Old Vine Magic

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. At the very least, I suggest checking out the Sandlands website here for incredible pictures of their source vineyards.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Lodi Red Table Wine

33.3% Cinsault, 33.3% Carignane, 33.3% Zinfandel; 13.3% ABV

The 2018 Lodi Red Table Wine is pale to medium purple in color. I know this is young but I couldn’t resist trying my first bottle, so I let this open up for a couple hours and sampled it along the way to see it evolve. The nose is somewhat delicate with medium intensity and aromas of tart red cherry, red plum, cranberry, black raspberry, blackberry, violets, licorice, smoke, wet gravel, and stony mineral. Meanwhile the palate is also of medium intensity while showcasing notes of redcurrant, red cherry, ripe strawberry, wild raspberry, blueberry, black tea, sweet tobacco, smoked game, a hint of coffee grounds, and baking spice. This dry red blend is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a long, captivating finish. This is very, very good already showcasing great balance and I am excited to see it evolve further in the bottle.

The Cinsault comes from the Bechthold Vineyard planted in 1886, the Carignane from the Spenker Ranch planted in 1900, and the Zinfandel from the estate-owned Kirschenmann Vineyard planted in 1915.

Price: $40. This is right in the absolutely worth its price to very solid value camp. I imagine these are slightly less expensive on the mailing list, but I will hands-down buy this again retail in the time being. The balance, complexity, and quality at such a young age are truly impressive and this is well worth a try.

Preeminent California Zin

Today’s Story: Turley Wine Cellars

Turley was founded in 1993 by Larry Turley, the brother of famed winemaker Helen Turley. During the earlier years, Helen even consulted for her brother’s new winery. Though Larry entered the wine business more than a decade earlier in 1981 by co-founding Frog’s Leap Winery in Rutherford, he learned his love of Zinfandel and the vision for Turley was born. Turley Wine Cellars makes 47 different wines from over 50 different vineyards, all of which are of the Zinfandel or Petite Syrah varieties. With their specialty single-vineyard red Zinfandel bottlings, Turley sources from old vineyards with some dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries and they are considered by many to be the best Zinfandel wines made in California.

Turley Wine Cellars started with one location in St. Helena in the Napa Valley, though during expansion opened a second winery in Templeton in San Luis Obispo county. Today, they have a third location in Amador County. As of 2011, Turley was producing 16,000 cases of wine and becoming a member of their private wine club can still take up to two years. All of the vineyards sourced for Turley are either certified organic or in the process of bering certified, and during the winemaking process all wines are fermented with natural yeasts.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Dogtown Vineyard Zinfandel

100% Zinfandel; 15.3% ABV

The 2016 Dogtown Vineyard Zinfandel is medium ruby in color with rose variation toward the rim of the glass. Once this wine opens up, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, raspberry, pine, earth, black shoe polish, leather, smoke, and dried green herbs. On the palate, I get notes of cherry, cranberry, raspberry, ripe black plum, tobacco, baking spice, green herbs, and oak. Like many Zinfandels, the sweet fruit dominates here. This is full-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $65. Certainly not an inexpensive Zinfandel, though the Dogtown Vineyard is consistently the lowest-yielding vineyard of the over 50 vineyards Turley makes wine from. If this is a little steep, Turley’s portfolio consists of 47 different wines of varying price-point. Pair this with barbecue, especially chicken or pork.