My daughter, a student at UT Austin, is home for a couple of weeks and two of her Texas college friends visited us on a summer road trip from San Francisco to Austin. Since these kids are of drinking age I invited them to Talley Vineyards for wine tasting and a tour, a new experience for both.
We started in the tasting room so I could acquaint them with Talley Vineyards and get a sense of the wines they like. I wanted to tailor the tasting to their preferences and maybe introduce them to some wines they’d never tried. It’s a pleasure for me to initiate newbies to wine as it’s been a love of mine for many years.
I started my daughter’s friends off with Bishop’s Peak Sauvignon Blanc and immediately one of them said, “This is probably a stupid question, but what does Sauvignon Blanc mean?” I did not find the question stupid and was happy to explain grape varieties and how they make wines that taste different from one another. As we continued the wine tasting and toured the winery for the next hour, I loved the many questions they had. But they always started with “this is probably a dumb question…” or “I know this is stupid of me to ask…”
And that got me thinking, why is wine so intimidating?
The intimidation factor is not a part of discovering beer. The major craft beer boom of the past few years has brought us Saisons, Hazys, IPAs, Double IPAs, Nitro Stouts and on and on. I visit a lot of craft breweries and I’ve never heard anyone start a question about beer with, “I know this might be dumb of me, but…” They simply ask without fear of judgement.
Does the anxiety about looking dumb stem from how we as an industry present the product, with the whole swirl, sniff, suck in air method? Is it that we offer descriptors of the wine’s aromas and taste, so people feel stupid if they don’t pick up on them? Is it the “We shall sell no wine before it’s time” advertising? I don’t know the answer, but I do feel that as an industry we have failed to create an unintimidating atmosphere for our new customers. The sad thing is, I’ve been drinking wine for many years, I’ve asked lots of questions of many different winemakers and tasting room staff, and I’ve never been made to feel dumb; so the actual experience of tasting is very different from the perception.
Like I said, I’m not sure how to fix the problem, but I encourage you to not fall victim to that feeling of intimidation. When you come out to Talley Vineyards, please come filled with questions about wine, wine making, growing, or anything else. There are no dumb questions and our exceptional and friendly tasting room staff will gladly enlighten and encourage you.
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!
“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.
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.
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.
Since everyone loves a good list…here is my list for the Top 10 Things to Do when you are visiting our area (or if you live here and need some refreshers on what makes this area so great). But this week you only get the first 5. Stay tuned for 6-10 in a later blog.
#1. Wine tasting at Talley Vineyards! Of course, this is the number one thing-to -do. For the best experience plan ahead and schedule a private tasting in our Rincon Adobe. You’ll have the opportunity to taste some older vintages, learn a little history and have some nice snacks. Then wrap up your tasting with a picnic on the grounds and a little game of Ping Pong or Corn Hole.
#2. Take a hike…up a hill or along the coast or up a creek. My passion is hiking and there are so many exceptional hikes or walks within an hour or so of Arroyo Grande ranging from an easy stroll to a heart pounding climb. I use an App called All Trails which is a great resource for finding every type of walk or hike imaginable. You can take an easy stroll on the Bluffs Trail in Montana de Oro, or get your heart rate up hiking the Lizzie Street trail to the tower in San Luis Obispo. There are about 50 different options locally for all ranges of fitness and I’ve done most and always find something worth seeing, whether it’s the view from the top of Ontario Ridge or the cool trees in the Elfin Forest (which is good walk if you have strollers or wheel chairs with awesome views of Morro Rock).
#3. Head out to Montana de Oro outside of Los Osos. This state park has no entry fee and a range of activities. My 10 year old nephew loves to go out there and jump off of the sand dunes before heading to the tide pools. This is also a great location to whale watch, hang at the beach, walk along the bluffs, go on a mountain bike ride, hike a peak, surf or have a picnic. Truly a great place to spend a day and they have a campground there, as well.
#4. Check out the Point San Luis Lighthouse in Avila Beach. My favorite way to go to the lighthouse is by paddleboard or kayak. It’s relatively easy to paddle out of Port San Luis through the bay and around the point to the west and park your kayak or paddleboard on the beach. Then it’s a very short walk to the lighthouse where you can swing on a swing hanging from a giant eucalyptus tree before cruising around the grounds. There are guided tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. If you aren’t into paddling you can sign up for a guided hike or a trolley trip to the lighthouse. You can find all of the tour, hike and trolley information at www.sanluislighthouse.org.
#5. Enjoy the local Craft Brewery explosion. We are blessed in this area with so many great brewmasters. Each has their own unique offerings. In SLO you can enjoy the cool corrugated building and patio of Bang the Drum, or the fire pit and patio of Tap It, or the great live music at SLO Brew. If you head north a little, one of my favorites is Barrel House Brew with its outdoor grassy area and bands playing on an old flat bed truck. In Arroyo Grande you can head to Figueroa Mountain Brew which has taprooms up and down the central coast.
