Helen Turley

Kent Hanson
Helen Turley

Peter Michael, Colgin, Bryant Family, Pahlmeyer—these are just some of the labels that winemaker Helen Turley put on the map. Brilliant, stubborn, indefatigable, she's had a huge impact on California wine.

Turley grew up in Georgia, in a family that didn't drink, then fell in love with wine while living in New York. In 1968, she and husband John Wetlaufer moved to California. After working in wine labs and cellars, she struck out on her own in 1991 and built a reputation for elevating promising wineries to the next level. Turley focused on harvesting ripe grapes from selected vineyards to make intense, polished wines. She earned a reputation for being difficult, putting the wine first and criticizing clients she thought did not. Though most of her top clients produced Cabernet, Turley and Wetlaufer focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at their own Marcassin estate. The modern style of all three varietals owes much to her work. She earned Wine Spectator's Distinguished Service Award in 2010.

Watch Helen Turley at Marcassin