Saxum Vineyards

Saxum Vineyards stands as Paso Robles’ most important estate and has one of the most exclusive and hard-to-join mailing lists. Almost every single drop is spoken for by California’s top restaurants and the winery members-list, but as Justin says: “We like to send all the cool markets a little bit”, which of course includes Four Corners Wine here in the UK!

Story

Saxum Vineyards was founded by Justin Smith and his wife Heather in 2002, and their winery is located in the James Berry vineyard which was planted by Justin’s father, James Berry Smith, in the 1980s. Justin has played a massive part in making Paso Robles one of California’s most dynamic and exciting regions, and is cited as major influence by a generation of winemakers.

Justin is practically a Paso Robles native. He was born in Northern California, but his parents moved to Paso in 1980 when he was 10. His father bought a 55 acre parcel and set about planting the white varietals that were popular in the area at the time. He was advised by a friend to replant with Rhone varietals in 1990, and went about taking out the whites to put in Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah. The very early wines showed great promise!​

Justin had never intended to follow in his father’s footsteps as a vintner, studying ethnobiology at university (where he met his future wife!). After graduating, Justin and his college buddy Matt Trevisan pooled their resourced to start their own wine label – Linne Calodo. Matt gained experience working with some established wineries, while Justin learned to farm the family vineyard which became an important source of fruit for Linne Calodo.

Having made a name for themselves at Linne Calodo, Justin decided to part from Matt to start his own project – Saxum Vineyards. He had been inspired by 2 bottles of great Syrah – Penfold’s Grange 1990 and Jaboulet La Chapelle 1990. He began by trying to emulate them, but quickly saw that Paso needed a different approach, and by the mid-2000s he was starting to make serious waves among critics and collectors.

In 2009, Justin made history when he achieved the first-ever 100-point score for Paso Robles, for his James Berry Vineyard 2007 which Robert Parker hailed as “Utter perfection”. He has since been among the top three highest scoring producers in every vintage to date.

Vineyards

Justin know the soils of Paso Robles better than anyone else, putting him in the perfect position to hand select the vineyards for his wines. The jewel in the crown is his family’s James Berry Vineyard, surrounding the winery in the heart of Willow Creek District.

For his non-Estate fruit, it’s a veritable who’s-who of Paso Grand Crus, including G2, Paderewski, Booker, Denner and Dusi. With fruit of such incredible quality, Justin has the ultimate palette with which to craft his extraordinary wines.

Winemaking

Justin Smith is rightfully a legend in Paso Robles, and a certified dude who epitomises California at its coolest: laid back, a blast to hang out with but incredibly focused on pushing boundaries with his coveted Saxum Vineyards wines. He has also become one of the most sought after consultants for vineyard planting and replanting, including for Epoch Estate’s Paderewski and York Mountain Vineyards, and the new generation ‘Grand Cru’ site, G2 Vineyard.

Latest arrivals from Saxum Vineyards

2021 Saxum, James Berry, Paso Robles 1x75cl

JD95-97+
Blend: 53% Grenache, 31% Mataro, 6% Syrah, 6% Counoise, 4% Carignan Vintage production: 1,390 cases Saxum's James Berry Vineyard, planted by Justin's father, James Berry Smith, in the 1980s, is... renowned throughout California as a true ‘Grand Cru’, and the James Berry Red 2021 is dominated by Grenache of the highest order. This is a hugely energetic and almost ethereal expression of the vineyard, and looks set to be one of the longest lived vintages to date. NOTES FROM WINEMAKER JUSTIN SMITH: “When we tasted the wines side by side to write these notes (I know, hard life!), Heather and I were struck by how elevated this wine was. Yes, it’s the only Grenache led wine in this Syrah dominated release, but it was just singing! These ‘21s have really snuck up on me. I have to admit that early in their lives I found them a little boring for lack of a better term. I now realize they were just late bloomers and their hidden charms are just now blossoming into something quite magical. They carry a weightlessness while simultaneously jam packed with so much substance. Does that even make sense? Anyways, I love them. I could throw some tasting notes out to you about this wine, but really you just have to taste it to understand what I’m trying to convey. It’s good.”
£130 / BottleDuty Status: In Bond ⋅ Price incl. of Duty & VAT: £159.20 / BottleAvailability: Future ArrivalPlease contact us to know more

