One of the things that I have always enjoyed about my job at Talley Vineyards is that I have a lot of freedom to do unique projects. This last week, I had the opportunity to go out in the field with our vineyard manager Travis Monk and irrigation supervisor Ben Jauregui to dig out soil pits and collect soil samples from our six vineyards in the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys. Our goal is to create displays in the tasting room that show the uniqueness of the soils in our growing region, and also to help to explain the differences in our wines from each of these sites.
I think it’s important to mention that Travis and Ben are both exceptionally talented. Ben, the best dressed of most Talley employees, is a madman on the big John Deere backhoe. If, for any reason you need a wedge-shaped pit dug six feet deep in less than five minutes, Ben’s your man. Travis made light work of the pickaxe/hand hoe and kept me from getting dirty, though I did come ready to work. I suppose it was a good thing that I didn’t get dirty, because this work that I expected to take a whole day or two was skillfully done in one morning before lunch.
As we moved from vineyard to vineyard, we were really struck by the uniqueness of the soils from location to location. The biggest fear is that we would take all of these samples and find the soils too similar to each other for our displays. On paper, the soils are all very different, with many changes in soil even within the same vineyard, but you really don’t know what to expect from a single dig site within a vineyard. The challenge now is to rebuild these unique soils in clear cylinders to display in the tasting room. This will involve carefully drying the soils and scaling each layer down to the correct depth to fit the cylinders, which are still pretty big at 42 inches tall.
If you visit our tasting room in the summertime, be sure to check out our Rincon Room which will be a fun, educational room dedicated to the uniqueness of the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys. We will have history, timelines, vineyard maps and photos, as well as soil displays and multimedia presentations – all of which we hope will enhance your wine tasting experience here in the tasting room!
If you’ve visited the Talley Vineyards tasting room, you would know that we have a lot of faces behind the bar. It takes a lot of people to cover our staffing needs to be open seven days a week and it’s not very often that we can get them all in the same place at the same time. Earlier this month, however, we were able to get sixteen of us together for an awesome day of wine tasting in Paso Robles.
Entrusting our tasting room to ex-tasting room employees Michele (now our operations manager), Alyssa (now our direct sales manager), and Belinda (now our direct sales assistant), all sixteen of us were chauffeured to Paso Robles, in style, on the Central Coast Trolley. We hit some of the best on the far west side of Paso Robles – Justin, Tablas Creek, Halter Ranch, and Jack Creek.
Beyond tasting a broad variety of different wines, from the delicious cabernets and Bordeaux blends at Justin and Halter Ranch, to the Rhone varietals at Tablas Creek and Jack Creek, the day was a great opportunity for the staff to build camaraderie. Many of our staff members work a few days or less a month, some only on the weekends, and some only during the weekdays. The ability to have our entire team together, learning about wine and witnessing how other wineries operate and being able to socialize and catch up with one another was priceless. It was also a great success in that staff members have given us valuable feedback on the experience, including many ideas that could really strengthen us as we move forward.
For me, the one universal theme that I noticed is that what impressed our group wasn’t so much about the actual winery, but more about how the staff presented them. A visit to the new tasting room at Tablas Creek, the vineyards and caves at Justin, and the new winery facility at Halter Ranch are enough to make anyone in the wine industry very jealous. Following those up with a stop at Jack Creek, an equally remarkable facility at a sliver of the size of the other three, allowed us to see that it’s not all about size of the building. With great hospitality at all four locations, and knowing what a beautiful place and great people we have here at Talley, the key thing I learned is that a successful winery isn’t all about the facility, it is about a group of people with enough passion to produce a great product anywhere.
When I think about Talley Vineyards, the grapes that come to mind are of course, pinot noir and chardonnay. When I think about the tasting room, however, I think about a diversity of palates. It is precisely for these palates that we continually produce unique wines. Some of these wines only get produced in one great vintage, such as the West Rincon Pinot Noir or the Ranchita Canyon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Others we continue to produce annually, like our petite sirah. In the most recent vintages, however, we have most definitely taken a liking to the lovely malbec.
