This post was written for my original food and travel blog, which I had to let go of when work ramped up. But it’s one of my favorite interviews and tours, and it’s worth digging up, dusting off, and sharing here – especially as later this month, I’ll be sharing a little about the Talley Vineyards cookbook! So here, I’d like to introduce you to the Talleys and their vineyard and farm before I introduce you to their book.
Wineries and vineyards play a huge role in the cultivation of culture, hospitality, and community in California’s wine regions – more so in the Central Coast than any other region, where the focus is less big business and more family business.
Inspired to learn more about the role wineries – and wine – play in my community, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit about how they manage to create their flavorful, unique, and delicious wines, I set out on a learning expedition.
And lucky for me, Brian Talley, the vineyard owner and third generation of his family to own and grow the beautiful stretch of Arroyo Grande Valley land around Talley Vineyards, not only answered my questions, but inspired me with the incredible hospitality of his employees, his farm, and his vineyard.
About the Winery
Oliver Talley, Brian’s grandfather, founded Talley Farms and began growing vegetables in the Arroyo Grande Valley in 1948. Later on, as other farms in the valley began cultivating vineyards, his son would advocate using some of the land to grow wine grapes.
The clear, cool coastal air seemed perfect for grapes. They began testing his theory in 1982 with chardonnay, pinot noir, riesling, sauvignon blanc, and cabernet sauvignon grapes and produced their first wines in 1986. The first wines were a success, and the business expanded.
Now, the vineyard focuses primarily on their famous Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, but they still produce a number of other small batch specialty wines to showcase other flavors, blends, and techniques.
Their Bishop’s Peak wines, named for the triple-peaked mountain just a couple of miles from my folks’ house, particularly showcase the diversity and flavor of the Central Coast, from Paso Robles to Nipomo. Their wines have been featured throughout the county, throughout the countries, and served at state dinners hosted by President Clinton and both Presidents Bush.
Talley Farms is still in full swing, though, producing gorgeous fields of Napa Cabbage, spinach, and many other local favorites. They even have a field of pumpkins going in partnership with local schools, who bring their students in for the harvest and to learn about growing crops local to the area.
That’s not the only community interaction you’ll see, though. Between general tastings and specialty tasting parties, partnerships with local culinary industry, schools and internships, there are people from all over the county at Talley at any given time – not just for the delicious wine and vegetables, but for the sense of community and belonging that pervades the place.
So what’s the secret?
“It’s in the details,” Brian says.
“It’s all in the details. It’s not about a different kind of process or special trick. It’s the care and precision we use in every step, from the growing of the grapes to extracting the wine from the grape in the gentlest way possible.”
And that’s the sense you get in the way Talley Vineyards does everything, not just in the creation of their wine. From the tastings to the restoration of the historic Rincon Adobe building to how they treat their employees, you get the sense that Talley is all about taking the time for precision, and about taking that extra step because they truly care about what they do.
Testing, Tasting, and Bottling
Brian took us from the vineyards on a tour of the state of the art winery and the barrel storage facility, which showed an amazing blend of traditional processes and new technology.
When I asked whether or not it would be okay to take pictures in the facility, Brian told me to snap away. “Again, it’s not the process that’s the secret behind great wines,” he assured me. “It’s the details.“
And again, I was amazed at the amount of care that goes into crafting a delicious wine.
They are fully conscious of every step in the wine process, from taking care of the fields and wine waste properly, from powering almost 80% of their facility on solar and wind power, on reducing waste whenever possible, and ensuring that the best product possible gets to the community.
They freeze the chardonnay prior to the barrel process to ensure that it doesn’t crystallize in the fridge. They use clear-bottomed barrels to watch the development and maturing of the yeast. They bottle many of their wines on-site so that they can maintain quality control of the process.
And they taste.
Brian and his wine-maker will go do a process tasting on a couple of different wines each week, and every few months, they’ll have a day dedicated to tasting everything in the storage facility. Sounds like a fun job, right?
“We spit it out,” Brian assures me, “or else we wouldn’t be walking straight after a few barrels. We also have to take a lot of breaks, because your palate gets tired pretty quickly.”
Given that it takes a pretty refined palate to pick the individual flavors out of a bottle of wine to begin with, the idea of tasting a whole lot of wine to ensure it’s maturing properly sounds a whole lot more daunting!
Brian, Scott, and I did have some fun in the tasting room trying out the tasting kit, trying to see if we could pick out the flavors in the wine after smelling them. That does help the process – I never realized how much coffee flavor you could taste in the lower layers of a pinot noir.
For some of the vineyard’s tasting notes, click here and see what else is in there – and pairing suggestions!
The Historic Rincon Adobe Tasting Room
Talley Vineyards offers a few extra treats beyond their tasting room and wine club. For one, they’ve completely restored the Rincon Adobe on the property and are offering special private tastings there.
The Rincon Adobe is the oldest historic residence in the county. It was built during a pivotal point in California’s history – right around the time California’s Bear Flag Revolt made the first bid for independence, when the Gold Rush hit, when California outlawed slavery of any kind, and when California allowed to remain a free and unified state under the Compromise of 1850.
The restored adobe takes you back to an era that cemented California as an independent state, not so much fiercely rebellious but with a cheerful disinclination to follow the rules that characterizes the state today.
Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a special tasting there?
Talley Farms + CSA
Talley Farms also offer their Fresh Harvest program to the community. The program is part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiative that brings farmers and communities together, and weekly or bi-weekly offers fresh produce to members of the initiative.
This is one of my favorite things about California – the incredible growing climate and the number of people working to make healthy whole organic foods widely available to as many of folks as possible.
The box Brian showed us contained Napa Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, fresh parsley, oranges, onions, sweet potatoes, and so much more.
And with the extra care they’ve shown in everything, they include a package of recipes to help people figure out how to cook with potentially unfamiliar vegetables – or just to get some great new ideas!
It only makes sense that they would have launched a cookbook as well. I’ll be sharing more about that later this month, but if you’re looking for some beautiful California flavors and recipes, you can find it here!
- 3031 Lopez Drive, Arroyo Grande CA 93420
- Tasting Room and Picnic Hours: 10:30am – 4:30pm daily
- We highly, highly recommend this tasting room!
- For more information, call (805) 489-0446 or click here.
Now that we have a better idea of the care and hospitality that goes into crafting delicious wines and running a winery, I appreciate my wine all the more.
I’ve always known it was more than just an ingredient, but the depth of care and community I saw at Talley Vineyards made me appreciate that each glass is an extra dose of friendship, fellowship, and home.
I hope you enjoyed this throwback post. Let me know if you like it – I miss doing this style of writing and more in-depth posts, so if you guys like it, I might try to intersperse a few between the usual recipe posts!