2013 Baxter, Nebbiolo, Fox Hill Vineyard, Mendocino County.
The under the radar Italian varietal scene in Mendocino County has taken a new turn with some very interesting and serious versions of Northern Italian grapes, including Piedmont’s classic Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo, and this Baxter, a winery better known for its Pinot Noir, crafting a beauty of a Nebbiolo from Fox Hill Vineyard and the 2013 vintage that is just now starting to take shape giving true varietal character while being a unique California wine. Baxter’s Pinots have thrilled me since I first tried their lineup of 2012 wines and especially their whole cluster bottling, but this 2013 is the first non Pinot offering I’ve tried from Phillip Baxter and while it needed a good three or fours to full reveal itself, this deep and tannic wine comes good with wonderfully pure fruit, brisk acidity and plenty of herbal and savory elements that certainly give the impression of the Langhe, though with a bit more ripeness and thickness on the palate as well as a long creamier finish. The layers of flavors impresses with round bing cherry, plum and boysenberry fruits, as well as minty/tangy basil, menthol and anise along with hints of leather, wet earth, lavender and dried roses, picking up some candied peach, citrus rind and cedar too in a complex red that shows a bit of brick around a core of garnet in the glass. According to Baxter, Fox Hill Vineyard, most known itself for the grapes it supplies to Italian style wine specialist Idlewild Wines, another winery not to miss, has a wonderful collection of indigenous Italian varietals, being perfect blend of hot and cold, the vineyard is ideally situated to grow great Nebbiolo and the owners planted three clones grown on the vineyard, those being Lampia, Michet and Bra versions. They also grown the mentioned Barbera and Dolcetto as well as the white grape Arneis, the site is located on the Eastern edge of Mendocino County, on the gentile bench land of the Ukiah valley just off the redwood highway with cold nights and warm days allowing ripe flavors, soft tannins and still having fresh acidity that give the wines complexity and freshness, and that is highlighted here in this 2013 Baxter, a wine that needs time and food still to show it’s best. Phillip makes his wines old school using native yeasts with hand punch-downs after a long cold soak and extended maceration, with this Nebbiolo seeing just old wood, he produced just a few barrels of this wine, which as he says, enjoyed an extra-long barrel aging or elevage, after a soft basket press, for about 30 months to allow the wine to soften and to steadily allow it to develop it’s full range of flavors. Suggesting to lay his 2013, and the just released 2014 down if possible for another couple of years, which I agree, maybe 3 to 5 would be better yet, or at least decant if enjoying sooner. Baxter thinks it would be fabulous paired with either fresh mushroom linguini or pork roast, while had with a winter selection of roasted winter veggies, polenta and an earthy beet ravioli combo, which brought out a more exotic fruit sense in this one and allowing the wine to fill out completely on the medium/full palate adding to the pleasure of its experience.
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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