2018 Sandlands Vineyards, Chenin Blanc, Amador County.
Just starting to show its full depth and range of flavors the impressive Chenin Blanc from Tegan Passalacqua at Sandlands Vineyards, sourced from vines planted, as Tegan reveals, back in 1979 and grown at 1500 feet on a combination of iron rich volcanic, quartz and decomposed granite soils, is crisply dry, slightly waxy and saline infused much the way really good Savennières are, with classic peach, bruised apple and lemony fruits, hints of unripe melon, golden fig, tangy quince, clove spiciness, chalky and delicately floral. This wine is much deeper and serious than first impressions and I found myself liking more and more as it got air and with food, it is much like a Loire version after it gets going and very distinct with a subtle earthy undertone and quite round in texture, while still retaining its natural acidity and energy, this is a Chenin geeks wine. The Sandlands Vineyards wines are available in extremely limited lots, mainly to their mailing list, though sometimes the lucky can find them at selected wine merchants or hip restaurant lists, though I highly recommend signing up to the mailing as soon as possible.
This Chenin, as usual is raised in a combination of used large French oak including a foudre, a puncheon and a few small Burgundy style barrels, which Passalacqua notes, comes from careful hand harvest grapes, high in the Sierra Foothills, from this vineyard that is all classically is head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted. I tasted this wine blind with a bunch of true Loire Valley wines, as well as a small set of California examples and this Sandlands Chenin held its own and not far off some highly rated French stuff, including an outstanding Domaine Huet Sec Vouvray. Sandlands Vineyards, the personal project of Tegan Passalacqua, who is the head winemaker and vineyard manager at the famed Turley Cellars, and his Olivia, is a must follow label with a collection of authentic and value packed wines. These offerings are especially attractive for those that want to taste California wine history, with most of these wines coming from old vine sites. Their line-up of wines, as they note, includes some the forgotten classic California varieties, like Cinsault and the Mission grape, as well as Carignane, Mataro, Chenin Blanc, like this one, plus Grenache and Zinfandel from old vine vineyards to name a few.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive