2021 Pax Wines, Vermentino, The Bench Vineyard, Clements Hills AVA, Lodi California.
Vermentino is enjoying the spotlight here in California and is turning out to be an excellent choice, as it enjoys the Sunny weather, retains dynamic acidity and is a grape very much a winemaker’s friend, as it can be done in many ways to keep things exciting, as this new release from Pax shows. Brilliantly golden in the glass, slightly reductive, mineral laced and wonderfully refreshing, vibrant and bone dry on the medium bodied palate with lemony zest and peachy fruit, accented by mouth watering saline, wet stones, verbena, faint orange blossom floral(s), bitter almond and key lime. Pax says, Vermentino is the great white wonder of Coastal Europe, going on he says it is best known for producing high acid, fleshy, refreshing wines, with some exciting examples, coming out of the sun-drenched coast of Italy, from Tuscany to Liguria. Vermentino, also known as Rolle in parts of France, enjoys many climate and terroir elements and has thrived for thousands of years in Sardinia, as well as having a presence in the Rhone Valley, it is also one of the Chateauneuf du Pape varietals, Provence, Corsica, where there are many fabulous examples and even does well in Piedmonte, where it is called Favorita. Vermentino plantings in California have exploded in the last 10 years or so, from Dry Creek, Carneros and the Sierra Foothills to Paso Robles, Monterey County, especially in the Arroyo Seco zone and here in Clements Hills in San Joaquin County, California, located in the southeast part of the larger Lodi AVA and on the Mokelumne River. Pax’s comes from very sandy soils, like those found in Chateauneuf, and the hot days don’t faze this grape one bit and this 2021 only comes in at 12% natural alcohol, making it a perfect Summer sipper, though Vermentino does age nicely with an almost Riesling like quality, if you were patient.

Pax’s latest Vermentino was crafted using 100% Vermentino from the The Bench Vineyard, in Clements Hills and was 100% whole cluster pressed, naturally fermented and saw a 4-Month élevage in a combination of stainless steel barrels, concrete tank and large neutral French 500L puncheons, all to bring out the best character of the grape and allow for a fine balance of purity, crisp detail, a touch of earthy funk, and textural charm. Part of Pax Mahle’s quaffable club series of wines, the Vermentino joins a collection of fresh and easy natural styled wines that include California rarities such as Charbono, Mission and Valdiguie, all reds that like his Gamay offerings enjoy a slight chill and are no pretense wines with either full or Carbonic like fermentation(s). Also of interest is a new Chenin Blanc from the Sonoma Coast and the wild and funky skin contact Trousseau Gris, a wine with a cult following. All of these are Pax’s fun stuff, but least we forget his most serious wines, his world class Syrahs, which are his signature bottlings, these powerful efforts are some of the most coveted red wines in the state with his Griffin’s Lair, Armagh Vineyard, Sonoma Hillsides and the Fenaughty Vineyard, which is located in El Dorado County in the Sierra Foothills all being ones to be on the lookout for right now. The are some incredible values throughout the range here and this Vermentino is a excellent addition to the lineup. In recent months and over the last couple of years I have highlighted some awesome examples of California Vermentino with many comparing well against the best from the Mediterranean, like Ryme Cellars, Martha Stroumen, Filomena Wine Co, Unti Vineyards, Sheldon Wines, Bonny Doon, Chesebro, Joyce Wine Co. and Tablas Creek Vineyard, who were responsible for a lot of this grape’s success here by bringing some of the best clones over from France. The rise of warm climate friendly white varietals have been a blessing, from Picpoul to Fiano, and Vermentino, as done here, California is looking forward with delicious results!
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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