Monthly Archives: April 2019

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 20, 2019

2016 Chateau de Saint-Cosme, Gigondas, Rhone Valley, France -photo grapelive

2016 Chateau de Saint-Cosme, Gigondas, Rhone Valley, France.
The 2016 Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas might be the best red wine dollar for dollar in the world, it is a spectacular vintage for this wine with everything you’d ever hope for and expect with incredible depth of flavor, a lustful color and impressive complexity even now in its youth, it easily rivals hugely expensive Chateauneuf bottlings. One of the most notable estates in the Southern Rhone, Chateau de Saint Cosme was one of the earliest wineries in the region with caves that go back to before Roman times. Louis Barruol is one of the greatest Rhone vignerons of his generation and makes some of the best value selections in the region with estate holdings primarily in Gigondas, he also has a thrilling set of negociant wines from growers in both the Southern side as well as in top areas of the Northern Rhone.

The stunning 2016 was a final blend of 70% Grenache, 14% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre and a tiny 1% of Cinsault which was whole cluster fermented in concrete vats then raised in a combination of vessels with about a year aging, 20% in new casks, 50% in casks used for one to four fills and 30% concrete tanks. All of which tame the powerful while allowing a purity of form to shine through as well as highlighting its limestone/marl and Miocene sand(y) soils. Barruol, who father was a pioneer and a traditionalist loved to co-ferment his grapes and paid great attention to detail and focused his vines to achieve individual varietal ripeness, continues that with his current Gigondas, adding that, which is why at Saint Cosme, the early-ripening cultivars are planted in the late-ripening sites and the late-ripening varieties in the early-ripening sites. Noting, in this way, they all ripen at the same time and can therefore be co-fermented.

The deep hue in the glass and exotic ripe fruit and floral perfume are intoxicating and wonderfully sexy, this is what Grenache and especially Gigondas is all about, this is hedonistic and sensual wine with layers of boysenberry, black cherry, pomegranate, strawberry and plum fruits along with a hint of chocolate, melted black licorice, pepper, dried lavender, and a touch of earth adding black mission fig, cassis and subtle violets. This wine is well structured and extremely dense, but majestic in mouth feel and while a full bodied effort and with a huge palate impact its still lively and exquisitely balanced, it’s hard to imagine any improvement on what this wine delivers. This Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas should be decanted and enjoyed over a meal with matching cuisine, its pleasure and seduction revels in this setting, un-rushed and allowed to unfold at a natural pace, this age worthy Rhone superstar is absolutely gorgeous.
($39 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 19, 2019

2015 Sheldon Wines, Graciano, Luc’s Vineyard, Sonoma County -photo grapelive

2015 Sheldon Wines, Graciano, Luc’s Vineyard, Sonoma County.
The beautifully detailed, lush and fresh fruited basket pressed Sheldon Graciano was hand harvested at 21.8 brix (low sugars) from the tiny Luc’s Vineyard in the Fountaingrove AVA, of Sonoma County, and fermented slowly in ½ ton open top bins, resulting in a 12.% natural alcohol, lighter style red wine with heightened aromatics, a spicy pop and a divine texture. Only three barrels were made of the Luc’s Graciano and as Dylan and Tobe Sheldon like to say, no new oak barrels were harmed in making this lovely wine based on the rare Rioja grape, and interesting enough it turns out Graciano and Trousseau are the same varietal. This obscure grape is found around the world and lately has been more associated with the Jura (Trousseau) version and expressed wonderfully those delicately colored wines, as well as by California wineries like Arnot-Roberts, Combe (Raj Parr & Stolpman), Sandlands and this Sheldon. Graciano, fun fact, is also known as Tintilla and is found in the remote Canary Islands as well as in the Sherry region of Spain too, and transmits terroir to great effect, and regardless of its true origins which remains an exciting mystery, it makes for seductive wine with many cult like followers. In my experience, Graciano/Trousseau is an amazing food wine, going with an array of cuisines, and Sheldon’s is no exception going with picnic/BBQ fare as well as Haute Cuisine offerings like duck breast in deduction sauce.

