Wines To Know — Getting Into the San Luis Obispo Coast With Talley Vineyards Is a Delightful Breeze

A Vineyard and a Region To Put On Your Radar

BY // 05.27.24

When scheduling my wine tasting sessions, I attempt to be efficient, orderly, logical. I select a few bottles that share commonalities. Say a trio from Rioja of the same vintage. Or five nonvintage sparkling wines from California. This approach offers obvious advantages, such as comparing and contrasting wines that hail from the same area, AVA, or region.

I am, however, not always able to successfully carry out this methodology. Sometimes I’ll want to sample a wine with a specific food or meal, and that bottle only. There are also times that inventory becomes an issue – read, I’ve fallen behind in opening bottles and need to sample a good number of wines in a specific period of time so that my backlog grows smaller. I’m currently in such a moment, and in addition have recently tasted a handful of bottles with lamb sausage, shrimp and pasta, Indian cuisine and several other dishes.

The tasting agenda has reached critical mass, so you can look forward to learning about a plethora of wines in the coming months.

The wines I’m exploring today are from California’s Talley Vineyards: the 2002 San Luis Obispo Coast Estate pinot noir ($46 SRP) and the 2022 Estate chardonnay ($38). Talley is considered a pioneer producer of pinot noir in the Arroyo Grande Valley.

The winery was founded in 1986 by Don and Rosemary Talley, but Oliver Talley began growing cilantro, beans, cabbage and other produce on the family’s land in 1948. And this 2022 pinot (vineyard specifics: 66 percent West Rincon, 18 percent Stone Corral, 13 percent Rosemary’s and two percent East Rincon) exhibits the winery’s heritage in a grand manner. I paired it with merguez, whose subtle spice flavors played well with the leather, cinnamon and earthy mushroom notes of the wine. (I recently saw this vintage on sale for $35 at K&L Wine Merchants, so ask your favorite retailer for it.)

Brian Talley, the son of Don and Rosemary, now heads Talley Vineyards. In 1991 at the age 25, he was appointed general manger of the family venture, and in the years since has furthered what his parents established.

“Our journey towards single-vineyard bottlings, native yeast fermentations and sustainable farming practices is a testament to our dedication to working in harmony with nature,” Brian Talley says.

The Talley Vineyards' property is impressive in its own right. The estate produces excellent pinot noir and chardonnay. (Courtesy Talley Vineyards.)
The Talley Vineyards’ property is impressive in its own right. The estate produces excellent pinot noir and chardonnay. (Courtesy Talley Vineyards.)

You have 13.2 percent alcohol and 3,971 cases were made of the 2022 pinot noir. Winemaker Eric Johnson has produced a wine (in a season marked by low yields and below average rainfall) that will please with its approachability. Johnson followed an 86 percent destemmed/14 percent whole-cluster regimen — pressed and fermented in open-top bins with native yeast — and aged the 2022 in 32 percent new French oak barrels for 14 months, then bottled sans fining or filtration. Open a bottle now, because this 2022 is singing, and if you are patient and put one away for a few years you’ll be rewarded twice.

The Talley Vineyards chardonnay is delightful, a wonderful example of a cool climate creation. Granny Smith apple, a touch of brioche, lemon. . . a few tastes in and I was hooked. Alcohol is 13.7 percent, and it was aged 11 months in 20 percent new oak and three months in stainless steel tank. The concise clarity of this wine will impress you. I tasted it in the early afternoon, immediately upon opening the bottle, and its freshness was pleasing. Vineyard composition: 30 percent Rosemary’s, 27 percent East Rincon, 14 percent West Rincon, 14 percent Oliver’s, 10 percent Las Ventanas and five percent Monte Sereno. Whole cluster was used here, which is in part responsible for this wine’s distinctive texture.

I paired it that evening with shrimp scampi (heavy on the garlic) and would do the same again with no hesitation. (The parsley I sprinkled over the dish was especially friendly with this chardonnay.) A search of several wine purveyors uncovered the 2022 selling for $24.95.

The San Luis Obispo region deserves your attention, and these two wines from an important producer should be on your radar screen and on your dining table.

For more wine, travel and other stories from James Brock, check out his Mise en Place.

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