Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2005 Booker Vineyard of Saxum

Justin Smith is a star. Many growers and winemakers in Paso Robles admire him, and honor him for working so hard and focused to reach the highest quality. Although he’s young, and didn’t go to the universities at Davis or San Luis Obispo to study viticulture och enology, he knows exactly how to handle his vineyards, vines and wines.
Located in Paso Robles west, only 16 kilometers from the cool Pacific, the 20.25 hectare James Barry Vineyard is one of the best vineyards in the region. It was planted by Justin’s father James Barry 30 years ago, mainly with Syrah and Grenache, but also with some Mourvèdre. Justin and his wine company Saxum is a typical Rhône Ranger with a list of six different blends, most of them dominated of Syrah, and the wines are full bodied, ripe, with a high and sometimes too fiery alcohol level, and seasoned with the most expensive oak one can find. Quite often they are a bit too much, still there are a lot of qualities in them. No wonder that they have been under the Parker radar for some years, and that the 2007 James Barry Vineyard was awarded with a perfect 100 point score – as the first one in Paso Robles.
I normally find the Booker Vineyard wine to be slightly more "elegant", if one can use that work for these blockbusters. It comes from the Booker Vineyard, owned by Eric Jensen (a former apprentice at Saxum, and a big fan of Justin Smith), but it is planted in 2001 by Justin Smith who now works with a 1.62 hectare
These are not wines for those who are looking for finesse and elegance, these wines are blockbusters. So please, dear Francophiles, move on, there’s no need to complain – Justin will not change his ways.
Justin recommends to give his wines a lot of air, either decant them one or two hours before serving them, or even open the bottles a day in advance and let the breathe slowly.

2005 Booker Vineyard / 94 p
Talk about opaque! This cuvée of 92 percent and 8 percent of Grenache from the Booker Vineyard in Paso Robles is purple ink, and it really coats the inside of the glass with its color. It offers a young, very concentrated with loads of dark berries and violets, at one point when it was poured from the bottle also quite oaky. Still it offered some kind of finesse – not that this is a light and truly elegant wine, more like it is surprisingly well balanced to be such a big boy. When standing in the decanter (I had it opened for six hours), the intensity of the fruits fades away a bit, instead a more earthy quality evolves, and it is actually a very interesting wine. The almost 16 percent of alcohol is of course too high, and adds as warm and fiery touch. I find the fruit to evolve into a greater complexity, which is a positive thing that answers the question whether this wine could age or not. I take it as it will. On the palate it is very intensive, full bodied and to a certain extent slightly sweetish, still with a firm tannic structure and a surprisingly fine acidity to make the taste balanced, and there’s just a slight bitter note from the oak. Overall, it’s a lovely wine for those who seek concentration and good structure. Serve it well decanted at 18 degrees, not warmer than that if you are a bit concerned about high alcohol levels.
Drink it 2010-2020.


  1. "Looking for the next Saxum" from James Laube's blog...

  2. Thanks for the link - it was interesting. And I agree with most comments.

    I'd like to add another winery that wasn't mentioned there, Edward Sellers - he make some really interesting wines.
    For the quality vs taste vs price, you should really look after the wines of Barrel 27.