This is the last time you will see a Saxum Booker Vineyard offering. Unfortunately they are not leasing these blocks anymore. The news will be more heart breaking after you taste this one. It's definitely included in winemaker Justin Smith's top 3 Booker Vineyards he has ever made. (’06 and ’11 round out that group.) Their ’19 is on the spice driven side, so be forewarned, those who prefer Booker Vineyard on the fruit driven side, this one offers up more black pepper and black berry.
The 2019 Booker Vineyard is a Syrah-dominated blend that includes 16% Mataro, 12% Grenache, and 7% Graciano, and this will be the last vintage for this cuvée. Blackberries, peppery stems, roasted meats, and spicy nuances all emerge from this powerful, ripe, concentrated, yet still impeccably balanced red. One of California’s unquestionably superstar estates is Heather and Justin Smith’s Saxum Vineyards, and you won’t find any finer examples of Rhône variety wines anywhere in the world. The proprietors of James Berry Vineyard, located in the cooler Willow Creek District of Paso Robles, the Smiths have seen incredible changes over the past decade, and they’ve traded their small, old-fashioned, yet perfectly adequate cellar for a brand-new cave and state of the art winemaking facility. And while changes of this magnitude can often result in hiccups in either the style or quality of the wines, that’s certainly not the case here. I think the wines have never been better, and given the scores I’ve awarded in the past, that’s saying something. Today, the Smiths release multiple cuvées, and while the focus in the past might have been the estate James Berry Vineyard, the portfolio includes numerous new vineyard sources and cuvées, most focusing on single vineyards and even specific blocks inside of a vineyard. This report looks at the 2018s and 2019s, and in a nutshell, these wines epitomize what I consider greatness in wine; the ability to offer both hedonistic and intellectual pleasure; intensity and richness without heaviness or any sensation of weight; singular profiles; and the ability to improve with bottle age. In addition, the purity and precision this estate can achieve are incredible, and certainly, many estates and winemakers in Paso Robles need to be tasting these wines to understand why they’re great and what is possible from these incredible limestone soils. As a critic, it’s always a challenge to try and understand why wines show differently and why one estate can produce brilliant wines and others struggle. Given the prodigious wines the Smiths release year in and year out from different vineyards (and now even from different winemaking facilities), it’s become increasingly apparent that the quality coming from Saxum is due to the genius of Justin Smith. After being lucky enough to taste these wines every year for well over a decade now, I can say that no one in California does Rhône varieties and blends better. I’ve written this many times in the past, but I’ll say it again, this is one of the few mailing lists worth being on.