Founded in 1993 by Dr. Larry Turley, Turley Wine Cellars is known for making some of the best Zinfandels in existence, which is evident because of the fact that their demand greatly exceeds their supply. These Zinfandels certainly aren’t the terrible White Zinfandels that come to mind for some. Twice a year, Turley sends out an email to a lucky bunch (there’s a waiting list just to get ON the waiting list) whom can select wines from their current vintage to purchase. However, it typically only takes about five minutes for their available 8,000 cases to sell out (in total, they produce about 16,000 cases a year).
Larry’s sister, Helen Turley, is the winemaker, and she specializes in single vineyard Zinfandels, with some blended Zinfandels as well. Turley currently has 36 wines in its current vintage portfolio. They own several vineyards across the US wine region, with some of the vineyards planted as early as 1923 (wow!). Despite focusing on Zinfandels, the company also makes some stellar Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Cincault to name a few. Even liquor stores get very limited allocations of their wines, often just receiving only their two most produced wines, Old Vine Zinfandel and Juvenile Zinfandel (which are blends of multiple vineyards, though still absolutely amazing).
Unlike most Zinfandel producers in California who use Bordeaux-style wine bottles (narrow with tall shoulders), Turley actually uses tinted Champagne bottles (sans the Champagne cork and cage) to house their delicious juice. This would be our one criticism of the wines; the shape makes them very difficult to stack. Also, their label is peculiar, but simple. It displays their logo, the region, the vineyard, and the varietal with a cute icon that relates to the vineyard.
We were very fortunate to obtain a bottle of the 2010 Dogtown Vineyard Zinfandel. The Dogtown Vineyard is located within the Clements Hills AVA of Lodi, California, and its vines were planted way back in 1944. The terroir consists of rolling hills of clay and volcanic soils.
Our tasting notes: Decanted for over 2 hours and poured into glass a dark reddish-purple. The nose is full of dark fruit, cranberry, salinity, sweet lavender, and lots of heat. The palate is chock full of cranberry, blueberry, tart cherry, black plum, raisin, cough drop, fresh violet, sweet pipe tobacco, cherry pie, graham cracker, green peppercorn, dried oregano, vanilla bean, and baking spices. Body is full and finish is medium plus with flavors of sweet strawberry. The high alcohol only shows on the nose. Definitely drinking well right now, but could go a few more years.
Every Turley that we’ve ever had was simply delicious. If you see a bottle on a shelf or on a wine list at a restaurant, we highly recommend snatching it up! Their wines typically sell for about $25 to $60, but are often marked up in price due to their rarity.