Brian Talley with his two daughters, Elizabeth and Olivia.

Interview with Brian Talley, Talley Vineyards
Wine History Presentation at SLO Museum of Art, March 3, 2019

Why was the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers started?

Johnine Talley and I created the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers back in 2004 for a couple of reasons. First, Archie McLaren of the Central Coast Wine Classic had developed a program of philanthropy to support various local charities in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties. I thought it would be a good idea to start directing some of that money to farm workers (which is what they do with money at the Napa Valley Auction) because the farm workers are what make our industry, and all of agriculture and farming possible. As we looked into it, we learned that there was no charity at that time that focused on our local farm worker community. Second, my wife Johnine has had an interest and commitment to philanthropy and was serving on the Board of Directors for the Community Foundation. We agreed that this would be a way to merge our interests in supporting this vital, underserved community. As we considered the issues and challenges of establishing a non-profit, we agreed that it would be easier and better for us to do this under the Community Foundation umbrella. We also appreciated the truly sustainable aspect of an endowment—the Fund will live on in perpetuity.

We made an initial donation to get things started, but the big shot in the arm came when the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers was chosen as the Fund a Need lot for the 2005 Central Coast Wine Classic. We raised $50,000 in about 15 minutes. More recently, the fund was again chosen as a beneficiary for the 2017 Central Coast Wine Classic, and the contribution earned nearly $150,000 for the Fund a Need Lot.

How does the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers distribute funds?

One of the common misconceptions of the program is that it is to benefit our employees—that is not the case. The fund is part of the larger Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County endowment. Grants are given to charities that benefit the farm worker community in San Luis Obispo County. These charities must be registered as tax-exempt 501c(3) organizations to be eligible for consideration. As of today, the current balance of the Fund is $819,000. Since 2006, the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers has donated over $165,000 to local non-profit and charity organizations.

Our newest initiative, which we started this past year, is a $10,000 scholarship for the sons and daughters of Farm Workers who work in San Luis Obispo County. We had 20 applicants and hope to have a recipient chosen in the next few weeks.

How was the name Mano Tinta selected?

As we started thinking about ways to support the fund on an ongoing basis, it occurred to us that creating a charity wine would be a great way to do this. Our cellar master at the time Jose Cuevas, came up with the name Mano Tinta, which translates from Spanish as “Ink Hand.” It turns out that mano has various connotations as a slang term, meaning “by the hand” or “together.” Jose told me that he meant “lending a hand” when he thought of the name. The name is also a play on vino tinto, which means red wine.

The first label and vintage was designed in 2014 and was painted by Jose Juan Rico, who lived in a house at the foot of the Rincon Vineyard and who at the time was a fourth grader at Branch Elementary School. Jose is the son of a longtime employee. When they showed us his work “El Vinedo” (The Vineyard) it just seemed perfect for the label.

Are there other businesses that support the Mano Tinta Project?

The first vintage of Mano Tinta was truly a collaborative effort—grapes were donated from various vineyards and wineries, and we donated the labor to make the wine. Virtually all of the other materials were donated. Over the years, many wineries, vineyards and vendors have contributed to the effort. Participating wineries include: Ancient Peaks, Sinor-LaVallee Vineyards, Ranchita Canyon Vineyards, Wolff Vineyards and Laetitia Vineyard and Winery. The Mano Tinta project generates about $30K annually for the Fund. As such, it is the single largest source of financial support.

How did the Mano Tinta Art Contest begin?

The first year of the art contest to create the label was around 2007. While all of us loved the original artwork, we thought the art contest would be a great way to engage our local community and bring more awareness to the project. Our goal is to choose artwork that captures the spirit and dedication of farm and vineyard workers to their craft. Last year, we received 31 submissions. In February, the 2019 art contest kicked off, and submissions were collected through the month of March. We’ve had all the artwork submitted on display at the Talley Vineyards tasting room, and we’ve conducted voting by the public throughout the month of April. We anticipate making the selection for the final artwork in May. Our most recent selection came from Bob Garner, a long time customer and supporter and avid photographer. It features an image he shot, then manipulated digitally. Over the years, most of the winning submissions have been paintings or other handcrafted original pieces of art, so this was a new style of artwork submitted.