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Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 17, 2021

2018 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Road, Fellom Ranch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
One of the most thrilling of the more modern throwback wines of the vintage, Ian Brand’s exceptional Monte Bello Road Cabernet Sauvignon from the Fellom Ranch is rich and complex, but styled after the historic California mountain grown wines of the 70s and 80s with deep fruit layers and firm structural tannin and brambly showing blackberry, dark currant and plum fruits that are accented by spicy sage, cigar box, sandalwood, anise and chalky stones. This is a powerful offering that is going to reward patience and it should evolve in rewarding fashion, if not slowly, though after opening up it has stunning Cabernet purity and its dark purple/garnet hue in the glass is very inviting. Brand, who is known for doing things his own way and who is a vineyard whisperer really has gotten the best out this vineyard and his other sites, most of which are organic, in recent years, making this wine that stands up to this site’s famous neighbor! Ian did as he says a light and gentle crush, de-stemming all the fruit and allowing for a native yeast fermentation and an 18 day period of maceration on the skins before lees aging this Monte Bello Cabernet for 20 months in wood, which uniquely was one new large Austrian oak Stockinger puncheon and one used French oak barrel. Only about 67 cases made made of this one, so I recommend not waiting too long to grab it. The winemaking here allows for amazing transparency and less chocolatey/toast, that you’d find in present day Napa Cabs, while providing the needed softening of the chewy Mountain fruit tannin.

This Fellom Ranch vineyard site, like its famous neighbor, sits on a unique uplift of ancient sea bed soils and is home to some of California’s most prized Cabernet Sauvignon vines with Ian’s grapes coming mostly from Beringer selection (clone) of vines planted between 1980 and1982 on a special north and east facing section of the property which allows for deep fruit concentration, but with excellent natural acidity and a firm tannic backbone. 2018s long cool season produced an amazing wine with a heady 14.6% of natural alcohol, though it feels more like much less and has loads of energy to go with age worthy power, its structural core is going to serve this wine well for a couple of decades. The Fellom Ranch was originally bought by a California State Senator, Roy Fellom, in 1929 and the first vines planted by the late Bud Fellom in the 1970s, just as the Monte Bello Vineyard, owned then by the legendary Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards was getting famous. As noted above this wine really gets going after getting some air, in fact after tasting fresh and day old bottles the Monte Bello road Cab is way better and beautifully drinking after the 24 hour mark, highlighting the potential for the future. Those that love the wines of Phillip Togni, Dunn and Cathy Corison will really be tuned on to the style of this Monte Bello Road Cab. This wine joins an every growing list of striking offering from this Salinas based central coast focused winery, that includes Brand’s once main focus Grenache offerings, his Enz Vineyard old vine Mourvedre, his new delightful Arneis, the skin contact Pinot Gris, his other Cabernet Sauvignon, from the historic Massa Estate in Carmel Valley and his set of Cabernet Francs, all of which I have praised here.
($75 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 16, 2021

2018 Domaine Duroché, Gevrey-Chambertin AC, Red Burgundy, France.
The 2018 Gevrey-Chambertin by Pierre Duroché is an exception and pure Burgundy, and even though this is just the normal AC wine it could easily be mistaken for a Premier Cru with beautiful depth and mouth filling concentration showing a sense of ripe black fruits, seductive earthiness and a dry tangy and saline quality that gets you salivating along with mineral tones and elegant floral details, impressive. There is a big pop of black cherry, red currant, wild plum and subtle leathery accents that keep your attention and the finish is wonderfully long and youthfully crisp, not overly oaked, this is an openly transparent Pinot Noir that is really performing well even now. Grown on the Cote de Nuits’ classic clay and limestone and from vines in the 20 to 50 year old range the Domaine Duroché Gevrey-Chambertin has loads of personality and a welcome rustic charm, adding sweet strawberry and brambly raspberry to its core fruits with air and a nice chalky essence that reminds all over why you love Burgundy and that these experiences are special, this is a bottle to savor with friends and a great value too. I was engrossed with this wine and kept finding new and more fine underlying facets, like bergamot, wilted rose petals, forest floor and the faintest whiff of wood, this dark garnet and ruby edged Burgundy deserves a long and relaxed meal to get everything there is to enjoy here.

Pierre Duroché, the fifth generation of Duroché vignerons, took over the domaine from his father back in 2005 and has notably raised the game here and the image of the wines at this estate are now highly coveted and sought after. I remember being first introduced to Pierre’s wines by Beaune Imports at one of their legendary portfolio tastings in San Francisco and being very captivated by them and impressed by their value, and this was not the only time these wines impressed me, so I was thrilled to get a few bottles of the latest release and they clearly did not disappoint. Duroché, as Beaune Imports notes, has wide range of top quality vineyard holdings, including some killer plots in Gevrey, as well as basic Bourgogne and village appellation parcels, as well as top Premier Cru and even several Grand Cru sites. The style that Pierre has produced at Duroché is all about graceful lines and understated power with supple tannins and elegant fruit with touch of earth, or as Beaune calls it, a briny mineral core, which they add is a hallmark of the Gevrey terroirs, which I have found to be compelling along with an inner floral perfume and haunting length. The wines are modern enough to enjoy in their youth, they a far cry away from the old school stuff, like the original Domaine Maume, with attractive pureness and opulence that allows them to drink well on release but have the serious stuffing to age perfectly well for 15 to 20 years, especially the Cru bottlings. It was great to catch up with the Duroché wines and I will, without doubt keep a more intense eye on them in the future.
($55-75 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 15, 2021

2019 Inspiration Vineyards, Merlot, Weiler Vineyard, Sonoma Valley.
The 2019 Weiler Vineyard Merlot is expressively fruit forward and juicy with a bright core of youthful red fruits, including smooth layers of raspberry, plum, red currant and vibrant kirsch along with baking spices, toffee and cedar notes in a full bodied and supple wine that should fill out and take on a darker sense with age. Jon Phillips, owner and winemaker and his production manager Dylan Sheldon have rejuvenated this label in recent years and have released a tasty collection of wines, especially good here are the Grenache, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel, along with their limited single vineyard series offerings from small vineyards throughout Sonoma County, like this one. This Merlot is sourced from the Weiler Vineyard in the Sonoma Valley, not far from Glen Ellen and Jack London State Park. The label is from original art from a local tattoo artist in Sonoma County and gives the Inspiration wines a more modern look and helps set them apart in a stylish way.

The Inspiration Vineyards lineup features wines are hand crafted small production offerings, usually well under 200 cases of each and are mainly from family farmed sustainable sites and with a couple of estate bottlings. The Weiler Merlot is one of the Inspiration Vineyards rarities that was made with carefully hand harvested and sorted grapes, which were 100% de-stemmed and naturally fermented in an open top fermenter before being raised for just over a year in French oak with a minimum of new oak to allow for this fresh style that highlights the personality of the vineyard, it reminds me of what Napa and Sonoma Merlot was like in the early 1990s. This garnet and ruby colored and ripe Merlot is easy to enjoy with luxurious soft tannin and is very food friendly, being very nice with Fall cuisine, it would be a huge crowd pleaser with the casual and maybe less adventurous wine drinkers that still appreciate quality.
($36 Est.) 89 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 14, 2021

2001 Chateau du Reignac, Reignac Grand Vin, Bordeaux Supérieur, France.
The 2001 Reignac is still drinking beautifully, quite remarkable for a 20 year old wine that isn’t from one of the serious growths, especially a Merlot based Bordeaux Supérieur, sp it was a very pleasant surprise, even though I have always been a fan of this vintage. It’s #merlotme month and while I am too busy to pay attention to every hashtag wine event, I thought I’d open this Reignac to celebrate, and celebrate the USMNT Soccer win against Costa Rica in the World Cup Qualifying match, and I’m glad I did, it is very much alive and pretty in detail with a near perfect dark purple/garnet color with just a hint of browning around the edges and just the right amount of tertiary nuances and light sous bois in the background, plus the bouquet was elegantly floral and with just a faint earthiness. The palate is full and supple, highlighting the 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon make up in this vintage with layers of blackberry, cassis, fig paste, cherry and plum fruits along with classic accents including cedary wood, loamy earth, graphite, leafy notes and truffle. This wine was wound up and felt dusty dry at first, but quickly opened up and improved in the mouth with sense of opulence and roundness, it held on well for a few hours making for a very confident performance and a delicious experience.