In the wine-drinking world, passion for malbec is a recent trend. Malbec originates from France and is one of the five permitted varietals of Bordeaux, though it is certainly not the star there and considered a minor blending component. Most of us, however, think of Argentina when we think of Malbec – probably because you can still get a nice bottle for a relatively inexpensive price. Malbec was brought into Argentina in the mid 1800’s, but it was not until the 1990’s that the wine producers of Argentina decided that it would be their key varietal. Malbec, according to our winemaker Eric Johnson, is “an awesome grape because it varies heavily based on where it is grown – it can be tannic, soft, fruity, or spicy, or it can be all of that wrapped up into one wine.” I think that the reason why many people love it here, however, is that it often tends towards ripe, juicy aromas and flavors (think ripe blueberry, blackberry, and plums), soft tannins, and moderate acidity. Assistant winemaker Nicole Pope really enjoys the varietal because “it has a distinct fruit profile from all of the other reds we work with, with awesome fresh berry aromas - even during fermentation.” While still not widely planted here on the Central Coast, Malbec is a perfect fit in Paso Robles. The fresh, ripe fruit develops during the warm, sunny days, and the cool evenings preserves the acidity that balances the wine.
Here in the tasting room, we now have two delicious wines that feature malbec. The first, our 2010 Bishop’s Peak Malbec, is our first 100% varietal malbec in over fifteen years! This wine is packed with fresh berry characteristics and has soft, elegant tannins resulting from over 20 months in the barrel. The second is our current wine on tap offering which is a 2011 blend of 60% malbec and 40% cabernet sauvignon. This wine, with less time in the barrel, really showcases the ripe fruit of the malbec and compliments it with the peppery spice of the cabernet sauvignon. Come try them side by side!
Maybe it turns out that you’ve read this entire blog and disagree with me because you actually don’t like malbec, and that’s ok! I urge you, however, to stop by the tasting room and give ours a try – after all, there are a lot of other wines here to enjoy as well!
With a little over a week left before we celebrate the coming of 2013, I wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year! While it is not my style to get sentimental and reminisce about highlights of the year gone past, 2012 is a little bit different. In the most succinct terms possible, it really was a great year.
As it pertains to my life and what I’m passionate about, two amazing things happened this year. First, and most importantly, this is the year I married my amazing wife, Erin. On April 14th, the Talley family was gracious enough to allow us to host our small, intimate wedding ceremony in the barrel room. After six years of dating and now over six months of marrage, I am happy to be able to tell everyone that married life is great!
Secondly, 2012 was an awesome vintage for just about every region of California, especially here on the central coast. While I am proud to have been a part of Talley Vineyards for what has been a really excellent string of vintages (2007-2012), this year is special because it is the first year in a while with both high quality and above-average yields. Some of you may know that I dabble in wine production. This is the second year that the Talleys have allowed us to tend a section of vines in Edna Valley and make a small batch of wine. I, my wife, and co-workers, Mike and Ken, harvested twice the fruit as last year and so far we think the wine may be twice as good! Furthermore, now that some of the wines in the barrel room have had a few months of age, we are really starting to see that the Talley chardonnays and pinot noirs are going to be very special wines.
For a wine geek like myself, there is no better feeling than knowing that I can stock up on the 2012 vintage when they come out and be assured that the quality of the wine is going to reflect the way I feel about the year in which the fruit was grown. Since we have some time before those wines come out, I’m going to go back to my first vintage here at Talley and enjoy a bottle of 2007 Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir for Christmas. For the rest of you, I suggest that you pull out a great bottle and share some stories with loved ones about the special things that happened in your lives this year. Cheers!
Winter and the holidays have most definitely arrived here at Talley Vineyards. As I write this blog, the skies are grey, it has started to rain, and the vines continue to turn various shades of yellow and orange. This week, our talented staff put the finishing touches on a very festive display of holiday décor and gift items in our tasting room. That’s right; the reindeers are out, the unseasonably skinny barrel stave “Santa” is on the wall, and the large wreaths on the door have covered me in festive glitter more than a few times. It’s a very manly look! Yes, this is my favorite time of the year here in the tasting room – and coming soon is one of my favorite events!
On Friday, December 7th we will host our annual holiday open house here in our tasting room. From 4:30-7:00 pm, we have lots for our members and friends to do and see. To start, we will have special vendors displaying their products, including balsamic vinegars and olive oils by Robbie Robbins, art by Lorri Trogdon, recycled barrel art by Rerun Productions, and Arbonne products by our very own Marian Fiorentino. We will have great bites by our house chef Sarah Matthews and live music by local guitarist Casey McDonald. To cap it all off, what is more fun than getting a great deal on wine? Getting a great deal on wine out of a holiday stocking! Everyone that comes to our open house will receive a stocking with a surprise wine discount up to 50% off or a gift card to use on gifts and wine in our tasting room. It really is a fun night.
I look forward to seeing you all this holiday season!
