The best of California never stop experimenting. It’s what sets the state’s wines apart from other regions, particularly over the last few years as innovation in California’s wine industry has regained dominance over status quo.
Pax Mahle’s Wind Gap is one of the most important innovators today. Though there is a core lineup of Syrah and Pinot Noir from cool-climate sites, Pax is always playing around with possibility at the fringes of his lineup. The current ‘soif’ bottling is a great example of this.
This 2011 Mourvedre, from one of California’s most important heritage vineyards, belongs among Wind Gap’s more innovative and experimental wines. Sadly it is no longer made. While many see Mourvedre as a brawnier grape requiring significant warmth to ripen. Sometimes the grape can be a little funky and barney, but the best examples achieve balance and elegance.
Pax’s version at Wind Gap is atypical both for the grape and for the vineyard, which is an old-vine vineyard in the Sonoma Valley (planted in the 1880’s). Tasting it I feel it must have seen some carbonic maceration as it is quite aromatic and lively while also being feathery in texture. The tannins are fine and not at all close to the brawny tannins common to Mourvedre. The textural qualities also derive from the fact 90% of the wine is fermented in concrete eggs (the other 10% in old neutral oak). The aromas are consistent with 100% whole cluster fermentation. Galloni described the wine as “a bit vegetal” back in 2013, but today I don’t detect those qualities – instead the wine is alive with fresh berry fruit and spice.
This is not a showcase wine nor does it represent the apex of Mourvedre. It is intended to be and succeeds at being a wine like ‘soif’ – very easy to drink, gulpable and delicious with burgers and similar foods. It didn’t last long at my table.
Only 99 cases made. 13.2% ABV.
$32 USD at the winery