2020 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Contra Costa County.
Similar in style to the 2019 and with an ultra deep purple color in the glass, this 2020 Sandlands Contra Cost Old Vines Carignane is like a Cru Beaujolais and a Zinfandel had a beautiful baby! Winemaker Tegan Passalacqua has nailed this wine again, it flows with bright fruit details, clean flavors and is a very fulfilling red wine with a low alcohol personality showing tangy blueberry, black raspberry, plum, currant and cherry fruits along with an elegant medium bodied palate and fresh acidity, plus briar, dried spices, bitter herbs, saline and delicate floral tones. There is a sense of whole berry roundness, mineral and savory elements, or a cabonic like smooth and fresh feel here and this 2020 drinks very nicely, especially with simple cuisine. Tegan’s wines continue to be some of the best values in the state, and this one, especially, is a no guilt treat that way over delivers. The Carignane was the first offering I had of Sandlands and it was love at first taste, so I try very hard not to miss a vintage of it. There is a lot to admire in the latest releases, besides this tasty Carignane, the Sandlands’ Cinsault, Zinfandel and Mataro (Mourvedre) are all delicious wines and their Soberanes Vineyard Syrah is maybe the most impressive and complex in the collection. I highly recommend these Sandlands wines for exceptional purity and value, it is one of my favorite lists I’m on, if you want to sample a modern take on classic old school California wines, these should be on your wish list.

As noted in my prior reviews of this wine, the historic Evangelho 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 12.6% 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 Rhone Carignane (Carignan) varietal is one of Châteauneuf-du-Pape grapes and is found throughout the Mediterranean area of Europe from Spain to Italy, as well on Sardinia, and it is famously found in Corbieres in the Languedoc. Carignan has been in California since the early 1900s, maybe a touch earlier and it makes for a good blender, especially with Zin and or Grenache, and as a solo varietal, as done here.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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