I Vant to be a Rhone

Interesting juxta between two big reds last night… one obviously 3 or 4 times the cost and perceived availability, and produced 4 or 500 miles apart in California. One from the warm, exclusive Westside of Paso on fairly young vines–one from serious old-vines in chilly Mendocino. Both MASSIVE, one from proper Syrah massiveness: packing finesse and complexity in the tannic cracks; the other from predominately Grenache–but in the decadently-macerated and stupidly-ripe steamroller style of that variety Paso is famous for and #winebro craves. While neither are particularly low-alc, those in the back rows don’t even need to read the label to guess the kind of proof the GSM packs.

While I don’t own a single Saxum–nor am I on any waiting-lists for allocation–I get the opportunity to taste them on a regular basis, thanks–again–to #winebro, who is always eager to share. And for that I am thankful! When this bottle turned up at my table, I immediately grabbed the Gibson for both palate-cleansing and contrast. Calling them similar would be a misnomer, though plenty of parallels can be drawn from their individual versions of jam-packed intensity. Mostly just the intensity part though–as one CLEARLY excels at the *jam* game.

Both wines black-as-night, staining and thick on bouquet AND palate. The James Berry smelling sweet and syrupy from the get-go, lavish oak and obvious macerations probably in the 30-day range, perhaps even a bit of bleed. The “fruit” is toasty-rich blackberry, distilled down into stand-a-fork-up-in-it consistency, stony briar and sumptuous spice coating an after-thought of tannin which will make these cellar-treasures for those inclined to collect them.

The Mendo arrives a completely different bird, causing raised eyebrows and puzzled glances from tongues recently coasted with Saxum. Should they have been tasted in reverse order? That is anybody’s guess and a query lacking correct answer. It opens slowly but methodically, reserving any *wow* for those with patience and understanding. The fruit–also–dense blackberry, but mired in an expected tinge of redwood-infused bramble and parched madrone. Nowhere is stupendous luxury, though the concentration of berry and vegetal terroir grapefruit pack a wallop. Ridiculous structure envelopes all, and this bottle guarantees decades of graceful polish in the cellar.

2018 SAXUM ‘Rocket Block’ GSM 76/11/13 James Berry Vyd Willow Creek Dist. Paso Robles 16.1
2017 MARIETTA ‘Gibson Block’ SY McDowell Valley AVA Mendocino California 14.9


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