An Old World Style Syrah From the Santa Lucia Highlands

Today’s Story: Sandlands Vineyards

Sandlands Vineyards is a small family-owned and operated passion project of Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua established in 2010. Tegan, a winemaker with a proven track record of crafting fantastic old vine Zinfandel at Turley Wine Cellars, branched out into this side project with a focus on ancient and “forgotten” varieties. In the far reaches of California winegrowing in Lodi, Contra Costa County, Santa Lucia Highlands, Amador County, and the more familiar Sonoma Coast, Tegan sources Chenin Blanc, Cinsault, Trousseau, Carignane, Mataro, Syrah, Zinfandel, and other varieties from vines that are at times more than 100 years old. Though these varieties and the vineyards he sources from have been farmed for decades and generations, they oftentimes lay outside of the “norm” for California viticulture and are even mostly planted in decomposed granite (i.e. sand). What’s more, the vineyards Tegan works with are typically head-trained, dry-farmed, and own rooted. Tegan crafts these wines in a traditional and minimally invasive manner, allowing the unique terroir and vine to shine through in each bottling which results in lower alcohol, easy drinking, but complex wines. Production is miniscule and quantities are quoted by the barrel, so these can be hard to find and the mailing list is the easiest way.

I previously wrote about Sandlands’ 2018 Lodi Red Table Wine, which is an interesting blend of 33.3% Cinsault, 33.3% Carignane, and 33.3% Zinfandel all from very old vines. If you’d like to check out other wines in their portfolio as well, visit the Sandlands website here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah

100% Syrah; 12.8% ABV

The 2018 Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah is deep purple in color, certainly showcasing its youth. I let this open up for 1.5 hours and then drank it over the following 1.5 hours, which I think it needs at this stage. The aromas are absolutely gorgeous and of medium intensity, showcasing notes of crushed blackberry, black plum, wild blueberry, violets, licorice, gravel, graphite, and grilled herbs. Flavors are also of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of blueberry, blackberry, orange rind, leather, tobacco, cracked pepper, green herbs, and smoke. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but refined tannins, medium alcohol (shows slightly due to youth), and a long finish. Too young for sure, but already so delicious.

Price: $40. Prices are already on the rise for these wines, but at $40 (which is now low for the secondary market) I still think this is a very solid value for Syrah. It drinks rather Old World in style, and the complexity already is quite generous. Once the alcohol finishes integrating, this will be a showstopper.

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