Wine Notes: Talley Vineyards is a product of persistence

When Don Talley first planted grapevines in the Arroyo Grande Valley, he wasn’t sure which ones would flourish, so he experimented, said his son Brian Talley.

That was 1982, when grapes were just a tiny portion of Central Coast agriculture. Don’s father, Oliver Talley, had been growing vegetables there since 1948.

“I have to hand it to my dad’s persistence,” said Brian Talley, now president of Talley Vineyards. “He learned that the cool, coastal influence of the Arroyo Grande Valley could produce world-class chardonnay and pinot noir.”

There were fewer than 10 wineries in the South County when Talley Vineyards was established in 1986. But by the early 1990s, it had already been featured in The New York Times and served at the White House.

Today, about 100 people work for Talley Vineyards and Talley Farms full time. As many as 200 more are added for seasonal work. Some have been there as long as three decades.

“I’m very proud of how people in our family get involved in our community,” Talley added. “I’m proud of the fact that we took a leadership role in the World of Pinot Noir.”

Approaching its 12th year, that springtime event attracts producers and consumers from around the world to Shell Beach for seminars and tastings.

The Marianne Talley Foundation, created in 1993, has provided more than $160,000 in scholarships to Arroyo Grande High School graduates.

In 2005, Brian and Johnine Talley established the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers, which has raised close to $450,000 for grants to benefit farm workers. In addition to the Talley and Bishop’s Peak labels, the winery sells Mano Tinta specifically to fund these grants.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Talley will offer tastings of selected wines from past vintages on Oct. 13. That coincides with the release of the 2008 Mano Tinta wines.

The winery has also invited former employees to its open house Nov. 6 during the San Luis Obispo Vintners Harvest Celebration weekend.

Throughout the year, Talley said, the winery has also held retrospective tastings for media and trade representatives.

With Eric Johnson as winemaker, Talley is able to focus on trade. The fact that Johnson, a Cal Poly graduate, is in his late 20s is an asset in Talley’s mind.

“He’s got a lot of passion,” Talley said. “There’s a lot of young people getting into wine now. Our audience is changing. At times, it’s a little daunting for a winery that’s been around 25 years to figure out how to stay relevant.”

Paso wins video contest for 3rd time

For the third year in a row, a video from Paso Robles has won Wine Spectator’s Video Contest.

On Tuesday, the magazine announced that “Zinfandel — Paso’s Wine” won out during the previous week’s online voting process. Launched in February, the video is the first in a series of “Wine Guy” ads, as they have come to be known, created by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance and Juice Media.

Juice Media also took second place in the contest. Shot on her iPhone, owner Dina Mande crafted a three-minute record of her journey from Paso Robles to Tuscany and Provence, entitled “Divorce Honeymoon.”

Mande also shot last year’s winner: “Wine Is” In 2009, “Paso Rap” took top honors by highlighting the region’s east-vs.-west rivalry.

Savor the Central Coast to return

The second Sunset Savor the Central Coast series will take place Thursday through Oct. 2. Events those four days will highlight area wine and cuisine through dinners and tastings, seminars and tours. Sunset’s Western Wine Award will be presented Sept. 30 in Pismo Beach. For details or tickets, visit

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