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Senior Tim Fish joined the Wine Spectator staff in 2001. His tasting beat includes U.S. sparkling wine, and California Zinfandel and Merlot.
Tim Fish

A Cult Zin at a Value Price

Turley Zinfandel California Juvenile 2009

Tim Fish
Posted: May 2, 2011

I can count the number of cult Zinfandels on one hand and still have a few digits left over. Turley was the original and remains among the best. Sold mostly at restaurants and through the winery mailing list, most of the Turley wines aren’t easy to find unless you’re willing to pay exorbitant prices on the resale market.

Turley’s Juvenile Zin is a little different. It retails for $20, and it’s among the winery’s largest-production bottlings. In 2009, winemaker Ehren Jordan produced a little more than 1,000 cases. It’s a succulent and vibrant red, with jammy black cherry fruit and lingering notes of spice and caramel. I rated it 90 points, non-blind.

Juvenile is an ideal name for the wine. It tastes fresh and youthful for a reason. Some of Turley’s best vineyards are old-vine plots like Hayne, Pesenti and Ueberroth, which it bottles as vineyard-designates. When a vine dies in those vineyards, a new vine is planted using cuttings from the surrounding vines, so vineyards planted 100 years ago typically have young vines scattered throughout.

The problem is, the grapes on the new vines ripen faster than the old. “If you wait to pick until the old vines are ripe, the fruit on the young vines has burned off,” Jordan says. So the young fruit is picked earlier to “guard the freshness” and goes into the Juveniles bottling. A lot of wineries would go ahead and blend those grapes into the single-vineyard wine. But then that’s why Turley remains one of the few true cult Zin producers.

WineSpectator.com members: Read blind-tasting reviews for previous vintages of Turley Zinfandel California Juvenile.

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Top Values among California Zinfandel.

Scott Oneil
Denver, CO, US —  May 2, 2011 12:12pm ET
Thanks for the explanation. I had wondered if the Juvenile simply came from 'new' vineyards, or if something like what you describe was taking place. Kudos to Turley for the added effort this requires!

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