2019 Turley Wine Cellars, Zinfandel, Judge Bell, Amador County.
The Turley Judge Bell Amador County Zinfandel comes from vines planted back in 1907 in the Shenandoah Valley region and set on granitic material and volcanic based soils up at about 1,500 feet and makes for an outstanding and distinctive version, as this beautifully sensuous 2019 shows, with a cool toned expression of black fruits, mineral notes, spice and subtle wood usage. I have really become a huge admirer of Turley’s Sierra Foothills Zins, especially in recent years, with the 2018, 2019 and 2021 vintages being exceptional and this Judge Bell, named after the road where the Turley Amador County winery is located, which in turn is a tribute to Judge Bell, who presided over the nearby town of Plymouth during its Gold Rush heyday. This is a fantastic wine, luxurious, ripe and dense on the palate, it still has a lively nature and is less heavy than per normal, which appeals to me. The mouth is rich with black raspberry, thick plum, fig and brandied cherry fruits, along with mocha, forest floor, framboise and baking spice accents, all melded together for an expressive and seamless experience, adding a touch of savory crunch and dusty dried herbs de Provence note. For the Judge Bell Zinfandel, similar to the whole lineup here at Turley, everything begins with organic and sustainable grapes, all from own-rooted, head-trained, dry-farmed and hand harvested vines, seeing a native yeast fermentation and cool maceration. After fermentation, as Turley notes, the wines ages in 80% used oak with just 20% new, of which 80% is matured French oak with 20% being American oak, that works perfectly to provide a lush feel and just enough of toasty/smoky sweetness.

The iconic Turley Wine Cellars, as I’ve mentioned many times here, is one of California’s most desirable labels and one of the top Zinfandel producers in the state, it was founded in 1993 in Napa Valley by Larry Turley, the ex emergency room doctor and flying enthusiast, who grew up on farms in the south, where he gained a huge respect for the land and wanted to produce authentic Californian wines. Now, with winemaker Tegan Passalacqua leading the efforts, Turley hand crafts about 50 different wines each vintage from more than 50 unique sites across California, with some vineyards in the collection dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, making them well over a hundred years old. Passalacqua has raised the game here at Turley and they really respect the history of these vines, putting a lot of effort into the care of these old vines, relying on organic farming and preserving these old vine vineyards with California’s classic varieties, asTurley says, they aim to both create and preserve California’s unique winemaking culture and traditions. Turley, looking to the future has put together an impressive team, with Larry’s daughter, Christina Turley, who joined the winery full time in 2010 leading the sales and marketing efforts from the Napa headquarters in Saint Helena. Turley, a visionary, brought a few lesser known properties in California’s Zin locations over the last couple of decades, like their Pesenti site in Paso Robles and more recently the Karly winery in Amador County, both of which have huge benefits in terms of access (for customers) and quality to the lineup, like this Amador County Zinfandel shows! The Judge Bell Zin joined the Turley collection in 2011, and now is regular or full member of the elite collection, and it is part of an ongoing history told and carried on by Turley and one to look for!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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