Dylan Sheldon, winemaker, uses native yeasts and non intervention with low sulphur on his wines and neither fines or filters, preferring to allow each wine to show itself in it’s purist form and this one is no exception with its translucent ruby color in the glass and its silky tannins, you’re be almost forgiven to think of this 2015 Graciano as Pinot Noir like. The vintage gives some extra mouth feel and density with losing any delicacy showing distinct layers of racy cherry, strawberry, wild plum and briar laced raspberry fruits along with hints of exotic spices, red pepper, mountain herbs, gravel and anise. This is a wine that gets more and more intriguing with air and time in the glass, but is also extremely quaffable, especially with a slight chill, very much like Cru Beaujolais and or unoaked (cement fermented) versions of the Rioja Graciano(s). The lingering zest, rose/red flowers and smooth textural quality make this a terrific value and unique wine, don’t miss it. Sheldon purposely held this vintage back before release to give it time to realize its full potential and we are all rewarded, this is fabulous stuff, it has another 3 to 5 years of drinking pleasure ahead of it, at least, and is a stupidly good value!
($27 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 18, 2019

2017 Drew Family Cellars, Syrah, Valenti Ranch Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge -photo grapelive

2017 Drew Family Cellars, Syrah, Valenti Ranch Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
If you are a reader of my website and been following my reviews in recent years, you’ll no doubt have heard me bang on about how great these Drew wines are, and I will again here and repeat as I have for many vintages that Jason Drew is one of the top winemakers of his generation and is making some of state’s absolute best wines, especially his estate Pinot Noir, but I must say his Syrah is not far off. This new Valenti is a dark and spicy wine that takes cool climate California Syrah elevated heights of quality, style and seduction, it compares well against some of the most sought after Rhones including whole cluster magicians like Jamet, Allemand and Levet. This edition shows blackberry, boysenberry, dark plum, cherry and earthy currant fruits along with torches of black olive, cracked pepper, dried basil, lavender, blueberry compote, minty anise, a faint bacon element and hint of cedar plank. This vintage is warmly ripe and the tannins well integrated with nice energy and at around 13% it is extremely well balanced, but with sensual textures and density of form. Drew used about 75% whole cluster on this 2017 Valenti Ranch Syrah and fermented it with 100% native yeasts before aging in all well seasoned French oak for close to a year.

Grown at good height (elevation) on Oceanic Sedimentary soils within 6 miles of the Pacific Ocean the Valenti is farmed by Drew himself and is planted to a selection of Syrah clones including Clone 1 and Chave Hermitage clones. Drew has been working with this vineyard for 13 years now and took over the farming lease in 2013, continuing to farm it sustainably to the organic standards. He brought in the exciting suitcase Chave Selection which he put in one of the Syrah blocks. According to Drew, this windswept east facing ridge at 1,300 -1400 feet produces a distinctive cool climate Syrah, adding that the constant maritime winds coupled with thin marginal soils lends itself to naturally lower yields, which helps with the concentration and depth of flavor here. All of which makes for a glorious small production Syrah, at only 100 cases, that showcases the terroir and Jason’s gifted touch both in the vines and in the cellar. This is special stuff, don’t miss Drew’s latest wines, in particular this purple/garnet Valenti Syrah and his Morning Dew Ranch Pinot, they are spectacular world class offerings.
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 17, 2019

2018 Pax Valdiguié, Quail Run Vineyard, Suisun Valley -photo grapelive

2018 Pax Wines, Valdiguié, Quail Run Vineyard, Suisun Valley.
The deeply hued Pax 2018 Valdiguie with it’s intense purple/magenta color and whole cluster pop on the palate is an all American rival to Cru Beaujolais with layers of tangy black fruits, spice, fresh cut flowers, exotic ftropical elements, racy stems (herbal notes) and juicy acidity is wonderfully poundable! Pax, besides making some of America’s great Syrah wines also does a fun selection of wondrous weird goodies including this ultra fun Valdiguie and a light skin contact Trousseau Gris, plus a fine Chenin Blanc as well as seriously sexy Carignane. This 2018 is a great mix of ripe fruity/grapey flavors along with zingy savory tones that give a balanced contrast in a low alcohol, 12.2% red that enjoys a slight chill, it is perfect for smashing at the beach or a picnic or as I had by a warm fire pit as the dipped below the horizon. This is what the French call a Glou-Glou wine, nothing to over think, it is a wine to share and laugh with and impossible not to smile contented with, its licorice, crushed lilac and snappy peppercorns making it a nice choice with an array of easy simple foods. Just released, you’d better hustle to get some, it looks to be an under the radar hit, it certainly will sell out within days.

