2017 Sandlands, Trousseau, Sonoma County.
The impossibly pale and delicate Sandlands Trousseau starts slow in the glass, feeling more like a soft Pinot Noir at first before air and time bring out a more intriguing and complex wine with spicy layers of red fruits, mineral tones and light wood notes. Sandlands is the personal project of Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua, apart from Tegan’s day job as Turley Cellars winemaker, with a line-up encompasses the forgotten classic California varieties. He uses vineyards that primarily grown in decomposed granite (sand), hence the name, from regions and vineyards that have been farmed for many generations but have remained, as he puts it, the outliers of California viticulture. Primarily these sites are head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted, the vineyards Passalacqua works with, as he adds, harkens back to California’s roots of exploration, wonder, and especially in his case, hard work. The Sandlands Trousseau is planted at 1400 feet just 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean, on a section of the Bohan Vineyard that sits on gravelly loam soils that were derived from sandstone and shale. This cool area promotes long hang times and low alcohol, making this wine remarkably fresh, but with underlying concentration and complexity at just 12.4% natural alcohol. Tegan, a Napa Valley native, who, as mentioned in a few prior reviews, got his start in the wine industry working in winery labs in Napa, but he has also traveled the world to make wine, having worked in the cellars of Craggy Range in New Zealand with Doug Wisor, with Eben Sadie of Sadie Family Wines in the Swartland region of South Africa, who was just in the states and visited Tegan and his vines, and with Alain and Maxime Graillot in the Northern Rhone Valley of France, one of the world’s most iconic Syrah producers.
Trousseau, is still a mystery grape, found and revered mostly in the remote Jura region in France, but confusingly and maybe not correctly is said to be related to Graciano, though Tegan says it is not related. Graciano though, interestingly can be found in Spain’s varied regions from Sherry-Jerez to the Canary Islands, where it is known as Tintilla as well as being a Rioja grape where it is called Graciano, as well as being in Portugal too, and there it goes by Bastardo! In California Trousseau, which Tegan has told me, was originally called Chause Noir, and maybe Graciosa (that may have led to the confusion?) can now be found throughout the state from Sonoma Valley to Santa Barbara, as well as Lodi. Trousseau came to California a long time ago and was inter-planted in many heritage sites, but had a break through moment about a decade ago when Arnot-Roberts first produced a thrilling single varietal (Trousseau) version from unique volcanic soils in Lake County. The Sandlands 2017 is a fine effort with a smooth texture that flows across the palate with fresh squeezed raspberry, tangy plum and tart juicy cherry fruits along with rose petals, blood orange rind, wild herbs, a touch of smoky vanilla, pepper and cedar. There’s a lot to admire in this wine, especially if you like lighter bodied reds, but that said it takes time to develop in the glass and certainly it impresses most with matching cuisine, and should be enjoyed over the next 3 to 5 years. Sandlands makes some really lovely wines, in particular look for their Chenin Blanc, Carignane, Syrah and Mataro (Mourvedre) along with this one, their red field blend and their super rare Pais, made from the mission grape also known as Listan Prieto.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive