Sandlands Vineyards is a new venture from Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua. Tegan is a Napa Valley native and director of winemaking at Turley Wine Cellars since 2013. He’s also worked in winemaking in New Zealand, the Rhone Valley and South Africa. Passalacqua is part of a wavelet of young winemakers and vineyard managers who are reviving once-classic California varieties, often using grapes grown in traditional northern California wine growing areas that nevertheless were considered outliers during the last part of the 20th century. The name Sandlands comes from the fact that Passalacqua's grapes mostly are grown in sandy regions and without irrigation -- a nod back to the roots of California winemaking in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Sandlands makes Chenin blanc, Trousseau Noir and Carignane from grapes sourced in Napa Valley, Contra Costa County and Amador County. The wines are produced in very limited quantities and generally available only through a mailing list.
Napa Valley AVA is the most famous winemaking region in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. With nearly 43,000 acres of vineyards and more than 300 wineries, it is the heart of fine wine production in the United States. Winemaking started in Napa in 1838 when George C. Yount planted grapes and began producing wine commercially. Other winemaking pioneers followed in the late 19th century, including the founders of Charles Krug, Schramsberg, Inglenook and Beaulieu Vineyards. An infestation of phylloxera, an insect that attacks vine roots, and the onset of Prohibition nearly wiped out the nascent Napa wine industry in the early 20th century. But by the late 1950s and early 1960s Robert Mondavi and other visionaries were producing quality wines easily distinguishable from the mass-produced jug wines made in California’s Central Valley. Napa Valley’s AVA was established in 1983, and today there are 16 sub-appellations within the Napa Valley AVA. Many grapes grow well in Napa’s Mediterranean climate, but the region is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay is also very successfully cultivated, and about 30% of the AVA’s acreage is planted to white grapes, with the majority of those grapes being Chardonnay,