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Something Old, Something New

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Pickers at Talley Vineyards move quickly as the dawn fog dissipates Pickers at Talley Vineyards move quickly as the dawn fog dissipates

Editor’s note: All of California’s wine regions see frenetic activity this month.

While every vineyard and winery has its own story, we thought you might enjoy the perspective of one such operation. The following harvest report is shared with us by Brian Talley, proprietor of Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande.


By Brian Talley

Talley 2018 Ben Eric PicmonkeyBen Taylor at left and Eric Johnson on right

We started our 33rd Harvest here at Talley Vineyards on Wednesday, August 22 with a little bit of Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir that we picked from the section directly behind my mother’s house. Things really kicked off over Labor Day weekend, and we picked the very best Pinot Noir that we farm, from the section that my dad planted in 1987 in front of my mother’s house, on Labor Day.

Every harvest has its theme: in 2016 it was the perfect growing season (“chill AF” according to Vineyard Manager Ben Taylor), that resulted in some of the best Pinot Noirs we’ve ever made. Last year it was general weirdness as reflected by the solar eclipse that we couldn’t see because it was so foggy.

This year, the theme feels like “something old/something new.”

The old:

1. We’ve been harvesting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for 33 years since our inaugural 1986 vintage when we became the first producers of those varietals in the Arroyo Grande Valley.

2. Cellarmaster Ignacio Zarate, who has worked with my family since 1972, tells me all the time that he’s old, even though he has the mischievous sense of humor of a teenage boy. I appreciate his long tenure of service, dating back to when we started working summers at Talley Farms as a 14-year old.

3. Johnine and me. We’re not ready to admit that we’re old (50 is the new 30, right?) but we have been sharing the same office in the winery, perched above the production area, for 27 harvests.

Not quite so old, but getting there:

This harvest marks Eric Johnson’s 12th harvest at Talley Vineyards and his 9th as the Winemaker. Even with all that experience, he’s still the youngest winemaker in the San Luis Obispo Coast region.

Vineyard and Orchard Manager Ben Taylor joined us in 2013, so this marks his 6th harvest. He admits that harvesting grapes and avocados, at the same time as he’s planting new avocado and lemon orchards, is what makes him feel old.

The new:

Talley V 2018Cellarcrew Picmonkey Full-time cellar crew: Emma Lyon, Ignacio Zarate & Edwin Amador

Our two full time production workers, Edwin Amador and Emma Lyon, joined us this summer. Edwin comes with a wealth of production experience in the Paso Robles region while Emma is a brand new Cal Poly graduate (class of 2018, along with my daughter Elizabeth) who got her start at Claiborne and Churchill Winery just a few miles up the road.

Our harvest interns are all brand new, but that happens every year. So that’s really kind of something old.


A great bottle of wine expresses the dichotomy of old and new--Mother Nature, old vines, and respect for tradition mashed up with youthful vigor, new ideas and the ever-changing growing season--all come together to produce the ultimate expression of our interaction with Earth. It’s a story that changes every year and I love it.

Cheers to the 2018 Harvest! BT


Editor’s note: If you’re planning a visit to Talley Vineyards or other wineries in this area, you might first visit Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. Among the San Luis Obispo County listings of the Central Coast section you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Wineries and Craft Beer specialists.

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