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Saxum James Berry Vineyard (torn label) 2006

Rhone Red Blends from Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
  • RP95
  • WS92
  • WE92
16.6% ABV
  • RP97
  • WS95
  • RP98
  • WS97
  • RP97
  • V96
  • RP97
  • V94
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  • WS93
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  • RP98
  • JS97
  • WS97
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  • WE95
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16.6% ABV

Winemaker Notes

The 2006 James Berry has changed somewhat from the 2005 vintage. We like the Grenache element in it so much, we decided to keep all the Rocket Block Grenache part in the James Berry blend. Sorry Rocket Block fans, but we really want the James Berry to be the best wine we can make using fruit from all of our varied parcels at James Berry Vineyard.

Blend: 45% Syrah, 38% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre

Critical Acclaim

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RP 95
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
An unfined/unfiltered blend of 45% Syrah, 38% Grenache, and 17% Mourvedre, aged 32 months in a combination of wood vessels, the prodigious 2006 James Berry Vineyard Proprietary Red exhibits beautiful sweet creme de cassis, black raspberry, blackberry, truffle, smoke, and herb notes. This spicy, rich, full-bodied effort should drink beautifully for a decade.

One of California's super-star producers, Saxum owns one of the state’s most remarkable vineyard sites, the James Berry Vineyard, which has been broken into a number of different blocks, all planted on rocky limestone hillsides. This estate’s approach to winemaking is decidedly artisinal, with extraordinarily small yields as well as a minimalistic winemaking philosophy. Proprietors Justin and Heather Smith, who seem much too young to be producing such prodigious wines, fashion separate blends from the different blocks of the James Berry Vineyard. They also produce a cuvee from the 7-acre Heart Stone Vineyard (also planted on limestone soils) and one from the Booker Vineyard. Saxum’s 2006s are all home runs, but the utterly prodigious 2007s should resonate for decades, and showcase the brilliant potential of these limestone hillside sites west of Highway 101. Kudos to everyone at Saxum. My visit began with two of Smith's experimental cuvees, which are only available to mailing list customers. As remarkable as the 2006s are, the 2007s are even more prodigious, showcasing just how brilliant certain Paso Robles terroirs can be. Even the most cynical observers of the Rhone Ranger scene will have to take notice of these wines. Even though some of the 2007s had just undergone bottling, I was blown away by how well they performed just a week after being bottled (often one of the worst times to taste a wine). In short, Saxum’s prodigious 2007s are even more nuanced, complex, and concentrated than their brilliant 2006s.

WS 92
Wine Spectator
Pushes the pedal on ripeness, touching on jammy, full-blown and concentrated. Blackberry, graphite, plum jam and wild berry fruit is mouthcoating, as are the tannins. With air, gains a measure of finesse. Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Drink now through 2014. 900 cases made.
WE 92
Wine Enthusiast
Wildly rich and exotic, massive in fruit of a grilled variety, and dry, this Rhône blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre offers tons of raspberries, cherries, herbs and spices. There’s some heat in the finish, but that’s a minor quibble. Decadent.
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Saxum
Saxum, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
2006 James Berry Vineyard (torn label)
Saxum Vineyards is focused on producing Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre based blends from the Templeton Gap of Paso Robles, California. We let our rocky calcareous soils, steep hillsides, and cooling ocean breezes speak through our wines by keeping our yields extremely low, picking fruit at the peak of ripeness, and using a minimalist approach in the cellar. Production is kept at a total of 2200-2800 cases per year divided between 6 different cuvees, Broken Stones, Heart Stone Vineyard, James Berry Vineyard, Booker Vineyards, Rocket Block and Bone Rock.

Paso Robles

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Paso Robles has made a name for itself as a source of supple, fruity, and powerful wines. With 11 smaller sub-AVAs, there is quite a bit of diversity to be found in this inland portion of California’s Central Coast.

This is mostly red wine country, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel standing out as the star performers. Other popular varieties include Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, and Rhône varieties both red and white. There is a fairly uniform tendency here towards wines that are unapologetically bold and opulently fruity, albeit with a surprising amount of acidity thanks to the region’s chilly nighttime temperatures.

Rhône Blends

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With bold fruit flavors and accents of spice, Rhône red blends originated in France’s Southern Rhône valley and have become popular in Priorat, Washington, South Australia, and California’s Central Coast. In the Rhône itself, 19 grape varieties are permitted for use, but many of these blends, are based on Grenache and supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre, earning the nickname “GSM blends.” Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape are perhaps the best-known outposts for these wines. Other varieties that may be found in Rhône blends include Carignan, Cinsault, and Counoise.

In the Glass

The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache, which often forms the base of these blends, is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit, a plush texture, and often high levels of alcohol. Syrah supplies darker fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy, and meaty notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume as well as body, tannin, and a healthy dose of color. New World examples will lie further along the fruit-forward end of the spectrum, while those from the Old World taste and smell much earthier, often with a “barnyard” character that is attractive to many fans of these wines.

Perfect Pairings

Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. Depending on the weight and alcohol level, these can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes—they play equally well with beef, pork, duck, lamb, or game. With their high acidity, these wines are best-matched with salty or fatty foods, and can handle the acidity of tomato sauce in pizza or pasta. Braised beef cheeks, grilled lamb sausages, or roasted squab are all fine pairings.

Sommelier Secret

Some regions like to put their own local spin on the Rhône red blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin, and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, or even Tempranillo make an appearance.

LSB100762_2006 Item# 100762

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