Turley Wine Cellars
A few days before the Paso Garagiste Festival, we found ourselves in Napa. Possibly not the ideal place for this Zin and Rhone fan, especially with my usual focus on smaller artisan winemakers, but I was game to make the most of it.
So, where did I visit first?
Turley Wine Cellars.
Now, many of you are familiar with Turley’s location in Paso Robles. What you may not know is that Turley’s headquarters is in St. Helena. Now, before you go rushing over there, please note there is no tasting room and they are not open to the public. In fact, I didn’t even see a sign with the Turley name on it, the only identifying marker being the Turley logo over the gateway.
Fortunately, I had made an appointment for us to visit with Christina Turley, National Sales Manager of Turley Wine Cellars. She is also daughter of founder Larry Turley, but believe me, she earned her position in the family business. She spent several years as a sommelier in various New York restaurants [most recently with David Chang’s restaurants], earning several professional designations such as the Advanced WSET title, before returning to her current position, which she prefers to refer to as being an educator rather than her official title.
And education is a big part of her job.
For example, many people have the notion that Turley produces these huge jammy unbalanced monster wines. Yes, the Turley Zinfandels are big wines; but a lot of that is just the nature of the grape. The Petite Syrahs are somewhat lower in alcohol, but they are definitely not shy either.
But, what the Turley wines really are is incredibly balanced.
Turley also has a reputation for being very expensive. But, that has more to do with how resellers price the wine when they try to flip it rather than how Turley prices the wine. In fact, other than Turley’s two flagship bottlings [the Hayne Zinfandel and the Hayne Petite Syrah], prices on release to the mailing list range from the low $20s to the upper $40s. And, the aforementioned Hayne bottlings are released at $75. Try finding a Napa winery releasing their top wines with comparable accolades at these kind of prices.
While we were visiting with Christina, we tasted some great wines…
2007 Rattlesnake Ridge Roussanne – nice to taste this wine with a little bottle age on it. Had some nice caramelization going on.
2009 Pesenti Zinfandel – a great example of why Turley acquired this vineyard in Paso Robles.
2010 Juvenile Zinfandel – a sneak peek at next year’s release. One of the best bargains out there. A blend of grapes from younger vines from various vineyards.
2005 Library Vineyard Petite Syrah – one of my favorite Petite vineyards. I tend to drink my Pets way too young. This was tasting great. And, I learned that the reason it is called the Library Vineyard is because it is behind the library in St. Helena. Who knew?
This got me to my final question, which to be honest I actually forgot to ask during the visit and had to pose in a follow-up email to Christina…
Why does Larry Turley, along with only a few other wineries, refer to the grape as Petite Syrah rather than the more accepted Petite Sirah? This has actually been the subject of surprisingly heated discussions around here.
These are the answers Christina got:
From winemaker Ehren Jordan: “I think the question is, why do people call it Petite Sirah?”
From Larry Turley: “Here’s the word THUNDERBIRD. P. SYRAH IS A CROSS BTWN SYRAH AND PELOURSIN soooooo like daughter like father.”
Meaning: “Syrah being one of the parents of the grape, we felt it was appropriate to keep the wording. You don’t change the spelling of your last name for your kids.”
So, that is the definitive word on the subject. 🙂
Michael Perlis provides outsourced controller services to businesses that do not need a full-time controller. He balances this with his interest in wine: reading and writing about it and, of course, drinking it. He is still trying to figure out how to combine these two pursuits. Feel free to contact him about either at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.