Among the motorcycle set, Carmel Valley Road is a favorite ride. With the opening of Moto Talbott Collection in Carmel Valley Village, it’s about to become a lot more popular. As anyone who knows him for any length of time is aware, Robb Talbott is nuts about motorcycles, and has been since he was a boy.
“I’ve been riding for more than 50 years,” he says. His first bike was one that many young men cut their teeth on in those days, a Honda 50. “It was cheap and not very fast,” Talbott recalls, “but it warmed up my blood.”
Today, he owns considerably more—and faster—motorcycles. To house them and share them with others, he designed the Moto Talbott Collection, slated to open late this summer. Located in the former Jan de Luz building in the heart of the Village, the Collection is 6,000 square feet of motorized heaven. More than 150 bikes are on display; more roll in all the time. Robb Talbott just can’t say no to a cool bike. Especially if there’s a story attached to it.
Robert Sharpe Talbott’s parents Robert and Audrey founded the Robert Talbott Tie Company, where he worked in various capacities. In 1982, he and his father founded Talbott Vineyards and planted the first grapes on his Carmel Valley property. After a successful run that saw the Talbott brand grow to worldwide renown, Talbott sold the business to wine giant Gallo in 2015. That gave him time to pursue his passion.
“I’m a grandfather and I need to slow down,” he says. After a split second’s thought, he adds: “No. I’m not slowing down. If I’m not building something, I’m bored. I have to work with my hands, have to design and build. I designed my wineries, my house…and now this.”
It’s a beauty. There’s probably nothing like it anywhere. Part of Talbott’s collection was formerly on display at the Talbott Vineyards tasting room. Comparing that display to the new one is like putting a Moto Guzzi up against a moped. Aside from a couple of dirt bikes skewered on poles in the parking lot, there is little hint from outside as to the two-wheel wonders that lie inside.
“We do three things here,” Talbott says. “Educate, preserve and restore.” Not all the exhibits are in pristine, restored-to-factory condition— though some certainly are. And some examples are in mint condition without benefit of restoration. “I won’t restore a motorcycle that has history,” he says.
But restoration is still part of the equation, and for that, Talbott hired Bobby Weindorf, a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, restorer and top-tier mechanic. “I had a shop in Santa Barbara,” Weindorf says. “I met Robb through mutual friends. He hired me to become the curator and restorer for Moto Talbott. I moved up here in December.” “Bobby has been working on Italian bikes his whole life,” Talbott says. “He’s perfect for this job.”
Weindorf oversees and maintains the collection, working out of a shop in the back of the building, strewn with bits and pieces of bikes under restoration or maintenance. At any moment, his boss might drive up with another treasure on his trailer, adding it to the already long list of projects on Weindorf ’s plate. You won’t hear a word of complaint from him about it. For any bike nut, his is the ultimate dream job. The main showroom of Moto Talbott contains a dizzying array of machines.
“There are motorcycles from 16 countries here,” Weindorf says. Some represented are the US, UK, Sweden, East and West Germany, the former Czechoslovakia, Spain, Mexico and Japan. And they run the gamut of types, from tame, run-to-the-grocery-store street bikes to barebones, no-brakes, single-gear dirt-track machines to maximum horsepower road racing crotch rockets to a former Hell’s Angels Harley.
“It’s eclectic,” Talbott says, “but that’s what I love.” In this room, the gleaming motorcycles are literally stacked to the ceiling, arranged on custom-built racks in addition to others neatly arranged around the floor. A basement contains an array of dirt bikes, arranged in chronological order. Here also are a few gems: dirt track bikes owned, used and donated by several local former racers. In some cases, these men also included the helmets, leathers, race posters, tools and spare parts. Talbott has left these machines untouched, in the condition they were in the last time they came off the track.
The back of the building houses what Talbott calls the “barn-find room.” This is where the preservation part of Talbott’s equation is most evident. These bikes are not restored—and they look it. “I will not restore a piece if it has a cool story,” he says. “Once it’s restored, you lose the story.” What’s remarkable is that even though these barn-finds look uber rough, most of them actually run. “Bobby is amazing,” Talbott says. “I’ll bring in a basket case and he’ll do a few tricks and get it running.”
“I’m not in this for money,” adds Talbott. Moto Talbott is organized under 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. The Talbott family has a long history of giving back. The Talbott Family Foundation was founded in 1994 and donates to education, children’s causes, Dorothy’s Kitchen and the Monterey County Food Bank, among many others.
“There are givers and there are takers,” Talbott says. “I have more fun giving.” Moto Talbott, at 4 East Carmel Valley Road in Carmel Valley should be opening soon, but regardless, Talbott plans to open up for limited use during Car Week, August 15-21. “This is going to be a great addition to the Monterey Peninsula,” Talbott promises.
For more information on Moto Talbott Collection, visit www.mototalbott.com.