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Posts tagged ‘Saxum’

2007 Saxum Bone Rock James Berry Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Saxum Vineyards is located in the Paso Robles AVA of Central California. Founded in the early 2000’s by Justin Smith, a young winemaker who had previously been part-owner of Linne Calodo, Saxum leapt into the limelight in late 2010 when its 2007 James Berry Vineyards wine was named the #1 Wine of 2010 by Wine Spectator. Smith owns the winery with his wife Heather, and produces up to 2,800 cases of wine a year.

Blood red in color. 15.7% ABV. 82% Syrah, 13% Mourvedre and 5% Grenache. Soaring nose of molten licorice, camphor, blueberries and violets. Plush, full bodied and exceptionally well balanced. Lush and creamy on the palate with flavors of cassis liqueur, graphite, tar and minerals. The finish is silky, seamless and very long. Domestic Syrah simply does not get much better. Drink over the next 2-3 years.

My rating: 98 points.

Current wines from Saxum are available via the mailing list at $98 per bottle. There is a several year wait before you can expect to receive an offer.

I’ve written about Saxum previously in Winery Mailing Lists: The Fab 5 and The 2016 Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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2006 Lillian Syrah – Bottle Notes

Maggie Harrison was assistant winemaker to Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non for eight years before moving to Oregon to take over the wine making position at Antica Terra. Lillian Winery, founded in 2004, represents Maggie’s personal project and reflects everything that she learned during her time at Sine Qua Non.

The fruit for the Lillian Syrah comes from the White Hawk Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. The 77 acre vineyard was planted in 1997.

Ruby red in color. 15.6% ABV. Spellbinding nose of blue fruits, molten licorice and violets. Medium to full body with exceptional balance. Amazing texture and presence on the palate. Flavors of cherry liqueur, blueberries, iron and milk chocolate. The finish is long, seamless and silky. Stunning, sexy and extremely well crafted Syrah. Drink over the next 2-3 years.

My rating: 96 points.

Lillian belongs in the discussion of best domestic syrahs with the likes of Cayuse, Saxum and the aforementioned Sine Qua Non.

The wine is available via the web site once a year and current vintages run about $75. The 2014 should be released in the near future. I recently blogged about Lillian forgoing their mailing list which is great news for those of you looking to secure a few bottles.

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Have I Lost my Wine Buying Mojo?

What’s happening to me? When the mailer for the 2013 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon arrived I found myself wondering If I needed more QC given I have roughly 70 bottles in the cellar. When the 2013 Dalla Valle mailer arrived I asked myself if I wanted to continue to support a winery that is raising prices again. Despite the fact that I have verticals of both wines dating back over a decade I ended up passing on the offerings.

My purchases of Bordeaux  have also decreased over the last couple years. I used to carefully study barrel tasting results from the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker to plan out future purchases. I pulled back considerably with the dramatic price increases brought on with the ’09 and ’10 vintages.

Have I lost my wine buying mojo?

Nothing has changed in my life financially that would impact my purchases. Wine is still opened at my house just about every night of the week. Perhaps it is the fact that I am getting older and do have a well stocked cellar (1600+ bottles)? This well stocked cellar includes bottles of Bordeaux dating back to the ’85 vintage and more Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon than I can drink in the foreseeable future.

I think what is at the root of my change in wine buying behavior is the fact that more and more I find myself gravitating to wineries that offer exceptional wines at “fair” prices at the expense of over priced Cabernet Sauvignon and Classified Growth Bordeaux. If you have read my blog for any length of time you know this category of fair priced wines includes the likes of Carlisle, Bedrock, Turley and Rivers Marie. Even more expensive wines like Cayuse, Kosta Browne, Rochioli and Saxum seem like relative bargains compared to the Napa Valley Cabernets and classified growth Bordeaux that used to be such a priority to me.

Or maybe now it is more about a wine I can open while hanging out and helping my kids with their homework as opposed to a “trophy” that will look good in the cellar? Or perhaps, I have lost my wine buying mojo?

Either way the passion is still there for this great hobby we all enjoy so much.

