Saxum Vineyards

Justin Smith, Photo by Lawrence K. Ho for LATimes

Country of Origin: USA
Location: Willow Creek District, Paso Robles
People: Justin & Heather Smith, Owner | Justin Smith, Winemaker
Viticulture: Practicing Organic


Saxum Vineyards 2017 G2 Vineyard, Paso Robles Login WA 94 AG 96 JD 99 Please inquire
Saxum Vineyards 2017 Heart Stone Vineyard, Paso Robles Login WA 93 AG 96 JD 97 Please inquire

Social Media
Saxum Facebook
Instagram: @saxumvineyards

Media Links
The Orange County Register: Paso Robles' Saxum Digs Deep in Quest for Quality
Wine Spectator: Featured Winemaker: Justin Smith of Saxum
Wine Justin Smith to be Honored as the 2013 Paso Robles Wine Industry Person of the Year
Stolpman Vineyard Wine Journal: Research Trip: Justin Smith of Saxum
Wine-Searcher: Saxum's Justin Smith Keeps Paso Robles Cool
Alister & Paine: 2010 James Berry from Saxum Vineyards
A Long Pour: The Princes of West Paso {Matt Trevisan & Justin Smith}
A Long Pour: Saxum {Deeper Roots}

Justin Smith is one of Paso Robles’ superstars. His Saxum wines have achieved great fame and amassed a cult following.

Saxum Vineyards is focused on producing Rhone inspired red blends from the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles. Production is kept to 4,000-5,000 cases a year divided between seven different cuvees: Broken Stones, James Berry Vineyard, Bone Rock, Booker Vineyards, Paderewski Vineyard, Heart Stone Vineyard and Terry Hoage Vineyard. Most of the cuvees are sourced from Justin’s estate James Berry Vineyard. The James Berry Vineyard is an exceptional hillside site planted in pure white limestone and fossilized shells; it is a site that provides extraordinary richness, minerality, precision, and individuality. It is located 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean with an average elevation of 1,200 feet. The cooling ocean breezes help the grapes maintain acidity. Rocket Block, Bone Rock, Broken Stones and James Berry Vineyard wines all come from this site. The Heart Stone Vineyard is a separate vineyard within the estate.

Justin Smith farms all of his vineyards with organic principles. He does not use chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. Irrigation is rarely needed as his vines’ roots penetrate deeply through the soil. Everything is done by hand, and yields are kept naturally low from the rock soils and extensive thinning. In the cellar, Justin takes a minimalist approach. Saxum’s wines are never racked off their lees and are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Vinous 11/2017
"Justin Smith, whose wines have probably brought more attention to Paso Robles than any others, is also one of the most respected growers in the region. The vineyards he farms, both his own and those of a handful of selected clients, are well worth visiting if one can finagle an appointment. The key to success in a hot dry year like 2015, and in every vintage in the area, he says, “is to be willing to drop fruit that’s raisined and suck up the loss, even when it’s a short year.” Smith’s 2015s were standouts in my tastings during my July visit and also back in the office in October, when I had the chance to re-visit those wines which were still awaiting bottling in the summer. They’re going to be long-lived wines based on their sheer concentration, I’m sure, and if you can’t resist trying them now by all means give them a lot of air!"

Wine Advocate 8/30/2016
"One of the superstars in California is undoubtedly the humble, soft spoken, yet incredibly talented Justin Smith, who has had the reins at Saxum since 2000. And while a lot of winemakers would have been content to stick with the tried and true at this point, Smith continues to question, experiment and fine tune everything he does. Today, his wines are much more finesse oriented, pure and graceful than in the past, without sacrificing texture, concentration or richness. In short, these wines kick ass and shouldn't be missed by any serious wine lover out there!"

Vinous 9/2016
"Justin Smith has just begun settling into his new, expansive cellar, a series of connected tunnels burrowed out of the hill beneath his old winery and home that is equipped with a variety of concrete and wooden vats and barrels of varying sizes. Smith told me that he's now able to adapt his winemaking to whatever conditions nature hands him. Unsurprisingly, this was one of the finest sets of wines that I tasted during my trip this summer. A look through barrels and tanks of Smith's soon-to-be-bottled 2014s and infant 2015s indicated that Saxum's winning streak shows no sign of letting up. Too bad that there simply won't be much wine to go around. Incidentally, while these will never be inexpensive wines, I find that prices are extremely fair given the sheer quality of the wines, and the fact that they are among California's most sought-after bottlings."

Wine Advocate 8/27/2015
Needing no introduction for anyone that’s followed the Wine Advocate or the wine scene in Paso Robles for any time in the past decade, Heather and Justin Smith’s Saxum Vineyards continues to fashion sensational, world-class wines from a number of top sites on the west side of Paso Robles.

Vinous 7/2014
"Every region has its leaders, Justin Smith has been at the forefront in Paso for a number of years. In addition to his own vineyards and wines, first Linne Calodo and now at Saxum, Smith has played a pivotal role in developing Booker, Terry Hoage, Epoch and other properties in the area. Smith has also taken some of Paso's younger winemakers under his wine. Even with all of the accolades he has rightly received, Justin Smith remains one of the most down-to-earth, easygoing people you will ever meet, and that is as important an achievement as anything else."

Wine Advocate 8/2013
"Proprietor Justin Smith continues to fashion some of the most distinctive and impressive efforts coming out of California today and despite an ever increasing level of notoriety and well deserved praise, he remains incredibly humble and down to earth. While the cooler nature of the 2010 and 2011 vintages show in the wine, there’s been a trend here to pull back slightly on the ripeness and oak regime, with an increasing reliance on concrete, whole cluster and larger format barrels. These cooler vintages have also favored the Syrah heavy blends in the lineup, with the Broken Stones, Booker and Bone Rock showing an added dimension. Nevertheless, you can’t go wrong here and this is one mailing list you do not want to miss!"