When I joined the Talley Vineyards blogosphere, I vowed to not use my blog to sell anything. That thought is out the window for this blog, because I’m so excited about what we are about to offer our customers! At our annual Harvest Open House on Sunday, November 4th, we are going to start pouring wine on tap and filling growlers! What is a growler, you say? Those of you who are craft beer fanatics like I am probably already know that growlers are reusable containers that you can continue to have refilled where you purchased them. The first commonly-used growlers were metal-lidded pails that would “growl” as carbon dioxide gas escaped from the lid, though ours will be a more convenient and well-sealed 1.89 liter glass container.
On November 4th we will be starting off with a crisp Edna Valley sauvignon blanc. We will then be adding more taps and additional wines, allowing us to offer a variety of wines including some special, seasonal offerings on rotation. One of my favorite aspects of visiting breweries has always been the ability to taste and take home very limited run brews that were not produced in significant quantities for bottling. For the winery, that means that we can make special, small batches of wine and maybe even run a few trials. Additionally, wine on tap and growlers mean less packaging, which is environmentally friendly and reduces costs that we can pass on to you – the customer. So come on by for our open house, grab a growler full of wine and come back regularly to see what’s on tap!
I thought you might like to see the answers to my blog contest on some of our tasting room attendants I posted a few weeks back. Thank you to all who participated.
|Mike||A. Worked for thirty years as a school teacher and gives tours at Talley Vineyards|
|Lucy||B. Our Tasting Room Manager who has been at Talley Vineyards for over nine years|
|Jane||C. One of two attendants who work on Mondays and match their outfits, also our lead tasting room attendant|
|Sharon||D. Has worked at Talley Vineyards for over 20 years and considered our “tasting room mom”|
|Sarah||E. One of two attendants who work on Mondays and match their outfits, also our in-house chef|
|Marian||F. Runs in marathons including the 2011 Boston and Big Sur Marathons|
G. Is a retired doctor and drives to Talley Vineyards weekly from Cambria
|Bobby||H. Aspires to be a Brewmaster and brings a new beer for the staff to try almost every Saturday|
To start, I’ve been told that I have a fluffy and lengthy style of writing – so if you want to get to the meat, scroll down to find a game that could win you a prize!
Continuing the tradition of the most frequently used phrases in the tasting room, my line for this week is “How long have you been at Talley Vineyards?” I usually can determine that they are asking about me personally, but I like to play dumb and tell people that Talley Farms has been in business since 1948 and Talley Vineyards was established in 1982. “Oh, you meant me personally?” I finally tell them that I’ve been here since the summer of 2007.
Almost everyone that comes in to the tasting room seems to be interested in knowing about their servers, which we encourage by having enough staff so that we can really make connections with our customers. If you are what we jokingly refer to as a “frequent flyer,” you may very well know a little bit about all 18 tasting room attendants. That’s right, 18, and all with very unique personalities.
Below, you will find a column with 8 different tasting room attendants and a column with 8 different facts about each of these attendants. The first to match all 8 correctly will win a private winery and vineyard tour for 4 people! Just cut and paste the table below into an email and send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org
|1. Sharon||4. Mike||7. Sarah|
|2. Jane||5. Marian||8. Lucy|
|3. Bobby||6. Dick|
|A. Worked for thirty years as a school teacher and gives tours at Talley Vineyards|
|B. Our Tasting Room Manager who has been at Talley Vineyards for over nine years|
|C. One of two attendants who work on Mondays and match their outfits, also our lead tasting room attendant|
|D. Has worked at Talley Vineyards for over 20 years and considered our “tasting room mom”|
|E. One of two attendants who work on Mondays and match their outfits, also our in-house chef|
|F. Runs in marathons including the 2011 Boston and Big Sur Marathons|
G. Is a retired doctor and drives to Talley Vineyards weekly from Cambria
|H. Aspires to be a Brewmaster and brings a new beer for the staff to try almost every Saturday|
I probably shouldn’t include this one in my top ten list of over-used phrases in the tasting room. I hear very similar questions almost every day, about whether the blueberries, strawberries, and buttered biscuit are actually added to the wine. I only include this in the over-used list because lots of people ask just to be facetious, and it certainly doesn’t help that we have tons of rosemary planted in our parking area. When someone asks this question seriously, it’s awesome because it gives me the opportunity to completely enlighten a customer about the world of wine. This is all the more rewarding this time of year because I have the ability to actually show guests the winemaking process from beginning to end without them having to visualize it.
