Brian Talley produces some of the most sought-after Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in California, and he's generous enough to oblige other winemakers. Recently he's sold his fruit to superb bottlings at Au Bon Climat, Ojai, and Miura. What set's Brian apart is his passion, expertise, and never-diminishing enthusiasm. He believes that great wines are made in the vineyard, and he spends his time accordingly. Whenever we reach Brian on his cell, he always seems to be "out in the vineyard."
What makes Brian so unique is the extraordinary growing expertise he derives from his family. His grandfather, Oliver, and father, Don, started cultivating specialty vegetables more than half a century ago. Don saw his neighbors in the Arroyo Grande Valley turn to viticulture, and he decided to join them. He consulted with enology professors from UC Davis, who analyzed their soil, sun exposure, and microclimate, and helped Don pick the right varietals, clones, and rootstock for the estate vineyards. The first year, the Talleys produced just a few hundred cases, and the results encouraged them to keep at it. Anyone who's tried Talley Vineyards wine is grateful they did.
Another thing that sets Brian apart is his commitment to his vineyard workers. As he says, "Growing of premium wine grapes is highly labor intensive, especially the functions of pruning, shoot thinning, canopy management, and harvest." Brian sums up his philosophy in two words, "only perfect." In order to ensure that "only perfect" fruit goes into his wine, he needs his workers to be just as fanatical as he is. Thus, he hires exclusively full-time, year-round employees who are paid by the hour to ensure the highest possible quality--a rarity in California, where most grape growers employ labor contractors seasonally and pay their workers on a piece-rate basis.
This is a superb, complex wine from an outstanding vintage, 2005. In the January/February issue of the International Wine Cellar, Steve Tanzer talks about "rhapsodizing" about Talley wines at a book signing for The WineAccess Buyer's Guide. He was specifically talking about Brian's Pinots, but he evidently liked the 2005 Oliver's Vineyard Chardonnay quite a bit too. Steve gave it 91 points and described it as follows: "Pale straw-yellow. Citrus fruits and spices on the nose. Big, rich, and sweet, with a chewy texture and good focus to the firm-edged flavors of spicy citrus fruits and minerals. Layered, deep, and quite firm. An adult style of Chardonnay, with sound structure and considerable nuance. And a terrific value." Drink now-2010.
Suggested Food Pairings:
Easy--roast a chicken. Use lots of garlic and herbs on the outside and stuff the cavity with about 3 halved lemons and plenty of thyme or rosemary. Cheese would be something gooey like a triple creme or a fresh Robiola from Piedmont.