TURLEY WINE CELLARS, St. Helena, Napa
Larry Turley founded Frog's Leap Winery in 1981 with John Williams, on a farm he’d owned since 1974. Then in 1993, Larry sold his share of Frog's Leap, kept the property (the first certified-organic vineyard in Napa), and established Turley Wine Cellars. All the while, working full time as an ER physician at Santa Rosa Hospital.
From the beginning, Turley focused on Zinfandel & Petite Sirah, and for the first vintage he relied on his sister Helen as winemaker. Twenty years later, Turley produces 30+ wines, from 35 different vineyards — many dating from the 1800s.
Ehren Jordan was winemaker from the 1994 vintage. Taking his lead from the 'no-holds-barred' style established by Helen Turley, the wines were always dramatic, a testament to the concentration provided by the remarkable old-vine sites. In 2013, Jordan’s long-time assistant winemaker Tegan Passalacqua moved into the senior role. Passalacqua is a Napa native, a ‘winemaker’s winemaker’ and a brilliant vineyard manager. He joined Turley in 2003, and interned at Craggy Range (NZ), and Alain Graillot (Crozes-Hermitage). Passalacqua is responsible for winemaking at Turley’s original Napa winery, as well as the Amador winery & vineyard (formerly Karly, purchased in 2012). Karl Wicka leads the winemaking in Paso Robles at the former Pesenti winery & vineyard, purchased by Turley in 2000.
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. Among the 3 locations, approximately 30,000 cases are produced annually, from 130 acres owned and 72 acres leased/managed. The early style of wine has certainly evolved, especially as Passalacqua has exerted more influence. His 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 the cellar, only 20% new oak is used, 80% of which is Burgundian, 20% American.
Larry’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.