We've just received our first order from this iconic winery, and I can't tell you how pleased we are to be representing Turley Wine Cellars in Ontario.
Larry Turley founded Frog's Leap Winery in 1981 with John Williams. Larry had owned a farm north of St. Helena since 1974, and it became home to the new winery. Then in 1993, Larry sold his share of Frog's Leap, held onto the property, and established Turley Wine Cellars. During this time, Turley continued working full time as an ER physician at Santa Rosa Hospital, a position he held for 25 years.
From the beginning, Turley focused on Zinfandel & Petite Sirah, and for the first vintage he relied on his (now very famous) sister Helen as winemaker. Twenty years later, Turley produces 28 separate wines, from 35 different vineyards, mostly 'old vines'; several dating from the 1800s.
Ehren Jordan was winemaker for most of this time, starting with the 1994 vintage. Taking his lead from the 'no-holds-barred' style established by Helen Turley, the wines wine were always dramatic, a testament to the concentration provided by the remarkable old-vine sites. Jordan left in 2013 to focus on his own project, Failla, and long-time assistant winemaker Tegan Passalacqua moved into the senior role. Passalacqua is a Napa insider, and an acknowledged brilliant winemaker and vineyard manager. Prior to joining Turley in 2003, Tegan interned at Craggy Range, and Alain Graillot (Crozes-Hermitage). He is responsible for winemaking at the original Napa winery as well as the newly-acquired winery & vineyard in Amador (formerly Karly). Karl Wicka leads the winemaking in Paso Robles, at the former Pesenti winery & vineyard, purchased by Turley in 2000.
The Helen Turley / Ehren Jordan style of wine has certainly evolved, especially as Tegan Passalacqua has exerted more influence. His evolution in vineyard management has brought alcohol levels down, while maintaining intensity. The wines are big, but focused, with rich flavours that balance acidity & tannins with lovely texture. In terms of winemaking, about 20% new oak is used, 80% of which is Burgundian / 20% American.
Three wineries? Old vine Zinfandel and Petite Sirah are a precious part of California heritage. Turley focuses on vineyards planted in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bringing the winemaking close to the vineyard is his way of controlling and protecting the small yields of the amazing sites.
Larry Turley's eldest daughter Christina joined the business in 2010 as Director of Sales & Marketing. Prior to that she was wine director for the Momofuku restaurants. The January 2014 issue of Forbes magazine includes Christina Turley in their listing of the Top 30 under 30 in Food & Wine.
Total annual production: approximately 30,000 cases
130 acres owned / 72 acres leased & managed
Pesenti Winery, Paso Robles - purchased 2000
Karly Winery, Amador County - purchased 2012
Check out Wine Spectator's cover feature here!