It’s been 8 months since the last Organolepticians installment (I Got Those Fisherman’s Blues!, March 26, 2020), which coincided with the beginning of Shelter-In-Place at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it seems, now, more like a couple of years.
The narrative of a life, generated, and refined, over more than 72 years, that had framed my experience into at least a semi-cohesive whole, has been blown to smithereens as the months of this new world order have unfolded, calling into question most of the assumptions about what life has to teach us while we’re here, that I thought I knew to be reliable.
Yet there are moments! 2020 is my 49th year in the wine business, an epoch that began with the revelation-in-a-glass that lit up my nervous system in the Summer of 1972, and that has since propelled me into the story that has become mine. (see Organolepticians #30)
A few days ago, after noticing a comment from someone whose wine recommendations I’d always found reliable, I opened a bottle of 2018 Fleurie “Les Moriers,” from Cedric Chignard, whose wines I’ve always enjoyed in past vintages, and upon my first sniff of the wine, in my glass, I found myself utterly swept away, thoroughly disarmed and enraptured by its irresistible loveliness! Perhaps there’s still some order in the Universe after all!
The pandemic has had an impact on sales of Edmunds St John wines; we’re down, at the end of November, by about 17% from the previous 12 month period. It could certainly be worse, and I’ve been encouraged that we’ve sold wines remarkably steadily. No doubt it helps that we’ve been in business now for 36 years, and that we work with some very solid wholesalers who’ve done a very good job with our wines for quite a number of years.
It’s also been essential to our success that we’ve never lost our focus, that winemaking is as much a practice to me as it is an enterprise; the more one practices, the better the results. We’re making wines that are as good as any we’ve ever made! Which brings me to a couple of wines we are currently releasing!
2019 BONE-JOLLY GAMAY NOIR
The 18th year of Gamay for ESJ! The growing season was on the warm side, though without notable heat spikes, and no prolonged periods of hot weather.
The crop was a substantial one, and ripening began at the very end of August. The Gamay for red wine at Barsotti Ranch was picked beginning on the 7th of September, and completed on the 9th, at a point when a dramatic cool-down had begun, that saw daytime highs drop from the mid-90’s down to the low-mid-80s, perfect ripening temps. that favor retention of acidity, and slow the rapid dehydration and the accumulation of sugar, keeping alcohol levels in check.
Winemaker’s tasting notes: The 2019 Gamay shows a brilliant ruby color. On the nose the wine is exceptionally nervy, and focussed, smelling of fresh raspberry, cranberry, and savory spice, in the mouth, it’s long and lean, there’s a very subtle high note of menthol over a cool entry, energetic flavors including the aforementioned berries, a lovely palate-coating texture of supple tannins. The finish is lengthy, pleasing and engaging, and quite suave.
545 cases produced $23.00 per bottle
2018 El Jaléo, Shake Ridge Ranch
In only a few short years El Jaléo has become an exploration that I hold dear. As with so many of the wines produced over the years by Edmunds St John, it has become not so much a final product originating in a process, but rather a process, (or perhaps the process) that teaches me, again and again, how things come alive, and how that shapes how we are, and how we can be in this world. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, here.
The 2018 El Jaléo strikes me as a wine that has learned how to dance; it’s up on its toes! It’s clicking its heels! It’s 31% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 26% Graciano and 14% Tempranillo, and it’s not fooling around!
The ’18 growing season at Shake Ridge was, as is typical, a warm one, though without prolonged periods of extreme heat. Toward the latter part of the ripening period there was relatively mild weather, and the grapes finished up in pretty calm and comfortable fashion. Tempranillo was picked on the 7th of September, Grenache on the 18th. A small amount of Mourvedre from the upper portion of a steep block also came in on the 18th, the rest on the 21st, and Graciano was picked on the 24th. In my 3rd year of working with these wonderfully farmed grapes, I believe I’d begun to feel like we were working together! The grapes were happy about it, and so was I!
Winemaking, once the grapes were picked, consisted of de-stemming the fruit, fermenting in half-ton bins (without inoculation), pressing at dryness, and barreling, in 17 years-used French oak barrels, racking to blend the different components, in December, adding roughly 20ppm SO2, after malo finished up. Then: back to barrel until March. In March the wine was transferred to stainless. It was subsequently racked again, before bottling in early Summer.
Winemaker’s tasting notes: Color is a deep crimson-red. Thrilling, peppery high-toned aromas: fresh, gorgeous red and blue fruit, and spice, very mild back note of menthol, intriguing depth. On the palate, there are, on entry, simultaneous impressions of both tenderness and firm structure, a kind of subtle, riveting pas de deux. Great tension and focus in flavor and texture: voluptuous tannins, very good length. Seems likely to develop beautifully for many years.
245 cases produced $29.00 per bottle
And these wines are still in good supply:
2019 Heart Of Gold (55% Vermentino, 45% Grenache Blanc, grown at Fenaughty Ranch, in the Apple Hill district above Placerville) $23.00/bottle
2019 Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir Rosé (also from Apple Hill at Barsotti and Witters vineyards) $23.00/bottle
2015 North Canyon Road Syrah (65% Fenaughty, 35% Barsotti) $35.00/bottle
And: 1.5L 2017 El Jaléo (magnums!) $55.00/ bottle
Our current, collective predicament seems to demand of us that, for our safety and well-being, we pay close attention at every moment to everything that the world presents to us, and that when we’re feeling safe, we check again, just to be sure. Keeping that in mind, we wish you all a safe, and very conscious season, as we bid fare-thee-well to this strange and difficult year, holding in our hearts the hope that 2021 will be a step in the right direction.
In the meantime: If you find something in these pages you’d like to have with dinner, or to provide for the folks on your holiday gift lists, or to re-stock your cellar, please drop us a line at email@example.com We’ll be glad to assist!
Warmest wishes, and peace, in this dark season, turning
Steve and Cornelia