2019 Pax Wines, Mission, Somer’s Vineyard, Mokelumne River, Lodi.
The Pax 100% Mission is a vibrant and light red wine that feel the need for a chill and enjoyed in its racy youth with a fun sort of Beaujolais like playful juicy cherry led personality, but with a unique blast of dry savory notes and a zippy array of spices from cinnamon to red pepper flakes along with a zesty acidity and fine dusty tannins. Pax, known for their world class Syrah, does a delightful collection of natural style Glou-Glou wines, some of which were started under Pax Mahle’s Wind Gap label that has now been folded into the Pax lineup, these included his Trousseau Gris, his highly sought after Gamay Noir, plus a Petit Manseng, a little known French white grape that is grown primarily in Gascony, and more famously in the Jurançon and Pacherenc in the southwest, plus this slightly wild Mission grape, that is also known as Listan Prieto, found in the Canary Islands and Pais, which is its name in Chile. In California, Mission arrived with the Missions, hence the name, since the original Spanish vines by that time had no had a remembered name, some of the oldest living Mission vines are still at the Mission San Gabriel in Los Angeles that to have been planted in 1771, while the Somer’s Vineyard in Lodi looks like it was planted in the early 1900s. The Mission grape in the central valley of California was mostly used in the production of Brandy rather than still wine and occasionally Mission was used in late harvest wines, known as Angelica, this was the first version that I tried from a 200 year old vineyard in Santa Barbara County.
Pax employed a 100% while cluster and native fermentation allowing for a semi carbonic style of character with the wine getting a short aging spell with a four month elevage in neutral French barrels, plus a month in concrete tank before bottling with everything done to preserve freshness. These grapes, sourced from these old organic vines, came from the Mokelumne River zone on ancient river bed on deep sandy loam soils, which has led to roots that have dug way down to get moisture, since they are all dry farmed and they have huge trunks that according to the winery look like trees being about six feet high. The 2019 Pax Mission (aka Listan Prieto) which was just released reminds me of some of the more interesting Canary Islands wines like Envinate’s Benje and Fronton de Oro’s Tinto as well as a few Pipeno’s (Louis Antoine Luyt) from Chile made from Pais that date back to the first Missionaries in the 1500s. The flavors are slightly earthy and raw with layers of strawberry/rhubarb, umami, dried herbs and rose petals along with the tangy cherry, cinnamon and peppery notes along with grilled orange and wild fennel. The Mission grape is showing it deserves a second chance in California, after almost disappearing in the mid 1900s when it was much maligned and replaced by more noble varietals, mostly from France, maybe not as serious wine, but as an easy drinking quaffer and non pretentious counter culture wine! Enjoy Pax’s light ruby-pale garnet, almost Rosé like, hued Mission, which is just 12.5% natural alcohol and now with lots of laughter, friends and simple cuisine.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive