Turley Estate Vineyard, Napa Valley
Every glass tells the story of its content. For us, there is none more pivotal than the Estate Vineyard. Larry Turley was an experienced emergency room physician of 25 years prior to becoming a winery owner. After Larry met young winemaker John Williams, they decided to become business partners and found Frog’s Leap Winery. After the winery enjoyed immediate success, Larry’s passion for old vine Zinfandel and Petite Syrah led him to selling his half of the business back to John. Turley Wine Cellars was begat in 1993 at the very same property, and Larry now gets to keep his resuscitative skills sharp with bringing old vineyards back to life.
Starting with just a 5-acre purchase of an old frog farm in 1974, the Estate Vineyard has grown to a whopping 75 acres farmed organically on the North end of St. Helena. In a wine region famous for world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, Larry has held true to his love of Zinfandel and Petite Syrah - even re-planting Cabernet vines to more Zin!
This vineyard is special to all of us here at the winery; right in our backyard, it’s what we see every day at work (and from the family home!). In 2006, we planted 6 acres of head-trained dry-farmed Zinfandel that compliments the original planting from ten years prior, all of which are certified organic.
Year Planted: 1996, 2006, 2011, 2015 (Zinfandel)
Varieties Grown: Zinfandel, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Sauvignon Blanc
Vineyard Size: 75 acres
Organic: Yes, CCOF Certification obtained in 1996
Farming Method: Dry farmed and a mix of head-trained (10x10 spacing) and trellis wire (3x6 spacing).
Primary Soil Profile: Perkins gravelly-loam
Elevation: 320 - 280 ft.
AVA: Napa Valley - Saint Helena
First Turley Vintage: 1993*
*first Turley Estate wine produced was Sauvignon Blanc - vines have since been re-planted to Zinfandel
2016 Zinfandel Tasting Notes:
Pure, gleamingly fresh red and purple fruits, allspice, and the familiar underbrush and garrigue characteristic of the Estate burst forth on the nose, with just a hint of chocolate-covered citrus. The palate is well-rounded and refined, with classic Napa sophistication; fans of our Aida wines of yore will find it resurrected here. Lively and ready to relish in its youth!
2016 Petite Syrah Tasting Notes:
Fragrant dark floral aromas, brambly purple fruits, wild game and violets make this a classic Napa Petite Syrah. Fresh tannins and lively acidity bring all the elements of this wine into perfect balance. Surprisingly welcoming in its youth, this is a Petite you could drink in the first year—if you had to! Whether you rip the cork now or in a few years, we recommend decanting.
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting Notes:
In keeping with the Turley style of letting the vineyard take center stage, the 2015 Estate Cabernet is exceptional. The profile of the site shines through with freshly ripe, dark black fruits, highlighted by a dusting of savory herbs. The texture is remarkably smooth with a refreshing zip of acidity on the finish; were you to taste the wine blind, you’d be easily forgiven for calling it Zinfandel! Though the vineyard is less than thirty years old, the wine tastes as though it comes from vines more than twice that age; a young wine with an old, classic Napa soul. Perfectly enjoyable straight out of the gate!
A little history...
Long before the existence of the frog farm (we will get to that in a second), there was a people group calling themselves Onastis (the "outspoken ones") residing in the area bordering what is now called Mill Creek. The riparian habitat (fertile and biodiverse land often surrounding a creek or river) appealed to Spanish soldiers as well, as they claimed the region for their own. The outspoken group of natives were then named Wappo, meaning brave and handsome, for their stubborn resistance to the occupation of their land. Fast-forward a few years, and we get to the part of the story where Larry purchases the second oldest dwelling in Napa County, a 5-acre frog farm in the small town of Saint Helena in 1974.
You very well maybe be wondering what in the world a frog farm actually is. Well, it is a farm… for frogs. As mentioned above, Mill Creek and the biodiverse habitat of the land created the perfect environment for frogs to thrive. When Larry purchased the property, he found two historic ledgers concerning the farm. The first of which was an accounting record of all the San Francisco restaurants that purchased frogs for their menus (new wine pairing anyone?). The second ledger contained a list of names - a guest list of sorts. The barn at the old farm was a common place for community dances and gatherings. These dances got so rowdy the men would often dance the night away while firing off their six shooters into the ceiling. Seriously, there were bullet holes in the attic floor to prove it!
It was on this old frog farm where Larry met a young, aspiring winemaker named John Williams who was camping on the property (unbeknownst to Larry). After a couple bottles of wines, the two pledged to start a winery together. In 1979, Larry planted 2 acres of Sauvignon Blanc, and in 1981, Frog's Leap Winery was bonded and made its first wines from grapes purchased from Spottswood. Larry continued as a partner of Frog's Leap until 1993 when he sold his share back to John and his family, and Larry started Turley Wine Cellars at the old frog farm. The 2 blocks of Sauvignon Blanc were finally replanted to Zinfandel in 1996, thus starting the era of Turley Estate Zinfandel. Petite Syrah was planted in 1997, 2006, and 2011. More Zinfandel was planted in 2006, 2011, and 2015. Although the wild west dances and frog sales have ceased to exist, the Estate Vineyard continues to be a place for friends and family to gather and to celebrate, with plenty of wine to boot.
Distinctive Characters, Wines, and More:
The Estate Vineyard is about 320-280 feet above sea level (from west to east). The sloping elevation allows the cold air during frost events to slowly drain down to the south/east corner of the ranch and eventually to the Napa River. Five wind machines on the property facilitate the mixing of the inversion layer of air to keep sensitive new buds from falling below 32 degrees and being damaged by ice formation within the delicate, newly-expanding tissue in the spring. A consistent thermal gradient from south to north based on distance from San Pablo Bay has traditionally dictated what varieties have been planted where in the valley for hundreds of years. The notable exception is the area adjacent to the Mayacamas Gap / Chalk Hill Gap that periodically spills cooler coastal air and moisture into the northern Napa Valley just west of the Turley Estate. This consistent pattern of afternoon cooling during the hottest months of the year tend to slow the rapid development of sugar while allowing the fruit to naturally develop more intense flavors than it does in other hotter regions.
In addition to the grapevines planted on the property, the Turley Estate also includes certified organic olive trees planted in the 1850s! The extra virgin olive oil produced can be found in both tasting rooms and in basically every dish made in the Turley household. In 2007 and again in 2016, Larry partnered with the Land Trust to donate conservation easements protecting a large portion of the property, including the olive orchard.
Starting as a harvest intern in 2003, Tegan Passalacqua now oversees all winemaking efforts across all three Turley wineries. With a decade and a half in our winery's cellar, Tegan continues to showcase wines with stylistic consistency and grace. Whether it be Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Petite Syrah, you can expect each wine from the Estate Vineyard to showcase the beautiful yet powerful displays of terroir here in our backyard. We aim for our wines produced from the Estate Vineyard to portray classic Napa Valley, both in quality and price point.
Speaking of distinctive characters, many have wondered and asked, “What are the four stars on the foil and cork?” Larry may sometimes be called “Uncle Larry” by employees, but he is first and foremost the father of four daughters: Christina, Nelly, Whitney, and Savannah. It was on the Estate Vineyard that the girls would grow up and call home. Both Christina (Director of Sales & Marketing) and Whitney (Regional Sales Associate - Midwest/Eastern) currently work for the winery. Nelly previously worked for the Turley before joining and now serving in the US Coast Guard. Savannah is putting her talents to work in New York, baking some of the finest breads in the country. The old saying stands true for the Turley Family - plant vegetables for yourself, grapevines for your children, and an olive trees for your grandchildren.