Old Vines is composed of a variety of old sites from California that are either too small to be made into a vineyard designate wine or are “new” to the Turley family (and way of farming). Vines are anywhere from 41 to 129 years old, and a true representation of California old vine Zinfandel, hailing from vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lodi, Contra Costa, Amador and Paso Robles.
We began the Turley “Old Vine” cuvée twenty years ago, in 2000, and it remains one of the most important wines we make today. The story of this wine is the story of Turley Wine Cellars itself.
After two decades as an emergency room physician, Larry Turley developed a passion for restoration, rejuvenation, and yes, resuscitation. Where others might see decay, decrepitude and neglect, Larry looked beyond, finding instead health, history, and potential. This passion has translated directly into his strong affinity towards old vine vineyards across California, sites that were often neglected in favor of their younger, more vigorous and less troublesome brethren. Some had been abandoned altogether, ripped out for developments or replaced with more lucrative crops. Turley, alongside longtime Vineyard Manager (and now Director of Winemaking) Tegan Passalacqua, is devoted to saving these old vineyards, reinvigorating them through organic farming practices and preserving them in the ground for generations to come.
Why are old vines superior?
In addition to their cultural significance, old vines produce a naturally more complex, balanced, and sustainable wine. Young vines tend to be vigorous and high yielding for a short period of time (16-20 years) before most wineries rip them up and replant, to keep yields at a maximum; think of the brief but intense career of an NFL player. Young modern vineyards are also almost always irrigated, which keeps the yields high and the root systems shallow, but can (in our opinion) dilute the quality and integrity of the final wine.
An old vine, on the other hand, naturally regulates its yields, focusing all of the vine’s energy into a more finite—and ultimately more concentrated—final wine. Furthermore, these vines are dry-farmed, meaning they survive only on the natural rainfall patterns and water tables of their respective micro-climates. Finally, they are more deeply rooted in the soils, reaching down over 40 feet into the earth in some cases. For these reasons, we believe the final wines produced by truly old vines are the truest representations of their respective terroirs.