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Senior editor James Laube, Wine Spectator's expert on the wines of California, joined the magazine in 1983.
James Laube

A Soulful California Syrah

Saxon Brown Syrah Sonoma County Parmelee-Hill Camp Block 2006

James Laube
Posted: January 28, 2010

I’ve become a big fan of Jeff Gaffner’s wines from his own label, Saxon Brown. They are extremely well made, very reasonably priced and, most important, a sheer delight to drink. I’ve gotten to know him as a thoughtful, intuitive winemaker, one of those folks who just know how to make soulful wines. That’s about all I need to know. Last year I praised his 2007 Alexander Valley Sémillon from Cricket Creek, and lately I’ve been buying his wines off wine lists whenever I can.

I had dinner the other night at the Red Grape in Sonoma, a spacious, casual Italian restaurant off the square, with a large, varied menu and lots of tasty food and a dozen pizzas. When I noticed the 2006 Saxon Brown Syrah from Parmelee-Hill Camp Block in Sonoma County, I readily ordered it for dinner. It was chilly from the cellar, but warmed up nicely at the table, with rich fruit, pepper and berry flavors and the kind of impeccable balance and finesse I’ve come to enjoy from Gaffner’s wines. Still outstanding; 93 points, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Saxon Brown Syrah Sonoma County Parmelee-Hill Camp Block 2006 (93, $36).

• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values in California Syrah.

Greg Flanagan
Bethel CT —  January 28, 2010 1:37pm ET

When you taste to score (for publication) do you decant all the wines?

When you hit a restaurant, do you decant? (like the saxon)

I know some wines are more in need of decanting......but really, what do you guys do when scoring vs personal drinking....???

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