Friday, February 22, 2008

Edmunds St. John Rocks and Gravel, 2001

On the label of this 2001 Rocks and Gravel, Steve Edmunds writes: "Our blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah has always been inspired by the lovely, sunny red wines of the South of France, and these days it may be hard to distinguish from the real thing." I agree. This lovely wine is very much like a Southern Rhone, and not just a Cotes du Rhone but a Gigondas or Chateauneuf du Pape.

This wine clearly has a good bit of Mourvedre in the blend. It's a deep, dense dark ruby color and has spicy Mourvedre-inspired nose and flavors--raspberries, violets, deep earthy tones. It has complete ripeness with an ample body and structure and carries 14.4 percent alcohol nicely. As in a Domaine du Cayron Gigondas, it's simply a part of the beautiful, powerful earthiness. The flavors are deep, serious and concentrated with firm tannins and a ripe, spicy finish.

Go to the Edmunds St. John web site, and you will find a definition of artisan wine that echoes my own. In Edmunds' words: "It is our goal to produce wines of the highest level of quality, integrity, and authenticity, the hallmarks of which are balance, nuance, and elegance, wines that express their origins in place and time, wines through which 'the earth speaks' in a clear and strong voice. " For this vintage of Rocks and Gravel, Edmunds mentions the important contribution of grapes from the Rozet Vineyard in Paso Robles. The grapes are hand picked, destemmed and fermented in open top fermenters with native yeasts. Like many traditional Southern Rhone wines, it is matured in old French puncheons with an average age of 18-22 years.

For $18 to $20 a bottle, it is a wine worth a special search. 2005 is the current vintage.


  1. Special search indeed - I've been keeping my eyes open for Edmunds St. John wines of any kind ever since I got my hands on several bottles of his 2001 Los Robles Viejos red wine and some Wylie - Fenaughty Syrah (I think also 2001).
    It was pretty close to wine Epiphany - the sort of a merging of Old World sensibility and sense of place with New World fruit.

    The trouble is, I can't find his wines. I called the importer in Illinois (Maverick?)- they said try Wine Discount Center on Elston (in Chicago and the main Sam's. No dice in either location. I know that you sometimes shop the Chicago market - have you seen it anywhere recently?

    Drinking a glass of 2004 Dom. de l'Espigouette CdR right now - never had this producer before - delicious! Pretty light bodied, with great tangy red fruit and spicy/medicinal nose. It seems very evolved for a 2004, tho, both in flavors and in color. All in all, just what I like in a CdR.

  2. I got my Rocks and Gravel on closeout from a D&W FreshMarket store in Grand Rapids last year. The good news is that I got the wine at a good price; the bad news is that it didn't sell at D&W so they aren't carrying it now.

    A few years ago, I bought some Edmunds St. John Syrah from a Gold Standard wine store on Rush Street. That store, I believe, is no longer in existence. So I'm afraid I can't help you.

    The 2004 L'Espigouette I have is the new Plan de Dieu appellation bottling. I haven't tried one recently. About two years ago, I finished off a case of the 1998L'Espigouette Cotes du Rhone Villages, which was very good. It is probably my favorite L'Espigouette.

    Recently, I've been leaning toward the Vieux Chene CDRs, which are sold at a good price ($10.99) at Sam's, Whole Foods and Binney's on Grand Avenue. I prefer the Haix aux Grives, but the 2005 Cappucines is excellent. The Cuvee Friande, an even less expensive bottling ($7 to $8), is also very good. All of these sell for quite a bit more in Michigan.

  3. My L'Espigouette is listed as Vieilles Vignes, no location. It was $10 at a local Janesville, Wi. shop.

    I've had and enjoyed both the Vieux Chene Cappucines and Haix aux Grives - I can't remember seeing the cheaper the bottling. I think I liked the Cappucines better - the one that seemed to be more Grenache dominated.

    Dave Wanninger

  4. The Vieilles Vignes is actually the basic Cotes du Rhone of L'Espigouette. I haven't had this wine in a few years, but I would not expect the 2004 to be so evolved unless it has been exposed to too much heat during storage or transport. Bernard Latour, the winemaker, says it is at its best from three to five years but should last a decade in most years.

    As for the Edmunds St. John wines, I'll keep my out for a source. There's a catch-22: in areas where consumers know and understand the wines, they sell out quickly; in areas where they are not as well known, they sit on the shelves and are eventually closed out.

  5. I don't think the l'Espigouette was cooked - it was still very tasty stuff. I have experienced this kind of "early ageing" on wines that may have sat on the shelf for (i'm guessing here) 2years in a small liquor store kind of shop. Not exactly mistreated, just not wine cellar conditions.

    Closer to where you live, I've seen some wines from the Village Corner in Ann Arbor (a few Pierre-Bise whites, some Dom. St. Anne, etc.) taste a little older than I thought they should - I think because they've been sitting on the shelves for a while. No slam on Village Corner, tho - even if I think they might have been on the shelves for a few years, the wines 1) were still in decent shape and 2) had their original price tags and tended to be a few bucks less the the newer vintages.

    I hear you on the catch 22 thing. Isn't it great, though, when you see one of those killer deals in some out of the way place? One of my favorite parts of wine hunting.

    Dave W

  6. I really don't know how the shelved wines are handled at Village Corner, but the case lots at least the bulk of them) are stored at a temperature controlled warehouse. Apparently, that goes for older vintages as well. End of bin specials though are usually a few bottles only so they would probably come directly from the shelves.

    As for the Catch-22 phenomenon, I remember about 10 years ago when Ridge Geyserville was selling for about $15 a bottle and was in high demand, so many stores imposed limits--two bottles per customer. The wine simply was not available anywhere I could find. Then I wandered into a supermarket in Battle Creek that not only had the wine but couldn't sell it and had lowered the price to $12 a bottle.

  7. Wait? Maverick refered you to Sam's and WDC for Chicago? That actually makes me glad Maverick and Steve have parted ways at the start of '09. I know for a fact that I sold more ESJ than anyone else in Chicago.

    If you want ESJ, come to DiCarlo's Armanetti at Grand & Western where I'm the wine manager. I love Steve's wines and bought up everything Maverick had left.

    I've put Steve in touch with one of my favorite distributors, and I hope there will be fresh supplies of his wine soon.