2017 Sandlands, Red Table Wine, Contra Costa County.
The Sandlands 2017 Contra Costa County Red Table Wine crafted by Tegan Passalacqua, is an intriguing blend of mature vines of 65% Carignane and 35% Mataro from Contra Costa. This dark colored, pure and fruit forward wine highlights the intensity and concentration of Contra Costa County and its old vines, it’s a region that inspired Passalacqua from day one and a source of a few of his top offerings. Tegan adds, It is a growing region that has not been changed since prohibition, with its head-trained, dry- farmed vineyards scattered throughout the deep blow sands and planted to three main (grape) varieties, Zinfandel, Carignane and Mataro. He chose the last two to make a wine that he believes is a good representation of Contra Costa County wine. Beautifully detailed and full bodied the Sandlands Red shows its Carignane personality with juicy black and blue fruits along with a underlying backbone from the Mourvedre (Mataro) which gives a structure and a background of dusty tannin, savory notes and a faint meatiness. There are textural layers of brambly blackberry, concord, plum and kirsch along with saline, anise, sandalwood and lilac. The vineyard was planted in the 1920s in what is classified as Dehli blow sand, which is decomposed granite that has been deposited by wind and water and makes for a wine that reminds me somewhat of Morgan Twain-Peterson’s outstanding Bedrock Heritage from Contra Coast, but with a little more freshness, at only 12.9% natural alcohol it feels smooth, lively and quaffable.
Sandlands is the personal project of Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua. Tegan, a Napa Valley native, got his start in the wine industry working in winery labs in Napa, as well as stints in the cellars of Craggy Range in New Zealand with influential winemaker Doug Wisor, with Eben Sadie, one of the world greatest winemakers, in the Swartland region of South Africa, and with Alain and Maxime Graillot in the Northern Rhone Valley of France, who are iconic Syrah producers. Passalacqua, for the past eleven years, has worked for Larry Turley at Turley Wine Cellars, producing some of California’s most sought after old vine Zinfandel(s), working his way up from harvest intern to head winemaker and vineyard manager. The line-up encompasses the forgotten classic California varieties, like Chenin Blanc, Pais, the Mission grape, Trousseau, Mataro (Mourvedre) as well as Syrah to name a few, all primarily grown in decomposed granite (sand, hence the name), from regions and vineyards that have been farmed for many generations but, as Tegan puts it, have remained the outliers of California viticulture. He is focused primarily head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted vines, with the vineyards Sandlands harkening back to California’s roots of exploration, wonder, and hard work. As a fan of Passalacqua’s body of work, I suggest getting on his list for his rare selection of wines and highly recommend this Carignane/Mataro, but don’t miss a chance to try his Chenin(s), the Soberanes Syrah, Enz Vineyard Mataro and of course his Turley stuff.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive