Pluck a classic winery from a Napa picturebook and place it in the Shenandoah Valley and you would end up with something that looks a lot like Turley Wine Cellars. It is not a coincidence in this case. Turley Wine Cellars has its roots deep in Napa.
Back in 1981, Larry Turley co-founded Frog’s Leap Winery in the Rutherford district in Napa. The winery quickly grew and developed a reputation for producing quality wine. A dozen years later, Larry left Frog’s Leap to pursue his passion for old-vine Zinfandel, creating Turley Wine Cellars. Sourcing fruit from St. Helena and Templeton, some from vines planted in the 1800’s, his new winery established itself as a preeminent producer in no time.
Fresh from our tasting at Dobra Zemlja, we easily found parking and walked to the corrugated steel-roofed building. We entered the tasting room, finding a juxtaposition of light and dark woods, polished aluminum, stone, and even gold leaves. The large rectangular bar allowed the wine guides access to quite a few tasters at once. Merchandise and informational displays were tastefully located around the room. Even grapevines were displayed as art. The Napa vibe was very real!
After meeting wine guide Vicky, we chose the “Classic” (as opposed the the “Napa Mountain” for $5 more) tasting flight, which started with their 2013 Old Vines Zinfandel. Using fruit from vines from 40 to 129 years old, we found mainstream Zin attitude, with plum and huckleberry notes and a smoky, chocolate finish. Next was their 2014 “Buck” Cobb Zinfandel. Named after the vineyard owner, these vines grow at a 1,500 foot elevation, in rocky, unirrigated conditions. The grapes that survive these conditions are hardy and hearty. This 2014 vintage is tasting pretty young right now, but should mature into another winner. We purchased a bottle for just such a purpose.
Vicky then poured a 2013 Judge Bell Zinfandel for us. The fruit is from nearly 100 year-old vines, again grown at altitude. These vines have the trifecta of Zin characteristics: head-trained, dry-farmed, and own-rooted. The resulting was was soft, fruit-forward with a nice balance for acid and tannin. We then tasted their 2014 Duarte Zinfandel, sourced from a sea-level vineyard in Oakley. Vicky told us that construction in the area had excavated down 40 feet and still found grapevine roots! We tasted gentle fruit and soft spice, far removed from the Zins from other wineries.
Although not part of our tasting flight, Vicky was kind enough to pour a taste of 2014 Dragon Vineyard Zinfandel from the Napa flight for us. I guess she liked our smiles. Although young, this Zin shows great promise, with aromas of leather and barnyard and some early complexity on the palate.
Happy with our tour of Zinfandels, we purchased our wine from Vicky and set off for our last tasting of the day.
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?