David Paxton is one of Australia’s most respected viticulturalists, with a reputation for growing grapes of exceptional quality. For over forty years, he has developed and managed vineyards in the Australian wine regions of South Australia (including Adelaide Hills and Coonwarra) and Victoria (Yarra Valley). He currently oversees 500 acres and owns another 200 acres at Paxton Vineyards in McLaren Vale. The latter is one of Australia’s oldest winemaking regions, made famous by winemakers John Reynell and Thomas Hardy, who planted grapes there in the 1800s. A 45 minute drive south of Adelaide, it has a diversity of climates and grape growing conditions, due to its varied topography and proximity to the Gulf of St. Vincent to the West.
David founded Paxton Vineyards in 1979 on a 19th century sheep farm in McLaren Vale and converted it to biodynamic winemaking in 2005. David’s son Michael is the winemaker (who spent 14 years as a flying winemaker in Spain, France, South America and Australia). Another son, Ben, works at their Cellar Door storage facility. Paxton is a boutique winery, with total production of only 18,000 cases, 85% of which is red wine.
Their estate wines come from seven vineyards in McLaren Vale – Gateway Vineyard (55 ha.; limestone), Thomas Block (28 ha.; rich alluvial soils), Jones Block (22 ha.; sandy loam over red clay, with 35+ year old vines), Quandong Farm (19 ha.; sandy loam and limestone), 19th Vineyard (12 ha.; sandy soils), Maslin Beach (3.5 ha.; shallow soil on limestone) and Landcross Farm (2 ha. and the site of their Cellar Door storage facility).
Paxton has seven estate grown wines – Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Rose, AAA (a blend of Shiraz and Grenache), Jones Block Shiraz, Quandong Farm Shiraz and Paxton EJ Shiraz. The latter is their flagship wine, created in honour of David’s mother and the family matriarch, Elizabeth Jean. Made from 100+ year old vines, the first vintage of this limited release wine was in 2007. All of their wines have been bottled under screw cap since 1999.
David Paxton recently led a tasting of Paxton wines at Toronto’s Fine Wine Reserve.
2010 Paxton Cabernet/Shiraz “The Guesser” (14.0%; $16.95) takes its name from the wool industry as “guesser” is the person who rates bales of wool. This approachable blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (52%) and Shiraz (48%) is meant to be a door opener for the restaurant trade. It was aged in small French and American barriques. Deep plum coloured, it displays nuances of forest underbrush, bramble, spice and licorice with round, soft tannins.
2010 Paxton AAA Shiraz Grenache (14.0%; $19.95, V149898) also has a tie to the wool industry, as ‘AAA’ is stenciled onto the highest graded bales of wool. This blend of Shiraz (65%) and Grenache (35%) is made from Shiraz grapes sourced from the ‘Gateway’ and ‘Jones Block’ vineyards, which produce some of the best fruit in the region. It was aged in French and American oak, 15% of which was new. Ruby red, with purple hues, it offers a sweet cherry and red plum mid-palate, with vanilla and cedar undertones and subtle chalky tannins.
2010 Paxton MV Shiraz (14.0%; $19.95) is a blend of Shiraz from their Quandong, Maslin, Jones Block and 19th Vineyard sites. Aged for 12 months in French and American oak, this black plum coloured wine shows red berry fruit aromas, with hints of mint and licorice and a slight earthy streak. This is the third release of this wine.
2010 Paxton Quandong Farm Shiraz (13.5%; $34.95) is a 100% varietal made with grapes planted in 1994, harvested by hand and aged mainly in older French barrels. Deep plum coloured, this has appealing layers of cinnamon, vanilla, tar, bacon spices and truffles.
2009 Paxton Jones Block McLaren Vale Shiraz (14.0%; $29.00, V149914) is another 100% varietal made with handpicked grapes sourced from low yielding vines averaging 48 years in age. It spent 20 months in French (75%) and American (25%) oak, 45% of which was new. The lush palate of red fruit, with traces of red licorice, black olive, cedar and vanilla carries through in the lingering finish.
Be sure to look for some of these Paxton wines at LCBO Vintages releases. For further information, contact agent Mark Cuff of The Living Vine (647 519-8609).
Barbara D. Ritchie is a wine writer, lecturer and internationally accredited wine judge, who has travelled extensively throughout the main wine growing regions of the world. Her working knowledge of French, Italian, Spanish and German facilitates her in-depth winery profiles. A distinctive aspect to writing is her suggestions for food and wine pairings.