Within the past couple of weeks, the Cobbs sold their winery - Karly Wines- and a portion of the vines they've been farming since 1980.
The prominent buyer is Turley Wine Cellars, which also owns wineries at St. Helena in Napa Valley and Templeton in San Luis Obispo County. No price was divulged by either party to the sale.
"We're jazzed," says Ehren Jordan, Turley's director of winemaking and general manager, whose 19th harvest is getting under way. Turley is celebrated for producing the sort of dark, dense and powerful zinfandels for which Amador County also is recognized.
Though Turley has been buying grapes in the Sierra foothills since "1996 or 1997," says Jordan, the winery's principals weren't actively seeking property in Amador County until they met the Cobbs and struck a deal that came about so quickly that not all the paperwork has been completed to permit the grapes being picked today to be crushed at the Karly facilities. As a consequence, they will be hauled via refrigerated truck to the Turley winery in Napa Valley. "This came together more rapidly than we expected," says Jordan. "Larry (Turley) and Buck just hit it off. Larry's a pilot, and Buck's a retired fighter pilot, so they had that in common. And then our thoughts on wine synced up."
|Buck Cobb (2007)|
The sale came about so fast, and with harvest commencing, the new owners have yet to settle on their business plan for the property, indicates Jordan. The "Karly" name likely will be retained, at least for non-zinfandel wines like sauvignon blanc, mourvedre, syrah and barbera, the latter a varietal that Jordan never has made but with which Amador County also is being identified; zinfandels from the Cobb site and from other growers in the neighborhood probably will be put up under the "Turley" brand. Cobb's portfolio of zinfandels included such vineyard-designated and proprietary wines as "Sadie Upton," Warrior's Fire," "Pokerville" and "Buck's 10 Point." "I think some of those names will continue. Let me make the wine first and then we will see what to call it," Jordan says. "I've enjoyed Buck's 'Sadie Upton' and I look forward to making 'Sadie Upton' myself."
Jordan isn't sure whether he will expand the five-acre vineyard that Turley acquired in the purchase, but if he does he might put in varieties associated with France's Rhone Valley rather than zinfandel. Turley was attracted to Amador County primarily by its old-vine zinfandel vineyards, and that's what it wants to exploit primarily. Jordan had worked for two years in the northern Rhone Valley, where soils of decomposed granite bear a strong resemblance to what he sees in Amador County, so any enlargement of the vineyard could go in the direction of syrah and the like, he indicates.
While Turley makes zinfandels from other regions, zinfandel from Amador County is distinctive enough to add diversity rather than redundacy to the winery's lineup, Jordan suggests. "Amador has totally different soils. They're granitic, and that's the only place (in California) you find them. Climatically, it's much more rugged - hot in the summer, cold in the winter, with huge dirunal swings in temperature. You get power in the wines from the sunshine, but they also have tremendous acidity," Jordan says.
In recent years, Karly Wines has been producing about 6,000 cases annually. Jordan expects to bottle less than that from this year's crop, but eventually annual production should settle in at between 6,000 cases and 10,000 cases.
For now, the tasting room at Karly Wines is closed pending an anticipated remodeling.
Buck Cobb, in the meantime, is looking forward to overseeing his real-estate interests and to pursuing his passion for fly fishing. "I don't think I'm going to miss the business much, but I'm going to miss the relationships we've developed with customers, wholesalers and others. They've become lifelong friends. I'm going to miss those relationships, but I hope to continue to visit with them. It will be fun to spend time with them socially, without the press of wine business getting in the way."