2018 Sandlands Vineyards, Cinsault, Lodi California.
The Sandlands label is the highly acclaimed personal project of Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua, with wines that pay tribute to, as they put it, the forgotten classic California varieties, primarily grown in decomposed granite (sand), from regions and vineyards that have been farmed for many generations but have remained the outliers of California viticulture. You may know Tegan’s work with Turley Wine Cellars, when he is the head winemaker and vineyard manager, overseeing many historic old vine vineyards, including the Bechtold Vineyard in Lodi where this old vine Cinsualt comes from. Passalacqua’s Cinsault has a fresh and crisp nature, it shows a bright cherry, plum, strawberry and spiced raspberry fruit core as well as smooth tannin, zesty acids, minty herb and a mineral tone, adding a touch of florals, earth and a hint of bramble with air, making for a delightful and supple low alcohol red. This wine shows that winemaking in California can even in hot climates produce detailed and elegant wines, especially when hand crafted by a passionate vigneron that knows every inch and nuance of the vines. Passalacqua who is a state treasure, with an overwhelming knowledge of varietals and California wine history, works primarily head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted vines, noted that the vineyards he partners with harken back to California’s roots of exploration, wonder, and hard work. Passalacqua, who obviously is talented with Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, is wonderfully gifted with many grapes including this Cinsault, as well as Chenin Blanc, Mataro (Mourvedre), the Mission grape and Carignane, any of which under the Sandlands label should be sought out.

The Sandlands 2018 Lodi Cinsault, a small lot offering with only eight barrels produced was made from grapes sourced from vines originally planted in 1886, as Tegan adds, in the heart of Western Lodi by Joseph Spenker and farmed for decades by Al Bechthold. The Bechthold Vineyard is a legendary site and Cinsault, a grape that is part of the Rhone family and one of the Chateauneuf du Pape collection is known for handling heat and lack of water, while still providing acidity and delicacy of flavors. Cinsault is also the secret sauce of many fine Rosé wines, including lots in the Provence region and in the famed Bandol AOC. This varietal is gaining popularity in California as well as being a huge star in South Africa, like in the wines by Baadenhorst, a country its also been in since the 1800s. Tegan Passalacqua, who is a Napa Valley native, has worked in the cellars of Craggy Range in New Zealand with Doug Wisor, with Eben Sadie in the Swartland of South Africa, who also makes an incredible Cinsault, and with Alain and Maxime Graillot in the Northern Rhone Valley of France. For the past eleven years, as mentioned, he has worked for Turley Wine Cellars, working his way up from harvest intern to winemaker/vineyard Manager. I highly recommend getting on Tegan’s Sandlands Vineyards mailing list as his wines usually sell out within minutes of being put on offer. Be sure to keep an eye out for this lovely Cinsault, which in 2018 came in at just 12.3% natural alcohol, it goes get with simple cuisine and can be served with a slight chill for outdoor enjoyment. This wine gets better and better as it opens in the glass, its pretty ruby hue and smooth textured flavors are almost Pinot like and it is very sad when the bottle empties!
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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