Behind the Label

The Sonoma Hillsides label was designed by Pax to honor one of his heroes in the Rhone Valley. During a visit with the retired Raymond Trollat, Pax brought up a winemaker named Michal Clotaire who paid homage to Raymond by using a direct copy of Raymonds distictive and classic label on his St Joseph and Beaujolais bottlings. The conversation turned to how much Pax wanted to do something similar and Raymond immediately gave his blessing and in fact took Pax down under the house into the earthen floored cellar and, to Pax’s great astonishment, grabbed a large stack of leftover Trollat St Joseph labels (this would be a good time to point out that Pax’s French is horrendous).

The Pax Sonoma Hillsides label is not a direct copy of the Trollat label, but it is meant to honor the past and look to the future of Syrah. Raymond Trollat was a traditionalist with his handling of Syrah and what he accomplished in the hills above St-Jean-de-Muzols, just outside of Tournon, in the northern Rhone Valley of France, continues to inspire how we think about putting the blend together for this wine.

Vineyards

Castelli Knight Ranch

Dramatic bright orange, rock-filled, Haire Clay-covered slopes give the wine produced from this site a distinct density and power. The north- to northeast-facing slopes provide cool to this otherwise warm location and heady aromas of incense and pepper to the wine. Pax has farmed and taken all of this fruit since 2001.

 

Griffin's Lair Vineyard

Coarse alluvial soils composed of sand and gravel sit atop dense Adobe Clay. Situated on a south-west facing hillside with a clear view to the San Pablo Bay, this wind buffeted slope generates tiny berried Syrah clusters that dictate the character of the wine produced from this site — savory, intense and rustic. Pax has worked with this block of grapes since the 2002 harvest.

 

 

Rows of vines.

Nellessen Vineyard

Just to the west of downtown Sebastopol with an eastern exposition, this site is a key addition to our line-up. Planted in sandy Goldridge (sand and red clay) loam in 2000, farmed with organic products and utilizing many biodynamically practices, the Syrah from this vineyard is outrageous in its aromatic intensity.

Winemaking

The use of 100% whole bunches in our Syrahs is just one of the ways that we use traditional techniques to make our wines more complex and more authentic.The whole bunches are crushed by foot, an imperfect process leaving a large portion of whole berries in the tank. These uncrushed berries undergo a passive carbonic maceration, creating a wider range of aromas and flavors.  This range of flavors adds complexity and depth, particularlly in the aromatic intensity of this wine. 
 
We blend the individual components of this wine early in the year into a large concrete cubic shaped tank. This allows the components to harmonize in a vessel that breathes less than an oak barrel and more than a stainless steel tank. This practice enables the wine to evolve, but at a very slow rate and with very little oxygen transfer. This low oxygen environment creates a natural state of preservation called reduction, once the wine achieves a reductive state, the wine transitions into a natural state of preservation, which negates the need to add SO2 (Sulfer Dioxide) to stabilize the wine.
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Technical Information

100% Syrah

100% Whole-Cluster

Castelli-Knight Ranch, Russian River

Griffins Lair Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

Nellessen Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

12.9% Alc By Vol

3.8pH

Tasting Notes

Vivid Violet hues sparkle in the reflections of this brilliant wine. Aromatically perfect in terms of pure Syrah distinction and purity with all that black pepper, violet and roasted plum.  You won’t find any new oak aromas or flavors, just mineral laced fruit, spice and earth harmonizing into a pleasing Syrah elixir. Supple and seamless with teases of chocolate covered cherries, violet candy, coastal forest air, brown figs and ripe plum pie. We drink this wine often and when we do, we serve it at 55 degrees, especially in the summer. You should make an effort to do both of these things as well.