Wine & Travel

Snooth User: EMark

A 3-Hour Edna Valley Tour

Posted by EMark, May 8, 2015.

I'm finally getting around to this.  Last week we spent a few days in the Central Coast.  I wanted to do a little wine tasting, and we headed over to Edna Valley.  For some reason Edna Valley seems to be the least appreciated AVA in the Central Coast region. I really don't get it.  There are several wineries there that offer terrific products at very reasonable prices.

We visited two wineries:  Talley and Wolff.  

I'd never been to Tally before, but in the last few years they seem to have produced some wines that have received good critical acclaim.  The grounds are quite picturesque, and the tasting room is quite large.  This was a Thursday (approximately noon), and the tasting area was not particularly crowded.  There were, I think, two other parties tasting when I went in, but there were several servers behind the counter.  I spent my entire stay (45-60 min) with one of them.  I learned that they have two tasting programs:  an $8 Core Flight and a $15 Distinctive Tasting Menu.  The server also mentioned that the fee is waived with the purchase of $50 of wine.

Well, I really did not want to start off having to make a decision.  I noticed that the "Distinctive Tasting Menu" consisted of five Chardonnays and the "Core Flight" option was a mix of wines.  I knew that if I went for the five Chards, the third one, the fourth one and the fifth one would all tast the same as the second one.  So, you can guess what I did.

The Core Flight:

  • 2103 Bishop's Peak Sauvignon Blanc-- A pretty good SB.  Fermented in steel w/ 7 months neutral oak.  Quite austere.  Some citrus but not that annoying over-the-top-grapefruit that seems to be in every SB these days.
  • 2013 Bishop's Peak Chardonnay.  Steel/oak treament similar to the SB.  Not as austere as the SB, but, otherwise, similar with not-quite-as-tart fruits.  
  • 2013 Bishop's Peak Pinot Noir. SLO County Fruit.  Eight mos. in French oak, 15% new.  Bit of cherry/strawberry fruit.  Quite light-bodied.  I would suggest this as a rose substitute.
  • 2013 Talley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir--Thirteen months of French Oak wint 30% new.  This one was more like the PN that I do not like but, for some reason or other, too many people are making.  All cherry all the time.
  • 2012 Bishop's Peak Elevation.  This one is a blend of (mostly) Paso Robles fruit:  46% CS, 24% PV, 23% Malbec, 7% Merlot aged 18 months in American and French Oak.  I liked this blend, a lot.  A fair amount of red fruit.  Very light on tannin and acid.  A good hamburger wine.

The "Bishop's Peak" label that Talley uses is for wines that are not from their estate vineyards or that do not get serious oak aging.  WInes labeled "Talley Vineyards" are estate grown and receive significant oak.  So, the "Bishop's Peak" wines tend to be less expensive.  All the Chardonnays in the "Distinctive Tasting Menu" were labeled "Talley Vineyards," and all were vineyard designated.  In the fall, the new Talley Vineyards vineyard designated Pinot Noirs will be released.


I visited Wolff Vineyards about five or six years ago and enjoyed meeting owner Jean-Pierre Wolff in the tasting room, that day.  I bought a few bottles that day and was very impressed a couple years later when I opened up a Syrah.  So, I thought another visit would be fun.

After you pass through the entrance to Wolff Vineyards off Orcutt Road, you get on a dirt road that leads through the vineyard up to the facility.  There are signs asking drivers to go slow because the dust can be harmful to the vines.  So, we went slowly.

The room at Wollf is much smaller that the one at Talley--a single counter with a single server.  Again, there were a couple other multi-people parties in the room with me the server had to balance his attention between us.

  • 2013 Dry Riesling--Apricot nose.  Lightly fruity on the tongue, but, to my way of thinking, more semi-dry than the "Dry" on the label.  Sure enough, chatting with the server, he said that yes the 2013 version did have some RS, but he did not give me the %.
  • 2011 "Old Vine" Chardonnay--Here is where the server fumbled, and I did not say anything.  He poured theis Chardonnay into my glass that still had over half the taste of Rieling in it..  What I tasted was a pretty stark wine, that had a lot of similarity to the Riesling.  Imagine that.
  • 2012 Pinot Noir--Dusty nose.  Syrupy mouth-feel.  Not over-the-top cherry flavor, again, not my favorite kinda wine.
  • 2012 Red Wolff--Blend of 30% CS, 30% Merlot, 20% Syrah, 12% Malbec, 8% PV sourced from various Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.  KInd of an interesting minty hint, but with the red fruit very similar to the blend that I'd tried at Talley.  I liked it, again, for a fun daily drinker.
  • 2012 Syrah--Quite a bit of fruit (cherry) on this nose.  Stone fruit--red plum--on the tongue.  Fair amount of acid.
  • 2013 Petite Sirah--One of the surprises on this trip.  I don't think there are too many wineries that do PS in Edna Valley.  PS dark in color.  Something of a dusty nose.  Surprisingly smooth on entry, some fruity "swetness" around the edge of the tongue.  Much less tannin than I was expecting.  A very approachable wine for its youth.
  • 2013 Teroldego--Second surprise of the day.  I had never tasted a Teroldego before.  According to the server there are only about 200 acres of Teroldego planted in California and five of them are at Wolff.  Someting of a "sweet"nose, but not a particularly fruit forward wine.  Some sensation of sweetness.  Some earthiness.

I do recall a couple tidbits that I learned from the server.   Woolf Vineyards is six miles (as the crow flies from the ocean.  Rarely does the daily high temperature exceed 80F.  I'm not sure I completely believe that last one, because if you'd asked me I would have guess that it was over 80 that day, and it was still April.

