September 20, 2006

The Shadow knows

The latest syrah from Edmunds St. John is out, and besides being a screaming deal there is a story.

Edmunds St. John is one of the best producers of California syrah out there. I’d call them the best, but I don’t try enough others to really know. California syrah usually isn’t my thing. So rich, so ripe, so purple, so intense! Often too intense, even the better ones.

But Edmunds St. John wines are different, and to my taste better. They’re aromatically complex without oakiness, and they taste long and subtle on the palate like a French wine despite their California ripeness. Rarely are the wines heavy, though sometimes they can be a bit lean. But always they are authentic and unique, the kind of wines that slake your thirst but keep you coming back for more.

Alas, this is not what the market wants. Winemaker Steve Edmunds writes a terrific newsletter, and recently he’s opened up about the struggles a wine producer can face when critical attention turning elsewhere coincides with plans for growth.

Of course, the wines are as good as ever, perhaps better. And the prices, while not as low as they used to be (whose are?), are more than reasonable. This is handmade wine.

And now we have The Shadow, 2002 California Syrah that Steve held in tank for a variety of reasons until this year. Normally he would release single vineyard Syrah from many of these vineyards – Bassetti, Wylie, Fenaughty, Durell, and Parmelee-Hill – as well as a California bottling from the leftovers. In 2002, it’s all in The Shadow and priced to move at $11.50 full retail.

How does it taste? Like it costs twice that, if not more. Steve’s right, it’s not unlike a good Crozes-Hermitage, a really good one in fact. Lots of floral and blackberry aromas with the clear scent of espresso, from the grapes rather than any new wood aging. In the mouth, the wine is ripe and fleshy with resolved tannin but brisk acid that I think will perserve this wine for some years. There’s terrific length and the wine is delicious with pretty much anything roasted. At this price, it’s worth buying at least six. Deals like this don’t come along that often.


g58 said...


Great profile. I hope I can come across some soon though wonder whether it's available outside the U.S.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

I honestly don't know, but I expect there isn't export distribution of this wine. Go to the producer's website and ask them yourself. You never know.

g58 said...