Saxum Vineyards is located in the Paso Robles AVA of Central California. Founded in the early 2000s by Justin Smith, a young winemaker who had previously been part-owner of Linne Calodo, Saxum leapt into the limelight in late 2010 when its 2007 James Berry Vineyards wine was named the #1 Wine of 2010 by Wine Spectator. The wine is a Rhone-style blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. Like most of the so-called Central California Coast “Rhone Rangers,” Saxum specializes in Rhone Valley-style blends. The intense sunshine and relatively steep and rocky terrain of the Paso Robles AVA, which was officially recognized in 1983, is similar to the terrain of the Rhone Valley. Smith owns the winery with his wife Heather, and produces up to 2,800 cases of wine a year. There are currently five cuvees.
Paso Robles AVA is midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and it is considered one of the West Coast’s most exciting winemaking regions. With its hot, sometimes searingly dry and sunny weather, it is especially good country for growing warm climate grapes such as Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Because many Paso Robles wineries have been successful with blending these grapes into Rhone Valley-style wines, it is known as the Rhone zone of California. The AVA was created in 1983 and there are 32,000 vineyard acres. In late 2014 the AVA was divided into 11 smaller sub-appellations, so starting with 2015 vintages labeling will become more specific on Paso Robles wines, which will now also list sub-appellations. Located in San Luis Obispo County, Paso Robles, the town and its surrounding area, was traditionally a farming and ranching region. But from a few dozen wineries in the early 1990s to more than 200 today, the area is quickly becoming known for wine and risk-taking winemakers.