2013 marks the 20th vintage for Turley Wine Cellars. Over the course of the last two decades, owner Larry Turley’s penchant for old vines and intense wines has lifted the brand to iconic status for Zinfandel fans. Beginning with three single vineyard Zinfandels back in 1993, the portfolio now boasts 20 bottlings of Zinfandel as well as a handful of Petite Sirahs, a Cinsault, a white Rhone blend, and a dry White Zinfandel. I suppose that if anyone could get away with un-ironically producing White Zinfandel it would be Turley.
Overseeing the critical points of the operation since Spring of 2013 is Head Winemaker and Vineyard Manager Tegan Passalacqua. Tegan has been with Turley for a decade and takes the reins from 19 year veteran Ehren Jordan who left to focus on producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under his own Failla label. (I should mention that the Failla wines are spectacular, and Beltramo’s stocks every bottling we can get our hands on). As you may recall, the very first vintage of Turley was made by Larry’s sister Helen.
Recently I was invited to a sit down tasting hosted by Tegan and Larry Turley’s eldest daughter Christina, who has recently joined the family business as the Director of Sales and Marketing. This was a rare opportunity to taste side by side the handful of wines that are sold through retail stores. The vast majority of Turley’s production is sold via their mailing list. Tegan’s deep knowledge of each vineyard site was impressive, and I came away with a far greater reverence for the wines and the philosophy behind them. This flight of wines showed greater balance and detail than I recalled from years past. Could it have been due to the cooler, some would say “difficult”, vintage in 2011 or is it just the natural fine tuning that comes with vineyard familiarity and the desire to constantly improve? All signs point to the latter, so don’t be surprised if the praise afforded these wines continues to influence their scarcity.
As you may well imagine, our allocation of these wines is minuscule. If you find that our supply has already been depleted please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add you to the priority list for future releases.
–Mike J., Domestic Wine Buyer
2011 Turley ‘Old Vines’ California Zinfandel – $29.99 – The average age of this 18 vineyard blend is 80 years. These vineyards are newer recruits to the Turley army that have not yet received Sergeant Passalacqua’s approval for a single vineyard bottling.
2011 Turley ‘Cedarman’ Howell Mountain Zinfandel – $34.99 – Cedarman is proprietary blend sourced from Rattlesnake Ridge and Dragon Vineyard. These sites sit well above the fog line at an elevation of about 2,400 feet on Howell Mountain. The inclusion of 20% Petite Sirah boosts the already dense texture of this chewy wine.
2011 Turley ‘Pesenti Vineyard’ Paso Robles Zinfandel – $44.99 – The Pesenti vineyard and an existing winery were purchased by Turley in 2000. The vines were planted in the 1920’s in the calcareous mudstone.
2011 Turley ‘Ueberroth Vineyard’ Paso Robles Zinfandel - $55.99 – Planted in 1885, Ueberroth is the oldest Zinfandel vineyard in the Turley portfolio. Like the Pesenti Vineyard, Ueberroth is certified organic, head pruned and dry farmed. This wine was my favorite of the bunch with classic Zinfandel flavors of brambly black raspberry and black pepper. Tannins were fine and dense while the acidity offered great lift on the finish.