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


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 2019 James Berry Vineyard, Paso Robles
    The Wine Spectator
    Rating: 98 (2/2/2022)

    A powerhouse wine, deeply structured and a bit decadent, but not weighty. Plump with personality, this reveals bold blackberry, garrigue, dusky spices and smoked pepper tones, building richness on the long, polished finish. Grenache, Mataro, Graciano, Syrah and Counoise. Drink now through 2033.
  • Saxum 2019 G2 Vineyard, Paso Robles
    The Wine Spectator
    Rating: 95 (2/2/2022)

    A dynamic red that's rich, deeply structured and plump with personality, offering accents of blackberry, licorice, rose petal and herbes de Provence that finish with plush tannins. Grenache, Mataro, Graciano and Carignan. Drink now through 2031.
  • Saxum 2019 G2 Vineyard, Paso Robles
    The Wine Advocate
    Rating: 94+ (3/15/2022)

    A blend of 53% Grenache, 21% Mataro, 19% Graciano, 4% Carignan and 3% Syrah, the 2019 G2 Vineyard has a medium ruby-purple color and scents of cherries and blueberries with touches of garrigue and mint chocolate. Although it's a touch aromatically shy, the medium-bodied palate's generous fruits are on full display, supported by fresh acidity and silty tannins, and its boldly flavored finish suggests it will offer more nuance after a few years' maturation in bottle.
  • Saxum 2019 James Berry Vineyard, Paso Robles
    The Wine Advocate
    Rating: 96 (3/15/2022)

    Medium ruby-purple, the 2019 James Berry Vineyard is an alluring blend of 58% Grenache, 27% Mataro, 6% Syrah, 6% Graciano and 3% Counoise. It has aromas of rhubarb, citrus peel, earth, bitters and tea leaves with a flourish of spicy accents. Medium-bodied, the palate is silky and fragrant with bursts of refreshing acidity calling you back on the long, spicy finish.