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Baxter: Doing It Right

Baxter: Doing It Right

It feels like a commonplace story, and yet it isn’t. It’s certainly a story that, at least in part, we’ve told over and over again about California wine producers.

It’s the story of someone who really cares about vineyards. Who does everything to allow the vineyard to express its characters through wine. This requires attentive farming, preferably organic and without irrigation. It requires hands-off wine-making, using traditional techniques that the monks in Burgundy figured out long ago. It works: follow this recipe and you are most likely to achieve the kinds of elegant, balanced and expressive wines that all of us want to be drinking.

And it’s certainly the story of Philip Baxter, who actually went to Burgundy to learn wine-making before starting his now 17-year long career of making wine here in California. Is it commonplace? Well, Baxter certainly isn’t the only Californian with these values and his experience. Though it must be said that the vast majority of Californian wine still is not made in this approach. Not by a long shot.

And Baxter, like any wine-maker with his philosophy, offers something unique: his take on special terroirs. Let’s see what he’s got.

Oppenlander is well off the beaten track, near Comptche in Mendocino County, around 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It’s a cold site and harvests are late. The grapes it produces are naturally tense and structured. The site is mostly planted to Pinot Noir but there is also a small plot of Chardonnay. Baxter uses it to make a positively Chablis-like wine that is definitely worth checking out.

Then check out Baxter’s “Black Label” – really a village-level wine intended to capture the essence of the Anderson Valley. What is that essence? According to this wine, it’s a blend of ripe but high-toned fruit and Asian spices.

Finally, drilling down in the Anderson Valley, we go to the Yorkville Highlands in Weir Vineyards, where we find a rather singular mix of gravel and brittle rocks. When you drink this Pinot you can’t help notice that it is different from all the other ones: it is richly earthy, foresty, different. This is what terroir is all about.

Have fun exploring:

Baxter Mendocino County Chardonnay Oppenlander Vineyard 2020 $40.99

Baxter Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Black Label 2018 $42.99

Baxter Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir Weir Vineyard 2019 $56.99


This story was originally featured in our newsletter, where it was offered at a special subscribers-only discount. Subscribers get special offers, the first look at new discoveries, invites to events, and stories about wines and the artisans that make them.