An homage to Steve Edmunds - Library wines from a California legend! -- Happy retirement, Steve! -- 

Share

We have been big fans of Steve Edmunds, one of the original "Rhone Rangers" of California, since we opened Chambers Street Wines (and before that too). This year we were informed that Steve would be retiring at the ripe age of [none of ya business!]. We're happy for him, as we know the work can get grueling when you are as dedicated to making terroir-expressive wines as he has been throughout his life. In homage to this legendary winemaker, we asked two of his biggest fans, Sam Erhlich and John McIlwain (both Chambers Street Wines alumns) to write a love-letter to the Edmunds St. John wines, to pair with a small offering of library wines that Steve has sent to the New York market. These are the only bottles we will receive, but there will be a dinner later this year at our sister-restaurant, Chambers NYC. Feel free to email us here if you would like to receive an update about the dinner, which currently does not have a set date. 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Steve Edmunds

I have always been very honest about my inability to remain impartial about certain growers and winemakers. The best thing about this business has been the time spent with people willing to share their knowledge and their wines. Some of them I am lucky enough to count among my friends and Steve Edmunds may be the very first.

We first met at a trade tasting in 2008 at TriBeCa Grill hosted by David Bowler, his distributor of twenty years. Before launching his own company, David had been a sales representative for Michael Skurnik and had sold the wines there. I spoke with David recently about what first drew him to Edmunds St. John. 

“I had recently drunk a bottle of ‘Heart of Gold,’ and it blew me away, enough that I emailed him to tell him how much I loved it. Shortly afterward, Steve contacted me and told me he would be interested in making a change to work together. What I have always admired about him is that he never gave into fashion. He has been resolute about making wines he likes and all these years later, you can see his influence all over the American wine landscape.’ 

There may be little left to say after that, so I will simply add that Steve is one of a kind. He did not come to winemaking in anything resembling a direct path. Between 1972 and 1985, he sold home brewing equipment; worked as a tree surgeon; spent a stint in wine retail and for good measure did a couple of years as a mailman. He produced his first wine, a cuvee he called ‘La Cote Sauvage,’ from Syrah and Mourvèdre from the legendary Brandlin Ranch. Though I’ve never tasted those first few vintages, they are the stuff of legend. After all, they were good enough to impress Francois Peyraud of the inimitable Domaine Tempier.

Of course those Brandlin vines are gone now, pulled up perhaps a decade later. But the litany of great wines that have come out of the ESJ cellar since… we could write a book. Rocks and Gravel, Durell Vineyard, Wylie-Fenaughty, Barsotti Ranch. What unites them all Steve’s respect for the farmers and their work and a love of freshness. After all, the wine he loves perhaps most in the world is great Beaujolais and his own ‘Bone-Jolly’ Gamay may be single-handedly responsible for the variety’s renaissance in California. I treasure these wines. 

But even more, I treasure the time that I’ve been lucky enough to spend with the man, whether it was post-tasting beers at Walker’s on Hudson Street or eating whole suckling pig at Ralf Kuettel’s beloved Trestle on Tenth (RIP). We once even sang a duet of a Merle Haggard song together at the annual David Bowler company barbecue - he is a lifelong musician who has been known to sell library wine to fund recording sessions. 

I am far from the only person who feels this way. My former colleague and brother in gluttony John McIlwain and I reminisced over dinner recently about our favorite ESJ wines and he told me the following story:

One of the annual highlights during my tenure at Chambers Street Wines was the visit from Steve Edmunds to pour his wines. Steve was always equally magnanimous, humble, informative, and entertaining (sensational dry humor). And as much fun as the tastings were, even more so were the post-prandial dinners. For not only is he a gifted winemaker and taster—he is both and then some—but he is also a fabulously generous conversationalist. This reminds me of the last time I saw Uncle Steve (pre-pandemic); at dinner we shared some lovely old Rhône wines, some aged Rhône Ranger bottles, and a magnificent exchange about Moby Dick. Steve observed at my age—no spring chicken—I should revisit the novel. Not for the plot, maybe not even for the symbolism, but for the lapidary, perfectly-honed language. And you know nearly five years later, he was right. As right as all his seemingly timeless but satisfying bottles of Edmunds St John. Wines that never lose the plot because they are absolutely of themselves and so unapologetically Edmunds St. John. And sentimentally, I’m so thankful for Steve and Cornelia for making wines this individual and delicious. And remember, your white whale can be trying to make it through a book about a white whale. Cheers, Uncle Steve! You were right about the craft of the language and even more right sticking to your convictions and making the wines you want to drink. La Terre parle, indeed!

Today, the Sierra Foothills are recognized as one of this country’s great wine regions and Steve is as responsible as anyone for revealing its greatness. Our friend and longtime David Bowler rep Alex Miranda once referred to him as the Noel Verset of California. While Steve might blush at the comparison, it is apt. He has made his wines for nearly 40 years without regard for the opinions of critics or tastemakers, but that ultimately influenced a generation of growers and won the respect of people who simply love wine. And like Verset, he is stepping off the stage on his terms. Let’s raise a glass to him!

Sam Ehrlich & John McIlwain

--------------------------------------------------------------------

WINES ARE PRE-ARRIVAL AND WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR DELIVERY/PICK UP IN EARLY APRIL

  • red
  • 2 in stock
  • $469.99

Edmunds St. John 2020 Shake Ridge Ranch El Jaleo (Mourvedre/Grenache)

Mostly Grenache and Mourvedre, typically with a little Tempranillo and Graciano added in, this is a pretty ruby-red color, with elegant aromas of bright cherry and earth. The Shake Ridge Ranch vineyard in Amador County is, in the words of Steve, "one of the most magnificent vineyards I've ever seen, anywhere." The wine is medium bodied on the palate, with gently grippy tannins, and a high-toned array of flavors balancing fruity and savory, that linger impressively on the long finish. -AF

  • red
  • 6 in stock
  • $34.99

Sorry, the Following have Already Sold
  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $154.99

Edmunds St. John 2005 Dry Creek Valley Rocks and Gravel

How are we going to support the economy you say? Let us keep it all in-house and buy domestic wine! Well, maybe just for a dinner at least. First of all, this Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre from Edmunds St. John, is delicious. A bit on the wild side for a California wine (some might call it a Maverick,) it’s balanced with ripe fruit, orange zest and a hint of spice. Perfect for pork and fixins. RB

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $116.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $116.99

Edmunds St. John 2015 Dry Creek Valley 'Rocks and Gravel' Unti Vineyard 1.5 L

I cannot think of a California winemaker working today whom we admire and celebrate as enthusiastically as Steve Edmunds of Edmunds St. John. What greater pleasure can there be, then, to open this great big bottle of Rocks and Gravel from a great American winemaker? Displaying a greater resemblance to L'Anglore Tavel than to the typical California GSM blend, 2015 Rocks and Gravel is juicy and generous with invigorating acidity and lots of life ahead. Perfumed and mouth-watering aromas of wild rose, black currant, tea leaves, and wild cherry with a terrifically spicy, bright and balanced palate of black raspberry, cherries and cherry skins, sweet tobacco, juicy young tannins and vibrant acidity. Medium bodied and crystal clear at 13.2% alcohol, this wine opens up beautifully and will reward cellaring. Ariana Rolich

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $234.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur