Log In / Join Now

Central Coast Wine Pioneer Don Talley Dies at Age 66

Talley planted grapes in 1982, and worked hard to protect farmland from development

James Laube
Posted: December 6, 2006

Don Talley, a row-crop farmer who earned a reputation as one of California's top Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers, died on Dec. 2 due to complications from a heart transplant he received in October.

The Santa Maria, Calif., native lived with his family in Arroyo Grande, where Talley farmed a variety of crops, including cilantro, cabbage, zucchini and spinach, under the name Talley Farms. In 1982, Talley and his wife, Rosemary, took a chance and planted their first grapes--a move that would bring them great success.

After years of selling their grapes to wineries such as Au Bon Climat, the family launched Talley Vineyards, which became one of the state's greatest producers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with a lineup that included several single-vineyard bottlings of each grape. Today, Talley Vineyards owns 200 acres in vines and produces 15,000 cases of wine a year. It also makes wine under the value label Bishop's Peak.

In 1995, Talley purchased the remainder of the historic Biddle Ranch for an agricultural cluster development, an effort that could preserve valuable farmland by building homes in less-productive areas of the adjacent hills. The acquisition was one of Talley's last major business initiatives, according to a news release from the winery.

Don Talley died at Stanford Medical Center in Stanford, Calif. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Marianne Talley Foundation, which funds scholarships for student athletes from Arroyo Grande High School (P.O. Box 360, Arroyo Grande, Calif. 93421); donations can also be made to the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers c/o the San Luis Obispo Community Foundation (P.O. Box 1580, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93406).

A memorial service will be held at Talley Vineyards, 3031 Lopez Drive, Arroyo Grande, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 11 a.m. Call (805) 489-0446 for more information.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.