2019 Sandlands Vineyards, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Winemaker Tegan Passalacqua crafted a beauty with his 2019 Soberanes Syrah from the Santa Lucia Highlands, though with only a mere four barrels produced it will be a prize for those lucky enough to be on the Sandlands mailing list, it delivers a gorgeous array of blue and black fruits, spice, feral meaty notes and perfumed florals in a style that unmistakably Californian, but with a nod to the northern Rhone with pure varietal character and low natural alcohol. Soberanes, set over the next ridge from Garys’ Vineyard, but higher up, just might be the most exciting plot in the Santa Lucia Highlands right now and is planted with an excellent selection of clones, like the Alban clone, which is originally from suitcase cuttings from Cote-Rotie, for Syrah. This is a very primary young wine, so it needed time to open up, but when it did, wow, this is awesome stuff, it gained incredible dimension, aromatics and an intensity of detail that is spellbinding with layers of blackberry, boysenberry, plum and currant fruits that are accented by violets, peppery sage, cedar, flinty mineral, sanguine, bacon fat, grilled fennel, kirsch and espresso bean. The purple/garnet hued Sandlands Soberanes Syrah joins an elite group of sexy cooler climate Syrah bottlings in California that includes the Pisoni family’s own versions of Soberanes, both Jeff Pisoni’s Lucia and his wife Bibiana Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni’s Cattleya, plus Pax’s excellent collection of single vineyard Syrahs, Piedrasassi, Halcon, Filomena, Jolie-Laide, Samuel Louis Smith, Lagier-Merideth, Peay, Desire Lines Wine Co and Drew to name a few.

The Soberanes Vineyard, impeccably farmed by the Pisoni family, is planted on the Santa Lucia Highlands well drained Arroyo Seco sandy loam soils, and riddled with chunks of quartz and granite, that along with the cool ocean breezes coming off the deep cold water in the Monterey Bay, create near perfect growing conditions for exceptional Syrah. Each vintage of this Sandlands Soberanes Syrah seems to get better and better with more complexity and nuance coming out as these vines come into full maturity. Passalacqua himself seems in awe of the fruit quality here noting that he he sees a reoccurring theme in this wine with a classic rotation of lavender, graphite, dark berries and smoked meats showing up each year, with this 2019 having more of a medium body, but with an exceptionally long and structured finish, which I agree, quite amazing to is the concentration for a wine with just 12.8% alc. Tegan, who is the head winemaker and vineyard manager at Turley, used whole bunches and employed native yeasts in the fermentation achieved a semi carbonic like effect here, giving the wine a supple mouth feel and smooth tannins. The Soberanes Syrah was raised in used barrels for about a year before bottling, with everything done to promote transparency and keep the wines natural energy, this vintage is stunning and as pure as it gets and it certainly looks forward to a long life and even more excitement looks a given with additional age. There is a no pretense and rawness to these Sandlands wines that is completely seductive, they are unapologetic old school California wines that highlight terroir and transmit the individual nature of each vintage, in particular look for their Carignane, Zinfandel, Mataro and this Syrah!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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