As the electric zing of the cool, moist wind on my face was accompanied by a large expansive view of waves crashing up against massive rocks, I could feel my stress melt away into the pristine water in front of me. I sat back and deeply breathed as my eyes took in a kaleidoscope of varying shades of blue dancing across the ocean. The fog slowly caressed the sky creating a mystical feeling of the power of Mother Nature. I was traveling along the Pacific, between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Hearst Castle, along one of the world’s most stunning coastlines known as Big Sur.
While traveling North-South across the Central Coast in California with the main intention of visiting wineries, I was also given the opportunity to delve into the way of life of the Central Coast so that I could truly understand the place that surrounded the vineyards and the people who created the wines I tasted. I stayed at the Cypress Inn, co-owned by former singer and actress Doris Day, located in the seaside village in Carmel-by-the-Sea that offered charming dining amongst small shops that sold everything from stitched pillowcases to old school candies; my trip would end as unbelievably enchanting as it started with a stay at The Cliffs Resort in Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo. My adventures were as polar opposite as one can get from my home life New York City: hiking along the ocean, touring the popular San Luis Farmer’s Market with cookbook author Kendra Aronson, and my personal favorite outside of my winery visits, hanging out with the friendliest goats I ever met at Stepladder Creamery.
Talbott Vineyards & Edna Valley Vineyard
At times it felt like I was living a parallel life; another self that had gone down a different path as I drank the wines of Talbott Vineyards outside in their spectacular Sleepy Hollow vineyards surrounded by mountains, or sipping Edna Valley Vineyard’s lovelies on the fog-trimmed beach during a seafood bake. The experience illustrated how these generously delightful yet elegantly structured wines were shaped by the spirit of this idyllic area; how Pinot Noir and Chardonnay expressed another facet that was just as metaphysical as the topography that encompassed these vines.
One woman living on the farm of the Stepladder Creamery had previously lived right outside the metropolitan city of San Francisco. One day, she decided to walk away from the rat race despite knowing nothing else, bought a mini house that could be towed anywhere around the US and saw herself as a wandering being that would be free to roam. But when she came to the Central Coast and saw the ocean, the mountains, the open sky and all the creatures, from goats to otters, all living with human beings in peace and tranquility, she unhitched her house and found a home at Stepladder. Perhaps the problem wasn’t the idea that she couldn’t stay in one place, but she had to find the right place in which to stay.
My deep emotional attachment to New York City will always make it my home even though there are a hundred reasons I can list of why I shouldn’t live here. But all of us have our own unique reasons of why we either stay in a place for most of our lives, or feel the constant need to wander. I am fortunate that I get to do both. During the hectic times of getting aggressively pushed down the gritty streets of NYC, fighting with the seemingly never-ending rain plaguing us this summer, I can always step off to the side, close my eyes, take a deep breath and imagine that my cheeks are wet because I am being kissed by the Pacific ocean as I stand on a cliff in Big Sur feeling the electric power of Mother Nature helping me to find my inner peace… finding my inner peace within a city that challenges such a feeling every day.
Everyday Drinking Wine (less than $15)
2017 Edna Valley Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast AVA, California ($14.99): 100% Sauvignon Blanc. An ideal pairing is a seafood bake feast and this bright Sauvignon Blanc. It had a mouthwatering lemon peel flavor and hints of green mango with a nice amount of flesh on the body along the refreshing finish.
Special Occasion Wine (from $15 to $50)
2016 Talbott Vineyards, ‘Kali Hart’, Pinot Noir, Monterey AVA, California ($21): 100% estate grown Pinot Noir. Sometimes it can seem impossible to find a very nice Pinot Noir at a reasonable price… the ‘Kali Hart’ has the most fruit-forward expression out of the Talbott estate vineyards and it will not break the bank to buy a bottle. Talbott winemaker David Coventry said that all of us have a section in our brain marked “yum” and this wine “pushes that button”. Ripe raspberry with baking spice and hint of Tahitian vanilla bean with a texture that felt like ribbons of silk.
2015 Edna Valley Vineyard, ‘Winemaker Series’, Pinot Noir, Edna Valley AVA, California ($40): 100% Pinot Noir. The Central Coast is Chardonnay and Pinot Noir country and this ‘Winemaker Series’ Pinot Noir from Edna Valley is proof of that. This wine is a special beauty that gives layers of stunning aromatics such as lilacs and cardamom with restrained fruit of wild cherries that has a long, linear finish that was impressive with it delicate nature.
2016 Talbott Vineyards, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, California ($42): 100% estate grown Chardonnay. Santa Lucia Highlands is one of the most highly regarded grape growing areas in Monterey, and Talbott has been a leader in making high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from this area. This wine was laced with intense minerality that had lemon curd flavors that brought a creamy quality balanced by vigor that finished with a touch of marzipan.
Fantasy Wine (over $50)
2015 Edna Valley Vineyard, Reserve Chardonnay, Edna Valley AVA, California ($50): 100% Chardonnay. This wine over-delivers for $50 and hence why it is in the over $50 category. The Reserve Edna Valley is their richest Chardonnay keeping in mind that their overall style is fresh and restrained. Kamee Knutson, winemaker for Edna Valley, called this the “Dolly Parton” of her Chardonnay wines and I thought that was the ideal descriptor. Dolly Parton may have been mostly known for her superficial outside appearance but she is a brilliant, extremely talented woman (writing many hits for other singers) who has quietly given large amounts of money to charities over many decades; so there is a lot more than meets the eye. The same can be said for this wine with its immediately satisfying notes of caramelized pineapple, salt water taffy and an underlying wet stone note that makes this wine regally decadent with an inner core that is elegant and all about being a class act.
2014 Talbott Vineyards, Diamond T Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Monterey AVA, California ($60): 100% estate grown Pinot Noir. This 14-acre vineyard was first planted by Rob Talbott in 1982 on the top of a mountain along the Carmel Bay which has a cool climate producing aromatically complex Pinot Noir. At first, this wine was brooding with black cherries and scorched earth notes but it transformed in the glass with cinnamon bark, fresh cranberries and a stony minerality that danced on the top of the darker, more sultry, flavors. The velvety texture combined with the complex dense and bright notes made this a world class show stopper that continued all its delights along an extremely long and expressive finish.