Talley Vineyards is certainly best known for the superb Pinot and Chardonnay that winemaker Brian Talley releases year in and year out. His family's carefully farmed estate vineyards in the Arroyo Grande Valley are the envy of--and often the model for--their neighbors. Before they became winemakers, the Talleys were fruit and vegetable farmers. Until the 1990s, the bulk of their sought-after grapes went into some of the great wines in California's Central Coast: Ojai, Au Bon Climat, and Babcock, to name a few.
During the last fifteen years, demand for Brian Talley's wine has grown so much that he can't satisfy all of his fans with Talley estate wines alone. Until the Talleys can buy more vineyard parcels, Brian's solution has been to scout top vineyards belonging to committed growers in the Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles in order to make small quantities of superb wines. He bottles these wines under different labels, most notably Bishop's Peak.
In 2004, Brian also made wine for the Clos Julien label (less than 2,400 cases), which he sourced from three low-yielding vineyards in Paso Robles: Five Oaks, Lock, and Ranchita Canyon. The warm climate and alluvial soils of Paso Robles ideally suit the growth of Cabernet Sauvignon. The area benefits from the large shift between hot daytime and cool evening temperatures thanks to the cool Pacific air that flows off the ocean through the Templeton Gap. (Growers and winemakers consider this diurnal fluctuation a key to attain the intense varietal character displayed in wine grapes from the area.) And the season's first rainfall typically arrives about two weeks later than in Napa or Sonoma, giving winemakers the luxury of waiting for optimal ripeness.
The 2004 growing season in Paso Robles was a classic: warm August days that regularly saw the thermometer creep past 100 degrees, and cool breezy evenings. The harvest, which was conducted entirely by hand, occurred in late September and early October.
The final blend of the 2004 Clos Julien is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. After de-stemming, the must was fermented using native yeasts in open-top fermenters. The wine was then transferred to both French and American oak barrels, 25% of which were new. After aging in a barrel for 18 months, it was bottled in April 2006. This Cabernet is full of ripe cassis and currant flavors, with a firm structure but soft tannins. Drink now-2010.