Why Talty? Why not someone who makes more wines, who is more able to handle the vagaries?
The answer is easy. I’m not really that interested in knowing what a winemaker can do with a whole bunch of grapes. I have seen many winemakers do just that and do it brilliantly. What I have not seen is a winemaker with the Quixotic zeal of Michael Talty tilt at such an unglamorous target.
Unglamorous you say? Indeed I do. I love Zinfandel, don’t get me wrong. Why this whole article is sort of a testament to my love of Zin, but glamorous it is not. I could think of several grapes more likely to elicit an emotional wave across the wine world than the workman-like, stoic Zinfandel.
Therein lies the beauty of Talty. Not only does Michael Talty embody the modern winemaking ethos, but he does it in such a down to earth way, championing one the country’s greatest vinous treasures like few others.
Talty Vineyards and Winery is Snooth’s 2011 Winery of the Year!
So before we get into what I casually referred to as the modern winemaking ethos, perhaps some history is in order. This producer of world-class Zinfandel actually started out as a producer of garage-class Cabernet. Funny how things work out! What began in 1989 or 1990 with Cabernet because, as Michael says, “Cab was what I was drinking at the time,” led slowly and inexorably to today, when Mike makes only Zinfandel, though one might easily be fooled into thinking that he is still doing all the work in his garage!
Talty is the epitome of both the modern winemaking ethos and the romantic winemaking image as well. Consider the image. A long driveway, well tended vineyards on one side, peach trees (not Mike’s) on the other, leads to a quaint, compact winery attached to the family’s home. You might have trouble finding the place since this is a one man show, and while there was a sign out on Dry Creek Road, the big sign announcing the fact that Talty was ready to receive guests was still sitting in the back seat of Mike’s car. Such is the life of the single-handed winemaker.
Being the man behind the curtain was not Mike’s life long dream. In fact, he left a career in the family business once he realized that this wine gig might eventually work out. Of course, working out is a relative term, and in the 14 years since founding Talty, Mike has had his share of ups and downs. One of the biggest problems, particularly in the early years, was sourcing fruit- a problem easily solved by doing the obvious, yet painful, buying what has become the William Talty Estate Vineyard.
William Talty was Mike’s father who passed before Talty Vineyards became a reality. It was from his father that Mike learned to love food and wine and developed the appreciation that developed into his avocation. The vineyard is a tribute to William and has formed the backbone of Mike’s production since his first vintage in 1997, all six acres of 48-year-old vines.