2018 Sandlands Vineyards, Zinfandel, Lodi Wine, California.
The latest set of wines from Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua at Sandlands Vineyards from the 2018 vintage are true reflections of time and place with the long cooler growing season giving fabulous depth and balance and out of the set of outstanding wines, one of my favorites is the Lodi Zinfandel with its spot on black raspberry led Zin flavors, spicy tones and textural excellence. Tegan farms and artisan crafts this Lodi Zin from a selection of grapes from his own Kirschenmann Vineyard, a historic site on the East Side of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA that was originally planted back in 1915 on silica rich, white sandy soils. It has become one of the most prized vineyards in the Lodi region and produces expressive and pure Zinfandel grapes that go into some big time delicious wines, like Turley’s version, which Tegan also makes alongside his own Sandlands, of which he made just seven barrels of in 2018. In recent years Lodi has seen a move away from ultra jammy and oaked up wines with a new focus on individual old vineyards and more transparency with some fantastic, maybe lighter styled wines coming from this Central Valley region, with Sandlands leading the way with their juicy fresh Lodi Zin and the delicately quaffable 100% Cinsault being excellent examples. The Lodi Zinfandel starts with bramble berry, crushed lilacs and a spicy briar note with refined and smooth tannins along with nice push of natural acidity as well as a lingering pepper, anise and framboise. The palate is dense or lush and at 14.4% it not thin by any means, but it certainly does feel hot or overly heavy, again this is as pure Zinfandel as it gets and its beautifully layered with very subtle oak, which seems like well seasoned used barrels.

Tegan Passalacqua started his own label to focus on unique old California vineyard sites and what he calls outliers or forgotten grapes, he makes a fine range of mostly red wines, though he does do a Napa Chardonnay and a few different Chenin Blancs, all his wines are hand crafted and made to show off the terroirs, which this one does with wonderful clarity. His collection of small lot wines include the ones mentioned above, plus a Contra Costa Carignane and Matrao (Mourvedre) as well as an old school Mission (Listan or Pais), a 100 year old vine Grenache and a gorgeous Cote-Rotie style Syrah from the Pisoni family’s Soberanes Vineyard. I first got hooked on Tegan’s wines when I tasted his awesome Carignane close to ten years ago and his new releases keep me a big fan and I love the exciting set that I was able to get, being on his mailing list is a must for California wine enthusiasts and Passalacqua’s efforts are incredibly reasonable price wise, but sadly they sell out almost as soon as the offers go out. The winemaking for these Sandlands Vineyards is gentle and my own perception leads me to think a lot of attention is paid to textural quality with each of the red wines displaying a sensation of pleasure that is impossible to resist. This purple/ruby hued Zin has plenty of fruit, but is superbly offset by the spicy and savory elements that add complexity and makes it very tasty with an array of cuisine choices. Tegan, who as noted many times, is the head winemaker and vineyard manager for the famous Turley Wine Cellars, is one of the most knowledgeable wine minds in California and loves these classic heavily sandy decomposed granite soils that give his wines their distinct personalities. There are so many thrilling California wines coming out from 2018 and 2019 vintages and these Sandlands, in particular, are well worth searching out!
($39+ Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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