In 1982, Robb Talbott began planting his original Diamond T Estate vineyard on a cold, windswept mountaintop in Carmel Valley. Conventional wisdom was against him, and many said the steep, exposed site with its massive shale boulders was “too cold,” “too difficult to plant” and “too challenging to grow on.” But Robb had a vision—a vision he held on to as he prepared the cliff-side vineyard by hand, breaking apart its massive boulders with a 12-pound sledgehammer. “It all began with my first taste of a great Burgundy,” says Robb.“That experience profoundly shaped my palate, and as I grew older I knew that I wanted to create unique and exceptional Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Wines that took their inspiration from the traditions of Burgundy, but had their roots in California’s soils.”
To achieve this goal, Robb Talbott established one of the Central Coast’s most esteemed estate programs, featuring two of Monterey County’s grand cru sites: Diamond T Estate and the legendary Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Though located a mere 18 miles apart, these two vineyards offer remarkably different growing conditions, yielding rich and distinctive Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that embody their unique terroirs.
At its heart, the history of Talbott Vineyards is the story of one family’s determined focus and commitment to excellence. In 1950, Robert Talbott, Sr., his wife Audrey, and their son, Robb, moved to Carmel, California, where they started a luxury tie company. Audrey sewed the ties by hand and Robert, Sr. sold them up and down the California coast. During silk buying trips to Europe for their business, the Talbotts visited French and Italian vineyards and soon became interested in fine wine. As their interest grew, they aspired to produce their own California wines, using the Burgundian techniques that they had become passionate about.
In 1982, Robb planted Diamond T, and the Talbotts built their original winery in idyllic Carmel Valley. For his first plantings, Robb selected the storied Corton-Charlemagne Chardonnay clone, planting it in Diamond T’s almost soil-free chalky shale. Robb knew that the vines would have to struggle to survive at Diamond T, producing miniscule yields and wines of great intensity.
After years of working with fruit from Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, in 1994 the Talbotts achieved another important milestone when they were able to acquire the property—making Talbott an all-estate winery. Featuring blocks of old Wente clone vines planted in 1972, Sleepy Hollow has earned a reputation for producing wines of great depth and voluptuousness. Today, Sleepy Hollow’s River Road block is home to the winery’s state-of-the-art winemaking facility, where Robb Talbott and renowned winemaker Dan Karlsen guide Talbott’s storied Chardonnay and Pinot Noir programs. These estate wines have gained a reputation for their lushness, grace and great aging potential, and have become benchmarks of quality on the Central Coast.
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