2020 Sandlands Vineyards, Zinfandel, Kirschenmann Vineyard, Lodi, California.
Tegan Passalacqua’s signature Sandlands Kirschenmann Vineyard Zinfandel comes from a hundred and eight year old vines on the East Side of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA, which was was originally planted back in 1915 and is set on silica rich, white sandy soils. This 2020, like the gorgeous 2018 and 2019 versions, is an all American rock star with a dark garnet and purple color in the glass and loads of deep black raspberry led fruit, subtle floral notes, a light dusting of spices and a sandalwood note. As noted in prior reviews, this own rooted site has mostly all Zinfandel, but there is some Carignane, Cinsault and Mondeuse scattered within the vineyard, adding an extra bit of complexity. The 2020 Sandlands Ldi Zin is satiny and plummy on the full bodied palate, it again delivers a very solid performance and it is beautifully poised and pleasing adding candied cherry, bramble berry framboise and grilled herbs de Provence, finishing with plenty of length and smooth underlying acidity. Passalacqua’s day job of running the winemaking and vineyards for Turley is clearly on display with this Zinfandel and his whole Sandlands collection of wines are direct, terroir driven and transparent offerings. While a Zin specialist, Tegan does great stuff with Carignane, one I try never to miss, as well as Trousseau, Cinsault, Chenin Blanc, Mataro (Mourvedre), Grenache, Syrah and the Mission grape, also known as Pais or Listan Prieto. There’s not a lot of the Sandlands made, so it is best to sign up for Tegan’s mailing list to get your fix of these wines, some of which are true California history captured in a bottle!

The Sandlands label, as mentioned, made by Passalacqua, offers a range authentic wines, focused on promoting California best old vines, like this one, and are exceptional values too. These stellar offerings, which I believe are produced mainly with all native yeasts and mainly neutral wood to allow purity to shine through. Sandlands, as noted many times here, is the personal wine project of Tegan Passalacqua, who is head winemaker and vineyard manager for the famed Larry Turley. He is focused on primarily head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted vines from historic sites and grapes that might have been overlooked for years. Passalacqua, who got his start by working in the lab in Napa Valley, has many talents, in the cellar and in vines, and he has an impressive CV, having done stints in the cellars of Craggy Range in New Zealand, with Eben Sadie in South Africa and with the late great Alain Graillot in the Northern Rhone Valley. All of these experiences has helped shape his style and he continues to turn out some impressive bottlings, which this one is. The vineyards that Tegan uses, including his own family’s Kirschenmann, offer a taste of California’s past and future, they are set on primarily on sandy granite based based soils and are, as he says, lovingly cared for by generational family farmers using organic and or sustainable methods. Passalacqua has total commitment in his wines and had to make serve choices in 2020, only making wines that has absolutely no smoke taint, and that shows in the brilliance of his 2020s, like this one, so they is no worries with his efforts, here in the Sandlands wines and his Turley lineup.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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