2018 Pax, Chenin Blanc, Buddhas Dharma Vineyard, Mendocino County.
Tasted blind, in a study of Loire varietals against some of the French classics, this 2018 dry and mineral driven Chenin Blanc by Pax Mahle of Pax Wines really showed well and was old world enough to be mistaken for a fine Savennières, impressive stuff and a big step up from the last couple of vintages with crisp detailing and a purity of flavors. The medium bodied palate is nervy with lots of energy from the long cool growing season, but with good complexity and nice fruit density showing vibrant peach, fresh citrus and Asian pear fruits along a touch of clove, tangy herb and honeycomb to go with the steely element, a faint leesy note and wet stones. You can see this wine gaining a fuller and waxy richness in time, though I love the way it is drinking right now, it is in a perfect place and it would be great with a variety of cuisine options, from soft cheeses to oysters on the half shell as well as a nice companion with poultry dishes. Chenin has seen a big time re-emergence in California and there are some fantastic versions available now, after many years in the shadows, with this one along with the likes of Lieu-Dit, Littorai, Jaimee Motely and Sandlands being exceptional wines to explore along with classics by Chappellet, Chalone and cult favorite Casa Nuestra, all worth searching out.
Pax’s Chenin Blanc is sourced from the Buddhas Dharma Vineyard, a vineyard that was planted back in 1944 in the wilds of Mendocino County, just north of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and is highly regarded for the quality of the fruit. This exceptional site is all dry farmed, grown using holistic principles, virtually organic, without the use of any chemicals, it s located at the base of Enlightenment Mountain set on gravelly volcanic soils. Pax is high on the later releases from this Buddhas Dharma Vineyard site due to a cooler vintages, especially this one, which gave him the opportunity to harvest slightly riper fruit, but with good natural acidity, and it allowed him to take a more Burgundy like approach in the winemaking. The Pax 2018 Buddhas Dharma Chenin was 100% whole cluster pressed and fermented with indigenous yeasts in a combination of neutral French oak as well as a couple of new Stockinger Austrian barrels, which are not as toasty sweet as the French when new. After primary fermentation the Chenin, as the winery notes, naturally went through full malolactic conversion and raised in the same neutral French oak barrels and Stockinger Austrian barrels for 10 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. This lightly golden white is a great alternative wine, and a change of pace to enjoy in these later Summer days. Pax is just on to the 2019, and from everything I hear it should be pretty close in style and quality, with a similar vintage, in case you can’t find the 2018.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive