Coveted Paso Robles Rhône Blend – For Good Reason

Today’s Story: Saxum Vineyards

Saxum Vineyards is a highly regarded winery in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles, established in 2002 by husband and wife Justin and Heather Smith. The winery is situated in the James Berry Vineyard, a property purchased by Justin’s father around 1980 which he planted to white grape varieties popular at the time. However, toward the end of the 1980s the Smith family started replanting their vineyard to Rhône varieties following the suggestion by a friend, and today Saxum is known for their Grenache, Syrah, and Mataro dominated blends.

The Saxum vineyards are planted on steep hillsides and rocky soils, with the region offering sunny days and cool ocean breezes. Yields are kept low to create healthy, concentrated berries and the fruit is picked at optimal ripeness to ensure profound texture in the finished product. A sustainable and rather uncertified organic viticultural philosophy is followed by minimal intervention in the cellar, allowing each of the ten crus produced by Saxum to show a true sense of place while being profound and elegant at the same time. Saxum produces roughly 8,000 cases of wine per vintage nowadays, with all bottles highly allocated to a mailing list with a very small amount making it to retail or restaurants. To put this demand into perspective, I’ve been on the Saxum waiting list for about 4 years already and from what I hear have several more years to go.

To learn more about Saxum, particularly their individual bottlings with incredible libraries of tasting notes, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Broken Stones

52% Syrah, 18% Mataro, 10% Grenache, 10% Tempranillo, 8% Petite Sirah, 2% Roussanne; 15.9% ABV

The 2016 Broken Stones is opaque deep purple in color with deep ruby hues. I decanted this for 3 hours and drank it over the following 2 given its youth. There’s pronounced intensity on the nose, offering up aromas of blackberry, juicy black plum, black cherry, violet, lavender, licorice, roasted game, grilled herbs, scorched earth, gravel, clove, vanilla, and charred cedar. With the proper stemware, the alcohol level goes practically unnoticed. Meanwhile the palate also offers flavors with pronounced intensity, including blackberry, blueberry, black plum, anise, smoked meat, violet, cracked black pepper, dried green herbs, a touch of smoke, vanilla, baking spice, and coffee grounds. This dry red blend is full-bodied with medium acidity, high and grippy tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. Surprisingly the alcohol practically blows off and this wine showcases great depth, balance, and immense promise at such a young age.

Price: $135. While there are better “values” out there, I think this is fairly priced in the secondary market even though it gets released at $98. The complexity, elegant power, and depth to these wines are truly special based on the several I’ve tasted over the years and this 2016 Broken Stones is no different.

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