2020 Sandlands Vineyards, Syrah, Santa Barbara County.
The Sandlands Santa Barbara Syrah, which was sourced from the historic Bien Nacido Vineyard, with 75% coming off the coveted X Block, and 25% from the Z Block, both excellent sites for purity, intensity, richness and cool climate climate character, as this gorgeous 100% Syrah shows in the glass with its start of dark florals, earthy black fruits and low alcohol freshness. Tegan Passalacqua, winemaker, who’s Sandlands Vineyards label had to search out a new selection of sites in 2020 due to the devastating fires and smoke, and with the helps of some well connected friends secures some fantastic grapes from Bien Nacido so he could be able to produce this wine, as an alternative to his Soberanes Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah. And while the Sandlands Soberanes Syrah is one of my favorites in his lineup, Passalacqua has done a brilliant job here and with every sip this wine got better and more compelling, perfect for my chilly night needs and great with a rustic pizza. On palate, which is ripe and supple with fine tannins, the Sandlands Santa Barbara Syrah flows beautifully with clear transparent flavors lead by bright boysenberry, tangy blueberry, damson plum and currant jelly, along with peppery Asian spices, loamy earth, tarry licorice, crushed violets, saline infused stones, sandalwood, camphor and briery herbs. This medium bodied wine is easy to love, nicely quaffable at only 12.8% natural alcohol, but serious enough in structure to potentially age for another decade or more, I knew I should have bought an extra few bottles! The Bien Nacido Vineyard, in Santa Maria Valley, was one of the first places in California to really take Syrah seriously and one of the sites that inspired the Rhône Rangers with its sandy loam soils and cold Pacific Ocean influences make it a prime spot for this grape.
The Sandlands label, as mentioned many here at grapelive.com, made by Tegan 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, some whole bunches, 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. Again as noted before, 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 Zinfandel specialist, Tegan does great stuff with Carignane, one I try never to miss, as well as Trousseau, Cinsault, Chenin Blanc, Mataro (Mourvedre), Grenache, Syrah, as proven here, and the Mission grape, all of which are fabulous authentic efforts. 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, which seemingly provided inspiration on his Syrah wines. Passalacqua, as I’ve said, has total commitment in his wines (both here and at Turley) and had to make serve choices in 2020, only making wines that had absolutely no smoke taint, and that shows in the brilliance of his 2020s, which I highly recommend. Getting on the list here at Sandlands is very good idea, with the direct to consumer price being remarkably value savvy for enthusiasts.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive