2010SaxumJBV2010 Saxum, James Berry Vineyard, Paso Robles.
Justin Smith’s famous proprietary red, the James Berry Vineyard is made up of mostly Grenache, and in 2010 it was 52% Grenache, 26% Mourvedre, 22% Syrah, with 15.8% alcohol, making for a super heady and hedonistic wine. While on paper you’d think it was huge and maybe port-like in style, but in reality this wine is vivid, vibrant and complex, not showing excessive heat or pruney character at all, and the wood is totally melded in without a trance to be found, this wine is surprisingly fresh, and without question young, tight and in need of a decade of cellering. In what was a cool vintage, but not serve like maybe 2011, the Saxum James Berry shows it’s pedigree, this vineyard has to rank up there as one of the top Rhone sites in California, it is in the Templeton Gap, a cooler area in the West side part of Paso Robles, an area that sees medium high daytime temps and a cool breeze from the ocean and much cooler nights, it also has great soils, ancient seabed to thank for the quality, making the vines stress just enough to show their best, this a prime spot for Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah, and there is Tempranillo, Counoise, Tannat, Roussanne and even some Petit Verdot doing great things near by, this region is on fire with fantastic wines. The 2010 Saxum is beautifully detailed, super long and exotic, starting with a black/purple hue that is opaque leading to an intense palate of black currants, boysenberry, dark cherry and damson plum fruits with crushed stones, liquid minerals, white pepper, melted licorice, blueberry compote, bitter dark coco and a hint of cedar. I think over time there will be a whole lot more coming to life here, there is the impression, slight now, of game, leather and liqueur, though the power and tannin structure is masking it’s true depth, regardless this is amazing wine and a rival for any top Chateauneuf-du-Pape, though more like Pegau than Rayas. Unfortunately the demand is unbelievably high and the price jumps 3 or 4 times when it finds the street, but again there is a reason, it is a truly awesome bottle, especially for those lucky enough to be on Justin’s mailing list, the pre release price is only $89. Bravo to Justin Smith, his wines are no doubt some of the best Rhone style wines being made in California.
($189-249 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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