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.
ave you been to a large wine retail store lately? I happen to visit fairly often as a part of my sales role with Talley Vineyards. Just the visual stimulation is worth the venture into the vast arena of what awaits you as you peruse the aisles of Whole Foods, Specs in Texas, Kroger's, Costco, Safeway, and countless others. In some respect, you might call it sensory overload, but if you are a wine consumer looking for something new and different this could be your entre into limitless adventure.
Have you looked closely at wine labels lately? There was a time not long ago that most marketing experts would encourage wineries to design labels that appeal to women. I know this may sound sexist, but it's been proven time after time that women shoppers buy more wine in these retail outlets than men, so labels with eye pleasing design and color became the norm. Sometimes something cute would grace the label, like kangaroos or monkeys. Even horses and dogs have had their images reproduced on wine labels. Of course, floral reproductions have been vastly popular.
So what has changed that encourages label designers to depict more serious and somber images? I have seen eerie and even morbid graphics on the labels of some newer products on the shelves. This includes a reproduction of famous artwork that depicts a handcuffed criminal tethered to a post, head hanging down and eyes hidden by a blindfold. I recently saw a Spanish wine label with no printing at all, but a vivid image of an elderly man. Have you seen the wine label that features a very scantily clad woman wielding a huge machete? It definitely encourages a second look.
I wonder what those wines taste like and if I grabbed one off the shelf would I end up feeling like the image on the label? Do criminals drink this stuff? Will paranoia set in if I try the one with the big spooky eyes? You see, wine labels do have some marketing impact.
I have to admit when I'm looking to purchase a wine I have always been drawn to the classic designs. Just tell me who produced the wine; if it's a domestic variety, I like to know the grape it was made from and the region of origin. A little vintage information is helpful and yes, I also look at the alcohol level. I know that it seems basic, but from these bits of info I can form a general idea and give myself reasonable assurance that I might enjoy what's inside. You could say I'm old fashioned, old school, or just plain old, but to me the classics are still my favorites and that goes for label design as well. So when people ask me ,"Hey have you guys at Talley changed your label recently?", I answer, "No, not in about twenty years." Classic tasting wines with classically designed labels: Talley Vineyards, celebrating 30 years of winemaking!
Another year has flown by and it is almost time for the 16th Annual World of Pinot Noir, held March 4th and 5th at the Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara, CA. WOPN includes in-depth tasting seminars and excursions, grand tastings, and gourmet, locally-influenced lunches and dinners. The extraordinary food and wine extravaganzas will be hosted by participating wineries and feature an outstanding panel of sommeliers from across the U.S.
Talley Vineyards has participated in WOPN every year beginning when Brian Talley helped form the event in 2000. This year is no exception and Talley Vineyards will celebrate our 30th year in winemaking by pouring at the Friday Focus Tasting. Those in attendance should expect to try some of our 2013 Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs as well as a few of my favorite library wines. I'm thinking some 2010 Rosemary's Vineyard Pinot might do since I tasted it recently and it is firing on all cylinders. Attendees should also ask what we have under the table since we have been known to throw in some chardonnay as a palate cleanser.
Next Brian Talley and I will attend Friday’s Country French dinner. I like the format of this wine dinner because Talley Vineyards is just one of the wineries participating. We are joined by Cirq, the new project from the famed Kosta Browne guys, Copain from Sonoma, Domaine Gille from Burgundy, and El Lugar from my good friend Coby Parker Garcia. Thanks to Chef Vincent Lesage, each course will be prepared to match the wines seamlessly. I don’t want to spoil the surprise but rumor has it courses may include beef bourguignon and bone marrow. Yes, I said bone marrrow, the richest and most delicious food that only foie gras can compete with.
One of the ways WOPN is different from other events is the educational aspect. With a multitude of seminars to expand wine knowledge participants will feel a little better about consuming so much Pinot Noir. There is a New Zealand Pinot Noir seminar and for those that only think of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand this is a great chance to explore New Zealand Pinot Noir. Another can’t miss seminar is the Sparkling Wine seminar, featuring sparkling wines that include Pinot Noir as a component. I don’t know about you, but I love starting my day with bubbles especially when they’re coming from great producers such as Argyle, Flying Goat, Donson Champagne, Inman Family, Jansz, and Riverbench.
If it is great food attendees are after, WOPN has got them covered. Dining options include everything from a Pacific Northwest dinner featuring Oregonian wines and cuisine to a Southwest dinner prepared by legendary Frank Ostini from the famed Hitching Post Restaurant. Speaking of legendary, Saturday is the Rock Star Dinner, an annual opportunity to honor a Pinot Noir luminary or, as we put it, a Rock Star. This year WOPN has the pleasure to honor the great Josh Jensen from Calera.
If you have a free weekend and you love great people, delicious food, and amazing Pinot Noir then this may be the event for you. Tickets are getting tight but now you’ve been given the heads up. Hope to see you there.
February 2016 marks an exciting, yet challenging month for me. Next week will be my last week at Talley Vineyards as my boyfriend, Nelson, and I embark on a new chapter of our lives. We have decided to do some extended traveling and on February 11th we will board a plane headed to Norway. The decision to leave our jobs and travel around the world was an extremely difficult one that I waver on daily, but the more people I talk to about it, the more comfortable I get as almost every person exclaims things like "you have to do it!" and "it's the trip of a lifetime!"
This isn't the first trip Nelson and I have taken to Europe together. Back in 2010 we were lucky enough to travel to Italy to visit a friend we had studying abroad there. Once we got off the plane and settled down into our B-N-B in Rome, I was awestruck by everything I saw. In Europe, history has such a deeper meaning and there were so many landmarks I just couldn't wrap my head around. It was an amazing experience that I remember in such incredible detail and after we returned to the states I knew it had happened; what everyone told me would happen - I got the travel bug. I decided then that at some point I would go back and see it all. It's taken longer than I'd imagine, but the time has finally come and I couldn't be more excited to see historical landmarks, taste wines in every country, and make friends around the world.
I've never been good with change and the feelings I have been filled with these last few weeks have weighed heavy on my heart. I very much enjoy my job, my boss, and my coworkers and that has been the hardest part of this whole decision. As I look forward at this amazing adventure we are about to begin, I can't help but be reminded on all the wonderful times I've had in my 3.5 years at Talley Vineyards. If you'll indulge me, I'd love to share a few!
If you reference back to the second blog I wrote, it was about my first sales trip with my boss, David Block, which will always be a highlight for me. I still remember the wine shops and restaurants we visited, the people we met and the best guacamole I've ever had at a local spot in Scottsdale, Barrio Queen. Watching David work with buyers and managers set the standard for how I would conduct myself as I began to travel on my own. I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a wonderful boss that I respect and look up to. The amount of wisdom, expertise and storytelling skills David has taught me over these last few years will carry over into all of my future jobs, in and out of the wine industry.
At Talley Vineyards we are lucky enough to have incredibly generous owners that open up their home to their staff on regular occasions. Another highlight for me will always be the many events I've been able to attend, like the "raid the cellar" pool parties, which not only allows everyone to pick a bottle from the Talley's cellar to share (seriously!) but also wood fired pizzas cooked for you by Brian Talley himself. These parties allow everyone to let their hair down and create personal relationships with our coworkers, bosses, and owners, creating lasting memories , which I am forever thankful for.
There are hundreds of other little moments throughout the years that I have enjoyed and will always cherish. Like on my birthday last year when the staff hosted a chip and dip themed lunch for me (one of my favorite foods), or the ridiculous conversations that happen when a group of us take our daily walk down to the mailbox at the end of the driveway, or even jumping in on the bottling line or lending a hand sorting fruit when the production team was short staffed. I will miss hearing our cellar master, Nacho Zarate, singing loud enough to echo throughout the winery; I will miss the countless moments of hysterical laughter my officemates and I have shared; I will miss my morning walk to get tea from the tasting room and stopping to say hello to my coworkers, my friends, along the way.
I feel so lucky to have been able to work for this company and make the relationships I've made. I'm so excited to begin my travels but also sad to say goodbye. I'll look forward to my return and visiting the winery to see all my old friends. In the meantime I'll be somewhere in Europe, probably enjoying a glass of wine and planning the next chapter of this great adventure.
After four years of an increasingly severe drought, the conversation in California has recently shifted to discussions about anticipated El Niño conditions. Preparations are being made. Sandbags have become the hot new landscaping item. People are scrambling to have roofs repaired, new gutters hung, and trees limbed.
I have a new raincoat and I figured that made me as ready as I need to be. But I clearly underestimated the trickery of El Niño. The first significant rainfall of the year rolled in at the start of last week. At Talley Vineyards we had a week of everything from hail and high winds to rainbows and misty showers. What we didn’t have at Talley Vineyards was telephone or email service.
Yep, one storm into the season and El Niño already had us beat. If you are thinking it must be difficult to conduct business with no communication to the outside world, you are right. To complicate matters even more, directly prior to losing contact we had sent a mass email to the many members of our Talley Family Program wine club asking them to be in touch regarding our upcoming wine shipment. I know they tried to be in touch; unfortunately we were unavailable. We had brief glimmers of hope when the phones would return momentarily, but as soon as we spread the word they were gone again. Creatures of habit, we continued to send emails, only to remember they were going nowhere. I ended last week feeling that we might be in for a pretty long battle with El Niño.
Fortunately, a new week has brought us “sunny” news (I have to include at least one bad pun in every blog I write), and we can now be reached without the use of carrier pigeon. I’m grateful for my colleagues who devoted so much of their time to rectifying the situation, I am grateful that our local telephone company finally admitted that our neck of the woods needed a new line, and I am grateful to all of the customers out there who are going to forgive me for not calling back last week. Here’s to not letting El Niño get the best of us!
El Niño is everywhere in the news due to severe weather in Texas, flooding in Missouri and unseasonably warm winter temperatures on the East Coast, all of which have been attributed to this weather phenomenon which is marked by warm Pacific Ocean temperatures near the equator.
|The best way to chill chardonnay in Sun Valley!|
In Sun Valley Idaho, where I spent the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, early predictions were for a "snow drought" with less than average snowfall. It's been anything but a drought there with the most snow I've seen in recent years and residents and visitors alike enjoying near perfect conditions. The Sun Valley Ski Resort set records for attendance during my stay. So far, El Niño has been all good for this part of the country and everyone looks forward to a beautiful spring with green hills and copious wildflowers.
Much of the focus in California has been on how El Niño will affect our ongoing drought. The early part of the season has been good for the Sierra Nevada snowpack which was measured to be 108% of average in December. Things haven't been quite so good for our local water supplies on the Central Coast, which receive very little benefit from snow that falls in the Sierra Nevada. Lopez Lake, which supplies water to our local cities and downstream release for the Arroyo Grande Creek, is at its lowest level since the dam was completed in 1969. Other local reservoirs, including Nacimiento, San Antonio and Cachuma are even lower.
As of December 31, total seasonal rainfall in Arroyo Grande was just over 5 inches, about average for this time of year. All of this appears likely to change as the latest prediction is that El Niño will have a greater impact in our area during the month of January when the jet stream shifts to the south. Hopefully this means accumulating snow in the Sierras and more local rainfall which will refill our reservoirs, recharge our aquifers and turn our hillsides green. This will be good for everything we grow, especially our oldest chardonnay vines, which have really struggled during the drought.
It is widely acknowledged that a single wet year won’t solve California’s long term water supply issues, but it’s better than the alternative. Cheers to rain in 2016!
I know you all have been waiting for the rest of my list back on 9/25/15, so here you go. I could list about 20 other things so feel free to comment if you think I’ve forgotten your favorite activity or location.
6. Drive on the beach, watch the sunset and start a fire anywhere you want. I know, I know…this isn’t terribly PC. I had lived in SLO since 1987 without ever driving on the beach until this year and I have to admit I absolutely love it. At the end of Grand Avenue in Grover Beach you can head into the state park for a $5/daily fee, drive out onto the sand, find your spot, park your car, dig a little pit and start a fire wherever you want which is the part that blows my mind. I prefer the sunset time because it can get crazy during the day with all the cars. At sunset it’s a bit quieter and so lovely to set up my beach chair, sip some Talley or Bishop’s Peak wine, while watching the sun go down around a warm fire. When you are ready to head home you just leave the coals burning and the rangers come by and scoop them up.
7. Check out some local live music. In the past few years the central coast music scene has gotten crazy good. You can always find a band playing somewhere awesome and it is usually for free. At Talley we have our summer Tunes at Talley concert series and so do many other wineries in the San Luis and Paso Robles area. You can also find shows at the Cliff’s resort in Shell Beach, at the Sea Pines Golf Course in Los Osos or go to the Beer at the Pier concerts in Baywood Park. If you want to find out where to catch a show check out Big, Big SLO on either Facebook or on the Big, Big SLO App which highlights the local music scene. Or go to the San Luis Obispo Visitors and Conference Bureau website where they list a lot of the local shows and other events.
8. Attend a Festival or Event. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say there is some type of event to attend on every single weekend somewhere in our county. Whether it’s the Home and Garden Show at the Madonna Expo or the Billabong Surf Festival in Pismo Beach. On any given weekend you can attend the Mac & Cheese Fest, the Bacon Fest, Oktober Fest, the First Responders show, the Greek Food Festival, the Craft Beer fest, the Mozart Fest, the Jazz Jubilee and on and on. I just went to a Margarita and Avocado festival in Morro Bay. There are also amazing music festivals…Live Oak, Seven Sisters and Beaverstock. Not to mention the multitude of wine country events and charity events. It is sometimes incredibly difficult to figure out what to do over a weekend because there is often so much to choose from.
9. Cheer at a Cal Poly sporting event. Cal Poly has high level student athletes and the various venues are really great for watching games as they are relatively small and make you feel close to the action. I try and go to at least one football game a year, a few women’s volleyball matches and I absolutely go to the Cal Poly vs. UC Santa Barbara men’s soccer match. It is considered one of the best rivalries in all of sports and it get’s crazy and is a lot of fun. Cal Poly also has great crowds and support for the Men’s and Women’s basketball programs and those games can get pretty spirited. My favorite, however, is to attend the softball and baseball games in the spring. Both stadiums have incredible views of the seven sister’s peaks, the teams are usually very competitive and you feel close to the action. It’s also nice that the Talley’s have purchased the Krukow’s Klubhouse tickets for employees so that we can enjoy a baseball game in the special section with free beer, wine and hot dogs.
10. Eat, eat and eat some more. You can’t go wrong with most of the food options up and down the coast. Whether it’s eating the best chili rellenos at Chapala in Morro Bay, killer brunch while overlooking the ocean or a tri-tip sandwich at one of the many Farmer’s Markets in the area you will not be disappointed. The list of great places to eat is too long but you kind find any style and any price point to satisfy your stomach. And of course, wherever you end up, order a glass (or bottle) of your favorite Talley Vineyards wine and relax and know you are in one of the most special places to spend your time.
I must assume that if you are reading this blog then you probably drink wine. If you drink wine then you probably have a plethora of empty wine bottles and corks lying around needing a job to do. Well this holiday season, put them to work! Everyone loves a homemade present and there are so many things you can do with old bottles and corks! A quick glance at the Talley Vineyard Pinterest page (yes, we have an awesome Pinterest page) would provide a bunch of great ideas for repurposing, upcycling and sustaining.
Use our Pinterest page as an inspiration for your holiday gift list! You'll see ideas like hanging bottle lights for your patio, cut glass planters for herbs and flattened bottles for a cheese tray or spoon rest. My boyfriend and I have made a lot of fun crafts from old wine bottles, including water glasses, candle holders, vases and lamps. Once you learn how to correctly (and safely) cut a wine bottle the possibilities are endless for what you can create. There is also a great tutorial on how to make a candle for a cut wine bottle!
There are many crafts to do with corks as well. Projects like gluing corks together to shape a Christmas tree ornament, or securing them into a large picture frame for a bulletin board or into a small picture frame for some cute coasters. We also have great ideas for other crafts using wine barrels, pallets and more.
While you're on our Pinterest page check out some of our other boards, like food pairings, cheese plates, gardening tips, and our favorite places and spaces on the Central Coast. If you enjoy pinning, you're sure to find something just for you! And remember, make this year extra special with some homemade, upcycled gifts for your loved ones. Happy Pinning!
That’s me, Alyssa, on the right in the picture. Next to me is my awesome colleague Alicia. Talley Vineyards is a small company, but we seem to have a knack for hiring same name employees. Of course, Alicia and I don’t have the same name. But our names are just close enough to confuse customers into believing we are one and the same person.
Both Alicia and I have jobs that require a lot of interaction with customers by phone and email. Theoretically, our customer communication is centered around different topics. Alicia is typically scheduling customer visits, following up on tasting room purchases, and answering questions about upcoming events. My customer contact tends to be focused on wine club shipment details, updating customer information, and assisting with online orders. But as you can imagine, there is a whole lot of overlap.
The end result of that overlapping communication and our similar names is both complicated and fun. Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a conversation and you feel like you missed something vital? Both Alicia and I have those phone calls on a regular basis; we know it is because the customer had previously spoken to one of us and is now continuing the conversation with the other. We both love trying to catch on quickly and take care of the customer as seamlessly as possible. Our sound alike names means we are also often tempted to take credit for one another’s achievements. When I receive an email complimenting me on the wonderful visitor experience I recently offered, I want to tell the customer how glad I was to do it… even though I didn’t do it at all. We have a favorite threat that we hold over one another, as well. If I receive a call from an unhappy customer I can always say, “I think you wanted to speak to Alicia, not Alyssa!”
I hope it isn’t disconcerting for our customers to learn that they might not be sure exactly who they are corresponding with. However, I can guarantee that whether you end up communicating with Alicia or Alyssa, it will be someone who loves helping customers and ensuring everyone is happy. I think that makes the two of us a pretty good team!