2019 Sandlands Vineyards, Zinfandel, Lodi, California.
The darkly colored and deeply concentrated Sandlands Kirschenmann Vineyard Zinfandel is wonderfully rich and detailed on the full bodied palate, perfectly displaying the best qualities of the vintage and this old vine Lodi site. Its almost impossible not to love everything on offer here, this is a wine to thrill old school Zin fans with supple round layering of black raspberry, plum and Italian cherry fruits, along with ripe dusty tannins, lively acidity and subtle earthiness. This Zin has a chalky/stony elements and has background of brambly spice, dried herbs, floral tones and a light cedary note. Winemaker Tegan Passalacqua uses his own Kirschenmann grapes for this wine, it is located on the East Side of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA that was originally planted back in 1915 and is set on silica rich, white sandy soils. This own rooted site in mostly all Zinfandel, but there is Carignane, Cinsault and Mondeuse scattered within a few blocks as well. With air and time in the glass this 2019 Zin gets almost silken in the mouth, it delivers a very solid performance and it is remarkably well balanced, even at 14.6% natural alcohol this wine never feels anything, but graceful. I have really enjoyed all of the latest Sandlands, especially this one, which maybe Passalacqua’s signature effort, along with his Carignane, one I try never to miss, as well as Trousseau, Cinsault, Chenin Blanc, Mataro (Mourvedre), Grenache, Syrah and Mission grape, also known as Pais or Listan Prieto. These 2019s are some of my favorites to date and I highly recommend getting on the mailing list, as these wines are super limited and sell out fast.

The Sandlands label, made by Passalacqua, is one of the most authentic collection of wines in California and these wines, like this one, are exceptional values that are hand made in a transparent style to showcase their individual terroirs and varietals. These stellar offerings are produced mainly with native yeasts and mainly neutral wood to promote purity of fruit and allow that sense of place to shine through, though as this wines, they are full flavored and wonderfully textural as well. Sandlands, as noted many times here, is the personal wine project of Tegan Passalacqua, head winemaker and vineyard manager for the famed Turley Wine Cellars, focused on primarily head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted vines from historic sites and true California grapes along with a few lesser known varietals, such as Trousseau and the Mission grape. 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 resume, 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 of France. All of these experiences has helped shape his style and he continues to turn out some impressive bottlings. 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 lovingly cared for by generational family farmers using organic and or sustainable methods. There were just 10 barrels of this beautiful Kirschenmann Zinfandel, but it is worth the struggle to find it.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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