Robert @ Makers and Allies, Author at Talley Vineyards

Author Archives: Robert @ Makers and Allies

Rosemary’s Vineyard

Rosemary’s Vineyard has become our most iconic vineyard, and has produced some of the most highly regarded Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in California. In fact it is truly unique as a site that produces two distinct wines of such high quality. Numerous vintages of Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir have been served at the White House and both Rosemary’s Vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have achieved scores of 98 points in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. The 2002 Rosemary’s Vineyard Chardonnay was judged the best California Chardonnay in the 30th Anniversary Judgment of Paris Tasting in 2006.

I was 10 years old in 1976 when I moved to the place that would become Rosemary’s Vineyard. At that time it was an avocado orchard. Over the previous year, my parents, Don and Rosemary, had built an adobe house on top of a hill on the first piece of property that my family bought in 1966, which was also the year I was born. This site turned out to be poorly suited for avocados because it frequently froze which damaged the trees and caused the crop to fall off. Within a few years, my dad started removing the avocado trees and considering what to plant next.

Meanwhile, in 1982, he had started growing winegrapes in our Rincon Vineyard and was pleased with the quality of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that we produced from that site. In 1987, he set out to plant those varieties in front of his house. For Pinot Noir, he chose the same clonal selection he had planted in the Rincon Vineyard, UCD Clone 2A (often referred to as the Wädenswil selection). As with most of our original plantings, he planted ungrafted or “own-rooted” vines because he wasn’t concerned about phylloxera and because the vines were less expensive (own-rooted vines are now exceedling rare and prized for their singular varietal expression).  A year later, in 1988, he planted the east side of the driveway to Chardonnay. Very soon after that, he decided to name the vineyard after my mother.

Evening Rincon Vineyard
Evening Rincon Vineyard
Evening Rincon Vineyard
Evening Rincon Vineyard

The very first harvest of Pinot Noir from Rosemary’s Vineyard was blended into our Estate Pinot Noir in 1990. In 1991, my dad decided to sell some of the grapes to Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat winery in Santa Barbara County, who produced a legendary single vineyard bottling, in fact the first to bear the moniker “Rosemary’s Vineyard.” We produced the first vintage of Talley Vineyards Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir in 1993, most of which was sold directly to the customers on our mailing list. In 1994, I began planting Pinot Noir in the area behind my parents’ house. I’ll never forget the day Vineyard Manager Rudy Romero and I were marking the vineyard when my dad came out of his house and noticed that the vines would be planted on 8 foot rows, too narrow for the D4 Caterpillar tractor we used for tillage at that time. I told him that this was how a world class vineyard should be planted and that we could buy a smaller tractor. He muttered something under his breath and walked away—but he let me have my way.

Over time, we expanded the vineyard so that now it very nearly surrounds my mother’s house and consists of 14 acres each Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Most of the original Chardonnay planting on the east side of the driveway has now been replanted with Pinot Noir, this time on 6 foot rows. The original own-rooted 2 1/2 acre block of Pinot Noir on the west side of the driveway remains.

Climatically, Rosemary’s Vineyard is the coolest site that we farm, which means that the grapes ripen slowly and maintain the refreshing acidity that is the hallmark of world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The soil type, classified as “Lopez Very Shaly Loam” is distinct from the calcareous clays that we farm in the Rincon Vineyard or the sand or sandy clay loam of our vineyards in the Edna Valley. We employ gentle sustainable farming practices and classic old world winemaking to coax all of the potential out of this truly special site.

When I stand at the top of the vineyard and look to the ocean, just 6 1/2 miles to the southwest, I reflect on the blessing I’ve received to make wine from this special place.  I do my very best to honor the legacy that began when my father began planting vines here in 1987. I think about him as I walk through the section he planted—the section that produces the very best Pinot Noir grapes that we farm—grapes that form the backbone of every bottle of Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir that we release.

