Pax Wines with Pax Mahle & Joe Donelan
at Valbella's Restaurant, Greenwich, CT (6/29/2005)

Pictures can be found here.

At Valbella's Restaurant, Greenwich, CT. Very good food and a delightful setting. We had a room to ourselves which was very nice.

Joe Donelan, managing partner of Pax Wine Cellars, invited me to join this group of about 50 lucky souls to taste several of their 2003 and 2004 wines. I sure am glad he did! In addition to meeting Joe, I also got to chat with Pax and Punky Mahle. What a great team of charming, talented people! Joe's commitment to run a successful business focused on producing the highest quality wines is impressive. And I have never met someone who understands and delivers on customer service like Punky. She is also quite lovely and charming to talk to. Pax is clearly the heart of this operation. His passion for making great wines, in the vineyard and in the winery, is obvious within a few minutes of talking to him. Talking to Pax about his wines and his vineyards reminded me of talking to the mother of a small child on her first evening out without her child. He was itching to get back. The technical comments on the wines below are from Pax.

One of the reasons that I was really looking forward to trying these wines is because I never know which of their many offerings to buy in quantity. Sadly, this tasting didn't help too much because all the wines are so good. But there were a few that I liked just a bit more, so that should help. I think Pax said something about 22 different wines in 2004!

Rosé with Appetizers
Lightly smoked salmon with cream cheese and caviar, light paté, spinach cheese puffs. All quite tasty.

2004 Pax Rosé
Tasty. Softer than the bottle I tried at home (6/15/05). Very good with the appetizers. Should improve for 6 months or so. Drink now through the end of next summer. 91 points.

Viognier with Lump Crabmeat and Horseradish Sauce
Delicious lumps of fresh crabmeat and a very tasty sauce.

2004 Pax Viognier, Aphrodite
[100% Viognier. The vineyard for this wine is called Las Escaleras (Spanish for The Staircase) because it is so steep. I think Pax said this vineyard is owned by John Kongsgaard and that the cuttings might have come from Yves Cuilleron.] Very light straw yellow color. Huge nose of wax and flowers (lilies?). Thick, creamy, intensely flavorful with that classic Viognier bite in the mid palate. Very long finish. Impressive stuff. 92-94 points. Drink 2006-2009. If I had tasted this blind, I would have confidently identified it as a top flight Condrieu. Not a great match with the food. The crab by itself is too mild for this wine, while the sauce is too strong. Still I think this wine would go well with a lot of different foods.

2003 Syrahs with Penne in a White Pancetta Sauce
A very tasty dish which goes quite well with these young syrahs.

2003 Pax Syrah, Griffin's Lair, Sonoma Coast
Reticent, but intense spicy blackberry nose. Yummy, thick, spicy, tannic, and tons of fruit! Highly extracted berry fruit. Good with the pasta, but a little tart with the lamb. 92-93 points.

2003 Pax Syrah, Castelli-Knight Ranch, Russian River Valley
Darker nose than the Griffin's Lair with smoky black fruits. Wow! This one is much tighter and intense. Here the black fruit completely covers the impressive tannins. Comes over me in waves. Amazing stuff! 96 points.

2003 Syrahs with Rack of Lamb
Wonderful lamb. Quite unusual for a restaurant to keep the preparation very simple. Incredibly simple and exquisite. Great match to the wines.

2003 Pax Syrah, Alder Springs Vineyard, 'The Terraces'
[95% Syrah, 5% Viognier. 100% new French oak.] Backward smoked meat nose of blackberries and plums. Thick, intense, sweet, tannic. Such intensity of fruit! 95 points.
With the lamb: Lots of black pepper. After the 2004's: Tastes more shut down after tasting the 2004's.

2003 Pax Syrah, Cuvée Keltie, North Coast
[Whole cluster, 100% stems. Blended from six different vineyards.] I love the nose. Great fruit and flowers in the nose. Big up front but a bit stemmy on finish. Hard now. Needs 5 years or more. 92 points. With the lamb: A little softer and tons of black pepper. Shows its potential much better. With strong, soft blue cheese (gorgonzola?) and good bread: Even more perfume. This one needs some time, but could be really great. 92-96 points.

2004 Syrah Barrel Samples with Cheeses
A strong creamy blue (gorgonzola, I think) which was superb. Excellent Parmigiano-Reggiano. A nice brie and a milder hard cheese.
All these 2004 barrel samples are inky black and challenging to judge now.

2004 Pax Syrah, Walker Vine Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley (barrel sample)
[14 rows, 4 acres, 66 cases, 2.5 tons/acre. 3 barrels total.] Huge smoky blackberry and bacon nose. Powerhouse, tannic, massive, extracted. Finish lasts for over a minute. 94-96 points.
With parmigiano cheese: Shows some chocolate.

2004 Pax Syrah, Kobler Family Vineyard, Russian River Valley (barrel sample)
[90 % Syrah, 10% Viognier.] Another powerhouse nose with gobs of smoky black fruit. Tart and tannic on the finish. A touch sour.
With parmigiano cheese: Surprisingly unchanged by this strong cheese.
With blue cheese: Shows a little better. Hard to judge this wine so young. 89-91 for now.

2004 Pax Syrah, Griffin's Lair, Sonoma Coast (barrel sample)
Big and smoky but with a touch of something sweets (peaches?). Ultra-ripe fruit. Almost brutal tannins. Needs lots of time. Gummy in its sweet fruit. 92-?
With parmigiano cheese: Shows well. 92-94
With blue cheese: Even better with the blue cheese. Could be great. 92-96

2004 Pax Syrah, Cuvée Keltie (barrel sample)
[Cuvée Keltie seems to be Pax's favorite wine. He called it very European and old fashioned. 100% Syrah, no new oak!]
Fragrant blackberry liqueur nose. The most balanced now of these 04's. Gorgeous fruit.
With parmigiano cheese: Tannic.
With blue cheese: Fabulous blackberry fruit shows through with the blue cheese. 93-95.




All original content © Ken Vastola