Saxum 2007 James Berry Vineyard Paso Robles

Practice, as they say, makes perfect, and certainly Justin Smith, proprietor of Saxum Vineyards, is well tutored in the artful cultivation of those Rhône varietals that the climate and soils of California’s Paso Robles region so favor. Only a very few other producers in the area can achieve a level of quality in their wines to compete with the sinuous grace and lively personalities of Saxum’s offerings—and none delivers liquid epiphanies with such astonishing consistency. The energetic yet intricate blend that Smith derives from the Booker Vineyard is a regular favorite; but to sample Smith’s winemaking at its very best, one turns to the wines from the James Berry Vineyard. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mouvèdre, the Saxum 2007 James Berry Vineyard Paso Robles (www.saxumvineyards.com, $67) is as ruggedly beautiful as the countryside itself—lush with dark briar fruit, smoky wood, sweet sage, and, on the finish, brooding damp mineral.

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