Pax’s latest and joyously quaffable Valdiguié was 100% Carbonic Maceration, fermented in stainless steel then aged in concrete for about four months before bottling and the wine was made without any additions of SO2 at any point in the winemaking process. Valdiguié, known for it’s dark color and low alcohol, was once referred to as Napa Gamay in California because of its similarities in flavor and appearance to the famous Gamay Noir grape variety from the Beaujolais region of France, while Valdiguié is in fact from the South West of France where it is called Gros Auxerrois. In fact until very recently and with DNA testing there were quite a few wineries that labeled their old vine Valdiguie as Gamay, including the famous Rochioli Vineyards, and I bought those then and still buy their version today. When it was discovered that it was not Gamay, Valdiguie almost got a death sentence, being ripped out all over, but a few brave souls including Jerry Lohr of J. Lohr kept faith with Valdiguie and championed the grape in Monterey County, and now it has become a huge underdog success story with many young hot shots making super tasting examples, Pax of course is one of the most sought after, but there is Cruse Wine Company that also do a Pet-Nat version, Bric Cellars, Field Recordings, who make a tasty Rosé from it and Martha Stoumen too, along with the mentioned Rochioli.
($26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 16, 2019

2015 Weingut Turk, Riesling, Weinberge Kremstal, Austria -photo grapelive

2015 Weingut Turk, Riesling Kremser Weinberge, Kremstal DAC, Austria.
A new winery to me, and one that really impressed, especially for the price, Weingut Turk, in the Kremstal region of Austria, boasts 300 years of winemaking history. Their importer ’s rep Alex Lallos, who’s a Riesling freak like me, calls Turk who are based in the tiny hamlet of Stratzing, an honest, authentic producer of wines built on a foundation of terroir and soulful character, which after tasting this 2015, agree with. This Turk Kremser Weinberge Riesling is a dry and textural wine with purity of fruit, stony in personality and with vigorous persistence displaying intense stone fruit aromas, hints of white flowers, bitter herbs and almonds with a core presence of tree picked tangy apricot as well as steely crisp lemon/lime citrus fruits adding hints of loam, mineral elements, creamy verbena, chamomile and saline infused wet rock. This crystal-clear trocken Kremstal Riesling has plenty of natural extract, acidity and zest, but has a wonderful smooth, vintage marked, smooth roundness and palate impact that really impresses.

From west of Vienna on the Danube River, the Weingut Turk has steep sloping vineyard sites mainly on the region’s classic loess soil over clay and limestone, and while known as a less showy winery with a workman’s like sensibility and subtlety this 2015 shines in the glass and in the mouth with a seriousness of form that I find irresistible and charming. The house style is typically unbaked, stainless steel, but with riper fruit giving more body, like this wine which has 13 % natural alcohol, it’s more in the Smaragd vein. Turk is also well admired for their Gruners and I look forward to tasting those too, and interestingly they in rare vintages do an eiswein, which is non too common these days in this part of Austria. In fact, winemaker Franz Türk, not too long ago, in 2010, at the International Wine Challenge for Austria, had the phenomenal success of winning three of the country’s most prestigious trophies for Best Austrian Dry White Wine, Best Grüner Veltliner and Best Austrian Eiswein! Imported by Balanced Wine Selections, thanks to their local rep Alex Lallos again for letting me try it, he can be contacted about purchase at, I can’t wait to try Turk’s other bottings!
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 15, 2019

2017 Domaine M & C Lapierre, Morgon, Cru Beaujolais “Cuvee N” France -photo grapelive

2017 Domaine M. & C. Lapierre, Morgon, Cru Beaujolais (Cuvee N), France.
The beautiful and wonderfully exuberant 2017 Morgon “Cuvee N” Sans Soufre by Lapierre is gorgeous in the glass with its deep garnet/purple color, expressive fruit, floral tones and spicy notes that lead the way to the lively palate that is bursting with the winery’s signature energy deep flavors. Camille and Mathieu’s no sulphur estate Cru Morgon shows a fresher profile than the lightly sulphured with what feels a bit more juicy and less restrained in character, everything seems to shine brighter and finish seems longer, it is vivid and joyously quaffable. There is loads of strawberry, wild plum, black raspberry fruit along with whole cluster exotic elements including the heightened fruit, snappy/stemmy cinnamon and peppery notes, perfume as well as mineral, earth, walnut husk, fennel and zippy acidity. Air brings a touch more of a savory presence, but also allows for more textural pleasure gaining in mouth feel, this vintage is impressive for it’s purity, vitality and it is lovely with many food options.

