Edmunds St. John
From time to time - indeed, just about every time I taste one of its wines - I proclaim Edmunds St. John the California producer whose wines I consistently like best.
Edmunds St. John - named after the winery's owner-wine maker Steve Edmunds and his wife Cornelia St. John - is not located in traditional wine country but in an industrial building in Berkeley.
But it's not the winery building but the grapes that count; and there Edmunds shows his artistry, sourcing fruit from selected California vineyards with a keen eye to selecting grapes and pursuing vinification methods that emphasize terroir, as the French call the "taste of the earth" that reflects not just fruit but the soil, climate and environment where the grapes grew.
Edmunds expresses this concept beautifully on the winery's Website, where he writes, "In 1987 a wine grower from a venerable domaine in Southern France visited our cellar, and tasted a number of wines from the harvest just past. When he came to the one from my favorite vineyard his response was dramatic: he raised his nose from the glass, slowly rolling his eyes upward in reverie, he sighed, and whispered, 'la terre parle' (the earth speaks). If I have done my job well, when you taste this wine you may be similarly affected; this is a voice one longs to hear. As a winemaker, for me there is no other voice."
Edmunds came to this part of the country for a visit last week, dropping in on wine shops and hosting dinners in restaurants around Cincinnati, Lexington, Ky., and here in Louisville, where I caught up with him at one of my favorite wine stores, The Wine Market.
Here's a quick tasting report on all the wines he was pouring there. I also took home a favorite for closer analysis, which is reported in more detail as today's tasting report (below).
Edmunds St. John 2000 Paso Robles "Los Robles Viejos" White Wine ($18)
Edmunds St. John "Bone Jolly" 2002 El Dorado County Gamay Noir au Jus Blanc ($15)
Edmunds St. John 2001 "Rocks & Gravel" California Red Wine ($18)
Edmunds St. John 2001 California Syrah ($18)
Edmunds St. John 2000 Paso Robles Rozet Vineyard "Los Robles Viejos" ($22)
The following higher-end bottlings are more pricey and produced in tiny quantities. They will be hard to find, but worth the quest.
Edmunds St. John 2000 Wylie-Fenaughty Vineyard El Dorado Syrah ($30)
Edmunds St. John 1999 Matagrano Vineyard El Dorado Sangiovese ($18)
Edmunds St. John 2001 Peay Vineyard Sonoma Coast Syrah ($25)
Edmunds St. John 2001 Bassetti Vineyard San Luis Obispo Syrah ($40)
HAVE YOU TASTED THESE WINES?
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Edmunds St. John 2000 Paso Robles Rozet Vineyard "Los Robles Viejos" ($22)
Making stylish use of four of the primary grape varieties from the 13 permitted in Chateaneuf-du-Pape (45% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 21% Grenache and 4% Counoise), Steve Edmunds has created a pretty, ageworthy wine that pays homage to its Southern Rhone inspiration without slavishly mirroring it. Dark reddish-purple in color with bright violet glints against the light, it breathes lovely, complex aromas, black plums with subtle accents of grilled meat, fennel, oregano and a distinct "tree-bark" and "forest floor" earthiness that's surely traceable to the Mourvedre. Full and ripe on the palate, tart cherry-berry and subtle earthy flavors follow the nose. There's plenty of fresh-fruit acidity, and smooth tannins to suggest good aging potential. French-style earth and California-style fruit come together to make a "Mid-Atlantic" wine in the best sense. (Feb. 15, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Like its Southern Rhone inspiration, this robust, complex red blend is made to go with rare beef. It went just as well with a beef alternative, still-pink slices of Muscovy duck breast (served over Gruyere-and-onion grits cakes).
VALUE: Although this fine wine come in a bit above "everyday" price status, its retail price in the low $20s beats up on the competition in this niche.
WHEN TO DRINK: Drinking very nicely now. It's hard to predict an aging profile for a new wine, but its Rhone-like character and tannins suggest that it will cellar well for up to a decade, and also raises some concern that it might pass through a "shy" period for a couple of years before bottle age starts to show.
WEB LINK: here's a link to the winery Website:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Check the winery Website under "Where to Buy" or look for Edmunds St. John wines on Wine-Searcher.com:
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An unforgettable Burgundy experience
Excitement is building around our place as springtime nears, and with it departure time for my third annual group tour in association with French Wine Explorers. You've seen me talking about this wine adventure - and encouraging you to consider joining me - for some months. We still have a few open seats in the tour as the final registration deadline approaches, so if you've been thinking about joining us but haven't quite made up your mind, I'd like to encourage you to give it a close look.
The combination of luxury accommodations, VIP-style visits to some of the region's most interesting producers and unforgettable gastronomic meals at Burgundy's world-class restaurants make the trip a real value on the basis of dollars alone. And based on my experiences working with French Wine Explorers on our previous trips to Bordeaux and the Rhone and Provence, there's more: These tours are never the stereotypical cold, formal guided groups of strangers piling on and off buses. French Wine Explorer tours invariably turn into memorable occasions in which participants quickly become an intimate group of wine-loving friends enjoying a truly unforgettable experience.
Burgundy is one of the most intriguing wine and gastronomic regions in the world, but with its rich and complex history and heritage, it may also be one of the most complicated. It is difficult to learn this great region and its wines without experienced guides and a thoughtful itinerary. Jean-Pierre and Lauriann have created a tour that will leave you with a level of understanding and expertise that you might not have thought possible ... and memories of times spent with good new wine friends to make it even better.
I do hope you'll join us, and I look forward to meeting you and getting to know you in May on the Cote d'Or and in Champagne. The six-day tour of Burgundy and Champagne runs from May 24-30. Feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions; or get more information, and register, at French Wine Explorers,
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This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles and features that I hope you'll enjoy:
Schaefer on Wine: TAZ - Devil in the Details
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Poll - Most interesting wine of the week?
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Introducing Burgundy: Chambolle-Musigny (Feb. 13, 2004)
La Sauvageonne is back (Feb. 11, 2004)
CAN you imagine this? (Feb. 9, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Simple soup (Feb. 12, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Feb. 16, 2004