Monday, March 28, 2011

Zeductive Zinfandel from Turley Cellars

Turley Cellars is one of the most well known zinfandel specialists (Ravenswood, Seghesio, Rosenblum Cellars and Carlisle are other recommended zinfandelists), and their wines always have a typical house style. The winery is owned by Larry Turley, and the first vintages was 1993, made by his sister Helen Turley, who already at that time had become well known for her powerful and high scoring wines. The styles was pretty much set but her, but since Larry is a great fan of amarone wines, and likes his wines full bodied and rich, this is the style you can expect from Turley Cellars.
Helen Turley only made two vintages, and from 1995 the talented Ehren Jordan is responsible for making the wines and he’s doing a great job although the style is till immensely rich and extravagant. In total, there are 80.90 hectares of estate and leased vineyards (2.00 hectares around the estate and winery in St Helena in Napa Valley, the Rattlesnake Vineyard up at Howell Mountain, the Vineyard 101 close to the freeway near Geyserville in Alexander Valley, and the fine Pesenti Vineyard in Paso Robles). In addition to these vineyards, Larry and Ehren are buying Zinfandel and Petite Sirah from numerous vineyards with old vines (at least 40 years old) around the state.

These wines are not for everyone. Not that they are overly expensive – well, they’re not cheap – more that they are quite extreme in their concentration, ripe and almost sweetish fruit and above that, their high alcohol levels. It’s commonly known that Zinfandel is able to ferment into very strong wines with alcohol levels over 16 percent. Sometimes that’s not enough to measure the alcohol levels of the zinfandels from Turley Cellars. However, looking beyond the high alcohol levels, there’s a lot of quality in these wines. The intensity and aromatics of the fruit is impressive, especially in the wines from Paso Robles and from the mountain sites (such as the Pringle Family Vineyard in Howell Mountain, one of the finest zinfandels from Turley Cellars, and the Zinfandel Black Sears Vineyard from the same appellation). The two latter wines also offer a great structure, typical from mountain vineyards, which makes these wines even more serious and complex. Total production varies from 10 000 to 15 000 cases per year.

2008 Zinfandel Pesenti Vineyard / 91 p
The Pesenti Vineyard in the cooler but still warm western parts of Paso Robles was initially planted in 1923 by Frank Pesenti. Since then it has been replanted in 1947 and 1965, so vines are not extremely old here. A good thing though, is the chalky soils which brings a fine sour minerality to the taste. It’s always a good wine, one of the better and more elegant in the range of zinfandels from Turley Cellars, but from the upper parts of the vineyard, the grapes for the even better wine Zinfandel Überroth Vineyard are sourced. Color is purple red and quite deep, and the nose is (as expected from this winery) very ripe, almost sweetish, opulent and intense, with notes of dark cherries, blackberries and sweet raspberries. There’s just a hint of oak. On the palate, it’s full bodied without being too concentrated, however the fruit is ripe and sweet, quite lush and driven by the intense fruitiness. There are a lot of sweet raspberries, not too different from those found in the wines of Melville Estate (their pinots), but there is also a lively and fresh acidity and a fine tannic structure, as well as a rhubarb kind of bitterness and acidity, to balance the sweetness, but there’s also a significant warmth from the high alcohol. Although I really like the flavors of the wine, the fiery alcohol lower my score a bit. This is for sure a delicious wine, but based on the high alcohol, I’d rather drink it with a steak, or venison with a creamy sauce, that to drink it as it is. It needs at least half an hour in the decanter to develop more finesse.
Drink it 2011-2015.

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