Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What, Me Turley?

Who woulda thunk it - Brooklynguy, lover of all reds light and elegant, got down and danced with a huge famous California Zinfandel the other night, and came out none worse for the wear. In fact, I actually kind of liked it.

Turley is a cult thing. People line up for years just to get a chance to be on the mailing list. What does the mailing list get you? The opportunity, or in this case, the privilege, of purchasing Turley wines, which at a minimum of about $40 a bottle, do not come cheap.

Maybe the wines are fantastic, I don't know. There must be something to them, or people wouldn't spend so much time and money trying to own and drink them. Or would they...

Lots of people in America spend loads of dough on things that are not worth more than their cache as "hard-to-get." Think Hummers, fancy audiophile stereo equipment, or Gucci sunglasses, for example. There are cheaper alternatives to each of these products, but these offer the consumer something other than an SUV, the ability to listen to tunes, or shade from the sun. These products offer the cache of their brand name - the consumer drives a HUMMER, not an SUV, and everyone knows what that is, and covets.

No question about it, people are like that with wine. Is Sine Quo Non really that good? Screaming Eagle? I have never the wines of either producer, so I cannot say. But I'm gonna lay my cards on the table on this one folks: I bet that I would think they are NOT really that good, not worth the money anyway.

Up until recently I would have included Turley in that list of cultish wines that I wouldn't waste my money or psychic energy attempting to sample. I am not the first blogger to be surprised by Turley wine and I will not be the last, I suppose.

A few months ago my good pal NorthCarolinaGuy told me about this wine he tried at a tasting, a wine that was haunting him since he tasted it. "What wine?" I demanded to know. He told me to keep an open mind, and said it was a Turley Zinfandel, the Juvenile wine. "Huh," I said, trying not to reveal my dismay. He got three bottles from his friend who donated a kidney in order to get on the waiting list and promised to taste this wine with me sometime, to prove that it is good. This is a promise I will now very carefully hold him to.

Turley makes red wine from Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Grenache. They also make white wine from Rhone grapes like Roussanne and Marsanne. They are famous for Zin though, and at at least 15% alcohol, they are the epitome of the big beefy California Zin. There are upwards of 10 single vineyard Zins produced by Turley, and the devoted hoard them all like fiends. Okay, that's an exaggeration. They do like them a lot though. They come in a uniquely shaped bottle, very bottom heavy with a thin neck, absolutely impossible to fit in a wine rack, which is the real reason that I just can't keep them around the house.

So when Mike opened a bottle of Turley at his BBQ the other weekend, I was pleased to have the opportunity to taste this rare and deified wine. I expected not to be impressed, to chuckle with BrooklynLady at its huge fruit bombiness, to scoff at the hapless rubes who buy this stuff.

But wait a was good. Really good! Surprise surprise, we both liked the Turley. Maybe I should get that Hummer, and I am definitely buying BrooklynLady some Gucci sunglasses for our anniversary.

2003 Turley Zinfandel Keig Vineyard, $ unknown.
Deep dark purple, a teeny bit cloudy. Blackberry, baking spice, and earth aromas literally burst upward from the glass. Really impressive nose, even after the initial rush, enticing with sweet fruit and earthiness. Smooth as silk on the palate with no heat from the more than 15% alcohol. Rich and extracted but not overpowering, lots of dark sweet fruit and some chocolate too with a lingering fruity finish.

Don't worry, I'm not selling my soul for Turley. I am still not convinced regarding the merits of Zinfandel. But it goes to show me, don't judge a wine by its label. And for those of you in the NYC area who are not willing to part with internal organs to get on the mailing list, Chambers Street sells Turley wines, a few bottles anyway, right of the racks.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if one can have a blind test drive with Hummer, so it is not likely that I will fall for it anytime soon. But my first date with Turley was kind of blind. I did not know that it was Turley until after I smelled it and then expressed my pleasant shock to our host during a wine tasting night. A kidney is not too much for that wine, you would see people putting all kinds of organs and stuff on the table in a real auction for that wine.

Anonymous said...

You're right to drink it while it's young!

Brooklynguy said...

Hey NCGuy - I forgot that you were blind on that one, and almost as surprised as me that it was Turley. And don't think I have forgotten about our future Turley tasting...

Hey Doc - wasn't my decision exactly, but I bet my pal Mike who opened it would agree. Now we just have to convince NCGuy to start cracking his Juveniles...

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Juvenile is a $20 bottle.....the Old Vines is my "go to" bottle ($25/btl), and the Rattlesnake Ridge is my all time favorite (~$35-40/btl)