Despite the overwhelming number of Zinfandel producers in the U.S., the MVP of carrying the varietal’s reputation may very well belong to Larry Turley,who has spent the last thirty years in California dedicating his days to preserving and furthering Zinfandel’s cause. So much so that since the co-founder of Frog’s Leap Winery first left to start his own winery in 1993, he has built a portfolio that includes 47 wines across 50 vineyards with 29 of them dedicated to the Zin varietal!
Today, his protege, winemaker Tegan Passalacqua, (a noted Zinfandel and Petite Sirah specialist in his own regard), is the man tasked with overseeing the entire winemaking operation. On top of that, Tegan and his wife started their own brand, Sandlands concentrating on making lesser championed wines. Sound like a lot? You don’t even know. Wine Spectator pointed out that in the 2017 vintage alone, Tegan made 49 different wines from 13 different counties in California under the Turley label, and another dozen wines for Sandlands.
Drinking Turley’s Judge Bell Zinfandel is something else. These 111-year-old vines are deeply rooted in the organically-farmed granite soil, and the wine they produce is distinctively Amador in its pure luminous red color and red-fruited aromatics. The texture further tells the story of the Sierra Foothills, once the epicenter of California’s Gold Rush, with its highly-polished, fine-grained mountain tannins. Drinking exceptionally well now, but will continue to age gracefully if you have the patience.
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93 Points, Vinous
The 2021 Zinfandel Judge Bell Vineyard is a potent, brooding wine. Gravel, dried herbs, menthol, cured meat, licorice and red berry fruit give this brawny Zinfandel a good deal of character. The Judge Bell is not an easy wine, but it has so much to offer for those who are willing to take some time with it.
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