The Chateau du Reignac, in the Entre Deux Mers zone, was founded in the 17th Century and is set near the town of St. Loubes on a gravelly plateau with rolling small hills with clay based soils not far from the famed Gironde River, it has long been a source for value packed red Bordeaux, reaching new heights during the late 1990s and continuing to the present, undertake leadership of the Vatelot family. Yves and Stéphanie Vatelot’s Grand Vin Reignac is one of the many wines that famous winemaker Michel Rolland has helped on and his influence is clearly felt on the wines here, especially in vintages like this one as well as the highly regarded 2005 with ripe fruit being a priority and exceptionally clarity. In this case, Rolland has brought more fruit density to this wine, allowing it to compete against much more expensive Chateaux. A lot of care goes into the winemaking here with careful sorting in the vineyard, followed by, as the winery notes, some 30% of the grapes are vinified in new oak barrels after a lengthy cold maceration in a stainless-steel with the other 70% vinified in both oak and stainless-steel vats after their cold maceration period with manual daily pigeage (cap punching) and the wine is run off while still warm for malolactic fermentation on the lees in barrels. The Reignac sees, as per Rolland, 100% new French oak aging with most vintages getting an elevage of close to 22 months, with the wine, interestingly also being racked a few times and stirred on the lees to add depth and texture. This wine punched above its weight and still has some life yet to go, it is especially good with meat dishes and hard cheeses.
($40 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 13, 2021

2019 Bodega Lanzaga, Rioja “LZ” Red Wine, Rioja, Spain.
I’m a huge fan of all of Telmo Rodriguez’s wines, especially his family’s Remelluri Estate Rioja, but this LZ Joven bottling made from seriously old vine, organic, Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano is an outrageous value with deep layers of ripe black fruits, including black cherry, plum, boysenberry, currants and Mission fig, spice, sweet florals, chalky mineral, cigar wrapper, earthy tones and tarry licorice. This wine, as noted in prior reviews, is exclusively raised in cement vats and is like Cotes du Rhone Villages in style with this vintage being an exciting and expressive year with plenty of fruit density and a fabulous mouth feel and opulent texture. Rodriguez is one of Spain’s leading lights and one of the world’s most influential winemakers, he was one of the only Spanish winemakers ever to lead a Bordeaux cellar and was mentored by the legendary Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage, where he gained insight that has shaped his own wines, in particular his fantastic Remelluri Rioja Blanco, which is one of the greatest white wines I’ve ever tried. Telmo is coy about his use of different varietals and percentage, he smiles as talks about it, but refuses to give exact details, which I have personally experienced when I’ve quizzed him! He believes it is more important to understand the place rather than the grapes used in the blend and he adds that the winemaking is to express terroir and honor the area’s history. The dark purple/garnet hued LZ, which is usually close to 90% Tempranillo with a small amount of Garnacha and Graciano, comes from vines located north of the Ebro River on shallow, stony, limy, silty soils on flat sandstone plateau that has a cooler climate and gives plenty of natural acidity and inner energy.

