Today's Sponsor
 California Wine Club
Win an $1,800 Wine Adventure From The California Wine Club! Celebrate the splendor of harvest at Monterey Wine Country's 10th Annual Great Wine Escape Weekend, Nov. 912, 2006.

In This Issue
 The Shadow knows When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. California wine maker Steve Edmunds takes this advice to heart as he turns a difficult batch of 2002 Syrah into a splendid bargain.
 Edmunds St. John 2002 California Syrah "The Shadow" ($11.50) Plums and cherry brandy, smoke and rare beef, a classy California Syrah with an Old World accent. It's a don't-miss buy at this price point.
 California Wine Club Win an $1,800 Wine Adventure From The California Wine Club! Celebrate the splendor of harvest at Monterey Wine Country's 10th Annual Great Wine Escape Weekend, Nov. 912, 2006.
 This week on
An interview with Bonny Doon's wacky Randall Grahm, talking about our six favorite wine producers, and a poll on the best time to enjoy Champagne.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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The Shadow knows

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

This optimistic rule of thumb clearly applies at California's Edmunds St. John winery, where an exceptionally challenging vintage in 2002 produced a batch of Syrah so "difficult" that some wine makers might have thought seriously about opening a faucet and letting it run out onto the street.

It was "the kind of year that makes you feel like you don't know if you're coming or going," says wine maker Steve Edmunds, who owns and operates the Berkeley-based winery with his wife, Cornelia St. John.

"That's how the harvest seemed for us, that year," he wrote in the winery newsletter. "At first it seemed everything would be early. Then again, we had ten days in the middle of the month when nothing ripened. So it was either too hot or too cold. Lots of things cooked on the vine. We had raisins. We had high pHs. We had high alcohols. We had some fruit that never got ripe, because it turned so cool around the beginning of October. We didn't get any Grenache at all."

Until last month, Edmunds St. John had released only two 2002 whites and two reds: A Pinot Grigio and a delicious white blend called "Blonk!," the lovable "Bone-Jolly" Gamay and his under-$20 Rhone-style blend called "Rocks and Gravel."

The winery's sought-after single-vineyard Syrahs, however, which usually command prices in the $30 to $40 range - and deserve it - are AWOL in the 2002 vintage.

Steve explains: " ... almost all the rest of what we made that year, some 30 tons of Syrah, from some of the best, most well-regarded Syrah sites in California, were blended together, and put into a big tank, where they stayed. For a long time. Languishing in the shadows. Syrah from the famed Durell Vineyard. From Bassetti Vineyard. From Parmelee-Hill Vineyard. From Wylie and Fenaughty Vineyards. This blend was like some big, awkward kid that can't quite seem to do anything right, and so you just don't put any pressure on him, you just give him some space, give him plenty of time to just hang out. Check back in with him every now and again, and just let him know he's welcome to stick around until he's ready to do something else."

Four years and a winery move later, the big kid has grown up. Dubbed "The Shadow," shorn of the familiar vineyard names and bottled under an ominous-looking gray label, the quirky 2002 Syrah is going to market, and Edmunds has turned his "lemon" into a bold red wine that, priced to sell at under $12 a bottle, rates as one of my best values of the year so far.

Here's my tasting report. 'nuff said.

The Shadow Edmunds St. John 2002 California Syrah "The Shadow" ($11.50)

This is a clear but very dark garnet color. Plums and a whiff of cherry brandy on the nose, warm spice and earthy nuances that hint at menthol, smoke and rare beef. Flavors are consistent with the nose, warm black fruit and subtle earth, with a shake of fragrant Syrah black pepper. Nicely structured with mouth-watering acidity and subtle tannins, it's a don't-miss buy at this price point. (Sept. 15, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: This robust red wine calls for red meat, and its spicy, layered complexity has what it takes to stand up to bold flavors. My offbeat response: Korean kal bi, thin-sliced beef short ribs marinated and braised in a moderately hot-and-spicy mix of Asian flavors.

VALUE: Simply put, at the winery retail price of $11.50, this is my best wine buy of the year, and I'll be amazed if a stronger value turns up.

WHEN TO DRINK: It's so enjoyable right now that it's hard to keep hands off, but bear in mind that it's a blend of sturdy, balanced Syrahs from vineyards known for producing ageworthy reds. Don't hesitate to cellar it for five years, or ten, if you have the facilities.

The Edmunds St. John Website is attractive, easy to navigate, and it's loaded with information about the wine maker, the winery and its wines:
For Steve Edmunds' detailed discussion of The Shadow and how it came to be, check his Sept. 2, 2006 "Organolepticians No. 72" newsletter,

Distributors in many states of the U.S., Canada, the UK and Japan are listed on the winery Website,

To find other vendors and check prices for Edmunds St. John wines on, see:

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California Wine Club
Win an $1,800 Wine Adventure From The California Wine Club

Celebrate the splendor of harvest at Monterey Wine Country's 10th Annual Great Wine Escape Weekend, Nov. 912, 2006.

The California Wine Club, in conjunction with the Monterey Vintner's Association, is giving away a weekend for two valued at $1,800. Just visit and enter to win.

One lucky winner will receive:

 Three nights at the luxurious Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa
 Opening Gala Reception
 Friday's "Pairing at the Plaza"
 One of over 20 winemaker dinners
 Saturday wine tours with open houses
 Grand Finale at Pebble Beach

This Great Wine Escape Weekend is valued at $1,800. Contest open to U.S. residents over the age of 21. Visit to enter.

For details on this and other Monterey events please visit:

Remember! Save up to 70% during the final days of The California Wine Club's Wine Sale Cornucopia. Visit
to view the full selection of wines on sale, or call 800-777-4443.

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

Dave McIntyre's WineLine: Wine's Bad Boy Grows Up
Serious changes are happening at Bonny Doon Vineyards, where the irrepressible Randall Grahm says he's reinventing himeself yet again. In WineLine No. 57, Dave drops in on Grahm's "nightmare" in his quest to find out what's going to happen to Big House Red.

Hot topics in our WineLovers Discussion Groups
Our WineLovers' Discussion Groups are the best places online to ask wine questions and participate in the civil and intelligent discussion of good things to eat and drink. Our WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG) is the Internet's original wine forum, a non-commercial venue intended for wine-related conversations that range from apprentice-level to wine professionals. Our WineLovers Community on the Netscape/CompuServe service is dedicated to wine education, a friendly place to get quick answers to your questions about wine, beer, spirits and all good things to drink.

Poll: Best time for Champagne
When is the ideal occasion to pop the cork from a festive bottle of bubbly? A wedding, New Year's Eve, some other celebratory event, or any time at all? Please tell us what you think, by voting in our CompuServe Forum poll. It only takes a moment, and you don't even have to join or log in!

Wines you must always have
One of our WineLovers Discussion Group partipants kicked off an interesting discussion by inviting us to post the names of three to six wineries or producers that we always want to keep in stock in our cellars or collections. Some eclectic responses here ... read them and add your own favorites to the list!

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:

 Italian look-alikes (Sept. 15, 2006)

 Fire extinguishers (Sept. 13, 2006)

 Memorable Muscadet (Sept. 11, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Avocado beefburgers (Sept. 14, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:


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Monday, Sept. 18, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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