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Other Wines We Love: Edmunds St. John 1993 Durell Vineyard Syrah

The next in an occasional series of our non-Tablas Creek wine discoveries.

We are fortunate that so many of the founding fathers of the American Rhone movement are still not just active but making some of their best-ever wines. I've written about how much I admire what Bob Lindquist is doing now. Randall Grahm may have sold his interest in Bonny Doon, but he's still involved there and also developing one of the most ambitious and fascinating vineyards in California at his Popelouchum estate. Bill Easton is making dynamite Syrahs and Rhone blends at his Domaine de la Terre Rouge that demonstrate the potential for Rhones in the Sierra Foothills. Same with Adam Tolmach at The Ojai Vineyard in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Gary Eberle won the Wine Enthusiast "American Legend" Wine Star Award in 2020 and can still be found (or could, pre-Covid) dishing out barbecue to guests at his tasting room on weekends.

And from his unlikely urban location in Berkeley, Steve Edmunds just keeps doing his thing at Edmunds St. John. Since 1986 he's made wines, mostly Rhones, from vineyards located from Sonoma to Paso Robles and all over the Sierra Foothills. His wines are a little like the man behind them: understated and thoughtful, reserved but expressive. His wines are lovely young, with freshness and balance. But give them some years and they become something even more profound. Steve's motto is "la terre parle" (the earth speaks) and it's rare in California to find the earth speaking as clearly as it does in an older Edmunds St. John wine.

On Friday, we opened a bottle of Edmunds St. John 1993 Durell Vineyard Syrah. I don't actually know how I came into possession of this wine, although I'm guessing it might have been from Steve himself when he came to visit for our 30th Anniversary party back in 2019. It was one of three older bottles, all from the early 1990's, that were sitting in my wine fridge inviting me to dive in.

We paired the wine with some delicious steaks that we served with a homemade Provencal herb butter from an Ina Garten recipe, the year's first asparagus, and one of our favorite potato recipes, a simple but delicious Barbara Kafka preparation of them roasted with garlic and rosemary. The meal was one of the best we've cooked this year. The steaks were juicy and flavorful, enhanced by the umami flavors of the anchovies, capers, and lemon zest in the butter. The asparagus was tender and sweet. The potatoes were crunchy and gently piney, the garlic sweet and aromatic squeezed onto good local bread. A snapshot I got at the meal's outset:

Edmunds St John bottle

And the wine? It was amazing. Mature but still very much alive as it approaches three decades old. My quick notes were "a nose of iodine, soy marinade, flinty mineral, and meat drippings, still well-delineated and fresh. The mouth shows black licorice and Worcestershire sauce, black plum and dark chocolate-covered cherries. Most of the tannins have resolved, but the wine is still fresh. Long and expressive on the mocha and black cherry finish.

Syrah can be a challenge young, often so tannic and muscle-bound that it impresses rather than charms. But a great Syrah turns that muscle into an attribute, allowing the grape's signature black fruit to unwind slowly, all underpinned by a mineral note that depending on the soils can be chalky or flinty or saline. Through this wine, and these decades, it really did happen. The earth spoke.

Beautifully done, Steve.