Anyway, it was all a lot of fun


Reply by Really Big Al, May 8, 2015.

Pretty good tasting notes.  I wouldn't mind trying the Petit Sirah from Wolff Vineyards or the Sauvignon Blanc from Bishop's Peak Vineyards, based on your assessments.

Reply by vin0vin0, May 8, 2015.

Mark, very nice write up!

We are always looking for wine related places to visit, especially in CA. Edna Valley is on the "to do" list. We still need to check out Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara as well.

Reply by dmcker, May 8, 2015.

Thanks for the notes about Edna, and for sure it is an area that has historically been dissed. My personal experience was with the Paragon growers in the past, and haven't had anything from the labels you report on.

Why didn't you correct the Wolff server about the chardonnay pour?

Reply by EMark, May 9, 2015.

Al, I have bottles of both in the inventory.  Keep your eye on the various threads, and you'll probably see more of my comments.

v v, for sure the Santa Ynez and Lompoc areas are getting a lot of attention, these days, and, based on my personal research, much of it is well-deserved.  I like Edna Valley because it is "the road less traveled."  As I said above good wines at good prices.  If it gets more attention, prices will go up.  However, if you do make the pilgramage, maybe the EMarks could drive up and meet you.

DM, the Paragon growers?  Are you referring to the Paragon Vineyard which is on the other side of Orcutt Road from Woolf?

Why didn't you correct the Wolff server about the chardonnay pour?

No excuse.  I was chatting with the guy next to me, and out of the corner of my eye I saw it happen.  In order to correct it, I would have had to cut off the guy with whom I was chatting, and I would have had to call out the server.  I did a quick analysis and the thing that came to mind is that this guy probably gets called out by wine geeks from Los Angeles every day.  I don't want to be labeled as the "Ugly Tasting Room Visitor."  To be honest, also, I was not very optimistic about that Chardonnay--based on my previous visit.  So, I was ready to miss the possibility that this one might be distinctive, and move on to the reds.  As the tasting subsequently moved along, I was able to develop a reasonable relationship with the server, and I don't think he looks at me as "one of those guys from L.A. with more money than brains."  In fact he became quite animated when I asked about their farming.  Most of their vineyards are dry farmed.  Only about 15 acres is not.  I'm not sure I understand this, but certain hillside slopes make dry farming difficult or unproductive.

Reply by Really Big Al, May 9, 2015.

EM - Just a quick note here.  I in fact have more money than brains.  Don't tell anyone though.  It will be our secret.  

Reply by dmcker, May 9, 2015.

For some reason your link doesn't click through, Mark.

This generation is where Paragon's Edna Valley venture went haywire. I had dealings with their grandfather in the '80s up to the early '90s. They were in a 50/50 JV with Chalone (the original version, not its decrepit Diageo-owned successor), which had some interesting wines and great value back during that period. After Graff crashed his plane into power wires and Chalone ended up selling to Diageo, then it was just a matter of time. The JV soldout to Gallo....

Mark, shunt aside that conflict-averse feeling when it comes to those servers. They are hardly gods to be placated, and there are smooth ways to bring the error to his attention that don't have to be at all unpleasant. This guy is obviously sloppy if he wasn't even caught up in conversation with you while pouring, or had some other excuse for his mistake. He's doing no service to his winery, to other visitors that day (probably in the past, as well), in the future (because he'll do it again if he gets away with it), and to you with that very-improper procedure. After all, you came all the way 'up from LA' to visit and the least you can expect is clean pours. Who knows, maybe the chard was better than you expected? Even if it wasn't you should get a chance to judge for yourself, and from only chard in the glass. Certinly some of the chards from that plot across the road from them used to have their moments...

Reply by EMark, May 10, 2015.

That is exactly the article that I tried to link, DM.  I don't know how I messed up the link in my post.

JV = Joint Venture?

Again the decision to let the server's mistake slide was spur of the moment.  If a similar situation ever arises, I may handle it diferently, or I may not.

Reply by Really Big Al, May 10, 2015.

Why embarrass people when it serves no purpose?  Better to let them know in private that they are in error and most folks will appreciate that rather than want to distance themselves from you in the future.

This is especially true during technical presentations with the customer.  I'm no longer working, but the last thing you want to do is point out an error your co-worker is making, unless it is grievous and would affect the customers decision.  Better to let him know after the meeting and have him follow-up with the customer directly.  

Reply by EMark, May 10, 2015.

There certainly nothing wrong with your idea, Al, but we're not talking about major embarrassment here.  Most people understand that the only people who don't make mistakes are the ones who aren't doing anything.  I have stopped servers from doing, pretty much, the same thing multiple times in the past.  In this case, while I caught the incident out of the corner of my eye, I was otherwise engaged, and, so, for selfish reasons, perhaps, I chose to ignore it.  I really don't think it was a teachable moment.  I'll bet that most T/R servers make the same mistake 2 or 3 times a day.  They brush it off when they are corrected and move on.  I'm sure that they try to learn from their experience, but in a somewhat busy room there are a lot of distractions.  Kaka Pasa. 

Reply by dmcker, May 10, 2015.

Al, and Mark. It serves purpose. This is how people learn, and customers are better served. And as I said there are ways to do it without creating some sort of scene. It's really a pretty straightforward scenario, nothing too complicated, not too many moving parts.

If you want to continue receiving poor, muddled, damaged service, want the server not to improve, want the winery to continue damaging its reputation, and want others besides you to continue receiving poor, muddled, damaged service then by all means suffer in silence. Conflict-averse behavior in my experience is largely a function of inexperience.


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