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Aug 23, 2007 05:06 PM

Turley wines opinions?

I got on their mailing list (just for fun) and it took about 10 months before they actually offered to sell me any wines. So now I got this short list of wines, I can order no more than 6 bottles and some wines are still off limits to me since I am a novice member. I don't think I am going to buy any wines - they are pricy for my budget but I was wondering if there is anyone here with any experience of drinking Turley wines.

For those who never heard of them they are located in Templeton, Ca (Paso Robles area) and are quite famous for their Zins.

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  1. They are pricey, but are generally recognized as being among the best in California. I was given a bottle of their Estate Zin ('03, I think) and it was one of the best I've ever experienced. Deep fruit, well-balanced, smooth but long finish. Just what my palate likes.

    1. Turley's reds are massive, high alcohol, high extract wines. They appeal to many palates but just a many find them overblown and hot. If you like that style you will probably like them otherwise you may not.

      My favorite Turley is their White Coat, a Rhone style white. You were probably offered some of this.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jock


        I've seen the White Coat, but have yet to try it. Based on your rec. I'll pick up what I can.


      2. Yes, They are highly extracted, usually higher alcohol and very fruit-forward, to the point of "jammy," however, I love them, and purchase them, when available AND have several cases in my cellar. They are not for everyone, in either style, or price. I happen to love Zins, and a very, very broad spectrum of Zins. In very general terms, the Turley's and the Biale's are at the top of the giant fruit-bomb end, though the Biale's are a bit less expensive.

        Are they worth the $? To me, they are. To anyone else? Don't know, however I have never had a guest turn up their nose, and most did not know what was being poured, until they were well into the wine, so "snob-appeal," should not have come into play there.

        I'll be picking up my allocation from the recent offerings, along with Ridge, Biale, a ton of Amador and Santa Cruz Mtn. Zins. Some will be lighter and spicy, some will be the afore-mentioned fruit-bombs.


        1. IMHO, they represent all that is wrong with the California wine industry. I find the Turley reds to be vulgar, over-extracted, oaked to a fair-the-well, alcohol bombs. They are circus-freak caricatures of what great Zinfandel should be. I 've never had the white so I won't comment.

          17 Replies
          1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

            I would agree with the "vulgar" part in relation to the pricing.

              1. re: zin1953

                I guess I place more blame on the consumer than Turley. Some people have too much disposable income and not enough sense on how to spend it wisely. I'll take Seghesio at $17. It might not be perfect, but it leaves me with $83 change from a C-Note which is more than enough to buy a few juicy T-Bones !

                1. re: TonyO

                  There is a fine line between: 1) "Hey, if the consumer wants to spend THAT much for my wine, who am I to say 'no'?"; and 2) "Hey, if they want my wine, they'll pay . . . "

                  I know which side of the line some winery owners are on, but I'm not sure -- to be honest -- which side Larry is on.


                  1. re: zin1953

                    Along similar lines, I was part of a round-table discussion featuring three noted Napa producers. One maintained that prices were getting out of line (and this was before the Cal Cult phenom. of a decade ago), while another took the tack, "if there are people standing in line for my wine and buying all that I can produce, I'm not charging enough). I won't mention names, but Nancy Andres was the moderator and, as such, did not voice her opinion.

                    It's a business, after all. The market decides the price. The costs are fixed, or very nearly so. Now, if the populace wants the wine, whether fanned by the press, or by their palates, I do not begrudge the winemakers. If they produce a wine that the masses like and are willing to pay for, then they should be rewarded. If I cannot afford the wine, that is my problem. Maybe I spend too much on other things, or have not been earning at my potential. Now, I am not a fan of wines being scooped up by "investors," as winos should have some access. If we do not, that is our problem.

                    Now, I am one, who doesn't go looking for bargain wines. I also do not normally try to spend more, than I can afford, but it's all about the quality, as I access it, at the end of the night. Some friends decry that I spend more for my everyday wine, than is necessary. My reply is that it is for my (and my wife and guest's) pleasure, and I can afford it. Yes, I could purchase Yellowtail Chard, but choose white Burgs, instead. Have these been "created" by the wine press? Not in my case. When I discovered them, I had not read much of Parker, Laube, whomever. I just knew that I had fallen in love, and have never looked back.

                    When it gets down to it, I can barely tell you 5 out of 15 "Wines of the Year" from WS, and do not read Parker, except for his annual, or nearly, buying guide, and then for reference only. I buy and drink what I like. Am I at fault for the Turley Zin situation? I guess so, as I enjoy them. Same can be said for Biale. However, I also buy about 10 cases of other Zin producers per year, so, in doing that, I am being part of the problem, I am also supporting other producers, of various styles of Zin (the wine discussed in this thread), allowing others to enjoy their work. Am I the enemy? Am I a bad person for my tastes? I all depends. However, when you drink a Limerick Lane, Collins, Zin, know that I also helped them stay in business for that vintage. My question would be, how many cases did you buy? Why should anyone want to blame the consumers for a style of wine? It is not bad wine! One may not enjoy it, but then they should not buy it.

                    I feel the same, when confronted by the ABC (Chard, or Cab) group. They choose a "cause," and will not be detered, until that varietal (read style here too) is eradicated. Why? Usually because it is the "in" thing to do, and nothing more.

                    If one truly embraces a cause in regards to wine, then plant a vineyard, make the wine and market it yourself. Heck, you might get rich from people with the same cause as yours.

                    Me, my "cause" is to sample every great wine in the world, regardless of whether Parker, WS, or whomever, has endorsed it. Unfortunately, I will die, before I get 10% of the way through the list, and it is growing as fast as I am aging.


                    1. re: zin1953

                      "and 2) "Hey, if they want my wine, they'll pay . . . "

                      I just don't see how it can apply to todays free wine markets. The price is pretty much dictated by supply-demand, someone could ask a lot $$$ for their wine but if there are no buyers he would be left with the wine to drink himself. Turley's wines are obviously not cheap but considering how many folks are lining up to buy them I would say they are priced fairly from the point of the supply-demand equation.

                      1. re: olasek

                        olasek, I would beg to disagree.

                        First of all, take the example of a brand-new winery. No track-record. How do they decide their price? Quite frequently it's set based upon the image they want to create, and has no relationship whatsoever to cost. The owner-winemaker hangs out on a popular website, his wine gets talked up, and before long (and long before any reviews come out), there is a waiting list to get on the mailing list . . . let's charge a retail price of $120 a bottle.

                        There IS the argument to be made, I agree, that supply-and-demand will affect the marketplace. One need only look to paces like winebid to see how much people are willing to pay for the wine that someone is "flipping." But that is in the secondary market. In the primary market, supply-and-demand is not as effective.

                        Yes, if no one wanted Chateau Cache Phloe's 2010 vintage Napa Valley Cabernet for $120 a bottle¹, the owner would have lots of wine to drink for him-/herself. But the fact is that "buzz," "hype," "points" and more affect wine sales². So, too, do tie-ins, discount pricing.

                        I would suggest that hype and scores fuel Turley's demand to no small degree, and without it, more wine would be stored in the winery's own warehouse. The fact is that the demand for Turley IS softening . . . thus one can now find their wines on retail shelves; thus one can now go to a tasting room and buy their wine(s); thus people are moving from the waiting list to the mailing list; etc., etc., etc.


                        ¹ Keep in mind that the wholesale price is $80, and the FOB price is closer to $40-50.

                        ² One needs to look no farther than the Wine Spectator's Top 100 issue -- most of those wines have been sold out for months, but retailers will be swamped with demanding (and irate!) customers who will pay "anything" for that bottle. This is NOT "supply-and-demand" in the free market sense; this is "demand-fueled-by-hype."

                        1. re: zin1953

                          Though I understand and agree with your point about price point being a marketing strategy, I think the "out of nowhere" winery that is able to charge over $100/bottle or close to it out of the gate is a real exception. Usually there is at least some factor giving cachet - "star" or "up and coming" winemaker, vineyard location, prominent backers - that lends some supposed credence to the pricing (vineyard location probably being the only one that actually bears any real relation to cost of production).