Telmo Rodríguez and his partner and friend Pablo Eguzkiza set up Compañia de Vinos Telmo Rodriguez in 1994 to explore Spain true potential and push its wines to the next level and In 1998 they started to buy old vineyard sites around the town of Lanciego and this was the catalyst for Bodega Lanzaga label. The Bodega Lanzaga LZ, according to Telmo Rodriguez, who is very much a student and admirer of the Rioja region’s history, is a tribute to the village grape growers of the 1920’s, who fashioned fresh wines like this, which is traditionally fermented in small concrete tanks with selected Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano grapes from, as mentioned, local organic vineyards in the village of Lanziego in Rioja Alavesa. With LZ, Rodriguez and his team want to keep alive that memory through this wine. The vines for this little red are located at an altitude of 500 to 700 meters, and set on two types of soils, both of continental origin from the tertiary era, with sandstone and marls (limestone/clay) which gives this wine its vitality, Telmo, to express the true terroir here used native yeasts and raised this LZ with just 6-7 months of aging in concrete tanks. Besides crafting his iconic Remelluri wines, he is producing a signature line of wines made in his ancient cellar from purchased grapes, usually 40 to 100 year old parcels at higher elevation within the region, which includes this LZ Rioja effort in his bargain priced Bodegas Lanzaga collection that ranges from this exceptional entry level wine to what I’d call Premier and Grand Cru bottlings. Rioja is seeing more and more unique wines, as well as the classics, and is a region that isn’t resting on its past glories, it is a great time to re-visit and explore these wines. I love this stuff, it is easy and eager to please, but has a complexity and rustic charm to keep your attention, it goes great with a variety of foods, but simple country cuisine suits it best.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 12, 2021

2015 Gabin et Felix Richoux, Irancy “Veaupessiot” Red Burgundy, France.
The impressively dark colored and wonderfully deep 2015 Veaupessiot Irancy from Richoux is a beautiful red Burgundy with a rich array of ripe flavors and depth of complexity making for a wine that keeps your attention and is a stunning value. This vintage is really performing well with a heady floral perfume, a mix of black and red fruits, a touch of smoky mineral and a lovely textural mouth feel, while having plenty of fresh acidity and a solid structural core that should allow this Pinot Noir to age gracefully for another decade at least. The Richoux family, legendary in this northern most red region of Burgundy, have been growing grapes in the picturesque village of Irancy since 1610. Tenth generation Thierry and his kids farm about 20 hectares of kimmeridgian-centric vines that create a patchwork across the appellation. His reputation as a devoted and gifted vigneron is articulated by the fact that he farms all of Dauvissat’s Irancy vines. Now transitioning to the next generation with Gabin and Felix taking the helm here and getting their names on this bottling with the grapes, all organically farmed, coming from this old picturesque place, sitting in a valley surrounded by relatively steep vineyards which form a dramatic amphitheater around the main village. It should be noted that Irancy represents a small island of red grapes, surrounded by huge plantings of white grapes, and it is mainly Pinot Noir, but intriguingly and uncommon for Burgundy they also have an ancient varietal called César, thought to be related to Barbera and up to 10% can be added to these wines, though Richoux themselves only bottle pure Pinot Noir. Richoux believes in a long élévage for his wines, so they spend their first year in tank, and then a full second year in large foudres or in used smaller barriques, allowing a more mature character when they are released

Richoux’s Veaupessiot, comes from a single parcel and is the highly regarded, with an elegant frame and is notably aromatic, maybe more heighten in all areas than the other lieux-dits or the regular AOC wine. I found this 2015 incredibly enjoyable from the start and even more striking after it opened up, it delivered way more than expected with layers of black cherry, forrest berries, plum and currant fruits, a chalky stoniness, crushed flowers, bramble and subtle earthiness. The Irancy region is one of the most exciting area’s of Burgundy, very close to Chablis, it was once maligned, but now is the source of some amazing wines, like this Richoux Veaupessiot, plus, as I have noted here, Domaine de Beru’s version, one of my other favorites here, these are wines of sublime delicacy, rustic charm and laser sharp detail. Located just southwest of the fan shell of Chablis, Irancy, also known for it’s cherry trees, is set on the ancient Kimmeridgian marls, along with some clay, loose gravel and brown limestone that gives its Pinot Noir its singular nature. It is also close by Saint-Bris, which has Burgundy’s only Sauvignon Blanc zone. The Richoux’s Irancy is as mentioned 100% Pinot Noir and their vineyards are mainly southwest facing and allows for exceptional ripe fruit and refined tannin, as this Veaupessiot shows. This wine delivers all that is promised with the transparency and precision you’d expect from a higher end Burgundy, with superb minerallity and inner energy, though wonderfully satiny and plush when given time in the glass, lingering with a touch of violets and ever echoing fruit. Fermented with natural yeasts in a combination of cement and steel and using mainly de-stemmed grapes the Irancy wines are fabulously terroir expressive and a clear focus. You’ll be well rewarded by searching this wine out and it is without question a bargain for what you get, I highly advise Burgundy lovers chase this vintage down while you can, though I’m sure any Richoux you find will bring smiles. Please note, you’ll see either Thierry or Gabin and Felix listed, but it is the same wine.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 11, 2021

