Turley Wine Cellars has wineries in St. Helena, in the Napa Valley, and in Templeton, in the Paso Robles area of California’s Central Coast. Founded in 1993 by Larry Turley, Turley Wine Cellars is known for robust and well-rated Zinfandels. Turley is the brother of Helen Turley, one of California’s most legendary winemakers, and she consulted for him until the mid-1990s. Now the winemaker is Tegan Passalacqua, who worked under legendary Ehren Jordan before Jordan left for other pursuits. Turley has a talent for finding young winemakers on the verge of fame. He also gave Thomas Rivers Brown his first job. Larry Turley co-founded Frog’s Leap Winery in 1981 but sold his interest in Frog’s Leap to start his own estate. Robert M. Parker Jr. has called Larry Turley “the world’s premier Zinfandel specialist…he built Turley Wine Cellars into a showcase for the fruit, power and intensity of Zinfandel.” There are generally waits of several years to get on the mailing list to acquire Turley Zinfandels.
Contra Costa County is a sub appellation within the Central Coast AVA. Contra Costa is the region just to the east of San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. Though the area includes many square miles of suburban build-up, there are also vineyards. It is the northern edge of the Central Coast AVA, a huge wine producing area that extends from Santa Barbara County in the south to San Francisco in the north. With more than 100,000 vineyard acres, it includes parts of six counties near the Pacific Ocean. Nearly 20 smaller AVAs lie within the Central Coast AVA. Central Coast earned appellation status in 1985. Included in the appellation are parts of the counties of Contra Costa, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. Nearly every grape varietal grown in California is grown somewhere in the Central Coast AVA, though Chardonnay accounts for nearly 50% of the entire wine grape crop.
Zinfandel is a black-skinned grape, but 85% of the wine produced is made into a rosy “White Zinfandel.” Red Zin is far more complex and bold, while still being light-bodied. It grows in popularity as winemakers continue to experiment with new styles and blends.