  • Saxum 2016 'Bone Rock' James Berry Vineyard, Paso Robles
    Jeb Dunnuck
    Rating: 97+ (10/31/2019)

    The 2016 James Berry Vineyard Bone Rock boasts a saturated purple color as well as beautiful black and blue fruits, ground pepper, chalky minerality, and hints of chocolate. These carry to a full-bodied Syrah that has nicely balanced acidity, ripe tannins, and a great finish. This cuvée saw a lot of stems in the ferments, yet they’re incredibly well integrated. I suspect it’s going to merit a triple-digit rating in 3-4 years and it’s another awesome wine from the genius of Justin Smith.
  • Saxum 2016 'Bone Rock' James Berry Vineyard, Paso Robles
    Rating: (96-98) (9/1/2018)

    Explosive, smoke- and spice-accented blueberry, cherry cola, vanilla and smoky mineral aromas show outstanding delineation and pick up an olive nuance with aeration. Sweet and expansive in the mouth, offering deeply concentrated dark berry preserve, fruitcake and violet pastille flavors along with an exotic touch of star anise. The strikingly long, penetrating finish shows vibrant, minerally cut, an echo of juicy blue fruit and pliant tannins that sneak in late and fold smoothly into the deeply concentrated fruit.
  • Saxum 2016 'Bone Rock' James Berry Vineyard, Paso Robles
    Rating: 98 (2/4/2020)

    Highly expressive black and blue fruit liqueur, cherry-cola, exotic spice and potpourri scents show excellent clarity and pick up vanilla and licorice accents with air. Deeply concentrated, mineral-driven blueberry, bitter cherry and fruitcake flavors are complemented by a hint of candied flowers that builds on the back half. Broad and velvety in texture, finishing with emphatic, floral- and spice-dominated persistence and polished tannins that lend subtle grip.
  • Saxum 2017 G2 Vineyard, Paso Robles
    The Wine Advocate
    Rating: 94 (2/6/2020)

    Medium to deep ruby, it has lovely scents of tar and roses to begin, with a core of ripe red and black cherries and berries and accents of turned earth, forest floor, underbrush, dried herbs and garrigue. The medium to full-bodied palate is intense, layered and earthy, with a firm, grainy frame and well-woven freshness, finishing long and layered.
  • Saxum 2017 G2 Vineyard, Paso Robles
    Rating: 96 (2/4/2020)

    Ripe black raspberry, blueberry and cherry scents are complemented by suggestions of candied lavender and incense. Sappy and broad on the palate, offering concentrated red and blue fruit, cola and spicecake flavors that steadily become sweeter with air. Clings with superb tenacity on the gently chewy finish, which features harmonious tannins and resonating red fruit liqueur and floral notes.
  • Saxum 2017 G2 Vineyard, Paso Robles
    Jeb Dunnuck
    Rating: 99 (10/31/2019)

    A Grenache-dominated blend that includes 11% Tannat, 9% Graciano and 3% Syrah, the 2017 G2 Vineyard reminds me of a great vintage of Raymond Usseglio’s Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvée Imperiale. Flirting with perfection and one of the greatest Rhône blends I’ve tasted from California, it offers a smorgasbord of sweet black and blue fruits, crushed violets, flowery incense, and pepper. With full-bodied richness, no hard edges, perfectly integrated acidity, and silky tannins, drink this magical wine any time over the coming 10-15 years.
  • Saxum 2017 Heart Stone Vineyard, Paso Robles
    The Wine Advocate
    Rating: 93 (2/6/2020)

    Medium to deep ruby, it's scented of dried sour cherries, black cherries and currants with nuances of violet, orange peel, black tea leaves, underbrush and warm earth. Medium to full-bodied, it has a good balance of earth and fruit, with a grainy frame and long, layered finish.
  • Saxum 2017 Heart Stone Vineyard, Paso Robles
    Rating: 96 (2/4/2020)

    Powerful dark berry, cherry pie, incense, potpourri, musky herb and spicecake aromas show outstanding clarity and pick up a smoky mineral flourish with aeration. Sweet and chewy on the palate, offering deeply concentrated but energetic blackberry, cherry preserve, five-spice powder and floral pastille flavors that are given lift and spine by a core of juicy acidity. Blends richness and finesse smoothly and finishes incredibly long and spicy, with youthfully firm tannins adding shape and final grip.
  • Saxum 2017 Heart Stone Vineyard, Paso Robles
    Jeb Dunnuck
    Rating: 97 (10/31/2019)

    Showing even better from bottle than barrel, it offers a stunning nose of ripe blueberries, black raspberries, ground pepper, and violets. Full-bodied, rounded, and seamless on the palate, it has a beautiful sense of complexity and purity paired with serious depth of fruit and opulence on the palate.
  • Saxum 2017 Booker Vineyard, Paso Robles
    The Wine Advocate
    Rating: 95 (2/6/2020)

    Deep ruby, it has a nose of blackberry and raspberry preserves, orange oil, dusty earth, garrigue, tar and loads of amaro accents. Medium to full-bodied, intense, layered and firm, the palate is lifted by fantastic juicy freshness and finishes long with oodles of floral and citrus accents.
  • Saxum 2017 Booker Vineyard, Paso Robles
    Jeb Dunnuck
    Rating: 98+ (10/31/2019)

    The 2017 Booker Vineyard got a few expletives and wows in the notes. It’s a full-bodied, flamboyant, straight essence of Paso Robles beauty that’s loaded with notions of black fruits, chocolate, ground pepper, candied orange peel, and spring flowers. It’s a masculine, powerhouse of a Syrah, which is classic Booker Vineyard.