- Producer: Saxum Vineyards - read about the Estate
- Winemaker: Justin Smith
- Region (AVA): Paso Robles (Willow Creek District)
- Blend: 55% Grenache, 29% Mataro, 13% Syrah, 3% Carignan
- Vintage production: 1,102 cases
- Winery location: Willow Creek
- First vintage: 2004
- Drinking window: 2020-2040
About The Wine:
The James Berry Vineyard is the Smith family’s estate vineyard. It is located 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean with an average elevation of 1200 feet. It consists of a series of slopes with shallow clay loam topsoil covering an ancient seabed, complete with fossilized shells and sharks teeth. The cuvee is a red fruit driven, Grenache based blend, with a large portion of Mataro for texture, and Syrah as spicy support. The James Berry Vineyard blend is aged for 18-20 months in a variety of vessels. The Grenache portion ages in concrete tank and larger puncheons, while the Mataro and Syrah ages in the smaller French barrels. A high percentage of them are new. The wine is rich and layered. Raspberries and blackberries lead the way followed by Provincial herbs and smooth dense tannins. The wines are never racked off their lees and are bottled unfined and unfiltered.
NOTES FROM JUSTIN: Leading the charge is the 2017 James Berry Vineyard. For those of you lucky enough to have experienced the JBV over the years, I’d say this one ranks right up there in the top echelon, and it may be the most open of any vintage yet. Of course it will improve with some age, let’s not get hasty here! But I do think this one is generous in its youth. Like all of our 2017 wines, the tannins are very smooth and fine, no hard edges to be found. Though it’s the aromatics that really draw you in. Red fruit centered, really lifted and bright, yet there’s a background of chaparral and sagebrush providing some low notes too… I could smell this wine all day. There’s a kiss of French oak, 48% spent 21 months in new puncheons and the remaining rested in used foudres or puncheons. The real fun is opening this wine next to the 2016 JBV or the 2017 G2V and choosing a favorite. Please do and let me know!
During the 2017 growing season California was served an impressive heat wave that arrived at the wrong time, when the fruit was getting close, but definitely not there yet. We were faced with two options. Our first option was to pick the fruit that was starting to shrivel from the heat. Fruit with numbers saying the sugars were getting too high, acids were too strong, and tannins were too green. The second option was to let it ride. However, you can’t predict the weather and could potentially loose the whole crop. A huge gamble. Well, we rolled the dice and let everything hang. Then we proceeded to bite our nails and watch the weather. Eventually the heat stopped and we ended up losing a portion of our crop, maybe 15%, but the remaining 85% was awesome. We had to spend a lot of time on the sorting table removing the damaged portions of the clusters, but it was all worthwhile. The wines are delicious! The 2017s definitely have a riper aromatic than the 2016s, but I rather enjoy that. The tannins are incredibly soft and smooth, making them very open and approachable in their youth. I like to think that the 2016s will ultimately be the better wines, but for the first 5, maybe 8 years of their lives, the 2017s might bring more pleasure, and bringing pleasure is what this is all about!!!
Saxum Vineyards James Berry Vineyard 2017
"I was able to taste the 2017 James Berry Vineyard beside the perfect 2016 and there’s not much difference between these two sensational wines. The 2017 reveals a deep ruby color as well as more straight, focused, yet beautifully concentrated style that reveals gorgeous black raspberry and blackberry fruits interwoven with pepper, spring flowers, earth, and incense. Pure, full-bodied, flawlessly balanced, and an incredible wine any way you look at it, give bottles 2-3 years and it’s going to evolve effortlessly for 15-20 years."
99 points, Jeb Dunnuck (Nov. 2019)