2020 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Lodi Wine, California.
I couldn’t keep my hands off this new batch of Tegan Passalacqua’s Sandlands Vineyards wines and especially his brilliant Lodi Carignane, this is always one of my favorite wines in the Sandlands collection and this 2020 is wonderfully fresh and lively, but with comforting fruit density and dark flavors, it is perfect for simple country foods and no pretense quaffing. One of my friends just got back from a trip to France, where he explored Carcassonne and the Languedoc region, enjoying and learning to make their local historic dish of cassoulet, where it was paired with the native reds wines, like those of Corbieres, Minervois, Fitou, Maury, Saint-Cinian, Pic Saint Loup, and Faugères, and it got me thinking about some California wines that would be great with his new found recipe, bringing this delicious Lodi Carignane to mind. In fact this wine perfectly pairs with the rustic versions of cassoulet with its deep purply dark hue and medium to full bodied palate of blackberry, currant, plum and Italian cherry fruits that are balanced nicely by brambly spice, dusty stones, sprigs of wild herbs, earthy cedar and orange rind accents. This vintage of Passalacqua’s Lodi Carignane is smoothy textured and ripe in layering, but as always is restrained in alcohol coming in at just tick under 12% and is as easy to love as his Zinfandel, I highly recommend getting on the Sandlands mailing list and never passing up on his two Carignane bottlings, this one and his Contra Costa County version!

For these Sandlands wines, winemaker Tegan Passalaqua, who is the vineyard manager and head winemaker at the famous Turley Wine Cellars, uses restraint and employs a light touch in the cellar here with most bottlings being small wines made with indigenous yeasts and lots of whole cluster. Along with traditional old school maceration(s) with hand punch downs, basket pressing and with the aging being done in well used barrels, mostly French oak. California wine enthusiasts are re-discovery Lodi and the region’s historic old vines, with many vineyards being well over 100 years old, set on well draining sandy soils, which is what many of California’s best vineyards have, like this one, which produces small yields and fruit concentration. Passalacqua notes, that This own-rooted vineyard of Carignane, was planted in 1900, on Lodi’s Tokay fine sandy loam on the west side of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA, where it has thrived for well over a hundred years now. This combination makes for some great wines and Lodi offers tremendous value for the savvy wine lover and this latest Sandlands Lodi Carignane is proof positive of that, it delivers tons of personality, quality and complexity at a great price. Carignane or Carignan, is a Rhone varietal that has been in California a long time, and along with Cinsault, are mainly used in blends, but can make for stylish single varietal wines, both of which are tasty treats, especially these Sandlands versions. Carignane, maybe known best in the Languedoc and is usually found as a main player in Saint Chinian and Corbieres, but is also found in Spain’s Priorat and on the Italian isle of Sardinia, plus here in California where it is a minor part of classic Zinfandel field blends from Lodi, Contra Costa to Sonoma Valley and in the remote wilderness of Mendocino!
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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