Dr. Zin And His Geriatric Vines

By Robert Parker

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By education and training, Larry Turley is an emergency-room doctor, but nowadays he is the world's leading practitioner of zinfandel. Plantings in California go back to the 19th century, and Turley seeks grapes from old vines; they produce less fruit but more intense flavors. Winemaker Ehren Jordan turns these grapes into wonderful wines. The surest way to get them is from the winery (805 434-1030; turleywinecellars.com). Here are some current and upcoming releases, all zinfandels from the 2004 vintage.

Old Vines

91 points.

This 1,000-case blend of different vineyards' lots is one of the estate's best buys. Aromas of plums, licorice, truffles, herbs, and briary black fruits are followed by a soft, plump, voluptuously textured zin to consume over the next three to four years. $25

Duarte Vineyard

92 points.

There are usually fewer than 500 cases of this effort, which generally reveals southern Rhône-like garrigue--earthy, herbal characteristics--along with plenty of soil overtones, fresh black cherries, and a spicy, heady finish. $32

Pesenti Vineyard

92 points.

From Paso Robles' limestone soils, the Pesenti Vineyard zin could pass for a Grenache-based southern Rhône. It has striking minerality, pepper, and kirsch liqueur-like notes. Full bodied but remarkably fresh, it should drink well for a decade. $35

Turley Estate

91 points.

This wine reveals aromas of seaweed wrapper (nori) intermixed with jammy cherries, loamy soil, pepper, and garrigue characteristics. With wonderful sweetness and richness (and one of the lowest alcohol contents of these zins, just 14.9%), it will provide plenty of pleasure over the next four to five years. $38

Grist Vineyard

94 points.

From rocky volcanic mountaintop soils, Grist Vineyard is always a whopper in terms of alcohol (15.8% in 2004). The deep ruby/purple-colored, Châteauneuf du Pape-like wine boasts a sensational perfume of raspberry jam, scorched earth, pepper, and garrigue. Full bodied with an amazing texture and a voluptuous mid-palate and blockbuster finish, this is zinfandel at its finest. Enjoy it over the next five to seven years. $40

Vineyard 101

95 points.

This blockbuster, compelling zin is no shy wine, at 16.3% alcohol. It boasts an inky purple color in addition to fabulous ripeness, great intensity, a remarkable, rich, full-bodied style, plenty of peppery blackberry and cherry fruit, huge body, and a succulence that comes across like a great Pomerol from Bordeaux. It should evolve for seven to eight years. $42

Hayne Vineyard

95 points.

With 16.3% alcohol, this is one of Turley's two or three most prodigious zinfandels. A dense purple color is accompanied by aromas of white flowers, black raspberries, blackberries, cassis, melted licorice, and pepper. Huge, rich, and concentrated, it is a testament to the greatness of zinfandel from a vineyard planted by Italian immigrants in 1904. It should drink well for at least a decade. $75.

Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good

Visit www.eRobertParker.com for the Internet's most active wine bulletin board, tens of thousands of tasting notes, or to order his recent book, The World's Greatest Wine Estates: A Modern Perspective. You can also subscribe to Parker's newsletter, The Wine Advocate. Request a sample copy at: The Wine Advocate, P.O. Box 311, Monkton, MD 21111

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