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Mailing List Fatigue

The insanity of Spring mailing list offers took on new proportions in 2016 when literally over a dozen wineries, from which I traditionally purchase, decided to release their wines on January 12 or January 19th. I don’t keep exact release date records, but seem to recall in years past, that the offers were spread out more evenly over both January and February. I do understand that many wineries I purchase from are family operations and it literally takes over a month to process, pack and ship orders. An early January release allows time to get the wines out before shipping conditions decline in April.

This year was just too much though. Too many wineries in too short a time frame. On top of that prices and allocations are as high as ever. Some hard decisions had to be made. Do I really need both No Girls and Horsepower? The answer is yes but I am good with just a 3 pack of each. In this case and more often than not I just purchased less from my favorite producers. Wide but not deep became the name of the game. In some cases though if prices went up too much or shipping costs seem out of whack, I just decided not to order. Schrader comes to mind.

The real winners in all this are the wineries that continue to offer exceptional wines at fair prices. It is a short list but wineries like Carlisle, Rivers Marie, Bedrock and Turley come to mind. Scarcity is still a factor in the high demand I see for wines from the likes of Saxum and Sine Qua Non. That being said, if you are new to the mailing list game, I think it is safe to say that you should have little to no problem getting an allocation from most wineries as many consumers, myself included, are suffering from mailing list fatigue.

I would appreciate hearing from those of you who have also made some hard decisions this year. Feel free to comment below.

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2006 Linne Calodo Nemesis – Bottle Notes

Linne Calodo was founded in the late 1990s by Matt Trevisan and Justin Smith, former college roommates at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on California’s Central Coast. Trevisan worked at Justin Winery after graduating in biochemistry and within a few years he and Smith started Linne Calodo. Smith branched off on his own in 1998 to start Saxum. Today Linne Calodo produces a portfolio of Rhone-style reds and whites, and Zinfandel.

With a normally high percentage of Syrah each year, Nemesis is the closest Linne Calodo ever comes to producing a single variety wine.

Dark violet in color. 15.7% ABV. 82% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre and 4% Grenache. Rich nose of black fruits, asphalt and iron. Layers upon layers of lush, sweet fruit on the palate. Medium body with medium acidity. Flavors of blackberry, raspberry liqueur, white pepper and blood. Silky tannins on an exceptionally long finish. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 93 points.

Linne Calodo wines are best obtained via the wineries mailing list.

As an aside this wine was provided to me by my good friend Carrie Bowman at Napa Valley Wine & Cigar to make good on an annual baseball wager. Better luck next year Carrie!

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2007 Saxum Syrah Booker Vineyard – Bottle Notes

The 2007 Saxum Syrah Booker Vineyard was the winning bottle in the November installment of Pick My Next Bottle. The wine was decanted for an hour and served with beef stew on a frigid night in Seattle.

Saxum Vineyards is located in the Paso Robles AVA of Central California. Founded in the early 2000’s by Justin Smith, a young winemaker who had previously been part-owner of Linne Calodo, Saxum leapt into the limelight in late 2010 when its 2007 James Berry Vineyards wine was named the #1 Wine of 2010 by Wine Spectator. Smith owns the winery with his wife Heather, and produces up to 2,800 cases of wine a year.

Opaque purple in color. 15.5% ABV. 95% Syrah and 5% Grenache. Great nose of flowers, grilled meats, scorched earth and camphor. Rich and pure with tremendous viscosity. Medium body with medium acidity and still substantial tannins. Black cherry liqueur, blackberry compote, raspberries, black licorice and baking spices on the palate. Super finish on a sexy bottle. Great big wine that is showing well with an extended decant. Drink over the next 3-5 years.

My rating: 96 points.

Current wines from Saxum are available via the mailing list at $98 per bottle. There is a several year wait before you can expect to receive an offer.

I’ve written about Saxum previously in Winery Mailing Lists: The Fab 5 and The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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Pick My Next Bottle – 2007 Syrah Showdown

The November installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on some of the very best domestic Syrah producers. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. The winning bottle will be opened this weekend and a Bottle Note will be published the following week.

The producers I chose make some of the very best examples of domestic Syrah:

  • Saxum – Saxum Vineyards is focused on producing Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre based blends from the Templeton Gap/Willow Creek area of Paso Robles. The winery was founded in 2000 by Justin Smith and the 07 James Berry Vineyard was the Wine Spectator Wine of the Year.
  • Lillian – Maggie Harrison was assistant winemaker to Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non for eight years before moving to Oregon to take over the wine making position at Antica Terra. Lillian, founded in 2004, represents Maggie’s personal project and reflects everything that she learned during her time at Sine Qua Non.
  • Cayuse – Cayuse was founded in 1997 by Christophe Baron, a native of France who grew up in family of winemakers in Champagne. Baron studied viticulture in Burgundy and Champagne, and had ambitions to make Pinot Noir in Oregon. However, on a visit to Walla Walla he found property that he believed would be perfect for growing grapes, and purchased the land.

The Contenders

  • 2007 Saxum Booker Vineyard – The inky/purple-hued 2007 Booker Vineyard (95% Syrah and 5% Grenache) boasts a floral-dominated bouquet with camphor, blackberry, roasted meat, and espresso scents in the background. The density, flavor intensity, richness, full-bodied power, elegance, and freshness are all hallmarks of this special vintage in the Central Coast. This wine should drink well for 10-12+ years. 99 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2007 Lillian – Opaque purple. A kaleidoscopic bouquet evokes black raspberry, cola, incense and olive tapenade, with a sexy floral quality that gains power with aeration. Lush, palate-staining dark berry preserve flavors are complemented by exotic spice and violet pastille qualities and are lifted by zesty minerality. Gains weight with air but retains its energy, finishing spicy, smoky and with outstanding persistence. 94 points from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar.
  • 2007 Cayuse Armada – The 2007 Syrah Armada Vineyard (100%) was aged in Rostaing puncheons, one of them new, for 30 months. Aromatically, it is the most brooding and Cote-Rotie-like of these Syrahs with notes of smoke, meat, game, garrigue, lavender, and blueberry. The most tightly wound of the Syrahs, it is the one that will most profit from several years of cellaring. It should offer prime drinking from 2014 to 2027. 98 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which 2007 Syrah should I open?

  • 2007 Saxum Booker Vineyard (36%, 19 Votes)
  • 2007 Lillian (36%, 19 Votes)
  • 2007 Cayuse Armada (28%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 53

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another.

Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the December Installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings

Welcome to the 3rd, annual installment, of the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings. The intent behind the list was to rank wineries based on the buzz and excitement they create in the wine collecting crowd. The rankings are entirely subjective based on my observations on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Wine Spectator, Wine Berserkers and Cellartracker.

I’ve ranked the wineries below and indicated whether they’ve moved up the list or down. I’ve also highlighted wineries new to the list and those that have been dropped from the list. For the first time I have also included my bubble wineries. The bubble wineries might find a spot on the list in the years to come.

Without further ado here is the 2014 version of the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

