Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2006 Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard from Pax Wine Cellars

I didn’t tell the story of Pax Mahle and his Pax Wine Cellars before he left in 2008 to set up a new winery, Wind Gap Wines, to make quite different wines, more elegant to say. The wines of Pax Wine Cellers were, and still are under the name of Donolan Wines, deep, extracted and intense, but of great quality, but I doubt they will ever be as profound as they were under the stewardship of Pax. Time will tell, I’ll go there on my research trip in Sonoma and Mendocino in December.
The Pax Wine Cellars was founded in 2000 by Pax Mahle, a young and talented former wine salesman of Dean & Deluca who turned into a self made winemaker of cult status. With a kind of European attitude to wine, his winemaking resulted in relatively elegant and sometimes classic structured wines with Californian body and fruitiness. It was really exciting. The reason for the great structure of tannins and acidity is the cooler vineyard sites, among them the Alder Springs Vineyard, from which Pax made a selection of wines of the Syrah clones 99, 174, 300, 383, 470, 525 and 877 from several lots. He also planted some Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier here.
“I found this vineyard, at the time quite unknown, after tasting some pinots from Patz & Hall, and I totally understood that it had a great potential”, Pax told me.
Other great cool vineyards where grapes were sourced from are the Walker Hill Vineyard and the Lauterbach Hill Vineyard in Russian River, as well as the even cooler Griffins Lair close to Keller Estate in the Petaluma Gap area.
A selection of the finest wines included the lovely white Nepenthe (a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier from Alder Springs Vineyard, the two very well made interpretations of the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape; Cuvée Moriah and the even better Alder Springs Cuvée, as well as the two selections of Syrah from Alder Springs Vineyard; the floral and spicy The Terraces and the very intense but firmly structured The Emerald Pool.
In 2008, annual production were at around 6 000 cases.

2006 Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard / 92-95 p
This 100 percent Syrah wine in just gorgeous, however not too charming and not a vine to recommend for those who seek silkiness in a wine. Color is dark and dense, almost black purple and opaque and of course this wine is still just a baby. It hard to tell that it has been raised in 80 percent new French oak barrels, it’s more easy to understand that a third of the grapes bunches were not destemmed – there’s a complex, very spicy and cedar like note that derives from the inclusion of stems, but there’s no green and herbaceous flavors at all. Since this vineyard is located 800 meters above sea level in the cooler part of Mendocino, the fruit flavors are very dark and intensive, at first with sweet and ripe flavors thanks to a long hang time, but with a great portion of elegance. Over the six hours the wine sat in the decanter, it opened up more and more, and the more it sat there, the more complex it became. And it’s just beautiful!
On the palate it’s as dark and fruit driven as on the nose, but as usual (from this vineyard site) the tannins are firm – ripe and of highest quality, but very firm. There’s also a fresh acidity to hold back sweetness, and even though there’s enough of greatness to enjoy at this young stage, this is a wine to cellar a few more years. Well, unless you serve it to a dish that balances the tannins and makes the wine a bit leaner.
Drink it 2012-2021.