Continuing their father’s traditions and faithful following of Jules Chauvet’s natural wine practices Camille and Mathieu Lapierre make one of the world’s best Gamay wines, and this 2017 vintage is a gorgeous example with a divine purity of fruit, crunchy mineral tones from its granite terroir and a pretty layered texture. Domaine Lapierre is arguably one of, if not the top quality natural wine producer and an inspiration to thousands around the world including famed importer Kermit Lynch, one of the late Marcel Lapierre’s early admirers, and while the domaine was always organic the sister and brother team of Mathieu and Camille have converted to biodynamic. Marcel Lapierre took over the family domaine from his father in 1973, and according to Kermit, he was already on the road to becoming a legend, but In 1981, his path would be forever changed by Jules Chauvet, a man whom many now call his spiritual godfather (and the godfather of natural wine). Chauvet was a winemaker, a researcher, a chemist, and a viticultural prophet, in much the same way Nicholas Joly was with biodynamics in the Loire Valley. It was he who, upon the advent of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the 1950s, first spoke out for “natural wine,” harkening back to the traditional methods of the Beaujolais, and winning followers throughout the Burgundy and Beaujolais regions. Chauvet heavily influenced the Lapierre family and their wines as well as later generations such as neighbors like Foillard, Thevenet, Breton and more recently Julien Sunier, just to name a few.

The latest Morgon Cru Beaujolais from Lapierre comes from 45 plus year old vines set on the zones decomposed granite soils, it was picked at the latest possible moment, again Kermit notes that Lapierre tries to obtain the ripest fruit, which is a trademark of the estate style, while still having intensity of form, vigor and acid driven energy. All of which shows here in their 2017 vintage of cuvee N, the non sulfur bottling sold exclusively through Kermit Lynch and is a natural wine icon. Kermit once told me he was nervous about shipping no sulfur wines, but he was convinced by Marcel, plus in my opinion Gamay is the perfect grape for this style and the results, especially with this one prove the point. They employ whole cluster fermentation, as Kermit puts it, à l’ancienne with only native yeasts, mostly in conical wood tanks, with careful low temperature maintenance and the Lapierres age their wines on fine lees for at least nine months in oak, which are a combination of ex-Burgundy barrels, and neutral foudres and fûts ranging from three to thirteen years old. This 2017 Lapierre Morgon is one of my favorites to date, maybe not as monumental as the 2009, but I still rank this one right up there and it should age nicely too, even though it is holy cow crushable right now!
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 14, 2019

2016 Domaine Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France -photo grapelive

2016 Domaine Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
One of the world’s most iconic Syrah wines and one of the greatest values in serious Northern Rhone offerings the Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage Rouge is always treat regardless of vintage, but with a vintage like 2015 or this 2016 the wine becomes that much better. Graillot farms and makes his wines from 50 acres of 30-year-old Crozes-Hermitage vines, in the La Chene Verts (village) zone, on the flat alluvial plain between the Rhône and Isère rivers, in well-draining soils of sand, gravel, and stones that includes some granite, and he also owns a few tiny parcels in Saint-Joseph from where he makes a lighter style Syrah that is more suited for early drinking than his signature Crozes bottlings. working all organically in the vineyard, Graillot employs 100% whole-cluster grapes bunches that are fermented in concrete vats with indigenous yeast and ages his wines in used barrels that he mostly purchases from a few top estates in Burgundy, making a structured and stem intense wine that always over delivers for the price, rivaling even the elite Cote-Rotie, Cornas and Hermitage stars.

The stellar 2016 is extremely age worthy, yet wonderfully enjoyable and entertaining even now with a medium/full bodied palate and fresh detailing with complex layers of crushed violets, stony earth, boysenberry, currant/cassis, black cherry, waxy blue fruits, damson plum, camphor, herbal notes, iron (mineral tones) and salted black licorice. There is so much to love in this 2016 Crozes-Hermitage right now with its youthful intensity and clear detailing it will be hard not to drink it sooner v. later, but it should age for a very long time and getting more developed with a couple more years, this is a classic vintage for Graillot. With some air this Syrah adds a few extra elements with more textural quality, it gains black fig, savory tones and a hint of meatiness. The finish echos the core of fruit and with food Graillot’s standard bearer Crozes Rouge impresses even more lingering on and on, making this a brilliant bottle.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 13, 2019

2017 Waxwing, Cabernet Sauvignon, Star Lane Vineyard, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County -photo grapelive

2017 Waxwing, Cabernet Sauvignon, Star Lane Vineyard, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County.
The brilliantly dark garnet/purple Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon pumps out some serious fruit, while still being restrained and well balanced with opulently ripe black fruits, acacia flowers, a dusting of tannins, being a youthful wine that feels somewhat reassuring and there is a sensation of spice, herbs and energy with a touch of French oak sweetness. In recent years Scott Sisemore at Waxwing Wine cellars has been crafting some excellent wines with his Pinot Noir and Syrah bottlings especially, but to spread his wings, no pun intended, he has started doing some other grapes including Riesling and now very excitingly Cabernet Sauvignon. Last year Sisemore got some Dierberg Syrah that was fabulous, so the news that he was able to source their (Dierberg) Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon from the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA, I was thrilled. Scott has a wine school, UC Davis friend that works for the Dierberg/Star Lane and was excited that along with the Syrah grapes that he could get some of the Cab to explore Bordeaux varietals for the first time, and judging by this one, he will be doing it again.

