Pax Cellars, Syrah, Griffin’s Lair 2004

by Tim Elliott on April 24, 2008

Pax Mahle has been making some of the most interesting and complex Syrah in California for nearly a decade now. Although he makes other Rhone varietals, Syrah is his focus with several vineyard designated offerings each year. In tasting 2005 Pax Syrah from the barrel last year, I was impressed with the range of aromas and flavors he brings out with distinct wines even made from within the same vineyard.

All Pax Syrah have a similar thread running through them: they are big. Some are fruit bombs, others super concentrated and structured for aging and some are masterpieces of balance even at 15-16% alcohol. When I asked Pax about his process, he pointed to the traditional techniques of France’s Burgundy region where whole-cluster fermentation and the minimum of cellar treatment was the norm at the finest vineyards for centuries. Somehow, Pax has taken these Old World techniques and combined them with aggressive crop management in the vineyard to produce stunning wines.

The Syrah from Griffin’s Lair in the Sonoma Coast AVA is one of the most massive wines in the lineup with very concentrated fruit along with firm tannins. Although this wine is quite enjoyable right now, I would suggest at least another 5 years of cellaring before you will fully comprehend all the nuances this wine brings to the table.

Pax Cellars, Syrah, Griffin's Lair 2004I enjoyed this Syrah last night paired with traditional Steak Frit at a restaurant in San Francisco. I shared this bottle with Alan Baker who longtime listeners of the podcast will remember from Winecast 51 where we tasted Pax Cellars Walker Vine Hill Syrah. Over the 90 minutes we enjoyed this wine it evolved quite a bit but I would imagine even more aromas would have been present on day two. If you open a bottle now, decanting is highly recommended.

Pax Cellars, Syrah, Griffin’s Lair, Sonoma Coast 2004 ($70) – Very dark purple-black in color with massive aromas of blackberry, meats, fennel, green olive, chaparral, leather and baking spices. Huge, mouth-filling blackberry fruit flavors with cracked black pepper finishing with firm, but fine-grained, tannins. The finish lingers for nearly a minute making this one of the most stunning wines I’ve tasted from Pax Cellars to date. This wine will continue to improve for at least another decade in the cellar.

14.8% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 96
Rating: ★★★★½

Buy this wine online

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