th, July 10th, July 24th, August 7th and August 21st. If you’ve never been out for one of these I encourage you to make a trip as we showcase some excellent local bands and food trucks and of course, our wonderful wines. Check out our website events page for the band and the food truck for each date.
For our wine club members and in honor of our 30th Anniversary, we are opening up the Rincon Adobe, which was the tasting room I first worked in and managed when I started here 22 years ago. The Adobe will be open on Saturday’s and Sunday’s and there are seated areas both inside and outside that you’ll be able to relax in and try some special wines. The Adobe will be open starting this weekend and I invite our club members to come out and experience Talley Vineyards as it was when we originally started the winery. If you are not in one of our wine clubs, you are welcome to join when you are out here and will immediately have the option to taste and relax in the Adobe.
I encourage you all to come out and see what we have to offer over this summer season - always exceptional wine, multiple picnic areas, fun games and some free music. And, if you see someone looking out an upstairs window while you are in a furious battle of hula hooping, I’m not being creepy, just happy that others get to experience the fun and beauty at the place I love.
Friday marks my last day at Talley Vineyards, just a few weeks shy of my 5th anniversary. This has been a bittersweet week for me. I’ve never been good with change and it’s really tough to close the book on this chapter. While I am very excited for my new opportunity, I have been walking around in a nostalgic haze thinking, "This might be the last time I hear Nacho sing” or “I’m really going to miss getting made fun of by Ben at the lunch table.”
My time at Talley has been unique as I’ve had the opportunity to work in almost all departments. I’ve helped process wine club orders and shipments, packed orders in the warehouse, poured for our wonderful customers in the tasting room, and learned so much as a harvest intern, which turned into a fulltime production position. If you asked me to choose my favorite, I’m not sure I could. But I would not be ready for my next stage without the knowledge and skills that I acquired through the diversity of my roles here.
Coming up with favorite Talley Vineyards memories is tough, because there are hundreds. I’ll remember getting my nickname -it’s a given that at some point at Talley you acquire a nickname. I acquired mine early on thanks to our Cellar Master, Nacho. He never quite learned my name and I became Debit. It stuck and the joke became, “Debit, where’s your brother Credit?” I’ll remember the day Ben left his keys in his truck and I moved the truck and hid the keys. And when Alicia purchased a rubber snake that we used to successfully scare Nacho. I’ll remember that period of time when Eric required a Joke of the Day. I thought my jokes were pretty awesome, but most of the time were met with a sarcastic half laugh and, “Try again tomorrow, Debit.”
There are the memories with my Talley Vineyards family outside of work - celebrating my birthday, attending Cal Poly events, my first trip to Napa with Alyssa, the Pitbull concert at the Midstate Fair with Nicole and Alicia, that very memorable night when Eric and Ben taught me how to shotgun a beer. It’s hard to describe the emotions I feel when I think back on these memories and my love and appreciation for all these people. Does admitting to the fact that I am teary-eyed at my desk as I write help explain?
I am so grateful to Alyssa and the Talleys for taking a chance on me as a young, inexperienced, 19 year-old college student. (My embarrassing cover letter still makes an appearance to haunt me every once and awhile and I still get teased for sounding like a 5 year old in my follow up voicemail.) I’m sure it will be an emotional goodbye as I head down the driveway on Friday. Thank you to all my colleagues for sharing your skills, talents, advice, and friendship with me over the years. I look forward to coming back for a visit and to stock up on all my favorite Talley Vineyards wines!
It’s hard to believe this is my 5th year as race director for the Marianne Talley Memorial Fun Run, the primary fundraiser for the Marianne Talley Foundation! I’m happy to say that in that time I’ve almost doubled our overall participation. When Brian Talley first approached me to take over the organizational efforts, I just couldn’t say no and here’s why.
My husband Chuck and I became fast friends with Marianne Talley during the years she attended USC. When Marianne returned home on breaks she wanted to use the pool at Arroyo Grande High School to stay in shape; Chuck was the girls’ swim coach and we were both using the pool training for triathlons. After Marianne graduated and returned to the area, Chuck strongly suggested she get into triathlons as she would clearly be a natural at it! However, she had never done any open water swimming, so Chuck introduced her to swimming in the ocean in Avila Bay. The next thing we knew, she had signed up for and completed the Hawaii Triathlon. Little did we know, a few months later this friendship would end when Marianne suddenly passed away at the very young age of 25.
So now, instead of participating in the Annual Marianne Talley Memorial Fun Run as a runner, I have the pleasure of “running” the show to raise money for the Marianne Talley Foundation. The Foundation funds annual scholarships for three students at Arroyo Grande High School. When I asked a long time Fun Run participant what she liked most about the event, she said, “I love that it continues to bring our entire community together and I love meeting back up with people I sometimes see only once a year.”
I hope you will join us on Sunday, June 5th for the 23rd Annual Fun Run as a runner, walker or volunteer. If you can’t join us on Sunday, you can still help the Marianne Talley Foundation by making a donation. Just go to raceroster.com to sign up to participate, volunteer or donate – there really is something for everyone!
Putting on an event with over 600 people attending takes a bit of work all through the year and wouldn’t be possible without the support of our sponsors and volunteers. It would be a lie to say I’m not a little stressed out and questioning why I’m doing this in the weeks leading up to race day. But when the final award is handed out, the race course is all cleaned up and the results are posted online, I know it’s all been worth it. I am truly grateful to honor Marianne’s memory and her love of health, fitness and a sport I’m so passionate about myself.
In 2014, Talley Vineyards officially became SIP certified. The Sip Certification, which stands for Sustainability in Practice, is a “rigorous sustainable vineyard and wine certification with strict, non-negotiable requirements committed to standards based on science and expert input, independent verification, transparency, and absence of conflict of interest.” As rigorous as some of the SIP requirements are, we were already farming and making wine to many of these standards, and just needed to officially document the way we do things here. Some of the sustainable practices we implement on the vineyard side are new, but many are things we’ve been doing for awhile.
One of the practices we’ve used for years in our vineyards is cover cropping in and around our vineyard blocks. We cover crop to help with erosion on the steep hills that we grow our grapes in and to improve the soil structure. This last year we seeded most blocks with a cover crop that consisted of oats and bell beans. The oats have powerful root structures that help open up the soil as they grow, while the bell beans add nitrogen to the soil as they are disked back into the soil. These cover crops add not only nitrogen to the soil, but they are a great source of organic matter that gets mixed back into the soil. This helps with biodiversity in the soil and root development of our grapes. Over time, this practice improves our soil structure as each year a new crop of grasses and legumes are tilled into the soil.
One of our newer viticultural practices that we’ve implemented is the discontinued use of herbicides. We have been an herbicide free vineyard since 2015. We decided to move away from herbicides as part of our commitment to sustainability. We’ve noticed certain weeds developing resistance to herbicides, and instead of trying stronger chemicals, we decided to go herbicide free. Besides the lack of chemicals in our soil, we’ve witnessed a huge improvement in the tilth under the vines. This is because of the three different tractor implements and good-old fashioned hoeing that is now consistently turning the soil under the vines. Each implement works best in different blocks, depending on the soil structure, terrain, and growth of the weeds. The newest, most versatile, and by far the best of these implements is the Clemens Weed Knife. This Clemens consists of two blades that are at the end of hydraulic arms. These arms extend, or contract, depending on the width of the vineyard row. The knives cut just below the surface of the ground below the vines, cutting weed at their nutrient leaching roots. The final product is a weed-free soil that is chemical free!
