2022 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Contra Costa, California.
The latest version of Sandlands Contra Costa Carignane delivers tons of personality, ripe concentration and complexity, while still being simply delicious, with its dark purple/garnet color and blackberry, blueberry, plum and black cherry fruits on the medium/full smooth bodied palate. The background accents include brambly spices, a touch of earthy loam, sandalwood, delicate florals and anise, all of which adds to the pleasure this wine offers in the glass, again making it one of my favorite Carignane bottlings. The Cariognane or Carignan grape, usually found in blends, is one of the Châteauneuf du Pape varietals, but is also found in the wines from Corbieres, Minervois, Fitou, Maury, Saint-Cinian, Pic Saint Loup, and Faugères, in the Languedoc and the Rhône regions of France primarily, but can be found in the heritage California vineyards where it usually finds itself with Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Mourvédre. This Sandlands Carignane, from ancient vines set in deep Delphi sand in the Contra Costa region, is crafted with traditional handmade care and sees a minimalist approach in the cellar and aged with used wood to promote fresh detail and transparency. This Contra Costa Carignane and the Lodi version are great examples of this varietal, which can be similar to Zinfandel, though darker in profile and with some good underlying tannic structure, while retaining fresh acidity, even in warmer climates.

For these Sandlands wines, as mentioned before, winemaker Tegan Passalaqua, who is the vineyard manager and head winemaker at the famous Turley Wine Cellars, uses restraint and employs a light touch in the cellar here with most bottlings being small wines made with indigenous yeasts and lots of whole cluster. Along with an old school maceration(s) with hand punch downs, basket pressing and with the aging being done in well used barrels, mostly French oak. California wine enthusiasts are re-discovery Lodi and other region’s historic old vines, like here in Contra Costa County, with many vineyards being well over 100 years old, set on well draining sandy soils, which is what many of California’s best vineyards have. The Sandlands line-up encompasses these forgotten classic California varieties, like Carignane, primarily grown in decomposed granite (sand), as seen here, from regions and vineyards that have been farmed, as Passalaqua notes, for many generations but have remained the outliers of California viticulture. Coming from primarily head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted 100 year old plus vines, as Tegan continues, that harken back to California’s roots of exploration, wonder, and hard work. There’s a lot to admire and enjoy here with Tegan’s Sandlands Vineyards wines, I especially love this Carignane, along with his Mataro from Contra Costa, the Chenin Blanc and the Cinsault, another offering I really love.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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