Turley Old Vines Zinfandel 2010

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Does Zinfandel matter? An ostentatious question, I agree. But nevertheless an important one. Those who seek deftness and authenticity not only shy away from Zin but can sometimes decry it. A good wine industry friend of mine probably hasn’t touched the stuff in years, and he has one of the best palates in the city. What does this say about the grape so loved and hated equally?

I want to approach this question objectively. So I must acknowledge that this wine, like many Zinfandels, has a bit too much obtrusive oak influencing its flavours – and no “integration” with time argument applies here given Zinfandel’s youthful fruit is its primary draw.

However, Zinfandel isn’t just about hedonism and opulence. It is easy to find fruit, extract and alcohol in Zin, but the best also carry a fundamentally important savory character that ultimately gives these wines their charm. As much as explosive fruit is ballyhood as Zin’s greatest trait, I say it is, rather, the combination of very ripe, expressive fruit with a savoriness and acidity that waters the mouth and provides contrast. These are not intellectual wines, but the best of them are also not blond bombshells.

This “Old Vines” cuvee is a blend of old vines from vineyards all over California. A wine of creamy oak, spice, briary blue and red fruit, and importantly, singed and scented herbs. This wine is very big and it is hard to finish a bottle, but there is no denying it is one of the best wines out there to pair with rich, smoked, spicy foods like the chilli I had it with.

In conclusion, while I agree with Steven Tanzer that this Zin represents many of the grape’s best traits, it also represents its flaws. That it does so with charm is its best quality. It is not a Zinfandel conversion wine, but it is certainly an excellent example of a well done modern style Zin. Is it worth the price? There are better for less. However, while I would like to compare it to the Turley Duarte Zin for $7 more, I can not think of a better Zin for the price in this market.

My final thoughts? Zinfandel is an important wine and, despite the naysayers, it has an important voice.

Very Good+
$48 at Marquis Wine Cellars


  1. Matt
    December 6, 2012

    Well penned as always.

    It’s not the grape, it’s the game.

  2. Shea
    December 6, 2012

    Yes, that is fair. I was looking for a Ridge Zin since they seem to be the least manipulated, but there are basically none in this province besides the very entry level 3 valleys. Too bad, as they treat Zin in an entirely different manner from the rest.

    I wonder what a ‘naturalist’ Zin from California would taste like. Is it even possible to do a 0 sulphur bottling with that grape?

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