Note: Since the writing of this article, Westberg and Turtle Rock are closed.
Rarely do I get overly excited about a wine, but in this case, I must write and rave about a wine I discovered while in Paso Robles a couple of weeks ago. Janelle and I were traveling the backroads of Paso Robles on the west side of Highway 101. We stumbled upon a winery by the name of Westberg Cellars. It is a very hidden winery and for whatever reason, the winery is not listed in the local wine guide produced by the Paso Robles Wine Alliance.
We met up with Don Burns in the tasting room, Don is the nephew of Tom and Peggy Westberg, the owners of the winery, and Don is the assistant winemaker. Besides his winemaking duties, Don does PR for the winery and has several other responsibilities as well. Don had been toiling out in the vineyard when he saw us drive up to the tasting room and hustled into the winery to do his tasting room gig.
We tasted through the lineup of Westberg wines which we enjoyed very much, especially the Estate Zinfandel. Then Don says “I would like you to taste this wine, it is my label.” The Turtle Rock Willow Cuvée 2008 is Don’s first try at making his own wine. The aroma of this wine was the tip off for me that I was about to taste something very exciting. It was rich and fruity and a delight to the nose. With each small sip we thought this wine was absolutely outstanding and a delicious treat. And the price, an astonishing $24! We purchased just a few bottles (sad to say) and opened a bottle of this wine this past weekend. All I can say is this is one of the best bottles of wine I have tasted in recent memory, and believe me that speaks volumes because we drink a lot of wine.
The Turtle Rock wine is a blend of 48% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 17% Mourvedre. The grapes for this wine were sourced from various small Westside Paso Robles vineyards and only 600 cases of this wine were made. The wine comes in at 15% plus alcohol but you would never know it the way the wine drinks. It is elegant, layered with flavors and has a long and full finish. This wine likes big food as a match. We had it with a strong pesto pizza layered with prosciutto and it was perfecto!
My guess is the big boys like James Laube, Steve Tanzer, and Robert Parker are not likely to taste this wine from an obscure winery and winemaker, but I believe if they did is would surely be one of their top wines. The wine drinks like a $50 bottle of wine.
One final caveat to mention and I don’t know if there is any connection to this wine. Don Burns grew up in Paso Robles with Justin Smith. Yes, Justin Smith of Saxum Vineyards fame, whose wine received the top 2010 wine of the year in the Wine Spectator.
If you are traveling in Paso Robles or planning a wine country trip there in the near future, I highly encourage you to stop by Westberg Cellars and try all the wines, but for sure the Turtle Rock Willow’s Cuvée. It rocks!