2019 Violin Wine, Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The divine and mineral driven Violin Willamette Valley Chardonnay is bright and intensely fresh, very Burgundy like in style reminding me of Bruno Colin St. Aubin and or Robert-Denogent Saint-Veran, this is a fabulous bottle for the price, sourced from two vineyard sites, with a blend from 75% Sojeau Vineyard set on a complex set of marine sedimentary soils at high elevation in the Amity-Eola Hills AVA and 25% sourced from the red and iron rich Jory (volcanic) soils of the Black Walnut Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. Winemaker Will Hamilton notes here that while Dundee is known for deep, volcanic clay, this cap on the hilltop, where he gets his Black Walnut Vineyard fruit, has shallower soils where the vines find some fractured basalt bedrock and the main site in the Eola Hills is on serve and dramatically steep rocky slopes with helps explain the depth and more mineral driven flavors and subtle fruit in this outstanding effort. Brilliant in its delicacy and with a crisp dry profile this 2019 Willamette Valley Chard displays lemon preserves, Bosc Pear, stone fruit and tree picked golden delicious apple fruits with a hint of wet stones, clove spice, hazelnut and a whiff of white licorice along with a refined sense of used French oak toast. This wine is the best of what can be achieved in Oregon Chardonnay and should be on your radar, as is Hamilton’s Pinots, which are incredible terroir driven offerings.

Violin Wine, a Pinot Noir focused label, was established in 2013 by winemaker Will Hamilton and is gaining quite a reputation for high quality small lot wines from distinct sites here in the Willamette Valley, especially Hamilton’s single vineyard series, which tend to be cool high elevation sites, as well as a couple of value packed regional wines like this beautiful and detailed Willamette Valley Chardonnay. Prior to founding Violin Wine, Hamilton spent several years making wine at Walter Scott, one of the Willamette Valley’s elite producers and cut his teeth making some of the most sought after wines in Oregon, and now his wines are creating a buzz of their own and wines such as his Sojeau Vineyard Pinot Noir from vines in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, that I reviewed here recently, plus this Chard are proving his talents. This wine saw a whole cluster pressing that, as Hamilton explains, was followed by a brief, 24 hour settling before barreling juice with virtually all lees available. Only ambient yeasts instigated fermentation in both lots in barrel, which completed primary fermentation between 30 and 50 days, and malo-lactic conversion within several months, after which the wine aged for close to a year. Then wine, only 125 cases made, was then settled in tank with a cold stabilization and bottled unfined, though with a gentle filtration for clarity, the resulting Chardonnay is very focused, with a supple texture, a medium body, aromatic and restrained, perfect with poultry, white fish and crab dishes.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 10, 2020

