Toast of the Town

Native Memphian Robert Turner has found a way to bottle his passion.

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Two wine bottles and a pagoda-shaped lantern from San Francisco’s legendary Gump’s department store make a colorful tableau.

Bob’s original intent was to sell his wine via a mailing list and “in a couple of restaurants,” but fortunately he has been able to get distribution in wine shops in the San Francisco Bay area. Then serendipitously, his wines in Memphis got a big boost when they were “discovered” by Restaurant Iris’ owner/chef Kelly English and his front-of-house manager, Jeff Frisby. They loved them and requested the development of a special “Iris Cuvee” for their wine list. Turner is also grateful for the support of local distributor Victor L. Robilio Co. and its general sales manager, Marne Anderson. He now sells wine in ten states through a mailing list, and in restaurants and wine shops in California, Tennessee and Canada. You can find Robert Turner Wines here at Buster’s, Great Wines and Spirits, and the Wine Market, and at area restaurants including Iris, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, and Napa Café.

Turner is increasing his production every year. He mentions, too, that he thinks one of the newest and most exciting growth areas is the sale of wine in five-gallon kegs. While this sounds to the layman a bit like the box wines of old, Bob sets me straight, saying that “this is a big trend now, on the East and West Coasts.” In Memphis, for example, the popular Hog & Hominy restaurant sells wine this way and he predicts “there will be a huge growth in keg wine in the next ten years.”

Of course, the Turners are always in California in August, September, and October — the most important months in the wine-making process. This is the time for harvesting and pressing the grapes and getting the wine into barrels. “Racking” too is all important; the term means siphoning the wine to clarify it and clear off the sediment.

A few months ago, the Turners invited some friends of Memphis magazine to a wine-tasting at their home. Naturally, the wine was fabulous but so too was the sophisticated décor of their beautiful house located off Southern near the Memphis Country Club golf course. It is apparent that Shirley Turner also has that “creative gene.” She is an artist, a great cook, a skilled entertainer, and a natural interior decorator.


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