Saxum is one of the hottest wineries in Paso Robles, which is saying something, since Paso is pretty well as hot as it gets in California these days. Of course Paso is 'hot' by virtue of being cool, and the coolest part of Paso Robles is the Templeton gap in West Paso, where Saxum is located. Here cool marine air streams in from the Pacific Ocean, creating a microclimate that is surprisingly temperate for Southern California. Saxum's James Berry vineyard is perhaps the supreme expression of Templeton Gap's spectacular terroir, with Rhone varieties (syrah, grenache,and mourvedre) planted on rocky limestone hillsides at an elevation of 1200 feet producing structured, minerally, complex wines.
Saxum's founder Justin Smith is a very rare bird - a second-generation Paso Robles farmer, famously celebrated as a Wine Spectator Wine of the Year/ Robert Parker 100 point recipient (in fact 38 of his wines have Wine Advocate scores of 95 or better), but just as famously unaffected by the hoohah, passionately committed to winegrowing, not winemaking. He is not old, but he is considered to be the guru of Paso Robles terroir, renowned for his local knowledge and revered as a mentor and as a leader of the Rhone Ranger movement. And the fact that he is a true garragiste - quite literally making wine in his garage - does nothing to damage his credibility; nor does choosing to name his winery with the Latin word for stone.
Despite the fact that the wines are not certified (apparently in deference to his father, who planted the vines), farming is organic. Production is small and the winegrowing philosophy is artisanal and minimalist, with a strong commitment to experimentation - for example co-fermenting syrah and roussanne and raising wines in small concrete vats.
Rare, expensive, and normally available only via the winery's mailing list, these are quintessentially Californian wines combining great concentration and purity of fruit with an almost too-good- to-be-true added dimension of minerality that reveals the awesome wine growing potential of Paso Robles.