Happy Canyon is a unique part of the Santa Ynez Valley that suits the Bordeaux grapes and in more modern times there has been some amazing wines done in this region and there has been quite a bit of interest from top winemakers, in fact Star Lane had Paul Hobbs consult early on and then there is Screaming Eagle’s sister winery Jonata with the talented Matt Dees making some mind blowing stuff near by there, in neighboring Ballard Canyon to the west, while Star Lane makes their own version of note along with a classy effort from Broc Cellars and new comers Conway Family Wines, Union Sacre and Gorham Vineyards making Cabs that have received notable press, to name just a few.

Scott fermented the 2017 Happy Canyon Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon using 100% de-stemmed grapes that were extremely and meticulously sorted and with a seven day cold soak to extract color and intensity of flavors in a open top upright puncheon. The primary fermentation lasted just over two weeks with hand punch downs of the cap three times a day before being racked to a single, once used French barrique, where it went through malos and was raised for fourteen months. Sisemore did a gentile filtration prior to bottling, with a total of 24 cases made in total and a finished alcohol of 14.6%, but it feels significantly less, even though there is a full bodied impact on the palate. Blackberry, cherry, cassis, bitter coco, tobacco, sage and anise all collide in the mouth and linger on the finish.

This Waxwing Cabernet is well presented in a lovely bit of packaging with a short burgundy wax capsule and its classic Bordeaux sloped shoulder bottle and what shows up in the glass is just as impressive and stylish, this should improve in the bottle if cellared for the next 3 to 5 years, though the vintage’s smooth nature makes it appealing even now. Waxwing is a tiny boutique winery that does a tight and quality collection of between 5 and 10 wines per vintage, no more than a couple barrels of each, and mostly available direct and on his mailing list.
($60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 12, 2019

2018 Morgan Winery, Rosé of Grenache, Arroyo Seco -photo grapelive

2018 Morgan Winery, Rosé of Grenache, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey County.
Dan Lee’s Morgan Winery is continuing to rise to new levels and while most people know about their quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, you should not miss their Rhone style offerings that includes their Cote du Crows red blend, their latest Syrah bottlings and especially this new vintage of Rosé of Grenache, which is their best version to date. Morgan’s head winemaker, Sam Smith, has some great hands on experience in the Rhone, including a stint at Francois Villard and has helped craft some savvy Rhone inspired stuff, both under his own label and at Margerum Wine Company in Santa Barbara County, so it’s not surprising to see Morgan’s Rhones big elevation in quality and expressive detail. With that all in mind, I got a chance to try the 2018 Morgan Rosé which is due to be released soon and I was thrilled by the energy and mineral tones that drives this fun briskly dry pink wine, this vintage, maybe one of the all time great years for the region, shines through here with exceptional purity, ripe flavors and vigorous intensity. This wine clearly is a great bellwether to give insight on what is likely a string of absolutely stunning wines to come from this Monterey winery, following their awesome set of 2017s, this is exciting times for Morgan.

The 2018 Morgan Winery Rosé of Grenache, coming from Arroyo Seco, which was whole cluster direct press, foot treaded and cool fermented in stainless, it saw about 4 house of skin contact. It was raised for 5 months in neutral French oak & stainless steel that highlights the bright acidity with a delicate suggestion of texture, it started life with the idea of making a Provence inspired crisply dry wine. With its gorgeous faint pale hue in the glass, it looks the part, and the palate really pops with vivid and vibrant fruit adding a subtle tangy/savory element to balance things out. This very expressive Rosé is refreshingly zippy with layers of tart cherry, plum water, strawberry, pink grapefruit and watermelon as well as wet stones, rose water, a hint of sage, saline and the mentioned steely mineral core. I can’t wait to sip on this stuff, I can easily imagine enjoying this with a great array of cuisine, especially steamed mussels in a spicy broth and street fish tacos and it will be an easy choice to bring along on to BBQ’s and beach days. If you get excited for Rosé season, be sure to check out the 2018 pinks from Monterey and in particular this upcoming Morgan, it is a great time to explore the region and all of Morgan’s latest releases, including the Estate Double L Chard, Pinot, Syrah and Dry Riesling, as well as their Monterey County series wines, like this one.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 11, 2019

2017 Sandlands, Red Table Wine, Contra Costa County -photo grapelive

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