OCTOBER DIRT–PAX MAHLE CHENIN BLANC 2018
Though Pax focuses on Syrah, his lesser-known offerings are equally intriguing. We were particularly taken by his rendition of California Chenin, featured here. A single-vineyard bottling, Pax’s Chenin comes from the ‘Buddha’s Dharma’ vineyard in Mendocino County at the foot of Enlightenment mountain. Pax’s old Chenin vines (76 years!) are dry-farmed without any chemical additives. Winemaking is minimalist, and aging is done in neutral oak for eleven months. The result is a perfectly balanced, nuanced Chenin that is at once electric and intense, but with a roundness and honeyed qualities found only in the most traditional Loire Valley iterations of this charming variety.
Pax’s iteration of Chenin from the volcanic soils of Buddha’s Dharma reminds us a bit of a more modern take on the über classic Savennières from the Château d’Épiré, what many would consider to be the most representative wine of the appellation. There is a tension between the naturally very high acidity and minerality, and the ripe, relatively honeyed fruit character. The result is a white wine that needs a little air and the appropriate food pairing. Whole grilled fish comes to mind, although mildly spicy Thai or Chinese takeout would also be a lovely choice. Either way, do drink it cool–not cold–and afford it a little air if you can to allow it to unfurl.