2018 Pax Mahle, Syrah, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County.
The exceptional 2018 Alder Springs Syrah by Pax Mahle is truly world class stuff, fantastically pure and with beautiful layers it is one of the best yet from this Syrah specialist with a full bodied palate of dark berries, damson plum, black cherry and currant fruit, wild, almost feral, earthiness, cracked peppercorns, mission fig and with a deep perfume of crushed violets and anise. The 100% whole cluster and native yeast fermentation gives this wine its sexy excitement and makes for its great balance of fruit and umami and heightened sensual appeal, much the same way that the great wines of Auguste Clape, Thierry Allemand and Domaine Jamet do, in fact this vintage is wanting for nothing when compared to those wines. This vineyard, planted to Syrah in 1997, was the first place Pax ever got grapes, it is located about 150 miles north of San Francisco and lies just 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean, it is set on steep slopes with many unique micro climates with mainly fractured sandstone soils. Alder Springs Vineyard, along with Griffin’s Lair in the cool windswept Petaluma Gap, are my favorites in Pax’s lineup usually, but I was blown away with this release of the Alder Springs Syrah, it really shows what a great place this vineyard is and what an awesome terroir it is for this grape. This dense and opaque purple 2018 Alder Springs Syrah is a divine nectar, particularly for Syrah enthusiasts (like me) and potentially perfect, it deserves to be decanted and be a center piece of a fine meal, which I didn’t respect, by having popped its cork with a take away pizza, but it soon forgave me by opening up in the glass with majestic and profound grace, making for a thrilling evening.
The Alder Springs Syrah was made using the full bunches and with stem inclusion, all standard practice here at Pax, and it was raised in neutral large sized French oak puncheons to capture the nuance of the vintage, with was long and cool, perfect for this style of wine and to allow a real sense of place to shine through. These 2018s look to have fabulous aging potential and I was incredibly impressed by how good it was now, with air this Alder Springs just got better and better, with sublime mouth feel and gained aromatic intensity, as well as complexity over the hour or so I had it open with added floral dimension and a finish that went on and on featuring creme de cassis, herbs de Provence and touch of cool climate tapenade. Pax Wines, founded back in 2000, is led by Pax and Pamela Mahle, and has been a huge force in making Syrah as serious as it is in California these days, especially in the classic Northern Rhone style, hand crafting many small lot and single vineyard cuvees from organic and cooler climate sites in northern California. In recent years, besides these awesome Syrah bottlings, like this outstanding Alder Springs, Pax has been exploring a selection of esoteric varieties, like Trousseau, Trousseau Gris, Charbono, Valdiguie, Mondeuse, the Mission grape (aka Listan Prieto) and especially Gamay that he says showcase the great diversity of California wine. Mahle has also adopted a very non intervention or natural winemaking style, adding that from the vineyard to the cellar, Pax Wines employs sustainable approach with a holistic winemaking style. This means that all of Pax’s grapes are grown using organic or biodynamic vineyard practices, plus ultra low sulfites and no unnatural additions are used in the winery. Pax has nailed these 2018s and this one is the real deal, lucky are those that have a few extra bottles to savor and cellar, it should get even better in 3 to 5 years too, sadly patience wasn’t a virtue I was born with!
($55 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive