The story is becoming more and more common. An American winemaker, inspired by European tradition and elegance, ends up making wines that appeal to critics, only to change course and return the making the style of wines THEY want to drink. Pax Mahle is a perfect example. Pax fell in love with wine in restaurants and worked as both a waiter and sommelier in order to be near it. While visiting France in the 1990s, he met some of Burgundy’s and Rhone’s great traditional producers like Jacques Reynaud and Henri Jayer. These grower/farmers experienced wine in a far more personal and soulful way than Pax felt he ever could selling wine in restaurants. So after considering setting up a winemaking shop in Piedmont or Burgundy (two region’s that greatly influenced Pax’s palate), he eventually settled in Sonoma County.
Focusing on Syrah, Pax began to build an enviable following, particularly for his most muscular, rich (and high alcohol) wines which he produced under the eponymous label, Pax Wines. The wines were indeed delicious, but as Pax admits, lacked the balance to mature into something great, like the best wines of the Northern Rhone which had inspired him. In fact, he eventually pretty much stopped drinking them himself in favor of lighter, more nuanced wines. His solution was to harvest earlier using grapes from cool climate sites that produced fully ripened fruit at lower brix levels. Pax eventually split with his partner at Pax Wines and established Wind Gap wines, which champions cool climate sourcing of Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a few other varieties.
Wind Gap Syrah Sonoma Coast 2008 $33 91 Points Stephen Tanzer SOLD OUT
“Inky ruby. Seductive perfume of cherry pit, blueberry, olive and Asian spices, along with a strong mineral quality. Velvety and bright on entry, then energetic and sweet in the mid-palate, with impressive energy to its black and blue fruit compote flavors. Very pure on the bright, extremely long finish, which features lingering floral and mineral nuances. These grapes were harvested on November 5th, 6th and 7th.”