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Average critic rating : 96.0 points
Reminding me of a top 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape (the 2010 Raymond Usseglio Cuvee Imperiale to be exact), the 2011 James Berry Vineyard is a blend of 69% Grenache, 13% Mourvedre, 13% Syrah, 2% Counoise, and a splash of Roussanne, that was aged in a combination of concrete (Grenache) and larger oak puncheons. A fresh, detailed and more elegant example of the cuvee, it offers gorgeous notes of ripe berry fruit, loads of exotic spice, violets, pepper and lavender to go with a full-bodied, beautifully pure and layered profile on the palate. It’s no blockbuster, but has loads of energy and tension, as well as class and refinement. Give it 2-3 years in the cellar and enjoy it over the following decade or longer. ||This was another great visit with Justin Smith, and he continues to tweak and experiment with varying degrees of whole cluster and concrete, puncheon and barrel aging regimes. Looking at his 2011s, I was able to taste all of these from bottles in Colorado, and they’ve closed down substantially since I reviewed them from barrel. In most cases, these took a day or more to fully unwind, and the style here is much more Rhone-like, with spice, pepper and meaty aromatics paired with focused, firm palate profiles. These are gorgeous wine that won’t start to show their full potential for another 3-4 years. The 2012s are just as good, if not better, yet are surprisingly tannic and structured. Given the up-front nature of the vintage, I was surprised by the tannin profile and more reserved style in most of the wines. Nevertheless, the concentration level here is on par with, if not slightly greater than, the 2011s, and they show the fabulous purity and focus of the vintage. Both of these vintages will need short-term cellaring. My favorite of the three vintages reviewed here, the 2013s offer thrilling density of fruit, massive concentration, and sound underlying structure that keeps the wines focused and balanced. I think short-term cellaring will be helpful here as well, but I wouldn’t be afraid to crack a bottle or two on release either. Despite these vintage differences, as I hope the reviews and scores show, these are incredible wines that make the most of this special terroir. Truthfully, there are few mailing lists out there worth being on, but without a doubt, this is one of them.||Tel. (805) 610-0363; www.saxumvineyards.com Wine Advocate.August, 2014
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