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Grandma's Apple Pie


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2018 Estate Pinot Noir

El Rincon Adobe – A History

“The Rincon Adobe is truly the symbol of Talley Vineyards: It’s been pictured on every bottle of Talley Vineyards wine we’ve ever produced. It’s the first thing visitors see when they arrive, and it’s made of the earth of this place. It preceded us here and will endure long after we’re gone.”  Brian Talley

The first thing visitors see when they arrive at Talley Vineyards is the historic El Rincón Adobe built in the early 1860’s by Ramon Branch, son of Francis Ziba Branch, holder of the Rancho Santa Manuela Land Grant and one of the original settlers of the Arroyo Grande Valley.  The house is constructed of sun dried mud bricks crafted onsite from soil collected from the area. 

The El Rincon Adobe, still standing today at Talley Vineyards.

The Branch family spoke of the ranch surrounding the adobe house as “El Rincón,” which means “the corner” in Spanish, likely referring to the corner of the 16,955-acre Rancho Santa Manuela.  The Rincón Adobe was the smaller of the two adobe houses constructed by the Branch family.  The larger Casa Santa Manuela, built by Francis Ziba Branch about two miles west, on land owned by the Ikeda family, no longer stands.

During the years that the Branch family lived in the adobe, the driveway leading to the property was lined by olive trees as it is today.  The house itself was surrounded by fruit trees and geranium hedges.  The deep window sills are a distinctive feature of the house, reflecting the adobe walls that are more than 24 inches thick.  Each morning, according to family lore, the Branch children stood in the sills waiting for their mother to dress them.

First built some time around 1860, the El Rincon Adobe was restored in 1987.

Ramon began to establish El Rincón immediately after he and his wife Isabela moved into the adobe, working the surrounding flat land along with his older sons and hired help.  Here he raised wheat, barley, corn, and beans, maintained livestock and operated a dairy.  The Branch family continued to live off the land surrounding the adobe until they moved in 1892.  To this day, this is some of the most productive agricultural land in the Arroyo Grande Valley.

El Rincón changed hands twice before the Talley family purchased the property in 1974 for its prime vegetable land.  Don Talley began planting wine grapes in the Rincon Vineyard in 1982, and since Talley Vineyards’ first vintage in 1986, the adobe has been pictured on the winery’s labels.  In 1988 the building-the oldest continuously inhabited residence in San Luis Obispo County until that time-was restored to serve as the Talley Vineyards Tasting Room.

Though no longer the main Talley Vineyards tasting room, the Rincón Adobe remains the symbol of Talley Vineyards and the Talley family’s enduring commitment to the soil and history of the Arroyo Grande Valley.  Winery tours include a visit to the adobe, tasting in the historic building and are available for members of the Talley Vineyards Wine Clubs.

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Sarah's Butternut Squash Lasangna


Sarah’s Butternut Squash Lasangna

Talley staff’s favorite day of the week is Wednesday. That’s when Sarah Matthew arrives at the vineyard and cooks an amazing meal of us all to share. It’s hard to pick a favorite dish of Sarah’s but her Butternut Squash Lasagna is certainly a contender.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 lbs butternut squash
  • 14 ozs vegetable broth
  • 8 ozs mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 16 ozs ricotta cheese
  • 4 tbsps fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 12 no boil lasagne noodles
  • 2 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

If you are working with a whole butternut squash, begin by cutting it up.  Cut off and discard the ends.  Peel the squash, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Cut the squash into cubes, about 1 inch. (Chef’s note: As a time saver, shop for butternut squash that has been peeled, seeded and cubed for you!)

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan, followed by the butternut squash.  Cook until the squash just begins to caramelize.  Add the vegetable broth and allow to simmer until most of the liquid is cooked off and the squash is soft.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. 

Once the squash mixture has cooled, put in batches into a blender or food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Set aside until it is time to assemble the lasagna.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add mushrooms, turn up the heat and let the mushrooms cook until they have sweated and the liquid has cooked off.  Remove from the pan and set aside to cool until  it is time to assemble the lasagna.  In a medium sized bowl, gently mix the ricotta cheese, eggs and sage.   Set aside until it is time to assemble the lasagna.

(Chef’s note: The above steps can be done ahead of time and the ingredients refrigerated.)

Put the remaining butter, about ¼ cup, in the sauté pan and melt.  Slowly whisk in ¼ cup of flour to create a roux.  Whisk in the whole milk then gradually bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and, whisking often, allow to simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.  Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. 

Begin layering ingredients into a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.  Start with a layer of half the white sauce, followed by half the lasagna noodles, half the blended butternut squash, half the mushrooms, half the ricotta mixture and half the shredded mozzarella.  Repeat.  Finish with the parmesan cheese on top and cover with foil.

Bake in a 350 degree oven, covered, for about 40 minutes, until the lasagna is hot and bubbling.  Remove the foil and cook an additional few minutes to brown the top slightly.


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Stone Corral Vineyard - a Celebration of Collaboration


A Message to our Customers

Dear Talley Vineyards Friends & Family

With growing concerns about the coronavirus, we wanted to reach out and share the actions Talley Vineyards is taking to keep our tasting room safe and clean for you, our employees, and the community at large. We are strictly following the advice and direction of the CDC and the California Health Department as it relates to the virus. At this time, our tasting room will remain open from 10:30AM – 4:30pm daily.

Hygiene standards are always a top priority at the winery and tasting room. However, we’ve taken additional actions to ensure we serve you in the safest way possible. Enhanced safety measures include:

  • Enhanced cleaning protocols —We have increased the frequency of cleaning high touch areas across our facility.
  • Additional antibacterial products —We have increased the quantity of sanitizers and disinfectant wipes available for customers and employees in the tasting room.
  • Event Cancellations — In line with the California Department of Public Health guidelines published today, we will cancel all large events from now until the end of the month. If you’ve reserved tickets, please keep your eyes open for more details or feel free to reach out to us.
  • Staff Training — We continue to educate team members and share best practices for protecting our guests as well as our team members. We encourage team members to stay home if they are not feeling well.

While our tasting room will remain open for business, we understand that you might be choosing to shop and taste at home. In an effort to provide the best service possible, we will provide $1 shipping on any order from our website, now until the end of March when you use promo code ONESHIP at checkout. 

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns and we will continue to monitor and make update our status as things change.

Talley Vineyards​

Stone Corral Vineyard – a Celebration of Collaboration

The Stone Corral Vineyard is a 28 acre vineyard located in the Edna Valley which was planted entirely to Pinot Noir in 2001. Just four miles from the ocean, it’s unique for two very distinct reasons: First, the soils of the vineyard are far sandier than anything else we farm. Second, it’s the only vineyard in our region that was established and is managed on a collaborative basis. Every year, three bottlings of Stone Corral Vineyard Pinot Noir are produced by Talley Vineyards, Stephen Ross and Kynsi, each of whom has a long term lease for 1/3 of the vineyard.

The soil type of the vineyard is classified as Arnold Sandy Clay Loam which is composed of weathered sandstone, exists predominantly in the coastal ranges of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties and is considered to be “excessively well drained.” Consequently, the vineyard dries out quickly and requires more frequent irrigation than the calcareous clays we farm in most other sites. This soil tends to produce a distinctly dark yet plush style of Pinot Noir relative to our Arroyo Grande Valley vineyard sites.

The idea to plant a collaborative vineyard came to me in the late 1990s. I had listened to winemakers complain that they couldn’t find any smaller vineyard parcels to develop as “estate” vineyards and that traditional tonnage contracts incentivized growers to produce large crops (undesirable for premium quality Pinot Noir).
Meanwhile, growers complained that winemakers insisted on unsustainably small production that wouldn’t cover the farming cost. I wanted to create a structure where the risk of the crop resided with the winemaker, who would receive the reward of making and selling highly acclaimed wine.

I explained this idea to my dad, and we settled on a lease structure wherein wineries would participate in the cost to plant the vineyard and pay the cost to farm their designated area, plus a rental fee. In return, they would receive the crop from that area and would control farming practices, crop yield, harvest decisions and other critical winegrowing choices.

Now that we had a business structure in place, the question became who to approach about this concept.

An obvious candidate was Kynsi winery, owned by Don and Gwen Othman, because they leased winery space from us adjacent to the site of the vineyard.  As I thought about other candidates, I realized that Steve and Paula Dooley, owners of the Stephen Ross winery, could be good partners. Steve had an extensive background as a winemaker and had served in that role at the Edna Valley Vineyard. Paula had strong business chops as an executive with American Airlines. I’ll never forget approaching them at a family picnic in the late 90s and their immediate enthusiasm for the idea.

Before I new it, leases were signed, vines were ordered and the Stone Corral Vineyard was planted in 2001. Gwen Othman came up with the name, the English translation of Corral de Piedra, the historic land grant that underlay the site. Since that time, Stone Corral has emerged as the most highly acclaimed Pinot Noir vineyard in the Edna Valley.  I appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with winemakers who share Talley Vineyards’ commitment to excellence and focus on capturing the special character of this unique vineyard site. Cheers to our 20 year partnership!

Oliver’s Vineyard

Evening Rincon Vineyard

This is the third in my series of long form blog posts on each of our most important vineyards.  Check out Rincon Vineyard and Rosemary’s Vineyard here.  I’ll finish with the story of the Stone Corral Vineyard next month.

Oliver Talley was my grandfather and the founder of Talley Farms.  He started farming in the Oso Flaco (skinny bear) area of the Santa Maria Valley in the 1930s after he graduated from UC Berkeley and returned to his hometown of Santa Maria.  He followed his employer at the time, Byron Tabb, to Arroyo Grande, became his partner, and eventually bought him out to establish Talley Farms in 1948.  Along the way, he met my grandmother, Hazel, and they had two sons, Donald (my dad) and Kenneth.

My grandfather was a tenant farmer focused exclusively on vegetables until my dad returned to the business and convinced him to start buying the land we farmed.  Over the next 30 years, we purchased much of the land that today comprises Talley Farms, as well as our six vineyard sites.  At the time my father began planting vineyards in 1982, my grandfather made two things clear:  first, while he was happy to grow grapes for others, he didn’t want to be in the wine business.  Second, we should plant Riesling, because that was his favorite wine.  Four years later, my parents started Talley Vineyards and one of the five varietals we produced in that inaugural vintage was Riesling.  Even though my grandfather still wasn’t crazy about the wine business, he was happy that we were making his favorite wine.

In 1988, a parcel of land that we were farming came up for sale.  This 156 acre ranch was located on Corbett Canyon Road about 5 miles northeast of Arroyo Grande in the Edna Valley.  Just like every other parcel we own, we purchased it to grow vegetables.  And just like our other parcels, it included hillside property perfectly suited for winegrapes.

1991 was a busy year at Talley Vineyards:  we completed our winery at the foot of the Rincon Vineyard, I became General Manager of the business, and we planted our new Edna Valley vineyard site.  It was initially referred to as Block 17 because it was the 17th vineyard block we had planted since 1982.  We needed a better name than that, and after casting around and exploring various options, my dad suggested Oliver’s Vineyard to honor my grandfather.  In 1994, we made the inaugural vintage of Oliver’s Vineyard Chardonnay.  I remember making up a barrel sample of that wine with a label that I mocked up that said “Oliver’s Vineyard”, which I gave to my grandfather.  After he drank the wine (which he declared to be his new favorite wine) he soaked the label off, framed it and hung it over his bar.

Oliver’s Vineyard is now a 35 acre vineyard planted predominantly to Chardonnay, with small sections of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.  Buffeted by the spring winds of the Edna Valley, and growing in Marimel Sandy Clay Loam soil, Oliver’s Vineyard is noted for producing exotic Chardonnay with distinct saline notes. 

Our Oliver’s Vineyard Chardonnay is produced entirely from that original 16 acre planting, which is now one of the oldest blocks of Chardonnay in the Edna Valley.  I think of my grandfather every time I enjoy it.  By the time he passed away in 1999, he had come full circle on his view of the wine business.  Not only was Oliver’s Vineyard Chardonnay is favorite wine, but he was happy to say that starting Talley Vineyards was his idea in the first place. 

Cheers!  BT