                          I think a nobody who sets up shop in the Sierra Foothills and tries to charge $100/bottle will be laughed out of town (unless of course he can score a 90+ rating from Parker or Spectator!).

                          It should also be noted that, although it was before I was wise enough to buy any, Turley apparently was not always so highly priced. Spectator lists original release prices and the release prices for pre-2000 vintages are all in the $20s and $30s. Now it may very well be that was mailing list only and you'd still pay through the nose if you found it at a retailer, but then isn't that a retailer markup due to scarcity, rather than at the initial price point set by the winery, a classic example of supply and demand? And if Turley responds to that by raising their own prices, isn't that also classic supply and demand?

                          1. re: Frodnesor

                            You are missing out on the historical perspective.

                            The original release price of EVERYTHING pre-2000 was substantially less. 1970 BV Private Reserve Cabernet was released at $8.00. 1961 Château Lafite was released for $4.50 (not on futures, but the initial shelf price).

                            The fact that the "no name" winery can charge $100 for its wines does have to have some basis in reality. Your example of the Sierra Foothills is one that would be UNrealistic. There has to be some precedent,and then one can always step higher. So, for instance, there are several $100+ Cabernets produced in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. If a new winery came up with the right grape source, and the right buzz, they could easily offer their wine(s) for $100+.

                            From Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, or even Paso, with specific varieties, I believe it to be distinctly possible.

                            As far as my example above re: the prices in footnote #1, these presume "standard" markups, and *not* retailer greed.


                            1. re: zin1953

                              "The original release price of EVERYTHING pre-2000 was substantially less."

                              True, but your examples paint a somewhat unrealistic picture. I was referring to mid-90's prices. The 1995 release of Harlan Estate was $110, Dalla Valle Maya was $80, Colgin Herb Lamb was $90 ... in other words, we were already well into at least the nascent era of the Cult California Cabs. Now, as I've already said, I wasn't seriously buying wine yet then, but it sure seems like Turley said "Well, if those guys are getting $100/bottle, it sure seems like I can get more than $25 for these zins, even if it is an 'ugly stepsister' varietal." And since they are well-reviewed, sought-after, limited production wines, it's pretty easy to raise the price and also very inviting for retailers to mark it up much further. That to me is classic supply and demand.

                              I also think we basically agree on the "no-name" winery thing - you can't just do it out of nowhere, there needs to be something that supports it, i.e. grape source, buzz (which is usually a product of a "known" winemaker or management team). I think the AVA and varietal that is ripe for this kind of thing is Sonoma Coast PN. The AVA is so big, the hype on Pinot is so loud, you've got producers like Sea Smoke commanding $70 for the "Ten" - how hard would it be to buy a pumpkin patch, put some vines in the ground, press it, put it in a bottle, and Presto! - "Ocean Obscura" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir - 300 case production - $100/bottle (mailing list only!)

                              BTW, this is not remotely a knock on Sea Smoke, I very much enjoy their wines. And I should also note, having recited the foregoing, that actually doing something like that would probably be a hugely capital-intensive process. Saw an article from more than a year or so ago saying vineyard property was going for $70K/acre in "true" Sonoma Coast!

                              I also think that while the "high price as marketing strategy" might work for an initial vintage or two, if the quality of the wine isn't there, I suspect most customers are savvy enough to not buy it. There's too much good wine out there for people willing to drop $100 on a bottle to waste it on a mediocre one.

                              1. re: Frodnesor

                                Yes, Frodnesor, you and I are in agreement . . . especially about the last paragraph. If it isn't in the bottle, EVENTUALLY the consume will catch on.

                                In the meantime, however, the winery will in all probability be able to sell three vintages -- based upon "the wine needs bottle aging to mature and really show its stuff," and the like. Nails may start going in the coffin, but it won't be until enough people can post *from experience* that -- young or old -- the Emperor is naked!

