Helen Turley is an American winemaker and wine consultant, known for bringing several Californian cult wines to the public awareness, and as the owner of a 9-acre (3.6 ha) boutique winery, Marcassin Vineyard.
Turley has also fostered other consultants, such as Mark Aubert, Philippe Melka, and Heidi Barrett. In addition to consulting for wineries such as Pahlmeyer, Bryant Family Vineyard, Colgin, Martinelli and Blankiet, until 1995, she was the winemaker for Turley Wine Cellars.
In 2001, the Roy Estate hired Turley and her husband, John Wetlaufer, to design their 17-acre (6.9 ha) Napa Valley vineyard and for Turley to serve as consulting winemaker. After making Roy Estate's 2003 & 2004 vintages, Turley canceled the arrangement in March 2005. The following September, the owners of Roy Estate filed a lawsuit against Turley and Wetlaufer alleging breach of contract. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court in May 2006.
eRobertParker.com #220 Aug 2015 Robert M. Parker, Jr. 98 The 2009 Pinot Noir Marcassin Vineyard is a gorgeous, clearly California version of a grand cru from Burgundy, such as Clos Saint-Denis or Clos de la Roche. This deep plum/garnet-colored wine offers intense berry fruit along with forest floor, spice box, earth and loads of plum, cherry and strawberry notes, moving toward darker fruits, as well as earthy, autumnal, foresty scents. The wine is full-bodied, with great intensity, sweet tannins and good acidity. Drink it over the next decade or more.
There is no doubt that Marcassin is the most difficult appointment for people to schedule, to sit down and taste wine with owners Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer. The legacy they have created in California wine is immense. They are in their early seventies, and have decided to completely dedicate themselves to their own vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. I saw them recently, and tasted through these current and upcoming releases of both the Estate Chardonnay and Estate Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay, of course, comes from very low-yielding old Wente clones of Chardonnay planted on the slopes of the Sonoma coastline hillsides. This clone is believed to have been brought over from Burgundy’s grand cru vineyard, Corton-Charlemagne, decades ago.
Here are the notes on the bottled 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and barrel samples of the 2013 and 2014. As readers know, this is probably one of the most Burgundian-styled Chardonnays ever made in California, and it has attracted many imitators. It goes through full malolactic fermentation, and sees a good dosage of new oak, but the tiny yields and meticulous winemaking are brilliant, and the wines, by and large, have aged very well, with the first Estate Chardonnays from 1996, 1997 and 1998 still going strong. The same can be said for some of Helen Turleys first Chardonnays from purchased fruit, particularly from the Lorenzo Vineyard, Hudson Vineyard and Gauer Vineyard/Upper Barn (now owned by the Jackson family, and known as their Alexander Valley Mountain Estate).
Marcassin Pinot Noir
The acreage on the 20-acre Marcassin Estate Vineyard is equally split between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir parcels are planted with multiple clones, although the so-called Calera clone seems to have dominance over the others. All of these Pinot Noirs trend toward resembling grand crus from Morey-Saint-Denis in Northern Côtes de Nuits in Burgundy, given their forest floor, mushroom, sweet plum, currant and cherry notes. They are very sexy, lush and certainly capable of 10-15 years of cellaring, possibly longer. As we’re just coming up on 19 years on the 1996, Marcassin’s debut vintage, one thing that’s interesting is that the ripeness in their parcels is almost completely different each year, depending on the growing season. While some of the critics of these wines have claimed that they are relatively high in alcohol, the truth is that some are as low as the upper 13% range, and the ripest they have ever been tends to be just over 15%.
JS: James Suckling
BV: Bidvino Staff
RP: Robert Parker
WS: Wine Spectator
JH: James Halliday
JR: Jancis Robinson
WE: Wine Enthusiast
DM: Decanter Magazine
JD: Jeb Dunnuck
2009 Marcassin Pinot Noir Marcassin Vineyard
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