Talley Vineyards: Burgundian Flavors in Arroyo Grande

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Talley Vineyards entrance sign and tasting room

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If the Rincon Adobe’s walls could talk, they’d tell stories of families, farming, and community.

Wine tasting with a view and a splash of education — all part of the fall season Harvest Tours at Talley Vineyards. Contact Talley Vineyards to reserve your insider tour of the winery, generally held late September through early October.

This is the Rincon Adobe at Talley Vineyards
The historic Rincon Adobe anchors Talley Vineyards and the valley's long tradition of agriculture. (Photo courtesy Talley Vineyards.)

Valley of History  

When I called Talley Vineyards to inquire about a tour, Lindsey Bateman, Sales and Marketing Assistant, asked just one question: when can you come visit? With that can-do attitude, we booked a tour for a sunny December Saturday morning. She suggested we do a tour followed by a wine tasting to get the full flavor of the winery.
As you drive up the lane to Talley Vineyards, which lies east of Arroyo Grande on the winding road to Lopez Lake, you see a handsome two-story red adobe building with a wraparound porch.

Nice enough, you think, but it’s just an old building. Right?


This is the Rincon Adobe — a dwelling that anchors not only Talley Vineyards but the history of the valley and the land that has helped feed generations of families. It’s no wonder that Talley Vineyards chose this image to represent its estate wines, and the continuing focus on family, farming, and community commitment that Oliver Talley began back in 1948.

As we walk into the bright, open tasting room with huge windows that frame the west Rincon vineyard and vegetable fields, we meet Temo Cadena, Tasting Room Lead Attendant. Temo will be our tour guide and tasting assistant today.

Temo shares that Talley Vineyards’ focus is primarily on chardonnay and pinot noir. “These grapes like cooler maritime weather and thrive in this climate. We also grow small quantities of reisling, sauvignon blanc, and syrah. For our Bishop’s Peak label, we combine our own grapes with other varietals sourced locally in SLO county.”

He pours the first of the five wines on the list — 2014 Edna Valley Chardonnay — and explains that this was produced from the 36-acre vineyard in Edna Valley named Oliver’s Vineyard, after patriarch Oliver Talley who began farming Talley Farms in 1948.

Talley tasting room host Temo with Kara
Temo Cadena, Tasting Room Lead Attendant, begins the tour and mobile tasting by sharing Talley Vineyards' sense of place.

Temo shares that Talley follows Burgundian winemaking methods, so this chadonnay is aged 10 months in French oak barrels. We also learn the difference in the two labels. The Talley Vineyards label presents estate grown chardonnay and pinot noir produced entirely from its six vineyards in the Arroyo Grande Valley and Edna Valley. Bishop’s Peak Wines are handcrafted by Talley Vineyards to capture the unique diversity of the greater Central Coast region using fruit from local growers who share Talley Vineyards’ passion for quality.

Our operations are guided by a family farming history committed to quality and long-term sustainability.
The vineyards are carefully tended with methods that work in harmony with nature. Grapes are hand-harvested and the fruit is gently processed in small lots. In the cellar, we use traditional Burgundian methods including native yeast fermentations and extended aging in specially selected French oak barrels. The result is expressive and complex wines that best reflect their vineyard origins.

In addition, Talley Vineyards produces Mano Tinta, in collaboration with others, to support The Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers, an endowment that benefits farm workers in San Luis Obispo County. The current offering is 2013 Mano Tinta Sauvignon Blanc, and all profits from the sale of Mano Tinta go the fund.

The fountain in the Talley Courtyard
A huge former fountain, now filled with succulents to reduce water use, is the focal point of the outdoor seating area.

We ask Temo about his background, and learn that he is a recent Cal Poly grad with a degree in Wine and Viticulture, and he’s been with Talley Vineyards in the tasting room for a couple years prior to graduation. The Talley family’s roots of nearly 70 years of farming as a stewardship of the land applies to the vineyards as well, and it appeals to Temo’s appreciation and knowledge of how the land affects the grapes and the eventual wine that’s produced from them. He’s looking forward to continuing to share Talley Vineyards wines with visitors, as well as learn more about every aspect of wine production and operations.

With that, he excuses himself and returns with two clipboards.

“The rest of your tasting will be experienced while touring the terroir of Talley Vineyards,” he says. We collect our things and head to the red heart of the winery: Rincon Adobe.

The Original rincon adobe Talley tasting room.
The Rincon Adobe was the original tasting room for Talley Vineyards. Now it holds member tastings and special events -- and a bottle of the winery's first vintage in 1987.
Comparing the old and the new for wine labels from Talley's vintage library.
While the Talley Vineyards label has changed over the years, its tribute to the Rincon Adobe has remained.

Back to the Past

Stepping inside the thick walls built with hand-formed and sun-dried adobe bricks, the air is cool and you can feel this place has stories. Good stories. Family dinners and celebrations, and early morning breakfasts before the day’s harvest begins.

Walking past the elegant front room to the tasting area, he shares that Rincon means “corner” in Spanish. “This was the corner of the massive 16,955 acre Rancho Santa Manuela Land Grant, settled by Francisco Ziba Branch and his wife Manuela in 1837.”

Branch’s son Ramon built the adobe in 1863, and he grew corn, wheat, beans, and barley on the fertile land surrounding the home. Oliver Talley then bought the land in 1948 and started the Talley Farms vegetable farming operation, adding land over time. Talley Farms is today a thriving sustainable farm selling both to commercial buyers as well as consumers, through its Fresh Harvest CSA program.

