Toast of the Town

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



photography by Andrea Zucker

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The Robert Turner wine label is an exciting, relative newcomer to a number of retail stores, fine restaurants, and high-profile parties throughout the city. The mystery man behind this eponymous boutique label is Robert Turner, a retired dentist from California, who is now living his dream, making wine.

Bob and his wife, Shirley (née Brennan), are Memphis natives now dividing their time between Memphis and San Francisco, where Bob practiced for 37 years and where they own a home. Our city has welcomed this popular couple back to town with open arms, and in turn they both agree that living here for part of the year near family and friends has been a truly rewarding experience.

If it is true that baby boomers are “rewiring” rather than “retiring,” then Bob Turner is a poster child for establishing a creative and successful encore career later in life. Like many Californians, especially those living in the Bay area, Bob early on developed a keen interest in wine that morphed gradually into a full-blown passion and ultimately into a successful business.

Fredric Koeppel’s Commercial Appeal profile on the award-winning Robert Turner Wines explains that Bob does not own vineyards himself, but rather buys the grapes and leases equipment and a facility to craft his wines. When I sat down with Bob, he explained that his path to becoming a boutique winemaker was a long one. He began in 1986 making wine in a garage, took oenology courses at the University of California at Davis, and over time gained more and more experience until the point arrived that friends started asking if they could buy his wines.

Ultimately, Turner founded Robert Turner Wines in 2004, making at present a chardonnay and pinot noir from the Russian River Valley in California’s Sonoma County and a cabernet franc from Napa Valley. He says his pinot noir is only in its second year, and if he does say so himself, “it is really good.” The big news, too, is that he has just started making a rosé wine, which is something we can all look forward to.

 

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