WTN: 30 Years of Rahsaan

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WTN: 30 Years of Rahsaan

Postby Rahsaan » Mon Oct 23, 2006 12:29 am

The concept for my 30th birthday party was to combine friends, food, wine, and winemaker. So, being in Berkeley it seemed logical to reach out to Steve Edmunds who was happy to join, and with the cozy private room at Bistro Liaison a plan was formed.

To execute the plan Steve Edmunds, Hoke Harden, Larry Stein, Stuart Yaniger, Lou and Betty Lu Kessler, and eight of my Non-Wine Board Friends joined to toast my aging curve and a bunch of ESJ wines.

At Steve’s request Stuart brought a bottle of 2001 Christophe Pichon Condrieu which Lou felt was showing less “oomph” than a few years ago, but having never tasted the wine before I was able to enjoy the delicate lace it wove around my tongue and inside my mouth without such comparisons. This was the first bottle drained, and not just because it was the first one opened!

Now it was time to pick up the pace for the table, and I sent around a few 2005 Edmunds St. John Shell and Bone which worked well as an aperitif, but there was more gravitas to be found in the 2004 Edmunds St. John Roussanne which is tightly coiled at first but has a lovely levity to the firm floral fruit.

Lou jumped countries and grapes by bringing the 2002 Vincent Girardin Puligny-Montrachet Le Cailleret and the 2005 Benito Ferrara Greco di Tufo Vigna Cicogna. I was then told by Hoke that the Greco di Tufo was supposed to be my sort of acid-loving wine, and reminiscent of Chablis. However, this description was not consistent with the broad brown apples I found in my glass, which did not remind me of the crisp silver citrus found in Chablis that I drink. Apparently the atmosphere operates differently in Sonoma.

The Girardin was young and marked by oak, but one of my Non-Wine Board friends was so enamored with it that she took the bottle off the table and attempted to hide it from the rest of us so she could finish the bottle herself. This from a woman who is usually quick to proclaim that she does not like chardonnay. To get a re-evaluation taste I had to drag my long legs all the way across the room and pry it from her hands. But, then we were back on track.

A very fun wine that also may have been one of the more interesting offerings of the evening was the 1992 Edmunds St. John Viognier “Knight’s Valley”, which was still gushing golden juicy succulent fruit and a refreshing finish. Not the complexity of the Pichon, but great fun and if any of you happen to have these bottles lying around, please enjoy!

Now the transition to red.

Several bottles of the 2002 Edmunds St. John California Syrah “The Shadow” get opened and flung around the room. It was my first taste of this wine destined to be the Best Priced Offering of the Year, and within seconds of putting his nose in the glass Hoke had already written a check to Steve for a case. Juicy expressive and oh so syrah.

But there was more, the 2005 Edmunds St. John “Cuvee Café Rouge” was a special bottling done for Café Rouge, syrah and grenache from Eaglepoint, and it was very young and juicy, easy to pour, although I preferred the 2005 Edmunds St. John Syrah “Wylie-Fenaughty” for its pure syrah material and very promising future.

Great pleasure was to be found with the 2001 Edmunds St. John Bassetti Vineyard Syrah that showed quite full, brooding, and serious, with a touch of animal brett, so it was nice, but I’ll be curious to taste this in the future. Showing more of its features at the moment was the 2001 Edmunds St. John Syrah “Wylie-Fenaughty” which started off a bit acidic, filled in with air, and was a lovely pure bite of the syrah you know and love.

The 2001 Edmunds St. John Los Robles Viejos Red Wine was also nice, but at this point I had so many damned glasses and forgot what was what, and then I spied Steve with all sorts of equipment for decanting his magnum of 1990 Edmunds St. John Syrah “Durrell Vineyard” which was a lovely treat, still pumping lots of fruit, but in that gentle resolved and fine way. Lovely lovely lovely. A fine wine.

Guess who opened the archetype wine: 1988 Ogier Cote-Rotie which smells perfect and tastes pretty darn nice as well. I had a bottle about one year ago that seemed so gentle and fragile I wondered how much longer it would last. But this beauty was still going and going and going… Oh the flowers. It aches just to think about it…

Lou then snuck open some 1989 Prunotto Barolo Cannubi to go with his beef, and this was yet another lovely offering to the set of glasses displayed before my eyes. Plenty of fuzzy gristled fruit to roll around your tongue, framed with the acids and the tannins you expect, this obviously has lots more development left, but it was fun this night…

So, after a bunch of blabbering I somehow ended up at home trying to explain something to someone… And I became 30.
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Re: WTN: 30 Years of Rahsaan

Postby Bill Buitenhuys » Mon Oct 23, 2006 8:02 am

What a way to hit 30! It's a shame that more ESJ wines don't make it to MA or NH as they all sound so delicious.
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Re: WTN: 30 Years of Rahsaan

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Oct 23, 2006 8:28 am

Bill Buitenhuys wrote:It's a shame that more ESJ wines don't make it to MA or NH as they all sound so delicious.


Ain't that the truth.
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Re: WTN: 30 Years of Rahsaan

Postby Howie Hart » Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:20 am

Happy 30th Rahsaan! Looks like you did it up right!
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Re: WTN: 30 Years of Rahsaan

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:34 am

Indeed, happy birthday Rahsaan!