I have a bit of a backpacking bug that started about 18 years ago when my best friend from high school, who was living in Lone Pine, CA, invited me on a backpacking trip with some other lady friends of hers to the Mt. Whitney wilderness area. I hadn’t been backpacking since a very inauspicious trip as an 8 year old with my dad and brother where it rained all night and our dehydrated spaghetti and meatball meal never fully hydrated so I was cold, wet and eating crunchy meatballs and noodles. It didn’t really make me want to go again. However, I saw this trip as a chance to have a break from hanging out with my toddler daughter and drove the 5 + hours from SLO to Lone Pine and hiked up to above 10000 feet with my friend and a couple other ladies and I’ve been hooked ever since. On that first trip as an adult, I decided I didn’t want to hike up a hill for hours without a reward at the top so I took a bottle of wine with me. I didn’t know any better, so I actually packed up a full bottle and corkscrew and it was worth the extra 3 lbs. of weight and the space in my pack and the need to pack it out. On that trip, we drank a bottle of Saucelito Canyon Zinfandel, which was a wine we used to sell out of the Talley Vineyards Adobe tasting room back when I first started in 1994, and my hiking partners were as thrilled as I was to have that wine after a long trek uphill.
Since that first trip 18 years ago, I’ve gone with a group of ladies almost every year since. When my girls were younger, this trip for me was a lovely mini-break from work and my family and I have always brought a bottle of something to enjoy at my destination. It’s a nice little treat that I know I have earned by carrying 40 pounds up a thousand feet or so for 5 to 7 miles. Sometimes I bring a port, sometimes a nice bottle of Talley Pinot Noir, and up on the mountain those first sips are always the best tasting wine I’ve ever had. The one difference from my first trip to now is that before I start hiking I pour the wine out of the bottle into a special backpacking wine carrier (yes they do make these) so that I have a smaller and lighter container to pack in and out.
One year when my kids were about 8 and 10, Brian Talley invited my husband and daughters to go backpacking with him and his daughters over the same weekend as I was going. It turned out that Brian picked the same backcountry lake as my friends for our trip, completely coincidentally, so my little get-away from work and the family was a bit less of a get-away. Luckily, the lake was big enough so we ladies stayed on one side of the lake while my boss, husband and girls were on the other. The rule for everyone on the other side of the lake was that I would say hi and give hugs if we saw each other but that no one could ask me to do anything for them. It ended up being lovely…having my family with me in the mountains but not having to do “mom” duties. And Brian stuck to the rules of not talking to me about work. It was nice to see their fire across the lake as I was laughing and drinking wine with my friends around our fire without having any responsibilities.
Backpacking is on my mind because I just returned from a wonderful trip with my family and friends where we hiked into the Yosemite Wilderness to Middle Chain Lake. We brought along a bottle of Bishop’s Peak Elevation and some port. We camped at a beautiful location and after a long day’s hike enjoyed our wine around the fire while looking out at the spectacular Sierra Nevada wilderness. I know that not everyone enjoys dirt and sleeping on the ground, so my advice is that wherever you find your happiness, it’s worth the effort to include a nice bottle of wine (especially if its Talley or Bishop’s Peak!). With harvest now upon us, hiking, relaxing around a mountain lake and sharing a glass of wine with my husband and friends was a great way for me to unwind before the crazy that is about to begin. Cheers!
A couple weeks ago we planted 28 olive trees along our driveway in memory of Travis Monk, our vineyard manager who died tragically at the too young age of 28. We all gathered with Travis’s family and friends and ceremonially planted the first tree, each one of us taking a few turns with a shovel to fill in the hole surrounding the tree, another step in helping us all heal from his passing. These trees are incredibly important to me because the last conversation I had with Travis was about trying to convince Brian and Johnine that now was the perfect time to finally plant the olive trees that we had been talking about for so many years. One of Travis’s many jobs, besides vineyard manager, was that of supervisor to the landscaping crew and he had a plan on where we could get some trees for a good price and a plan on spacing. We were going to pitch the idea to the Talley’s during the next week but we never had a chance to do that as a team. In my debilitating grief shortly after his passing, I told them about our plan for the olive trees and they felt it was the perfect way to honor our dear friend and co-worker.
The trees that were planted are 42 years old and came from a farm in the valley that had run out of water. They were going to be bulldozed unless they were moved and replanted. Having trees that have now found a new and purposeful home are a fitting honor to Travis as he also gave new life and hope to 70 people who received organ and tissue donations. I love these trees. They are beautiful and they were meant to be here and they have great meaning. We will all continue to grieve Travis but now we have a place to go and honor him and a constant reminder of what a truly wonderful man he was. We hope you have a chance to come and visit and drive past the trees and know their story. And when you are tasting our wines, give a little toast to a young man who is gone too soon.
