Steve O’Brian, expert and former owner of a distribution center, is the tasting room manager and we had a great educational session, learning much more than about Turley, but soil, Prohibition, and more. A great educator, so several topics covered.
ABOUT TURLEY: Turley has 30 bottlings of just Zinfandel, each representing the terrior of the area and reflects the diversity of just that varietals. Thought to be the largest single Zinfandel acrage owner, they had 20 blocks on Zinfandel onsite at Paso Robles, but also Napa headquarters and others. They can demontrate that even one individual block produces different flavors, and differences seen when another side of the same hill that gets sun changes the flavors.
In addition to Estate properties, Turley also buys from others that share their approach: Old vines, dry farmed, organic, and a spacing approach. They believe in starting new vineyards spaced sparsely to allow adolescent vines to get established so that they can become old vines. Quality versus quantity and long-term health. Zinfandel is a small cluster grape and small producing.
PROHIBITION. We talked about how they acquired some small OLD VINES from families, which lead to a Prohibition discussion. Most people don’t remember that 200 gallons of wine was allowed to be grown for personal consumption by a family, and so this is how we have OLD vines today – they were grown on personal homesteads and they recently purchased one.
BOTTLE AND BRANDING is clear at Turley. Classic sloped shoulder bottle. Turley made a proprietary mold to create a “Zinfandel bottle” which hadn’t existed. It doesn’t fit into most wine shelves or cases well, but it is distinct!
LIMETONE – Steve gave us a lesson about calcarious porous shale or limestone that is a better from the sea bed. Creates a higher pH environment allows the grapes to be bright and yet ripe. And over time, tannins do not get better, but the fruit fades, so they need that acidity to preserve the fruit.
TEMPERATURE SWING HELPS – The diurnal temperature swing keeps the sun on the grapes to ripen them and cools off to protect the acid.
OAK – Turley is light oak influence on wine; uses it but doesn’t want to taste it much, wants fruit to shine. In a warmer climate grape, oak can produce flavors of buttered popcorn but in a cool climate it creates more texture. The oxidative environment is good for the acid, but it affects grapes differently.
The Wines we tried of their many available, really differentiates the variations of Zinfandel:
1. Juvenile, is one of the best values $23. I thought it was a lot like a teenager in that it was young and developing, bright and fruity, with a lot of red fruit.
2. Steacy Ranch, from Lodi. Red fruit with Carignane and Grenache mixed in the field. Red fruit profile, cherry and a little earthiness
3. Pesenti – very delicious pasta fruit that has a lot of nice jammy fruit. Competition of red with a little bit of black.. very easy sipping on the edge of being big. Limestone base. Bought some of this one; liked the Paso ripe fruit best.
4. Dusi vineyard complete different topography. Alluvial soils. It offered a lot more baking spice like cinnamon, and cherry flavors. Completely different although not is deeply jammy as Pesenti, Yet richly spicy and flavorful. Bought some.
5. Estate Vineyard, Napa Valley -more grippy tannins in mouth watering, from the original Turley property in Napa and where the turley family lives. Delivering classic Napa big tannin.
70% is sold Direct to Consumer, and only 5% in the tasting rooms, and only 20% for around the country distribution, so Wine Club members get first shot and the rest may be harder to find.
Overall it was a cool review of Zinfandel. I like the color green, specifically Sage, and there are many more colors of green layers out there. Cool to learn Zinfandel is so varied like this. Would try a Turley bottle of any location again!