The wine world was shocked when Pax Mahles 2016 Sonoma Hillsides Syrah received 100 points from Antonio Galloni last April. Antonio called it “one of the most profoundly beautiful California wines” and “a total pleasure bomb”. So when invited to lunch with Pax at Scampi in New York last month, I went to see what all the fuss was about and to check in on new vintages. I was not disappointed.
Pax has been working in wine in California since 1997, first as a buyer for Dean and Deluca, and later with his own label and with Wind Gap wines. He recently sold his share of Wind Gap and is now completely focused on the Pax label. Pax, from the onset, was about championing some of the “other” grapes of California. Syrah, Grenache, Chenin Blanc among others. He is a constant tinkerer, changing aging and vinification methods, making small test batches, and holding back tons of wines to see how they change and evolve. This all came to fruition when he received the perfect score for his 2016 release. I tasted through all the current wines, including the 2016 Buddhas Dharma Chenin Blanc and 2017 Sonoma Hillsides Syrah being offered today. I was impressed with what he had to say, his commitment to the old vines and most importantly, his ability to not let the big score affect his head (or the price!). The 2017 Syrah was indeed a pure pleasure bomb, although it had only recently been bottled and needs to lie down for a few months, and the Chenin was as pure a Chenin as I have ever tasted, from California or the Loire. It’s great to see a new superstar emerge from years of hard work and take it in stride.

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