It’s July and I’m so happy that we are in the first week of this lovely summer month. The way I’m celebrating this first week of July is, of course, with food and drink. To start the month I poured myself a glass of our Albarino from my Talley growler and whipped up a Talley Farms harvest box inspired pasta using up a lot of my remaining veggies. It was the perfect pairing to start the month and will hopefully inspire my beloved San Francisco Giants to get over their “June Swoon” and start winning some games. On Tuesday, a group of us from Talley went to a local restaurant, Rooster Creek Tavern, to watch the USA-Belgium soccer game. It was great to experience the “Collective Joy” and watch the game with a group of people all rooting for the same outcome. Team USA didn’t pull off the upset, but my co-workers and I had a fun time and I enjoyed a tasty sea bass taco salad and a Figueroa Mountain Red Lager.
To continue my week, my family went to a SLO Blues baseball game. If you are ever visiting San Luis Obispo in July, make it a point to go to a Blues game. The Blues are our local semi-pro team made up of Division I college baseball players. This is one of the best family outings in our area with tickets only $6 each (young kids are free) and you can sit in stadium seating or bring your own lawn chairs and watch quality baseball. There is also great food with the Rib Line cooking up the classic central coast meal of Tri-tip sandwich, beans and garlic bread or you can do what I do and eat their award winning chili. It’s so good with either a glass of local red wine or some ice cold beer. If the Blues hit a home run, beer and wine is 1/2 off for the next inning!
It’s my dad’s birthday today and although I won’t be with him to celebrate I’ve already set aside a bottle of 1997 Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir to eat with the grilled salmon salad we’ll be having for dinner tonight. This is one of my favorite meals and here is a link to the recipe. I often drink this with one of our chardonnays but my dad is more of a red wine guy so that’s why I chose the Pinot. The big finish of the week will be spending time with some out-of-town friends. The plan is to head to the beach for some kayaking and paddle boarding, a little hiking, and of course a Fourth of July BBQ where I’ll be serving up some Bishop’s Peak 2011 Petite Sirah with Apple, Goat Cheese stuffed Turkey burgers. Their visit will finish up on Sunday enjoying Tunes at Talley with the band Proxima Parada and food truck Gusto on the Go. I’m so fortunate I work at a place that I want to hang out at on my day off. I’ll bring some lawn chairs, some wine glasses from home, lots of sunscreen and will enjoy sharing a bottle of wine and food with my long time friends.
I clearly can always find a reason to celebrate and encourage you all to fill your weeks with fun times, great friends, good food and always tasty Talley wine!
This past weekend we held our annual Estate Subscriber Program “Thank You” parties. The events over the weekend are an opportunity to give back to some of our most loyal and long term fans with some great food and exceptional wine. A few of the attendees have been Estate Subscriber members since we first started the program back in 1998! When I helped run the tasting room and wine clubs back then, I signed up a few of these members and it is always a pleasure to see familiar faces from my early days.
The weekend started on Friday for our Elite tier members, as they were treated to a fantastic dinner at Novo Restaurant in downtown SLO. They were joined by Alyssa Ball and Belinda Christensen, our Winemaker Eric Johnson, Vineyard Manager Travis Monk and of course Brian and Johnine Talley. The Elite tier members enjoyed some wonderful older vintages of Talley Vineyards wines in magnums with outstanding food prepared by the fine folks at Novo. The group had a great time and created some new friendships that are sure to last.
The fun continued on Saturday with a New Orleans themed event for all of our Estate Subscriber members. The day featured the musical styling’s of Valerie Johnson and her King Bees and local restaurant Bon Temps Creole Café provided tasty muffuletta sandwiches, red beans and rice, jambalaya and blackened salmon. Snap Cubby photo booth added to the festivities by providing Mardi Gras masks and hats to enhance the photo experience. The pictures I saw come from the photo booth were fun and funny and clearly proved members “Had a Time” while here.
We had ordered up some beautiful weather for the party, but unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t get the memo. The spring winds, which are usually manageable in the 10 mph range, kicked up a substantial notch. The blustery elements made our Bead Toss Game much more difficult, but many of our guests braved the winds and correctly calculated the trajectory for tossing the Mardi Gras beads, winning themselves a magnum of Estate Chardonnay. Of course, guests were also excited to try the current release of the Single Vineyard Chardonnays, a preview of the newly bottled Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs and many different older vintages from magnums and jeroboams. All in all, it was a great day, no one blew away in the wind and we were able to let some of our very best customers know how much we appreciate them.
If you would like to find out more about how you can join the fun next year, please check out our wine club page or contact Alyssa Ball at Alyssa@talleyvineyards.com and she can guide you through our Estate Subscriber Program options and help you join the party.