There may be no boutique winery in California that was more born out of a farming culture and mindset than Talley Vineyards. The Talley family began farming land in the Arroyo Grande Valley in 1948, when Oliver Talley began growing specialty vegetables. Oliver's son, Don, was running the family business in the late 1970s when young wineries began planting grapes in the Edna Valley. Don Talley took a great interest in the new plantings, and after extensive analysis, became convinced that there was great potential for high quality grape production on Talley Farms. A small plot was planted to five different varieties in 1982. The results led Talley to dedicate almost 200 acres of property to vineyards.
Located just 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Arroyo Grande Valley runs diagonally - northeast-southwest - and opens directly to the ocean, making it one of the coolest and most temperate viticultural areas in California. This cool, long and mild growing season, is ideal for the production of the Burgundian varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Talley's first vintage was 1986, making just 450 cases. For five years, the Talley wine was made in a small facility next to one of Talley Farms' vegetable coolers. By the harvest of 1991, a new state-of-the-art winery had been completed, carefully designed with a total gravity system for crushing, so that grapes are handled as gently as possible. Excellent cooling and humidity systems allow the Chardonnay and Pinot to maintain ideal temperatures during barrel fermentation and aging.
But the real secret at Talley is in their core knowledge base - farming. Even in the late 1980s, Talley Vineyards was a prized grape source for the young stars of the Central Coast - wineries like Ojai, Au Bon Climat, and Babcock. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay harvested off of the Rincon and Rosemary's Vineyards were in tremendous demand. Years ago, Brian Talley, Don's son, told us about the oddity of farming grapes. "When you grow peppers," he said, "the bigger the peppers, the more peppers there are, the more the peppers are worth. But when you grow grapes, you must farm to grow few grapes, tight clusters of grapes, small berries." It soon became clear to Brian that the cost of farming grapes at Talley Farms was much too high, and the quality much too good, to continue to sell Talley Farms grapes. Little by little, Brian reined in grape contracts so as to increase the production of Talley Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The 2003 Talley Estate Pinot Noir is made entirely from grapes harvested from Talley's two prize-winning vineyards - Rincon and Rosemary's. This rich, but beautifully balanced Pinot is full of violet and black fruit aromas followed by spicy blackberry flavors. We like it served on the cool side, at around 58 degrees.