Selections for December 2016

Recovery?  Resurrection?  Restoration?


Two days ago a customer visiting our Cabernet racks remarked, “Wow, you get Turnbull!  I didn’t think it got out all that much.”

That’s when I knew this winery was finally achieving the harder of two things. 

No stranger to the Highway 29 traverser, Turnbull opened its doors back in 1979.  High visibility has certainly made it known to many but its presence on Napa’s main corridor wasn’t the only way so many knew it.  For quite a while the brand also maintained a significant situation on grocery store shelves.  Turnbull became accepted as a reliable, if not outstanding, selection two aisles over from the paper towels.

The family’s younger generation assumed the reins some years back, seeking to dramatically reduce production and improve Turnbull’s wine quality.  They have achieved that first “thing,” epitomized by Robert Parker awarding a 2010 single-vineyard offering the “perfect” 100 point score and proclaiming,

“It is another brilliant effort from a winery that has dramatically improved its quality from good to world-class. “ 

The second “thing” takes longer, and is sometimes never fully realized:  Changing the consumer’s perspective of your now-better, smaller-production brand.  It’s easier to go in the opposite direction.  Consider a former Orin Swift brand called “The Prisoner,” once much smaller in output and the exclusive, allocated product of shops like The Wine Steward.  The brand has since been purchased not once, but twice; exploding in volume and stacked in Safeway and Costco, and – because all but the most casual consumer knows its new accessibility – all but banned from wine shops who are no longer special by carrying it.  If the wine itself ever had any sense of soul, the need to access bigger and more mediocre fruit sources has now made The Prisoner a simple, serviceable drink and nothing more.  

But taking a bigger brand down in size and up in consumer perspective?  Like that rich man achieving the Kingdom of God, you could more easily urge a camel through the eye of a needle!  So perhaps you understand a wine shop’s trepidation with advocating a great product that might be tainted in the view of some.  If we re-build it, will they come to the brand? 

Wine club members, we know you have it in you:  You taste carefully and trust us to bring you quality, regardless of label.  You’ll appreciate the NEW Turnbull for what it is.  For such thoughtful wine consumers, Turnbull is achieving the harder thing the right way; with damn good juice! 

Freshly turned loam, ultra-ripe plums, and tobacco endearingly greet the nose.  A plump, mouth-filling and fruit-forward palate happens with the necessary “resistance” of silky, cocoa-like tannins.  This wine is built for early drinking and would especially honor a prime rib roast.  Enjoy now or cellar for up to five years.

Another test of your perception . . .


There’s a theme to this month’s pair of wine, methinks!  If Turnbull seemed an unlikely provision to a club anticipating rarer wines (and as we explained, Turnbull is exactly that these days), what must THIS mean to you?

Its meaning could be based on value:  With your wine club discount we are destroying’s price and matching K&L’s; two low-ballers normally “owning” this category.  Most other providers of Mondavi Oakville are asking much more.  And we ask, “From whom else can you get ‘Oakville’ for 44.99?”

Its meaning might be ratings derived:  Wine Spectator gives this a very respectable 91 point nod saying,

“Tightly wound, with a muscular mix of lead pencil and graphite accenting the core of dense berry, earth, gravel and cedary oak notes. Slowly reveals black licorice, anise and savory herb flavors, but needs cellaring time. Best from 2019 through 2030.”

… But I hope the meaning you’re getting comes from the wine itself and faith in our wine-finding.  I probably would not bring you Mondavi “Oakville” from many other vintages, but the great Napa year of 2013 which conferred goodness and seriousness on all its Cabernets provokes this selection. 

Taste this wine and know you’re experiencing durability.  If you open it now, please decant it; provide some “false age.”  The bottle on my desk was uncorked last Saturday.  Now it’s Tuesday and what remains is still working.  While Robert Mondavi himself is gone and his label now belongs to others, this wine’s tradition of providing a classical Cabernet experience is upheld.  Graphite, coy black fruits, cedar, and dark cherries happen on a focused, well-structured frame.  Density meets elegance.

Real Red Collectors will recognize the truth in this very cellar-worthy wine, of which we urge you to buy more for later.  We are proud to show it to you.