2004 Talley Vineyards Chardonnay Estate Arroyo Grande Valley

Talley Vineyards Chardonnay Estate Arroyo Grande Valley During the 1970s, Don Talley looked on as his family's neighbors in Santa Barbara County and the Edna Valley converted acre after acre of farmland into thriving vineyards. Convinced that the steep hills above his father's specialty vegetable plots were ideally suited to wine grapes, Don sought advice from viticultural experts from UC-Davis and Napa Valley. By 1982, a small test plot had been cleared and planted to five varieties, and in 1986 Talley Vineyards produced its first wine using a shed next to the farm's vegetable coolers as a winery. Since then, Don has given way to his son, Brian, and Talley Vineyards has become one of California's most consistently outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producers.

One can trace Talley Vineyards' success to two main factors: the family's farming expertise and the enviable location of the estate's vineyards. About 75% of the grapes in the Talleys' Estate Chardonnay come from their Rincon Vineyard, with the balance from Rosemary's Vineyard. The 87-acre Rincon Vineyard is located eight miles northeast of the Pacific Ocean and is the family's oldest vineyard, with the first plantings dating back to 1983. Many of the vines in the Rincon Vineyard grow on their own roots and are low in vigor and yield small quantities of fruit with great concentration and complexity. The vineyard's loam and calcareous clay soil is reminiscent of the vineyards of Burgundy, particularly those located in the Cote de Nuits. The shallow soil, coupled with the steepness of the hills, facilitates drainage and results in yields averaging less than three tons per acre.

A mile west of the Rincon Vineyard, Rosemary's Vineyard is located on a hillside shared by Don and Rosemary Talley's home. It's characterized by white, rocky sandstone and loam soil, with some clay in the subsoil. Like the Rincon Vineyard, Rosemary's Vineyard is steep and very well drained. And because Rosemary's Vineyard is closer to the ocean, it's slightly cooler.

Cluster Sorting ChardonnayThe 2004 growing season began with unusually warm temperatures in the spring, but cool, foggy weather parked over the Arroyo Grande Valley in June and early July, thereby slowing vine growth and reversing expectations of an early harvest. A final pass was made through the vineyard during veraison, when the least ripe clusters were removed; and warm weather returned in September with two short heat waves early in the month. The second of these two hot spells finished ripening the Chardonnay, so Talley began the estate's four-week-long Chardonnay harvest on September 13. At 2.42 tons per acre, yields from Rincon and Rosemary's vineyards were just below his goal of three tons per acre.

As with previous vintages, Talley employed traditional Burgundian techniques tailored to the specific nature of his Estate Chardonnay: The grapes were whole-cluster pressed and fermented entirely in medium-heavy toasted French oak barrels from the Allier and Vosges forests. (About 35% of these were new oak.) The wine completed malolactic fermentation to soften the natural acidity and to add dimension, and was aged sur lie for 11 months without racking.

Pure, scented nose offers peach, flowers, and spicy oak, with melon and lime nuances emerging as the wine opens in the glass. Supple, spicy, and dry, with fresh flavors of ripe peach, pineapple, and nutmeg. On the palate this wine has firm structure and acidity with mineral notes. Finishes with sneaky persistence. Drink now-2009.