Lucky for you that your name is not Logan. :wink:
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Re: WTN: 30 Years of Rahsaan

Postby Clinton Macsherry » Mon Oct 23, 2006 12:51 pm

Belated happy b'day, Rashaan. Quite the celebration!
FEAR THE TURTLE ! ! !
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Re: WTN: 30 Years of Rahsaan

Postby Hoke » Mon Oct 23, 2006 3:28 pm

Apparently the atmosphere operates differently in Sonoma.


Yep. The air is less rarefied up here.

Broad brown apples?? What?

I also told you the Greco was your type of wine because the owner is a maniacally obsessed man determined to make the best single-vineyard Greco he can from the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius. Indigenous variety (or at least as indigenous as it can be considering the Greeks brought it in), single vineyard, limited production, obsessed owner: your kind of wine.

The Condrieu was good, but I've had better---same vintage, at Stuart's house a year or so ago. Maybe the fonduta helped though.

I somehow missed the Shell and Bone. Guess it went the other way around the table and never found its way into my glass. But I sure did get the Roussanne. Lovely, lovely wine. I've found a good Roussanne to be almost always my preference over a good Viognier. Though I must applaud Steve for the remarkably lively Viognier he poured that night. 1992, and still vigorous and kicking. He Who Will Not Be Named (okay, Pointy Parker) may have quipped something once about necrophiliacs and Viognier more than three years old; if he did, it will go down as one of the more asinine things he has said. Mature, yes, but still lush with fruit.

(An aside: one of the more hilarious passages of the evening was when Steve Edmunds and Lou Kessler were arguing over a wine, and quite forcefully too....only to finally discover they were each talking about a different wine--the 1992 Viognier and the 2001 Condrieu.)

The Shadow---I had been hearing about, and reading about, this wine for some time, but this was my first taste. Damn right I want a case of it. Any self-respecting wine weenie---and for sure any Syrah-loving weenie---would have to get some of this stuff. For the price, it is nothing short of amazing.

The chance to taste the 2001 Wylie-Fenaughty side by side with the 2005 W-F was fun and educational. I'm still sitting on the 2000 W-F, mind you. Both vintages were lovely, but significantly different, as they should be. And no matter how good a wine is, it improves when you have known it long enough to develop a relationship with it, to understand the place and the winemaker's style, and be able to fit the different vintages into a tapestry.

In comparison to the Wylie-Fenaughty wines, the Bassetti was downright opulent, almost verging on fat (well, for Steve, anyway). And definitely animale.

The Durrell was magnificent! One more reason to mourn the lost source for Steve to work his magic on. I'm usually too impatient and lacking in impulse control to sit around and wait for the ESJ to mature as they should, so it's nice to get one like this.

The Ogier: you're right. The flowers. I vaguely recall (by then we'd had a lot to drink) telling you about driving through the Rhone and Provence on a sunny day and smelling the fields of lavender and being dazzled by the sights and odors of all the flowers they use for perfume essences. Oh, the violets. But hey, the Ogier is that kind of wine; it makes you do things like that. The wine made me do it.

The Cannubi will live longer than I will. But not if I'm around. I'll have to remember to look particularly Nebbiolo-desolate and pitiful the next time I'm over at Lou's place. Heck, for the Cannubi, I'll even say something complimentary about Napa.

All in all, a good evening, Rahsaan. Enjoyed meeting some of your folks from the other side of your life, too.

Now, I need to borrow Tom Hill's bloody pulpit for a moment:

To quote Arthur Miller, "Attention must be paid." And it must be paid to Steve Edmunds and the wines of Edmunds-St. John.

To put it simply, there's not a better winemaker in California than Steve, and his ESJ wines rank right up there with the finest. For the life of me, I can't understand why his wines aren't acclaimed more than they are, available more than they are, and exalted more than they are. By all rights, I should be bitching and moaning that I can't get on the mailing list for ESJ, or couldn't afford to buy the wines even if I could, because there is such demand for them.

I don't understand it. I know there's a lot of clutter out there, and you often need marketing money to become known, and it's hard to get any attention from a wholesaler, or a restaurateur, or a retailer these days if you're not one of the anointed. But, dammit all, these wines are incredible, and more people should know it. And more people should be drinking them.

Okay, tirade over. For now.
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Re: WTN: 30 Years of Rahsaan

Postby Rahsaan » Mon Oct 23, 2006 5:47 pm

Thanks all..

I also told you the Greco was your type of wine because the owner is a maniacally obsessed man determined to make the best single-vineyard Greco he can from the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius. Indigenous variety (or at least as indigenous as it can be considering the Greeks brought it in), single vineyard, limited production, obsessed owner: your kind of wine.


Mm, yes, I did try it several times in an effort to get a better read, but it just kept screaming Broad Brown Apples. Admittedly it was not the most scientific setting, so, I'll just have to withold Absolute and Final Judgement for now..

And yes, it is truly a freak occurance that there is not more demand for Steve's wines than there is. The issue was recently hashed over and over on the Parker board, so I'm not sure there's anything to add (unless of course people here don't read there), but it probably is a tough niche as the typical consumer looking for typical CA wine will not gravitate towards ESJ, whereas the typical consumer looking for French Rhone wine may never even make it to ESJ.

Who knows..
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Re: WTN: 30 Years of Rahsaan

Postby James Roscoe » Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:03 pm

Life's a bitch and then you die. Fortunately there are great moments like these and great wines. Happy birthday Rashaan. Thanks for the notes. I now know why more EJS wines don't make it east. Lou and Hoke are drinking them all!
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