While this year marks the 30th Anniversary of Talley Vineyards’ first vintage back in 1986, it also marks our 20th Anniversary bottling of our Single Vineyard Selection Chardonnays, which we first produced in 1994. They are now among the oldest continuously bottled estate grown vineyard designated chardonnays produced in California. The imminent release of the 2014 wines makes me recall a few highlights that have occurred along the way:
These wines obviously have great pedigree. So what should you expect from 2014? First of all, there are a total of four wines in the lineup, as we’ve added the distinctive Monte Sereno bottling (available only direct from the winery) to the traditional mix of Oliver’s Vineyard, Rincon Vineyard, and Rosemary’s Vineyard. These chardonnays continue our progression toward an ever more focused and elegant style, with descriptors like “lemon curd, bright, energy, meyer lemon and mouthwatering” popping up in the tasting notes. For complete notes on the wines, go to our website's Our Wines page.
Given the balance, persistence and acidity levels of these wines I expect them to age gracefully over the next decade. For an example of how these are likely to develop, I encourage you to visit the tasting room where we have just released library selections of 2006 and 2007 Oliver’s Vineyard as well as the 2006 Rincon Vineyard Chardonnay. All are drinking nicely, but the 2006s are exceptional right now. But you don’t have to wait 10 years to enjoy our new releases--they are perfect now with grilled halibut, seafood paella, roasted chicken or your favorite triple crème cheese. Cheers! BT
My path to employment in the wine industry was not a direct one. In fact, I never considered my current career until I was already halfway in it. So I sometimes wonder – did I get here by happy accident or was I always destined?
If Grandpa had any influence on my future, then working at Talley Vineyards is probably destiny. This was a man who often sported a T-shirt emblazoned with, “A day without wine is like a day without sunshine.” I know that phrase might sound tired and clichéd now, but it was fresh and fun back when Grandpa would say it. In fact, I’m pretty sure he invented it!
An avid backpacker and camper, Grandpa knew how to pack smart and pack light for these outdoor excursions. But no matter how long the hike and how heavy the backpack, he always managed to find room for some red wine. After all, he didn’t want to experience one of those days without sunshine!
Despite being father to nine and grandfather to many, many more than that, Grandpa had a knack for making each person in his life feel special. Recently looking through some old photos, I realized that one of my special times with Grandpa also counts as my first winery tasting room experience. This picture is nine year old me enjoying an afternoon at San Martin Winery with Grandpa. I might not be trying any wine, but I couldn’t be happier. (Happy with the company, but likely even happier because I am sipping on a soda, something that would only happen while on vacation with my grandparents!) With such an early and favorable introduction to winery visits, it’s no surprise I would end up working where I do today. When I next enjoy a nice glass of wine, I am going to lift my glass to Grandpa and thank him for bringing the sunshine and setting me on my path!
It’s March, which is crazy (where did January and February go?) and also means that it’s time for the Mano Tinta label design competition. For a quick recap, Mano Tinta is the name of the charity wine that we produce with the profits going to The Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers, an endowment that the Talley’s established to support programs in our area that help farm workers and their families.
Each March we ask area artists to submit artwork, which can be paintings, drawings, decoupage, photos, really anything that they feel represents vineyards, farm workers, etc. that we can then reproduce for our label. We also ask the artists to do a little write up explaining what their inspiration was for their piece of art and those write-ups can have an impact on the voting process. We then display the artwork in our tasting room and anyone who visits during the month has an opportunity to vote on their favorite design. At the end of the month, the votes are tallied and the staff takes those votes and write-ups into consideration when choosing the winner. Past winners have included a 9 year old boy, professional artists and locals who just like to paint.
The winning label will be on the 2014 Mano Tinta Red Wine which will be released next year. We also etch the label on a magnum of wine which we keep on display in our tasting room along with all of the past winning labels. If you are a current or budding artist, or know someone who might be interested, please fill out the Entry Form and bring in your artwork sometime in the next couple of weeks. It is always fun for us to see the unique, fun and beautiful art that people create. Also, while you are here, purchase some Mano Tinta Sauvignon Blanc, which is the first time we’ve created a white wine for the program and will be on sale during the entire month. You can enjoy a great wine and know that the money you paid for it is going to a good cause.