The next in an occasional series of our non-Tablas Creek wine discoveries.
I greatly admire Brian Talley and his team at Talley Vineyards. They make great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir year in and year out, both their vineyard-designates (Rosemary's, Oliver's, and Rincon) and their estate wines. The vineyards are farmed sustainably and the wines are made naturally (all with native yeasts) and taste unmanipulated and pure. Brian has also been at the forefront of expanding the concept of sustainability to include addressing the challenges of vineyard and farm worker housing, and created the Mano Tinta line of wines to support the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers that he and his wife Johnine established in 2004.
Even better, all their wines are priced reasonably. Everyone has their own price/value calculation that they make, and while their Bishop's Peak label (list retail prices between $15 and $20) are the most obvious values, even the most expensive Talley vineyard-designate wines strike me as bargains for their quality. So, it was with some anticipation that I picked up a bottle of their Bishop's Peak Pinot Noir 2009 at our local Albertson's a month or so ago.
The Bishop's Peak Pinot Noir was only $16 on the shelf, and I figured with the pedigree -- sourced from grapes around San Luis Obispo County, and made by the Talley winemaking team -- it was worth a shot. It seriously over-delivered, to the point that I went back to the supermarket and bought a case, and have been enjoying it regularly this summer. It's pure Pinot Noir, nicely mid-weight on the palate, with fresh, spicy fruit, good acidity, and just a tiny kiss of oak. It has made several other California Pinots we've opened recently feel overripe and ponderous, and entry-level Bourgogne appellation Pinots from Burgundy taste thin and sharp. Just a beautiful wine, at a bargain price.
On a related note, I've thought for a while that the Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys, in the southern part of San Luis Obispo County, were ripe for discovery. They have great soils, a cool but regular climate with lots of sun, and are in the heart of the Central Coast's prime real estate, about half an hour south of Paso Robles, half an hour north of the Santa Maria Valley, and forty-five minutes north of the Santa Ynez Valley. Even more importantly, they have two wineries among the most highly acclaimed in their categories, to help make the area's reputation: Talley (for Burgundy varieties) and Alban Vineyards (for Rhone varieties). It hasn't quite taken off yet the way that I've been expecting, but I have every belief it will in the next decade. Meanwhile, enjoy that you can get wines from this tremendous growing region without an appellation-driven price surcharge.