Simply put, the 2009 James Berry Vineyard is one of the greatest young wines I have ever tasted from California, or anywhere for that matter. Bright, floral aromatics lead to expressive red fruit in this impossibly elegant, dazzling wine. A melange of rose petals, mint and licorice follows as the James Berry shows off its breathtaking clarity and finesse. Fine-grained, chalky tannins frame the exceptional finish. Frankly, I am surprised this is the first wine of the tasting. Where does one go from here? The 2009 James Berry is a bit of departure from previous vintages. This is the highest percentage of Grenache ever used in the blend, and a large portion of the Grenache was aged in concrete, an approach Smith has borrowed from producers in the Rhone. Originally Smith had intended to age less of the Grenache components in concrete, but the low yields of the vintage forced him to age about two-thirds of the Grenache in concrete. Call it a happy coincidence, but it certainly looks like things turned out well. Readers should do whatever they can to taste this fabulous wine. In 2009 the James Berry Vineyard is 57% Grenache, 31% Mourvedre and 12% Syrah.
Strikingly complex, rich and fruity, this beautifully proportioned red delivers an initial burst of red berry fruit that echoes red and black licorice. This quickly gains traction and depth, with firm, layered tannins that give the spicy berry flavors a perfect foundation. Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah.
Saxum Vineyard’s founder, Justin Smith, is Paso Robles first vintner to be raised in the vines, and has developed a deep respect for each of his seven vineyard sites and the Rhone style wines he produces. The high quality, low yielding winery is credited for revolutionizing Paso Robles winemaking.
Their Templeton Gap/Willow Creek location is characterized by rocky calcareous soils, steep hillsides, perfectly sunny days and cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean. This Central Coast rock star focuses on producing Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre blends; crafting some of the most sought after and expensive wines in Paso Robles history.
The production is up to 4,000 cases with 38 of his wines scoring over 95 points by the Wine Advocate and Saxum’s 2007 James Berry Vineyard earning Wine Spectator’s 2010 Wine of the Year. Smith eagerly shares his experiences and knowledge with his neighbor winemakers and utilizes the help from his childhood friends in the cellar. Uniqueness and creativity is found on the bottle as their labels are crafted by a local artist, making it as highly expressive as their wines.
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