For me, harvest is the time of year when I can give my voice a rest and let the winery do the talking. Harvest tours are perfect for explaining the process because every step is going on at the same time. One batch of pinot noir is being sorted while another is just beginning to ferment. Chardonnay and pinot noir are being pressed, though one is releasing juice from the skins and another is turning into wine. Why stop with the sights and smells? If there is fruit, juice, or wine to be tasted on tours – then we will certainly taste. How better to learn about fermentation than to taste the juice before, and the wine after? You may ask why malolactic fermentation and barrel aging is important in many wines? Put your glass under the press and catch a little pinot noir on its first day of being wine to find out.
Be careful, however, on harvest tours – you might just be put to work! “Learn by doing” as they say at Cal Poly, is the second best way to learn about wine other than tasting. You might be convinced to do a few punch-downs or even try your hand at sorting clusters. Don’t worry – I won’t make anyone wash any harvest bins or clean out any tanks – we’ll leave that up to the pros. If nothing else, you’ll learn that Rosemary is a person and that none of the herb is used in our wine production.
August has arrived in seemingly no time at all, which is great because I look forward to this month the entire year. While summer traffic begins to die down, a whole new crowd descends on our tasting room. They are here to taste our Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs from Stone Corral, Rincon, and Rosemary’s Vineyards. These three wines, all set to be released on August 25th, represent the best of what each respective vineyard has to offer. If you enjoy the Edna Valley and Estate Pinot Noirs, these wines share the same winemaking style, but with more structure and intensity. I have admitted that it is the Chardonnays here at Talley Vineyards that are my favorites, though I have two reasons to love our pinots – the vast range of food pairings and the even better people watching.
For instance, if you enjoy Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, how many clones of those varietals can you name? If the answer is none, it may not be that you don’t love your favorite wine varietal as much as “Pinophiles” love theirs. It’s just that while you are drinking your favorite wine, they are spouting off a list of letters and numbers from 2A to 777. Pinot Noir drinkers as a whole tend to want to be more educated more about their wine – they want to know about the punch downs, the cold soak, the yeast, the forests from which the wood for the barrels was harvested. If the last sentences leave you feeling lost, but you want to learn more, visit us for a Harvest Tour to learn all about how we make our Pinot Noirs.
Now to explain my blog title. Pinot Noir drinkers love the word “revisit,” especially as it pertains to tasting more of one of our most popular wines, our Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. This definitely qualifies as one of the “well-used phrases in the tasting room,” although it is rarely said so eloquently. My favorite version: “Can you hit me again with another shot of that Rosemary’s Pinot?”
Whether you are a diagnosed Pinot Noir addict or just appreciate the varietal, visit us on August 25th for our annual Pinot Noir Release Day. We will be featuring a flight of all five of our 2010 Talley Vineyards Pinot Noirs, plus a secret selection from our library in a five-liter format. Not to mention there will be food available for purchase by a great new food truck, Anna Andriese’s Haute Skillet, and music by Doug Groshart of the JD Project. I hope to see you there!
I’ve decided to start each of my blogs with a segment that I like to call “well-used phrases in the tasting room.” Some apply to Talley only, some are universal. Here’s one for this week: “Wow, you really must get tired of looking at this view all the time!” For those of you who haven’t been to our tasting room, we have big picture windows that overlook rolling hills, our vineyards, and vegetable fields.
I’ve heard people comment on the view thousands of times, as this July marks my fifth year at Talley Vineyards. During this time, I have met guests from all different corners of the world and enjoyed the pleasure of working with a great group of people over the years. Early on I noticed that this is not the place to work for the private, mind-your-own-business type – this is like having a whole other family. "When are you going to graduate?" "When are you getting married?" "When are you going to wash the 'Just Married' off of your truck?" I’m not complaining here, by the way. I have co-workers and customers who have become friends, on top of having one of the best views from any office, anywhere.
As I’ve enjoyed watching the company grow, I have seen lots of changes and lots of things that have remained the same. The most important things that have stayed the same are the great people which I’ve already mentioned, as well as our lineup of wines. One such wine is our Bishop’s Peak Petite Sirah, a single-vineyard wine entirely from Ranchita Canyon Vineyard in Paso Robles. We have purchased old-vine Petite Sirah grapes from this family vineyard for over a decade, and it is a consistent favorite in the tasting room. During the summertime, you wouldn’t expect our most full-bodied red to be our best seller – though it is! People are flocking in for this wine – and why not? – it’s rich, smooth, and reminds me of a juicy, ripe plum. Come join us for a glass while it lasts!