It isn’t a secret that I love Rhônes, whites and reds alike, so reading the wine list for a recent tasting with Turtle Rock Vineyards already whet my palate. Paired with another multi-course lunch created by Chef Kenny Spost of the Napa Valley Grille in Westwood for the #LAWineWriters group I’m in, the table was proverbially set. But first, we learn about and taste the wines.
From Turtle Rock owner, Claudia Burns, I quickly discovered that her husband Don Burns came from a caliber of winemakers to respect: He was and continues to be the assistant winemaker for Saxum Vineyards – obtaining many of his wine grapes from the same vineyards – and he works on both wines simultaneously in the Saxum caves. If it’s punch down day for Saxum it’s also punch down day for Turtle Rock.
There is no estate fruit in any of the Turtle Rock wines, however, they “control all of the farming” in the “handful of vineyards” they purchase their grapes from according to Claudia. It takes two years from grape to glass. Claudia herself “does everything else” other than winemaking at Turtle Rock, but she did tease us with the idea that she might like to try her hand at winemaking as well. (See more about the vineyards in the From the Winery section below.)
(From our very own Contributing Editor Michael Perlis I learned that Don is Justin Smith’s childhood friend. He wrote about them here: evewine101.com/2012/08/04/michael-perlis-discovers-westberg-cellars/ and here: http://evewine101.com/2014/05/24/paso-robles-trip-part-one-paso-underground/ along with mentions in other articles in Eve’s Wine 101.)
If you are salivating already, check out the two photo grids here.
Tasting (Yep, I loved them all)
2016 Willow White
63% Grenache Blanc, 28% Roussanne, 5% Picpoul, 4% Viognier
On the nose I got lemonade, popcorn kernel, unsalted butter and toasted oak. The taste gave way to flavors of lemon, peach, apricot, kiwi, green apple with a mild acidity allowing for a lingering finish.
2016 Plum Orchard
68% Grenache, 32% Mourvedre
2015 was their first vintage from Plum Orchard, and the sandy soils allow for a “filtration system, a leaner wine…” they then added “stem tannins (to) accentuate the spice.” Aromas of black cherry, black pepper, plum, dark chocolate, forest floor, leaves and sage. On the mouth I got fresh dark fruit, killer spice notes, pepper, very rich.
2015 Willow’s Cuvee
45% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, 5% Carignon
Stewed fruit, plums again, creamy milk chocolate, white pepper and toasted oak on the nose, followed by flavors of ripe berries, spice and cracked black pepper.
2016 G2 Syrah
90% Syrah, 6% Grenache, 4% Mourvedre
A wonderfully balanced nose of both fruit and spice. Also felt a velvety quality, blue to black fruit, tri-color pepper, char, sweet chocolate candy, oak and a whiff of cigar wafting through it all. Tasting the wine, knowing from the nose I would love it, I found that it was filled with bold dark fruit, had a dusty quality, lots of spice and again, with a great balance.
Surprise Wine: 2016 “Maturin” (The name is an ode to a Stephen King horror series that references a turtle). 50% Syrah, 32% Graciano*, 18% Grenache. Wine Club Only. Aromas of blackberry, rich earth, mint and cream. On the mouth I loved the dry, richly layered qualities that also included lots of pepper and spice, dark fruit and tannin that allowed for no end to the finish. Seriously, the fruit and the spice just went on and on. That’s what I call a welcoming wine.
* Graciano was FKA Mourvedre in many Paso Robles vineyards until very recent. It shook things up a bit. This is just one article about it.
NAPA VALLEY GRILLE PAIRING MENU BY EXECUTIVE CHEF KENNY SPOST
For the Willow White: Harvest Salad, roasted butternut squash, green dragon apple, glazed walnuts, baby kale, feta cheese, maple-olive dressing. I couldn’t get enough of this salad. Every bite had so many enticing flavors. The wine was the perfect accompaniment; both had those notes of green apple. One of the other writers commented “good start” and I had to agree.
For the Plum Orchard: Cast iron seared Branzino, toy box summer squash, red plum jam, fennel-arugula salad. Loved the plum in the dish that matched up perfectly with the plum I had found in the nose of the wine.
For the Willow’s Cuvee: Oven roasted Duck Breast, roasted cauliflower, port wine glaze. Again the flavors Chef added – specifically the glaze – was perfect with predominately Grenache driven blend.
For the G2 Syrah: Petit filet, Bing cherry red wine demi glace, truffle mashed potatoes, fat rendered breadcrumbs. Oh boy, saving the biggest wine for the steak was, of course, perfect for my palate.
FROM THE WINERY
2016 Willow White: Aged in 20% new French oak to give a touch of creaminess. The remainder was aged in 40/40 stainless and neutral French barrels to preserve the minerality and crispness. The nose gives way to fresh stone fruit, lemongrass and flower petals while the palate is of Granny Smith apple and dried kiwi. Cases produced 106. Drink now to 2022. Wine Advocate– 93 points G2 Vineyard, Plum Orchard, Windrock.
2016 Plum Orchard: The Plum Orchard vineyard is in the Templeton Gap District and is made up of sandy soils. It sits near a creek bed which provides minerality, spice, and purity of fruit. We did 50% whole cluster fermentation for added weight and complexity and aged for 22 months in neutral French 400L barrels. It’s a gorgeous wine with a silky texture, bright red fruit and a bit of white pepper and herbaceousness. Cases produced 104. Enjoy now until 2028. Plum Orchard Vineyard.
2015 Willow’s Cuvee: We added just a touch of Carignon for tannin and structure to our usual blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. We did 20% whole cluster fermentation on the Syrah and co-fermented the Grenache and Mourvedre in concrete. All was aged for 22 months in 50% new French and 50% neutral French barrels. This wine is soft with notes of blackberry jam and violets that are truly fresh and balanced. Cases produced 183. Enjoy now until 2028. Wine Advocate– 94 points James Berry, Kruse Vineyard.
2016 G2 Syrah: This vintage is beautiful and very deep in color. We did 30% whole cluster fermentation and aged for 22 months in new French oak which gives complexity and structure. Black and blue fruit coupled with smoked meats. There are lively herbal notes accented with warm spice. This unfiltered wine has great tannin, intensity, and a long finish. Cases produced 312. Enjoy now until 2032. G2 Vineyard.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com