2020 Monte Rio Cellars, Mission, Somers Vineyard, Lodi, California.
Patrick Cappiello’s Monte Rio Mission, sourced from the 80 year old vines at the organic Somers Vineyard in Lodi, is a tasty lighter style red made from the historic Mission grape, in this case Listan Prieto, which is also known as Pais, it is a grape that is responsible for producing California’s very first wines made from European varietals, having come here along with the Spanish Missions in the 1700s, well before more popular grapes arrived after the California gold rush. The 2020 version, made at Pax Wine Cellars for Cappiello’s Monte Rio Cellars label, was fermented using 100% whole cluster and natural (native) yeasts in a full carbonic Maceration, which lasted for 10 days in stainless steel, after which the Mission was pressed into a combination of concrete and stainless steel tanks for 7 days to finish dry and then aged for 6 months in well seasoned old barrels. The ruby hued Mission is bright and spicy with a light to medium body that has tangy wild plum, pomegranate, bitter cherry and loads of peppery spices, red vine licorice, minty herbs, cinnamon, clove and a touch of leathery earth. No sulfur used in the winemaking and this savory toned red is best enjoyed with a chill and simple cuisine choices. Cappiello, a famous New York and East Coast Sommelier has won many prestigious awards at his restaurants, which have been, as he notes, recipients of Wine Spectator’s “Grand Award” like TriBeCa Grill, Veritas, GILT, and Pearl & Ash. Patrick was named “Sommelier of the Year 2014” by Food & Wine Magazine, “Wine Person of the Year 2014” by Imbibe Magazine, and “Sommelier of the Year 2015” by Eater National as well, and since partnering up with Pax Mahle has produced a series of fun wines under the Monte Rio Cellars name, including some rarities such as this almost forgotten grape that has such a long history in California.

Mission grapes are a variety of Vitis vinifera in the Listan family, including Listan Prieto and Listan Negro, that was first introduced from Spain to the western coasts of North and South America by Catholic New World missionaries for use in making sacramental, table, and fortified wines. It is grown in South America, particularly in Chile, where they first planted these grapes, and Peru, under then names Rosa del Peru, Criolla and Pais, as well as being found in the Canary Islands, where it has become wildly successful on the volcanic slopes there. The Mission grape, most likely Listan Prieto, was introduced to present-day California in the late 18th century by Franciscan missionaries and it was originally believed that the first planting of the grape in present-day California was done by the controversially sainted, Junipero Serra at Mission San Diego de Alcalá in 1769, though according some documents, in fact it was first planted at Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1779 and it is thought in 1783, the first wine was produced in Alta California emerged from this mission’s winery. My first experience with the Mission grape came when I tasted a rare dessert style and fortified version by Gypsy Canyon Winery, who accidentally discovered three acres of vines covered by California sage and scrub brushes that dated back to 1887 making them some of California’s oldest known Mission vines, this bottling of what is known Angelica, was the first style of wine made in California and is know only being recreated in tiny amounts, though there has been some renewed interest in recent years and Tegan Passalacqua, the head winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars is making a small lot version of Angelica under his Sandlands Vineyards, which does a still table wine example as well. The Mission by Monte Rio comes in at just 11.5% natural alcohol and is a juicy fresh wine with exceptionally smooth tannins and with a light pigment, it won’t be for everyone, but it is one of the most tasty versions of this tricky and rustic grape!
($23 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 9, 2021

2017 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Small Lots, Bates Ranch, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Very Bordeaux like, this 2017 Alfaro Family Small Lot Bates Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon shows an elegant and complex array of dark flavors with a beautiful full bodied palate of blackberry, plum, black currant and earthy blueberry fruits that are supported by classic Medoc notes of black olive, peppery spices, crushed gravel, mineral tones, tobacco, cedar, licorice and smoky gun flint. There’s a lot to admire here for those that are enthusiasts of Left Bank wines, and there is plenty of structure, low natural alcohol at 13.5%, and a firm feeling grip to remind you this is a young Cabernet that will enjoy some medium term cellaring. While known for his gorgeous Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs, winemaker Richard Alfaro, based in Corralitos in the Southwest zone of the Santa Cruz Mountains also does some intriguing Bordeaux varietals, including this one from the critically acclaimed Bates Ranch that is in a warmer climate, protected from the marine influence on the Eastern slopes as well as his Estate Merlot and Estate Malbec, his newest creation.

The Bates Ranch Cabernet was planted back in 1978 and set is on red Franciscan series, iron rich and gravelly volcanic soils that delivers a striking mineral elegance and warm ripeness. Richard Alfaro aged his Bates Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon for 12 months in French oak barrels of which was about 40% new to give this wine its smoky sweet toasty accents and help smooth out the tannins here. Located along the historic Redwood Retreat Road close to Gilroy, as Alfaro notes, the Bates Ranch was settled near Mount Madonna in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, where the Bates Family has been growing robust and quality grapes for four generations now. The area is sees a generous climate for Bordeaux varietals, especially good for Cab Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, highlighted by warm days and cool nights, resulting in fabulous wines like this one and notably Ian Brand’s outstanding Cab Franc. This dark purple/garnet Cab opens nicely and adds hints of acacia flower, sage and lingering kirsch, coco and cassis, all of which adds to the pleasure in this fine effort, it is a wine that is much more enjoyable with robust cuisine that smooths out the raw tannin, this stuff is an excellent value.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 8, 2021

2019 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Contra Costa County, California.
The Sandlands Vineyards Contra Costa Carignane is a dark and vividly fresh making for a wine that has the grapey pleasure of a Gamay meets Zinfandel, it is simply a fun and easy to enjoy red that goes great with these warm Fall days and cooler evenings. Coming from seriously old vines set on the deep sand that highlights this unlikely historic region that doesn’t get the recognition it truly deserves, especially when you taste the wines from here, like the offerings from Bedrock Wine Co, who’s owner Morgan Twain-Peterson, a Master of Wine, invested in the region big time, by buying the famous Evangelho Vineyard, which has hundred year old Mourvedre and Zinfandel, that he uses in his Heritage Field Blend, as well as Carignane, as is found in this Sandlands bottling along with some other important producers like Ridge Vineyards. This purple tinted and dark garnet colored 2019 has a highly quaffable vitality and displays juicy concord, tangy plum, blackberry and cherry fruits that are accented by light floral tones, whole bunches pop, dried herbs, fennel and a touch of crushed stones in a medium bodied red with satiny tannins. Winemaker Tegan Passalacqua has found a niche with his Sandlands collection and these wines are a huge hit, often selling out within minutes of release, I am particularly thrilled with his 2018 and 2019 efforts, with the the Cinsault, Zinfandel, Trousseau, Chenin Blanc, Mataro (Mourvedre), Grenache, Syrah and Mission grape all being outstanding and unique, well worth chasing down.

The vineyard used for this Carignane, as Passalacqua notes, was planted in the 1920s in what is classified as Dehli blow sand (decomposed granite that has been deposited by wind and water) near the banks of the Delta and near the out of way town of Antioch. The warm days out here provide a deep ripening of the grapes, but good picking date choices actually allows for lower natural alcohol, as in this wine, which is about 12.8% and gives this wine a smooth textural quality. Sandlands is the personal wine project of Tegan Passalacqua, who as noted many times here the head winemaker and vineyard manager for the famed Turley Wine Cellars and is all about his work with primarily head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted vines and lesser known, but historic California varietals. Passalacqua, who got his start by working in the lab in Napa Valley, has many talents and has had impressive experiences, having done stints in the cellars of Craggy Range in New Zealand with Doug Wisor, with Eben Sadie in the Swartland of South Africa, and with Alain and Maxime Graillot in the Northern Rhone Valley of France, all of which has helped shape his style. The vineyards Tegan uses offer a taste of our (the State’s) past and future, most are set on sandy granite based based soils and are mostly old vine plots that are lovingly cared for by generational family farmers. The wines by Sandlands are striking values and ultra authentic bottlings that are made to be raw and transparent, or honest, examples of place and vintage, made with native yeasts and mainly neutral wood. The new releases from Sandlands, which will include an old vine Lodi Carignane, that I’m excited to try, are hitting later this month, so best to keep an eye out and I highly recommend getting on the mailing list here!
($28 Est.) 89 Points, grapelive