Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Turley Zinfandel? Sure, Which One?

Don’t you love it when you show up for drinks a friend’s home, nice bottle of wine in hand, and they say "I've got a shipment from Turley coming, so why don’t we kill off that last one in the rack?" Placing down my bottle behind a toaster, I say that I hate to hear of someone having trouble getting rid of their excess Turley. Stumbling toward the wine chiller, I blurt, "Where’s it at?"

A Zinfandel from Turley Wine Cellars is a special thing, always. I’ve never had one of their wines that left me without superlatives. I don’t think I ever will. And there are plenty to try. Turley shows more than two dozen Zinfandels currently for sale.

Lodi's Kirschenmann Vineyard is owned and dry-farmed by Turley winemaker Tegan Passalacqua. The vines grow on their own rootstock in the sandy soil of the Mokelumne River AVA, ungrafted, as they have since 1915. They are protected from the heat by the river's waters and the cooling delta breezes. I understand that Mondeuse and Carignane are in the vineyard as well, a field blend of "mixed blacks" commonly found in California's older vineyards. The Carignane, I get. But Mondeuse is a pretty rare grape from the French Alpine region of Savoie. I have never heard of that grape being included in those old-school California field blends.

The vineyard has drawn praise from the likes of winemaker Pax Mahle, who called Kirschenmann Zins "pure, linear, streamlined" a couple of years ago. Passalacqua calls his 2012 vintage, "a very feminine wine – the opposite of what many people think of Lodi." He adds that it really is a Lodi style of wine, "just not what most people expect out of Lodi." The wine hits a Lodi-like 15% or so abv, but you’d never know it. There's not a moment of heat in the sip.

Turley's 2014 Zinfandel Kirschenmann Vineyardis Zinfandel is lovely, with red fruit, lavender and pepper spice on the nose and a palate that is deep and rich with those qualities as well as a savory herbal mint note that runs deep. The tannins are silky smooth and the finish is long and languid. The fainting couch on which I sat was perfect, for I felt I might give way at any moment. It’s a $60 wine that earns its price tag.

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