“The adobe was restored in 1988 to serve as Talley Vineyard’s first tasting room, and until that time it was the oldest continuously inhabited dwelling in the county,” shares Temo. “The new tasting room was built in 2002, so now the adobe is used for wine club member events and other special occasions.”

Get Thee to the Vines

Our next stop takes us up a hill to the vineyard, where a few grapes cling to the vines after the harvest. According to Brian Talley, Owner and Winegrower, the 2016 harvest, which coincides with the 30th anniversary of Talley Vineyards, might just be the best yet.

The vineyards right outside the tasting room at Talley.
Talley Vineyards is SIP certified and uses other organic and sustainable practices.

As we stop at the edge of the vineyard overlooking the valley, Temo points out the VSP – vertical shoot positioning – method used to train the vines. “This block has a typical modern spacing between vines and rows, which increases efficiency both in harvesting and land use. You can tell older blocks because the vines are planted further apart and there is more space between the rows.”

This year’s green growth of cover crop between the rows is mostly oats and bell beans, with some blocks planted with barley. “Cover crops discourage weeds, improve the soil, and control erosion,” he shares.

Talley Vineyards is SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certified, as evidenced by the drip irrigation system that applies water to the base of the vines.

“We harvest all grapes at night, often starting after midnight,” he said. “The grapes are firmer then and stand up better to transport.”

The vines will be pruned in a few weeks when they are dormant, and the vineyard will tuck in for the winter and await next year’s fruit.

The Talley family owns six unique vineyards comprising 190 acres in Coastal San Luis Obispo County. Rincon Vineyard (95 acres), Rosemary’s Vineyard (27 acres), Monte Sereno Vineyard (three acres), and Las Ventanas Vineyard (four acres) are located in the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA. Oliver’s Vineyard (41 acres) and Stone Corral Vineyard (28 acres) are located in the neighboring Edna Valley AVA.

A tour of the Talley Vineyards bottling line.
The bottling line brings wine from barrel to bottle in about a minute.

The Winery – Where the Magic Happens

We make our way back down the hill to the building which holds the large fermenters and the bottling machine. Temo pours our next tasting — 2014 Talley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir — as he explains about the fermentation process, which takes two to three weeks.

“Cap management — breaking up the cap of skins and stems that rise to the top and slow the fermentation process — is done by hand with the smaller containers using punch downs, and with air-powered pump overs in the bigger fermenters.”

Talley Vineyards bottles its own wine, and we stand in the middle of the now-quiet bottling line. “When we’re at full production, the bottling machine turns out 44 bottles a minute,” said Temo, “from filling the bottle, corking, capping, and labeling.”

If that’s not impressive enough, a new bottling machine is due to arrive in January, which will crank out 60 bottles a minute.

The Barrel Room – Resting before Greatness

Our next stop is the barrel room. As we stand beneath the stacks of 3,000 barrels, each holding 55 to 60 gallons – or about 25 cases of wine – Temo pours the next wine on our tasting: 2014 Bishop’s Peak Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s good. Lighter and softer than most Cabernets.

Talley Vineyards uses medium toast French oak barrels, both American and French, for about three years to add flavor. “After that, the barrel is considered ‘seasoned’ and become neutral, and at that point the barrel can be retired or sold.”

For the bigger red wines, aging takes 13 to 18 months; whites age an average of nine to 10 months. Chardonnay in stainless steel barrels is aged for about five months.

Talley Vineyards barrel room.
Three thousand barrels tend to their precious contents.
Temo pouring the 2014 Bishop's Peak Cabernet Sauvignon.
Temo pours Andrew the 2014 Bishop's Peak Cabernet Sauvignon.
Temo showing off the wine on tap feature at Talley Vineyards
Talley Vineyards' growler program offers three rotating wines to choose from for the 2.5 bottle growler capacity.

Back to the Tasting Room

The late fall sun thaws the chill of the barrel room as we walk back to the tasting room. There Temo pours our last wine on the list: 2013 Bishop’s Peak Elevation. This Bordeaux style blend of Paso Robles-sourced Cab Franc, Malbec, and Petite Verdot is balanced, fruity, with notes of olallieberrry.

We ask Temo’s favorite Talley Vineyards wines. Without hesitation, he shares, “For red, it’s the Cabernet. My favorite white is the late harvest Sauvignon Blanc.”

He adds, “It’s perfect over coconut ice cream.”

Talley Vineyards sells bottles of wine, of course, but it also sells growlers. Behind the tasting room counter, the wine tap offers three rotating wines that fill the growler with the equivalent of 2.5 bottles of wine.

“We top the growler with argon before we cap it, so it will keep unopened about two weeks,” said Temo. “They’re great for parties or weekends with house guests – or any time you can finish the wine in two or three days.”
Today’s tap options are a Riesling, a Pinot Noir, and an Argentinian-style blend.

Temo pours another couple wines off list, and we revisit Elevation before buying a glass to enjoy in the comfortable lounge chairs bordering the peaceful outdoor area. A group of girlfriends play a quiet game of beanbag toss. As we look across the soft grass and towering former fountain now filled with succulents, we recognize the barrel room, cleverly designed to look like a bunkhouse.

Earlier, Temo had mentioned Tunes at Talley – live music on the lawn on alternating summer Sunday afternoons. We can picture it. And we’ll be back to experience it firsthand, perhaps with a cool glass of Talley Vineyards estate Chardonnay.

The 805 Wine Country team wants to thank the entire Talley Vineyards team for sharing the family spirit and community in an educational and full-flavored experience.

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