In a classic case of the grass is always greener or the sand is always whiter, there are plenty of moves afoot in the local wine biz. Pretty much everyone knows that Silvestri is moving from Carmel Valley Village to downtown Carmel, where they’ll occupy a location not far from Scheid. So, what happens to their old digs? Well, nature abhors a vacuum and winemaker Joel Bernstein of Marilyn Remark has been looking for a tasting room spot in a place livelier than his current River Road location, where coyotes outnumber people by a large margin. He’ll be delighted to have new wine-loving neighbors to entertain in Carmel Valley and will welcome those ever-important referrals from nearby tasting rooms. It won’t hurt that he’ll finally have a choice of great places he can walk to for lunch.
Another new Carmel Valley tasting room is Mercy Vineyards, a small label out of Arroyo Seco, specializing in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from three select vineyards in the Arroyo Seco AVA. Mercy, next to the Chevron station, is the offspring of Pebble Beach resident Mark Dirickson, who’s been in the wine business for 30 years (J. Lohr, Foley), along with business partner Mike Kohne, who comes from pre-Foster Beringer days. These guys have deep roots in the industry and they helped establish renowned vineyards like Dierberg Vineyards, Santa Maria Hills Vineyard (now Caymus’ Clark-Telephone), Bien Nacido and Ashley’s Vineyard, in addition to Rancho Santa Rosa. Notes Kohne, “We championed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Santa Barbara region long before Sideways!”
Mercy sources exclusively from three contiguous vineyards in the Arroyo Seco AVA: Cedar Lane, Griva and Zabala vineyards. The wines are made in Marina by Alan Philips (Byington, Foley) and are served Thursday – Sunday, 11:30am to 4:30pm, as well as by appointment. A wine flight costs $10 and includes 7 wines, with each tasting including a souvenir Riedel glass. The tasting room can be reached at 831-659-4321.
Twisted Roots has also opened its first tasting room at Lyonshead Gallery (12 Del Fino Place) in the heart of Carmel Valley. The Lodi-based winery began making Petite Syrah in 2005 using estate grapes first planted in 1918. In addition to their flagship Petite Syrah, they now make and pour Cabernet Sauvignon, Old Vine Zinfandel and neutral oak-aged Chardonnay. As “green growers” they practice sustainable farming practices and believe in “letting the fruit speak for itself.” A portion of the proceeds from Twisted Roots wine sales go to the ALS Foundation to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease and the winery also contributes to MEarth at Carmel Valley Middle School. Their tasting room is open Friday – Sunday from 11am to 5pm.
Robb Talbott’s new museum/tasting room
Talbott—one of the first tasting rooms in Carmel Valley Village—is moving at the end of April from the Corkscrew location up Pilot Street to a former furniture warehouse that has been vacant for several years. It will share a parking lot and garden oasis with neighboring Cowgirl Winery, a Georis label that has been open for four months now. The serene fountain and Tibetan canopy will make a fabulous place to relax while enjoying Talbott wines in a way never before possible. There will be even more space for tables out in front of the spacious tasting room as well. Walter Georis, landlord for both buildings, will take over the space that Talbott is vacating, expanding his Corkscrew restaurant, which on a recent visit featured braised wild rabbit with polenta. Rumors of a Georis-run bakery have been rising like yeast, but are just as quickly being punched down. Keep sniffing the air.
There is little doubt the current tiny Talbott tasting room has become cramped after 14 years of solid growth. Everyone is eagerly looking forward to the significant space increase afforded by the new digs, where a large L-shaped redwood bar will take center stage. Maple floors and a Doug Fir ceiling are made mostly from reclaimed wood, as are fence posts that bracket the front terrace, leading to a stunning view of a wisteria-laden gateway in the spring.
An enormous skylight will flood the place with natural light, while intricate track lighting will bring to life the beautiful nuances of the extraordinary machines that Robb—a motorcycle collector and racer—will finally be able to put on display.
Talbott, who went to college in Colorado, is a longtime competitive motorcyclist (yes, Steve McQueen is a hero.) He entered every possible contest he could muster, running the perilous Pikes Peak hill climb many years before guardrails, pavement and runoff areas entered the picture. Among the photographs to be displayed on the walls is one recently found in the attic by his son Logan, also a motorcyclist. It shows a bearded young Robb pushing his way to fourth place in the January, 1970 Pike Peak race, aboard bike #44. Says Talbott, “That was the race of my life! It was 30 below zero at the top! 156 turns, mostly hairpins, lots of crashes. You had to quickly learn how to dive away from your bike before it hit you!” The Art and Design major plans to showcase 15 of his 30 bikes at a time and rotate them over the course of a year.
Bios of each bike, which include Spanish, German, British, Italian and Japanese models will be printed in red ink on brushed aluminum plaques, giving the high-end feel of a modern art museum. There will be Triumphs, BMWs and BSAs. Each one will have a story and fun facts. “Like wine, people want a story,” Talbott muses.
Above the visitor’s head, you’ll witness a display of 15 toy pedal cars, suspended by wires, their nakedness spotlit and fabulously unrestored. His very first one, a red Champion, is among those dating from
1915 through 1948. He collected them religiously until the prices went through the roof. Says Talbott, “They used to go for $5 each, but when the price went up to $20, I thought, ‘too rich for my blood!’ and I stopped collecting them. Then they went to $100! Glad I kept them, though.”
There’s a private space in the front of the building, called the Diamond T Room, where Robb and Vivian plan to entertain their friends, while basking in black leather chairs and enjoying the striking view of an Agusta MV motorcycle lit up through the window in front of them. Guests will be surrounded by reminders of Diamond T—the beloved old truck that inspired the name of their estate vineyard. For visitors who want to sit indoors, there will be a sofa and a flat screen TV, running video loops of the gorgeous Talbott vineyard properties.
“When you walk into the new tasting room,” says Robb, “You’ll experience an unprecedented flood of color, with striking reds, blacks, greens and yellows from the works of art on display all around and above you.” Salute the rare airplane that looks like it’s coming in for a landing, right on the tasting bar. He calls it the “Spirit of St. Louis.” Like the pedal cars, the plane is unrestored. Says Talbott, “When you restore stuff, it destroys character.” Sounds like Talbott winemaker Karlsen talking about “fixing” wine.
When it opens, the new Talbott tasting room will house the most unique antique motorcycle collection anywhere. Talbott hopes to eventually augment it with trophy cases filled with polished motors, which he’s stripping down in his spare time. Regardless of what greets the eye, Robb wants you to remember that this is a wine tasting room that just happens to feature both great vintages of unparalleled wines, along with a matchless collection of vintage motorabilia. It will be unlike anything in California, and a fitting complement to the matchless treasure trove of wines crafted by local legend himself, Dan Karlsen.
Photos by Laura Ness
Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.