By Alexa Chipman November 23, 2017
Australian transplant Chris Loxton grew up around vineyards; his family has been growing grapes for generations in South Australia. Initially his career was in Physics, until the siren call of winemaking redirected his focus. The scientific background is evident in his eagerness to try new technologies, such as larger barrels purchased based on tannin impact rather than which forest it is from, and use of screwtop closures. He learns from traditional techniques, but does not blindly accept them, always pushing for a better way. Best of all, their prices are affordable, almost half the cost of equivalent wine in the area.
Rather than going for award-winning wines that have a powerful impact on the senses from the first sip, his table oriented creations are meant to be enjoyed with dinner, while drinking several glasses. About half the annual production is from Loxton’s estate vineyard, which is eco-friendly, preserving the seasonal wetlands that run through the property, encouraging birds to make their home in provided boxes, and studying naturally occurring plants to determine what is best for the soil and vines.
On weekend mornings during the Summer, reserve ahead for an in depth tour with Chris Loxton, which is like a condensed winemaking class. He explains how grapes are looked after throughout the year, when to harvest, and the different techniques that his neighbors use to show how varied opinions are about the growing season. I highly recommend going on the tour for his perspective, and to learn about AVAs in the area. It is a great way to start the weekend, and will give a background on the wineries you visit later. Start with Loxton’s winery tour when planning a visit to Sonoma County; you will not be disappointed.
During the recent fire, Chris Loxton valiantly stayed at the winery with a few others to join with first responders in protecting Loxton. The fires were raging in the hills around them, sweeping through on multiple sides to threaten the winery. Across the street, the creek and some fields were scorched, and behind the property it burned up to the edges of vines. Due to rainfall in the last few weeks, the blackened earth is covered in a thin fuzz of vivid green grass, transforming the landscape into one of hope and renewal.
Loxton is careful to make sure it is not too sweet, so the result is a refreshing combination of dewy nectarines, ripe raspberries and traditional strawberry.
2013 Zinfandel (Rossi Ranch, Sonoma Valley)
Crafted in classic open top fermenters, it balances an earthy, mushroom flavor with lighter notes of fresh red cherries and a structure of tannins that will hold up to fattier foods, like grilled ribs.
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (McGraw Vineyard, Sonoma Valley)
Due to the drought causing smaller grapes, the wine is intense with a softer finish than usual. Only 191 cases were produced, and it has a lovely blackberry aroma with touches of burnt toast—the flavor of a good cabernet without the massive tannic kick found in Napa Valley.
2013 Syrah (Sonoma Hillside Vineyards)
Using grapes from hillside vineyards, mostly from Kick Ranch in Santa Rosa and completed with harvested fruit from Rossi Ranch, it is a smooth experience of red berries with unique rosemary and thyme mixed in without being overpoweringly herbal. It would go beautifully with dinner!
2013 Port (Sonoma Valley)
Using Syrah grown in dry soil on the estate, Chris Loxton arrests the fermentation with grape alcohol, to maintain low sugar, making it an ideal pairing with chocolate desserts. It is delicate, like dripping soft peaches, lingering into an exaggerated finish.
Décarda Tawny Port (Sonoma Valley)
Aged for ten years into a supple golden color, its butterscotch and caramel melts in your mouth. Using Syrah grapes, they are placed in an old French oak barrel to age, occasionally topped off, there are very few cases produced. This is my favorite wine from Loxton Cellars, and it makes a great gift for people who love port.