                                * * * * * * * * * *

                                As for the "real" cost of wine, I would once again point people's attention to the following letter from David Caffaro: -- with the proviso that this was written in 1999, and the costs quoted in the letter have increased (though not as much as retail wine prices).


                                1. re: zin1953

                                  I had always had the impression, perhaps naive, that "boutique" wineries (other than the old guard of folks who have owned their vineyards for decades and thus got in at a low entry point) were pretty much the exclusive province of folks that had made their money (and lots of it) elsewhere and were looking for the chance to play "gentleman farmer", at least in the most exclusive of zip codes. I recognize that they're probably not losing money if they can sell their wine at $100, but the truth is there's very, very few if any unproven wines that do sell at that price.

                                  The numbers in Coffaro's letter are intriguing even if they need to be brought to date. But it just makes me wonder, if it's that easy, why isn't everyone doing it?

                                  Just by way of reference and as a tie-in to the Coffaro letter I found this helpful "conversion chart" at a website called (obviously some of these are variables as I know yields can be much lower or higher than 4 tons/acre):

                                  How much wine does one grapevine make?
                                  One vine yields 18 lbs of grapes.
                                  One vine makes six bottles of wine.
                                  One acre has 450 vines.
                                  One acre yields four tons of grapes.
                                  One acre makes 240 cases of wine.
                                  One bottle pours five glasses of wine.
                                  One barrel has 60 gallons of wine or 25 cases of

                                  1. re: Frodnesor

                                    Random facts and obsevations:

                                    >>> One vine makes six bottles of wine. <<<

                                    The most famous estate in Sauternes, Chateau Yquem, has long maintained that when they produce their dry Bordeaux Blanc, Chateau Y (or Ygrec), they produce 6-7 bottles of wine per vine. When ther produce their legendaryt Sauternes, Chateau d'Yquem, it takes the total output of 6-7 vines to yield one bottle of wine. [Note: the estate itself is Chateau Yquem; the wine is Chateau d'Yquem.]

                                    >>> One acre yields four tons of grapes. <<<
                                    Clearly this is dependent upon location and vine variety. There are some famous Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards planted near the Napa River that regularly produce 6 tons/acre of outstanding grapes of exceptional quality. Try doing that west of Hwy 29, or on the slopes of Mt. Veeder, and it's a recipe for disaster.

                                    >>> One acre has 450 vines. <<<
                                    450 is really low., but clearly this too depends upon location and grape variety. Some vineyards are planted MUCH more densely -- sometimes as much as 4,000 vines per acre. See

                                    >>> One barrel has 60 gallons of wine or 25 cases of
                                    wine. <<<
                                    Actually all barrels, casks, ovals, etc. are measured in liters. A "standard" barrique is 225 liters, and 225 divided by 9 (liters per case) is indeed 25 cases, but that does not take into account losses for topping up, testing, spillage, etc., etc. It's a rare barrel that actually fills 300 bottles completely full.

                                    * * * * *

                                    How do you make a small fortune in the wine business?
                                    Start with a large one.

                                    * * * * *

                                    No one ever said it was easy; you still have to have talent. But it's nowhere near as expensive to produce wine as people think.

                          2. re: zin1953

                            "But the fact is that "buzz," "hype," "points" and more affect wine sales²."

                            That is it, "Hype" or "word of mouth" or "good reviews" create demand which ultimately translate into sales. I totally reject your premise that some unknown winery with "unimpressive/un-noticed" wine could charge $100 per bottle and create artificial demand only because of high price. Sorry, I will never buy this argument. You may think that the "hype" is undeserving but enough people disagree and you get sales that drive the price. The same thing aplies to dishwashers, cars, etc - buying public is too smart and sooner or later catches up with reality.

                            1. re: olasek

                              Olasek, where did I ever say "unimpressive/un-noticed"? Could you show me? I seem to have missed that.

                              In point of fact, what I said was:

                              >>> How do they decide their price? Quite frequently it's set based upon the image they want to create, and has no relationship whatsoever to cost. The owner-winemaker hangs out on a popular website, his wine gets talked up, and before long (and long before any reviews come out), there is a waiting list to get on the mailing list . . . let's charge a retail price of $120 a bottle. <<<

                              The fact is that it IS the buzz and hype that lets the the price soar so high. I've seen it happen more than once. Indeed, I've even helped it happen once or twice . . . unfortunately.

                              Let me ask you three questions, if you don't mind. What, in your mind, explains that wine prices have increased so much above the rate of inflation? What, in your mind, explains a brand-new winery selling their wine's first release -- with no reviews from Parker or the Spectator -- for $100+? And what, in your mind, explains the fact that you only had to wait 10 months for Turley to offer you wine from their mailing list, when others have had to wait two and even three years or more before being able to move from the winery's waiting list to their mailing list?

                              1. re: zin1953

                                Zin1953 - maybe I simply misunderstood your posts. I thought you were claiming that the price of wine could be set very high and the price **alone** (in abscense of good reviews, hype, willing customers, etc.) could attract crowds. That was the only thing I found objectionable but like I said I probably misunderstood your posts.

                                But talking about the "hype". I think it will only work to some extent - maybe in the beginning. Ultimately people will appreciate better what "tastes" for them better rather than what has a very good press. No amount of hype would turn Gallo into $30 wines unless it had some support in quality.

                                1. re: olasek

                                  Let's try this again:

                                  >>> I thought you were claiming that the price of wine could be set very high and the price **alone** (in abscense of good reviews, hype, willing customers, etc.) could attract crowds. That was the only thing I found objectionable but like I said I probably misunderstood your posts. <<<

                                  1) A high price alone WILL attract some people.
                                  2) I specifically DID state "long before any reviews come out."
                                  3) I specifically did include "hype" and/or "buzz" as a prerequisite.
                                  4) All customers have to "willing," or nothing will ever be bought -- be it $1.99 or $199 . . . .

                                  Olasek, I just know how I've personally marketed wines over the years -- be it at the retail level, the wholesaler/importer level, or the winery/producer level -- and I know how others do it.

                                  There is no denying that, eventually, there has to be something in the bottle, but it rarely has to be as out-f***ing-standing as the price and/or [eventual] point scores suggest it should be for most people to be happy. (Silver Oak is one example of that.)

                                  There are very rarely any black-and-white, right-or-wrong answers when it comes to wine. Yes, you can point to a wine that is filled with mercaptans and rightly say, "This sucks!" and few would disagree. But they may be one or two who might, even in the presence of what is universally regarded as a flaw. But most of wine tasting/wine appreciation/wine drinking is subjective, and what may be for you a perfect Zinfandel may not be for me, and vice-versa. Indeed, I may like the Zin you think is perfect, or I may not like it at all (and vice-versa). It's all personal palate preference.

                                  This is way, in wine as with automobiles, YMMV. ;^)


              2. If you like the full-blown, over the top, high-alcohol, jammy style of zin, they are probably the paradigm for that style. When good (and they often are) they are also capable of layers of depth and complexity that go beyond just "fruit-bomb" status.

                The "Juveniles" if it's available to you is a good starting point (for price among other things) to see if you like their style though I haven't had one since the 2003 and don't know how good the more recent vintages have been. They've now got so many different vineyards they make wines from that it's tough to keep track of them all.

                If they're available to me at not too outrageous prices I do tend to buy.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Frodnesor

                  "IMHO, they represent all that is wrong with the California wine industry"

                  A tad harsh, don't you think, Vinny? I mean, it's not as if Turley is making Sutter Home-style wines (or two-buck chuck, for that matter).

                  Yes, Turley is high alcohol. Yes, Turley is overtly fruity. Yes, it is sometimes "jammy." But Turley wines I have tried (i.e. Dusi Vineyard) have a fair amount of complexity and a range of interesting aromas and flavours. It is not as if we are talking about Yellow-Tail here.

                  1. re: anewton

                    I could probably gag down a glass or two of Yellowtail if I had to....not so with Turley.