  1. Screaming Eagle – I have no idea who drinks this wine. I do know that the wine is released for $750 per bottle and can easily be resold for $1500 per bottle. Until that paradigm changes this wine will stay at the top of my list. Demand for the 2012, to be released next Spring, will be off the charts. No change from 2013.
  2. Sine Qua Non – The mailing list is virtually impenetrable and yours truly has a stack of post cards to prove it. The wines are exquisite. Even their “second label” Next of Kyn commands a premium on the aftermarket. To my surprise, not even the recession could dampen demand for these wines. No change from 2013.
  3. Carlisle – The waiting list for a spot on the mailing list continues to grow at Carlisle. Great wines, prices and customer service drive the demand. Second-to-none grape sources, including the new Limerick Lane Zinfandel, should not be overlooked. No change from 2013.
  4. Rivers-Marie – Thomas Rivers Brown is without question one of most acclaimed winemakers in California. Great fruit sources, pricing and customer service are the hallmark at Rivers Marie. The wine lineup is expanding on all fronts with new Cabernet, Pinot and Chardonnay additions this year alone. Up 1 spot from 2013.
  5. Saxum – The winery recently announced a price increase from $89 to $98 per bottle. I have little doubt that the current release will sell through in a heart beat but the $100 price point is a line in the sand for many consumers. Yours truly will be keeping a close eye on future purchases. Down 1 spot from 2013.
  6. Bedrock – I don’t know how Morgan does it but he makes upwards of 20 different wines, all of which are exceptional, and he also launched the Under the Wire sparking wine label. The dedication to the historic vineyards of Northern California should not be overlooked. Once again, a big winner this year, up 3 spots from 2013.
  7. Cayuse – Christophe Baron continues to produce breath taking wines at Cayuse and also launched the Horsepower label earlier this year. Even at a $110 price point collectors lined up to get a Horsepower allocation. If you are on the Cayuse list you owe it to yourself to visit Walla Walla on Cayuse release weekend in early April. Down 1 spot from 2013.
  8. Schrader – The demand for the 2012 Schrader lineup, released last Winter, was strong. On top of that allocations were increased. Even at $175 a bottle this is one of the best values in all of Napa Valley. The team from Schrader also launched the long awaited Boars’ View Pinot Noir. Down 1 spot from 2013.
  9. Scarecrow – The 2012 M. Etain and Scarecrow will both be released in the next 9 months and collectors will be falling all other themselves to get an allocation. Scores are up, demand is up, but Scarecrow would be well served to hold the line on pricing. The big winner this year. Up 7 spots from 2013.
  10. Kosta Browne – Kosta Browne has a vocal group of detractors but the waiting list to get the wines is as long as ever. Michael Browne launched Cirq which quickly sold through at over $100 a bottle. The wines are proving to be age worthy as well. Beg, borrow or steal for a tasting appointment at the new facility in The Barlow. Down 2 spots from 2013.
  11. Rochioli – Simply some of the best Pinot Noir in the world. Great Chardonnay as well. On top of that they actually have a tasting room open to the public! The best spot for a picnic in the Russian River Valley. East and West Block are being replanted but I am heartened by the upcoming inaugural releases of a Syrah and sparkling wine. No change from 2013.
  12. Rhys – Old world Pinot Noir that generates more conversation on wine boards than just about any winery. The founder, Kevin Harvey, is very accessible. Not even marginal scores from the Wine Spectator can derail Rhys. No change from 2013.
  13. Turley – You can make an argument that these are the best Zinfandels in California. Impeccable vineyard sources including the new Cobb and Sadie Upton Zins from Amador. Tegan Passalacqua has breathed new life into an already great winery. Up 2 spots from 2013.
  14. Williams Selyem – All eyes are on Williams Selyem as Bob Cabral is leaving after the 2014 vintage. Huge shoes to be filled. That being said the Pinot program is stellar and the Chardonnay and Zinfandel are second to none. The new facility is a tour de force. Even Burt Williams fans have grown to appreciate these wines. No change from 2013.
  15. Quilceda Creek – A decade long series of price increases, on a somewhat polarizing wine to begin with, has begun to take its toll. Demand is still strong but the next few years will mark a turning point. I’m still a buyer but definitely not in the volume of years past. Down 5 spots from 2013.
  16. Myriad – Mike Smith started his winemaking career under the direction of Thomas Rivers Brown in 2001. Like TRB he has his own label, Myriad, and works with many other clients including Quivet and Carter Cellars. Super wines that are well priced. New to the list in 2014.
  17. Dehlinger – The wines from Dehlinger are better than ever. Dehlinger makes one of the states best Pinots and the Cabernet, Chardonnay and Syrah are great wines that are fairly priced. If anything Dehlinger suffers from a lack of hype. Down 4 spots from 2013.
  18. Arnot Roberts – Small lot, single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, as well as several other varieties uncommon in Northern Californian vineyards including a Rosé of Touriga Nacional. A producer to keep an eye on. No change from 2013.
  19. FIGGINS/Leonetti/Toil – Chris Figgins added Toil of Oregon to the Figgins family portfolio. The wine is super and bodes for great things to come. Recent releases from FIGGINS and Leonetti are exceptional as well. I suspect there are more exciting projects in the works. Up 1 spot from 2013.
  20. Ridge – Old vine Zinfandel is going through a revolution and wines like Geyserville and Lytton Springs are leading the charge. Monte Bello is one of the true blue chips of California. Down 1 spot from 2013.

On the bubble but not quite on the list: Reynvaan, Spottswoode and Thomas.

Dropped off the list: Corison

There you have it! The 2014 version of the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings. As always, I welcome your feedback.

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Pick My Next Bottle – Cult Syrah

The December installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on some of the very best domestic Syrah producers. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. The winning bottle will be opened this Saturday and a Bottle Note will be published the following week.

The producers I chose make some of the very best examples of domestic Syrah:

  • Saxum – Saxum Vineyards is focused on producing Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre based blends from the Templeton Gap/Willow Creek area of Paso Robles. The winery was founded in 2000 by Justin Smith and the 07 James Berry Vineyard was the Wine Spectator Wine of the Year.
  • Lillian – Maggie Harrison was assistant winemaker to Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non for eight years before moving to Oregon to take over the wine making position at Antica Terra. Lillian, founded in 2004, represents Maggie’s personal project and reflects everything that she learned during her time at Sine Qua Non.
  • Cayuse – Cayuse was founded in 1997 by Christophe Baron, a native of France who grew up in family of winemakers in Champagne. Baron studied viticulture in Burgundy and Champagne, and had ambitions to make Pinot Noir in Oregon. However, on a visit to Walla Walla he found property that he believed would be perfect for growing grapes, and purchased the land.

The Contenders

  • 2007 Saxum Booker Vineyard – The inky/purple-hued 2007 Booker Vineyard (95% Syrah and 5% Grenache) boasts a floral-dominated bouquet with camphor, blackberry, roasted meat, and espresso scents in the background. The density, flavor intensity, richness, full-bodied power, elegance, and freshness are all hallmarks of this special vintage in the Central Coast. This wine should drink well for 10-12+ years. 99 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2006 Lillian – The second release from Maggie Harrison, previously an apprentice at Sine Qua Non, the 2006 Syrah from Lillian is even better than the excellent 2005. Totally sourced from the White Hawk Vineyard, and aged in 65% new oak for 23 months, there are 508 cases of this beautiful Syrah. Notes of creme de cassis, blackberries, spice, incense, flowers, ground pepper, licorice, and subtle smoke are followed by a full-bodied, layered, multidimensional, big (15.6% alcohol) Syrah. Beautifully balanced, elegant, and pure, it should age gracefully for a decade or more. 94 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2005 Cayuse En Chamberlin – From what Baron describes as ‘a normal vintage for Washington: not too hot, but ripe; (En Chamberlin Syrah having been) picked the third week of September; and the first at our new facility and with indigenous yeasts’ — features strongly bittersweet, medicinal iodine- and alkali-tinged herbal and dark berry essences along with savory, smoky evocations of roasted poultry pan drippings. Its diversity; seamlessness; almost oily richness of texture; and finishing crescendo are utterly striking. That said, I suspect this will be best appreciated over the next 2-3 years, not wishing to see more prominence accrue to what is as yet a very faintly warm, stewed aspect to the fruit. 94 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which cult Syrah should I open?

  • 2005 Cayuse En Chamberlin (40%, 17 Votes)
  • 2006 Lillian (36%, 15 Votes)
  • 2007 Saxum Booker Vineyard (24%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 42

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the January installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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Making a List

In the spirit of the upcoming holidays I am making a list of wines I’d like to see made. In some cases it is a winemaker that I would like to see make a wine from a new varietal and in other cases it is an existing varietal from a different vineyard source.

Lets get this list started with a Zinfandel by Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non. Being a fan of the Syrah and Grenache he has crafted over the years I salivate at what he might do with my favorite grape.

How about a Syrah from Chris Figgins of Leonetti and FIGGINS? Better yet, lets make that a Syrah from Ciel du Cheval fruit on Red Mountain.

While I am on a roll how does a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Michael Browne of Kosta Browne sound?

Speaking of Willamette Valley…how about a Pinot Noir from Christophe Baron of Cayuse. Prior to founding Cayuse it was his intention to make Pinot Noir.

Could we get Justin Smith of Saxum to make a Syrah from Walla Walla Valley fruit? Cailloux Vineyard perhaps?

Don’t you think a white Rhone style blend from Bob Betz of Betz Family Winery is long overdue?

The Zinfandel geek in me would love to see Tegan Passalacqua of Turley make a Zinfandel from Papera Ranch.

Anyways, you get the picture. Let me know what wines you would include if your were Making a List.

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