2019 Saxum, Somnus, Paso Robles 1x75cl

JD96-98
Blend: 33% Petite Sirah, 33% Syrah, 17% Graciano, 13% Touriga Nacional, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage production: 610 cases A brand-new cuvée, we tasted the Somnus 2019 from barrel in 2022 (it was... simply label ‘XC’ for extended cellared), and even at that relatively early stage it was a mind-blowing experience. Our notes read: “Off the charts – this will be incredible!”, which almost feels like an understatement now. Named after the Greek God of Sleep, Somnus slumbered for an almost unheard of 44 months in barrel to tame the insane level of power and intensity, and Justin’s judgement was impeccable as it came together beautifully in time for bottling. For Saxum fans, this is as thrilling as it gets! NOTES FROM WINEMAKER JUSTIN SMITH: “I finally get to introduce you to this new cuvée, Somnus, named after the Roman god of sleep, because this wine gets to sleep an extra year in barrel! 44 months it’s been slumbering away. Back in 2019 we had a couple of amazing lots in our cellar that were so unique, and so incredible, I really wanted to showcase them. The problem was they were also extremely structured. The original plan was to give them the 33 month elevage like Bone Rock and Rocket block, but when it came time to bottle it last year it was still too beastly. Think velvet glove in a iron gauntlet. We tucked it back in and let it sleep another whole year, and when it woke up this time, it blew us all away. It is something unique for sure. Still a beast, but something very special. Something that I believe could only happen here on the Central Coast. It is another wine in this line up that has to be tasted to be believed, but understand, it’s not for the faint of heart. It is Paso.”
£190 / BottleDuty Status: In Bond ⋅ Price incl. of Duty & VAT: £231.20 / BottleAvailability: Future ArrivalPlease contact us to know more

2021 Saxum, James Berry Vineyard White, Paso Robles 1x75cl

Blend: 44% Grenache Blanc, 29% Roussanne, 20% Chenin Blanc, 7% Chardonnay Vintage production: 347 cases The James Berry White stands as Saxum’s rarest cuvée and has garnered a cult-flowing among... Saxum aficionados. For us, the Grenache Blanc in Paso Robles is the best in the world, so it goes without saying that Justin’s is going to sit at the top of the tree! Always and eclectic blend, this is a rich and deep wine that shimmers with energy throughout. NOTES FROM WINEMAKER JUSTIN SMITH: “I like to think that we are getting better and better at making this wine, or maybe our Grenache Blanc vines are producing better and better fruit, or maybe its just that ’21 was an exceptional year for whites. Whatever the reasons, I’m really enjoying our one and only white. (News flash, we have planted a couple small blocks of whites up at our new York Mountain planting, but that is 6 years away from any release.) If you have enjoyed our past whites I think you will like this one even better. Brought up in huge 600L demi-muid barrels, with 4 of the 6 being new, it spent a full 22 months on its lees before racking clean and bottling. It is full and rich, yet bright and lively. The magical combo I always look for in a white…actually in any wine really.”
£130 / BottleDuty Status: In Bond ⋅ Price incl. of Duty & VAT: £159.20 / BottleAvailability: Future ArrivalPlease contact us to know more

2020 Saxum, The Hexe, Paso Robles 1x75cl

JD96
Blend: 51% Grenache, 17% Petite Sirah, 11% Graciano, 10% Mataro, 7% Syrah, 4% Carignan Vintage production: 714 cases The Hexe 2020 is based around the oldest block of Grenache at James Berry... Vineyard, planted in 1980. It spent 33 months ageing in a unique combination of large puncheons and concrete amphora, and is “One of the finest 2020s out there… It’s a gorgeous bottle of wine.” (JD)
£170 / BottleDuty Status: In Bond ⋅ Price incl. of Duty & VAT: £208.07 / BottleAvailability: Future ArrivalPlease contact us to know more