2019 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Contra Costa County, California.
The Sandlands Vineyards Contra Costa Carignane is a dark and vividly fresh making for a wine that has the grapey pleasure of a Gamay meets Zinfandel, it is simply a fun and easy to enjoy red that goes great with these warm Fall days and cooler evenings. Coming from seriously old vines set on the deep sand that highlights this unlikely historic region that doesn’t get the recognition it truly deserves, especially when you taste the wines from here, like the offerings from Bedrock Wine Co, who’s owner Morgan Twain-Peterson, a Master of Wine, invested in the region big time, by buying the famous Evangelho Vineyard, which has hundred year old Mourvedre and Zinfandel, that he uses in his Heritage Field Blend, as well as Carignane, as is found in this Sandlands bottling along with some other important producers like Ridge Vineyards. This purple tinted and dark garnet colored 2019 has a highly quaffable vitality and displays juicy concord, tangy plum, blackberry and cherry fruits that are accented by light floral tones, whole bunches pop, dried herbs, fennel and a touch of crushed stones in a medium bodied red with satiny tannins. Winemaker Tegan Passalacqua has found a niche with his Sandlands collection and these wines are a huge hit, often selling out within minutes of release, I am particularly thrilled with his 2018 and 2019 efforts, with the the Cinsault, Zinfandel, Trousseau, Chenin Blanc, Mataro (Mourvedre), Grenache, Syrah and Mission grape all being outstanding and unique, well worth chasing down.

The vineyard used for this Carignane, as Passalacqua notes, was planted in the 1920s in what is classified as Dehli blow sand (decomposed granite that has been deposited by wind and water) near the banks of the Delta and near the out of way town of Antioch. The warm days out here provide a deep ripening of the grapes, but good picking date choices actually allows for lower natural alcohol, as in this wine, which is about 12.8% and gives this wine a smooth textural quality. Sandlands is the personal wine project of Tegan Passalacqua, who as noted many times here the head winemaker and vineyard manager for the famed Turley Wine Cellars and is all about his work with primarily head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted vines and lesser known, but historic California varietals. Passalacqua, who got his start by working in the lab in Napa Valley, has many talents and has had impressive experiences, having done stints in the cellars of Craggy Range in New Zealand with Doug Wisor, with Eben Sadie in the Swartland of South Africa, and with Alain and Maxime Graillot in the Northern Rhone Valley of France, all of which has helped shape his style. The vineyards Tegan uses offer a taste of our (the State’s) past and future, most are set on sandy granite based based soils and are mostly old vine plots that are lovingly cared for by generational family farmers. The wines by Sandlands are striking values and ultra authentic bottlings that are made to be raw and transparent, or honest, examples of place and vintage, made with native yeasts and mainly neutral wood. The new releases from Sandlands, which will include an old vine Lodi Carignane, that I’m excited to try, are hitting later this month, so best to keep an eye out and I highly recommend getting on the mailing list here!
($28 Est.) 89 Points, grapelive

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