Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wednesday Winemaker Dinner Blogging

If you've ever had Turley touch your lips, you know what I mean when I say, "YUM!" Or, if you've suffered through Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang and are dyslexic, you might sing, "Turley scrumptious, you are Turley, Turley scrumptious." You gotta like big wines (and lots of alcohol, not that you taste the alcohol with the gobs of fruit), but a Turley Zinfandel is a thing of magic, in some ways the epitome of, if not a California wine, perhaps the boldness and brashness and sheer "you're going to like me"-ability of California itself--it's a vinuous Terminator, so to speak (and to speak without any Austrian accent).

Amy and I attended, for the fifth straight year (yeah, you can hate us for it), the annual winemaker dinner Turley holds up in Templeton (just south of Paso Robles, and just north of Atascadero, which I only mention because its high school's team is the Greyhounds) this past Friday and it seems the event just gets better and better. Turley teams with Ian McPhee at McPhee's Grill for a culinary blowout. Here's this year's setlist:

1997 “Old Vines” Zinfandel
Passed Appetizers
1994 “Aida Vineyard” Zinfandel
Wild & Exotic Mushroom Ragu
with smoked tomato relish on baked polenta
1994 Moore “Earthquake Vineyard” Zinfandel
Moroccan Spiced Swordfish
with eggplant tomato jam, honey garlic aioli
& roasted vegetable couscous salad
1995 “Black Sears” Zinfandel & 1996 “Grist” Zinfandel
Oak Roasted Prime Spencer Steak
with grilled foie gras and Oaxacan Mole
1998 “Delinquent” Zinfandel Port
Chocolate Decadence Cake
with zinfandel, chocolate and fig sauce

Yes, that's 5 zins, plus their port, which is richness in a glass, with a few tasty delectables like foie gras and mole thrown in. Notice, too, they hit their library for this dinner, which warms my drink 'em young at home heart. I don't have the patience, or the good cellaring spot, to hang on to wine for too long (here's hoping that 1991 Chateau Montelena cab is still happy in its closet), so I appreciate the chance to drink wines someone has aged properly every now and then. If you're wondering, Turley Zins do change over a decade--the wines mellow and move towards Amarone, with berries turning raisiny, and often port-like themselves. But they sure paired well with the food. That "Earthquake" with the Moroccan spice on the perfectly cooked swordfish--which isn't easy, as it's a fish that dries so easily--and the essence of eggplant relish...I would have that dish daily, if possible. Plus it proves even a serious red wine can go with fish (and enough spice, not that the spice over-powered, it just perfectly perfumed).

What's more, you usually get sat with people at this event, and we had the great pleasure of sharing a table with Frank and Connie Nerelli. Frank is the grandson of Frank Pesenti, who started the Pesenti Winery and then the family sold what's now known as the Pesenti Vineyard to Turley in 2000. So he's part of three generations of winemakers from the area and himself makes a stellar zinfandel at Zin Alley, tending to 3 acres pretty much solo--it's the definition of a wine made out of love for winemaking (and dry farmed, which seems to help make zin the extracted delight it can be in its best versions). Amy and I pumped him for info and stories that he kindly shared and we're definitely never going to be winemakers ourselves--there's way too much to know and do. You have to know how dirt is different. You have to be able to tell the sugar levels of grapes just by looking (sure you can test, but are you a scientist or a winemaker?). I'd rather just drink the stuff.

I've left off Turley's website until here as there's only a homepage that tells you that they are "happy to add you to the waiting list for our mailing list." You read that right--you sign up, and eventually when enough people stop buying (unlikely) or die off, you get offered an allotment of wine twice a year. When I finally got on the list, I felt like I won the lottery (and not, as the ever more practical Amy pointed out, as if I had just got a chance to spend more money). While most of their wines are from Napa and points north, their tasting room is in Templeton and worth a visit if you're on the Central Coast. Given how exclusive the wine is, the tasting room offers no snoot. Plus the area is booming with great wine, and not just Zins--there's great Rhone varietals, Bordeaux varietals, even some Pinot. If you hit the area, try stopping in at Tablas Creek, Denner, Villa Creek, Four Vines, L'Aventure, the list could go on. And you'll get to drive on roads that look like this:

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Blogger Mike said...

Wow. Just a killer evening all around. Sounds amazing in every aspect.

You suck.

4:04 AM  
Blogger George said...

Don't hate me because my teeth are stained purple....

9:22 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I don't. I hate you for the shreds of beef from the Oak Roasted Prime Spencer Steak
with grilled foie gras and Oaxacan Mole that are stuck between your purple teeth.

Damn man, least you do is floss before you tell me about your haute cuisinegasm.

10:43 AM  

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