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Robin Garr

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WTN /WineAdvisor: The Shadow knows (Edmunds St. John 02 The Shadow)

by Robin Garr » Mon Sep 18, 2006 2:21 pm

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.

<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/shad0915.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>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)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> 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 <i>kal bi</i>, thin-sliced beef short ribs marinated and braised in a moderately hot-and-spicy mix of Asian flavors.

<B>VALUE:</B> 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.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> 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.

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
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 newsletter, "Organolepticians No. 72."

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Distributors in many states of the U.S., Canada, the UK and Japan are listed on the winery Website.

Click to find other vendors and check prices for Edmunds St. John wines on Wine-Searcher.com.
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David Nelson

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: The Shadow knows (Edmunds St. John 02 The Shadow)

by David Nelson » Mon Sep 18, 2006 3:41 pm

A well-timed note, Robin, as it comes AFTER I placed my order with Steve. :lol:

Glad to hear you think it tastes as good as I hoped when I ordered, not that I can recall an ESJ wine I didn't like.

Cheers,

Dave
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: The Shadow knows (Edmunds St. John 02 The Shadow)

by Howard » Sat Nov 18, 2006 3:44 am

Couldn't keep my hands off this stuff after it was delivered. Opened only a week after delivery rather than waiting my usual month. It is as you described - complex, I like the cherry brandy descriptor, there's earth and flowers, spice, pepper, and yes, rare beef. Great acidity and soft tannins. At less that 12 bucks per, this is a real steal. Thanks for the heads up, Robin.

By the way - North Berkeley Imports had some Vesselle champagnes featured. I bought a few NV Jean Vesselle Rosé Saignée Brut and a few NV Jean Vesselle Brut "Oeil de Perdrix" based on what I recollect was a strong recommendation by you some time ago.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: The Shadow knows (Edmunds St. John 02 The Shadow)

by Robin Garr » Sat Nov 18, 2006 10:57 am

Howard, I'm glad to hear we've achieved close palate calibration on The Shadow. Isn't it great!?

I was a little less whelmed with a 2002 Rocks & Gravel I picked up the other day, by the way, and I guess it's further evidence that '02 wasn't a great year for Steve (despite his bouncing back in fine form with The Shadow). We found it startlingly thin for an ESJ, and I assume the lack of any Grenache took it so far off its usual flavor profile as to make it idiosyncratic. I need to dig up my notes and post a report, although I've been putting it off because it's so atypical of Steve's work. I guess I ought to, though ... maybe it will be revealed that I just got an off bottle. ;)
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Good lord

by Howard » Sat Dec 09, 2006 4:07 am

Second bottle, second night. It gets better and better. What a great food wine.
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Re: Good lord

by Rahsaan » Sat Dec 09, 2006 4:53 am

Howard wrote:What a great food wine.


And more than that too.

No need to typecast here.
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Re: Good lord

by Bill Buitenhuys » Sat Dec 09, 2006 6:37 pm

I was sure surprised when I got an email from a Boston shop that brought in The Shadow. I don't see many ESJ wines on MA shelves. Lill drove into town and picked up a two arms full today. Can't wait to try it.
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Re: Good lord

by Redwinger » Sat Dec 09, 2006 7:05 pm

Bill,
Glad you were able to score some ESJ locally. The store where I formally schlepped wines is getting their shipment in on Tuesday and I'll be there bright and early to load up. Who says there isn't a Santa Claus?
Bill
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: The Shadow knows (Edmunds St. John 02 The Shadow)

by Bob Henrick » Sat Dec 09, 2006 7:26 pm

Robin, a couple questions. Did you buy this wine locally in Louisville? And if so where at what $$? I am making plans to go to the Party Source in Northern Ky, mainly to pick up some of this, and a few other ESJ Wines. The PS doesn't have it in stock, but Jon Stiles the general manager says he will get me all I want, at or around $14 per.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: The Shadow knows (Edmunds St. John 02 The Shadow)

by David M. Bueker » Sat Dec 09, 2006 7:40 pm

Just piling one here: really fantastic value syrah. I've had one of my three, and I'm sorely tempted to get more, but I am totally out of cellar space. :cry:
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: The Shadow knows (Edmunds St. John 02 The Shadow)

by James Roscoe » Sat Dec 09, 2006 8:20 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Just piling one here: really fantastic value syrah. I've had one of my three, and I'm sorely tempted to get more, but I am totally out of cellar space. :cry:


I'm sure you can find plenty of "volunteers" to store it fore you. Of course you might find some of their more expensive, though less palatable Californian Syrahs have been substituted. Steve has a deft hand with that grape.
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