Local Spotlight: Talisman Wines
For over 20 years, Scott and Marta Rich have been exclusively creating Pinot Noir. It all started when Scott Rich, founder of Talisman Wines, was just six years old. At age six, Scott was first exposed to wine-making by family friends, who made wine in their basement. And so, Scott's journey to become a winemaker began.
Years later, Scott attended UC Davis, where he studied enology, and completed enology research work with RH Phillips and Robert Mondavi. He then went on to work as a winemaker for Moraga Vineyards in Bel Air, California, producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Marta Rich was also exposed to the process of wine-making at a relatively early age. Growing up, Marta's father was a winemaker, who produced wine in the basement of their Minnesota home using any grapes he could get his hands on. However, Marta's interests in becoming a winemaker herself were not immediately apparent. Seeking to experience life in a warmer climate, Marta studied at the University of Colorado, where she earned a degree in psychology. Soon after, Marta moved to Napa Valley, where she became immersed in the area's wine-culture. Marta went on to spend the next 18 years working in Napa for Robert Mondavi, scheduling grape harvests and eventually running the entire Northern California's sales team.
Today, Scott and Marta Rich work together to combine their passions and interests, to fuel their own winery, Talisman Wines. The name Talisman Wines was inspired by an actual talisman, that had been blessed by a medicine man and given to Scott by his American Indian mother many years ago. A talisman is defined as an "object imbued with the power to protect the bearer from harm." Similar to the talisman's special powers as a result of being blessed by the medicine man, grapes are transformed into wine solely by the specialized hand of the winemaker, not because the grapes themselves have special powers.
We are so excited for the girl & the fig's upcoming winemaker dinner with Talisman Wines at Suite D, on November 10th! To learn even more about Talisman Wines, we met with Scott and Marta to ask them about their stories as wine-makers, as well as their own personal wine-making practices.
How did you first become involved in wine-making?
"I was dropped on my head as a small child. (standard answer, and actually true…)
Seriously, I was always interested in wine with its extensive history, geographic diversity and intertwining roots in agriculture, science and art; I just couldn’t resist. The final result must be aesthetically pleasing, meaning we need to work very hard to weave together the challenges of agriculture, mother nature’s wraths some years, the science and the artistry… there's never a dull moment!"
Tell us about your wine-making philosophies. Are there ways in which your process or approach is distinct?
"My emphasis is on maintaining the integrity of the vineyard in the wine. We work hard to craft Pinot Noirs that will age gracefully and have very seductive textures, body and depth. I want substantial flavor in the mouth but with grace and elegance on the palate; a tricky enterprise with Pinot Noir. We use techniques to highlight those qualities: ambient (wild, locally present) yeast, a component of whole cluster (typically 30%), extended maceration (skin contact after fermentation finishes), gentle pressing and several different barrel makers. Each barrel highlights different aspects of the wine: aroma, depth, texture, structure, fruitiness, etc. We also employ different ages of barrels, and percents of new oak. Then we rigorously taste all the barrel lots and compose the perfect blend from that single vineyard lot."
What are some of the wines you will be pouring at Suite D?
"This is a very special vertical selection (probably 10 vintages) of one of our favorite and extremely unusual vineyard sites, Wildcat Mountain Vineyard, which sits on the very western edge of Los Carneros, high above Sear’s Point and is comprised of very unique volcanic soils. We have been making single vineyard Pinot Noirs, all in tiny amounts from this vineyard since 2003 which will be part of the dinner tasting line up."
Who are some of your favorite winemakers?
"Fred Sherrer, Sean Thackery, and Michael McNeill."
Do you have a favorite food and wine pairing?
"Super fresh, local ingredients to go with the local grape source. Wild mushroom dishes always go well with our Pinots, as well as lamb and goat cheese."
Wildcat Mountain, Pinot Noir Vertical Dinner at Suite D
The Talisman Wines Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir Vertical Dinner is always one of our most popular wine-maker dinners each year, so don't miss out! We've got just a handful of tickets left; grab yours by clicking here.
Friday, November 10th from 6:30pm - 9:30pm
Tickets are $125 for regular admission, and $106.25 for Suite D members
No outside wines please