Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 24, 2020

2018 Pax, Syrah, Sonoma-Hillsides, Sonoma County.
The Pax Syrahs, especially this one, the Sonoma-Hillsides, are the gold standard in California for authentic varietal character and quality for the money, with this Sonoma Hillsides being one of the most sought after versions in the state. The 2018 is turning out to be an incredible vintage for California Syrah and this Pax Hillsides shows why with intense dark fruit and depth, but with a sense of delicacy and lower alcohol giving the wine elegance and inner beauty, there’s a lot to unpack here with layers of black raspberry, minty herbs, lavender oil, a hint of olive and an unfolding of plum, fig and blueberry notes all adding dimension in the glass. The earthy nature or gamey element is subdued at present, but should come out with time along with a rich floral component as this wine hits its stride. That said, this wine comes with heavy expectations and its deep purple and garnet color invites comparisons to famous addresses in the Northern Rhone. Pax Mahle is one of California’s best known, influential and respected winemaker, who has been incredible helpful to a whole new generation of small producers. Pax, a Rhone specialist, but who also has branched out into making some natural style alternative wines in recent years from unique and rare grapes, is most know for his towering and age worthy single vineyard Syrah bottlings, including his Castelli-Knight, Alder Springs and the Griffin’s Lair bottlings.

This wine,100% Syrah, the multi vineyard cuvee, 2018 Sonoma-Hillsides, was hand crafted with old world influence using a combination of whole bunches (100% Whole-Cluster), with Pax’s fermentation using only indigenous yeasts. In his Syrah these days there is a variety of vessels for elevage with some getting concrete vat(s) and some getting used French casks including larger barrels or puncheons, but with this wine though, Pax aged it completely in the cement tank for 10 months. all of which the allow the wine to show its true nature in a clear transparent form. Pax Mahle has been on top of the Syrah game in California for years and has refined His style, which has been honed or the last decade has come to match his personal vision of what Syrah should be, and that follows some of the great wines of France’s northern Rhone region, most like Cote-Rotie and Hermitage, but these are not wines that mimic those wines, these California wines should be looked at as equals, not copies, and they have their own personalities. The 2018 saw fruit sourced from top sites like Castelli-Knight Ranch, in the Russian River, Griffins Lair Vineyard, in the Petaluma Gap area of the Sonoma Coast and the Nellessen Vineyard, in the Sonoma Coast with a cross section of Sonoma’s soils including volcanics, marine sediments and some broken shales, sandy loams and gravelly elements. This Hillsides Syrah finished at 12.9% natural alcohol, but don’t be fooled, this is a dense wine that will really gain with some bottle age, be patient and be rewarded.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive