If You Don’t Have Great Grapes, You Can’t Make Great Wine. 4.5.18

Greetings from NLWS,


If you don’t have great grapes, you can’t make great wine – this simple statement neatly wraps-up nearly my entire fascination with wine. It speaks to the relationship between the farmer and the winemaker – between viticulture and vinification. More importantly than this relationship however is the question of what the word “great” means in this context. It begs some questions: How can we apply the word “great” to one grape varietal and not to another? How do we rate something as basic as fermented grape juice as great or not-so-great? What about personal preferences and ratings from wine critics? What are the criteria? All these questions fascinate me and deserve to be discussed over a great glass of…

I like to think of great wines as singular wines, wines which at their outset, rather than attempting to score high-ratings, seek to express the unique vineyards of their origin via transparent farming and production methods. Wines like these can yield us a seemingly never-ending supply of interesting choices as we move from region to region across the globe.

We’ll cover both traditional and new age approaches

Over the course of reading this blog, I’ll try to highlight wines and producers that in some way add to this dialogue of what “greatness” is. We’ll cover both the traditional and new approaches to winemaking and challenge the conventions of both.


Check out our new world wine selections

I hope you’ll enjoy what’s coming and with that, we’ll start with a couple of New World selections.

It never ceases to amaze me how Ehren Jordan, previously from Neyers and the longtime winemaker at Turley, can make Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Syrahs from Sonoma Coast sites with such incredible elegance and freshness. These are wines which make even the most ardent “I only drink old world wines” connoisseurs blush with admiration. Jordan’s Failla’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2015 $44.99 is a cold climate Pinot Noir from a few different vineyards located on the Sonoma Coast. It boasts high acidity and while it is light in body, it displays deep aromatics with high-toned red fruit, spice, and floral character.


While Jordan left Turley after nearly 20 years of service in 2013, he didn’t completely leave Zinfandel. Beyond Failla, another of his projects is his label Day Zinfandel which focuses on Sonoma County expressions of the grape. His Day Wines’s Zinfandel 2016 $31.99, is a great example of how the low interventionist approach to winemaking can yield wines with nuance and complexity while at the same time sporting an ABV nearing 15%. The wine expresses everything we love about Zinfandel from the bouquet of fruit compote to the savory herbal, smokey, spice. As a side note, Ehren Jordan has moved his site-specific vision to focus on Oregon Chenin Blanc and Gamay. While not yet in this market, you can bet we’ll snatch it up as it becomes available.


Currently, at Turley Wine Cellars, Tegan Passalacqua leads the charge, overseeing all 35 of the individual vineyards and winemaking operations. Our Turley Frederick’s Vineyard Zinfandel 2016, $62.99 showcases the brand’s continued dedication single site Zinfandels. This high-altitude, organically grown, head-trained old vines from the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas express strength in tannin and flavor complexity which we come to expect from Turley. Expect a smokey and herbaceous bouquet with a long finish.