TN: WoodShed Rhones...(long/boring)

Woodshed Rhones Dinner (6/9)

A Brief History of Woodshed Rhones

This is a celebration of the wines of Qupe and Edmunds St John. Some years ago, Steve Edmunds was badly savaged by Parker in the Wine Advocate for the decline in quality of his Rhone style wines. Not long after that, Bob Lindquist was also taken to task by Parker for not making his Rhone wines in a style that appealed to a Monktown palate. I chided both Bob & Steve for being sent to the Monktown Woodshed and admonished them to change their style of winemaking for a greater appeal in Monktown. Which they have not (yet) done, alas.
Both Bob & Steve make wines that show a high degree of elegance and balance…wines that I have followed from the very start. They are not low-acid/high-alcohol/loads of new French oak/highly-extracted wines that appeal to that certain kind of palate. They are not show-boaty/flashy kind of Rhones and are often rather underwhelming upon release. The really need some age to show their pedigree. Unless you’ve followed these wines closely and understand that, you are unlikely to “get” how really good these wines can be. I think Parker and Dunuck just don’t understand these wines because of that. Amateurs trying to do a pro’s job.
Last year, afore Rhone Rangers 2015, Bob & Steve agreed to provide some of their Rhones from their respective libraries to illustrate how well they do with age. A group of irreverent wine geeks convened at the Baywolf Restaurant in Oakland to taste thru their wines. After each wine was poured, the Parker review was read by Patrick Comiskey. Waves of laughter would sweep up & down the table as the Parker note was compared to what was in our glass. Truly, some Monktown folks just don’t “get” the wines of Qupe and EdmundsStJohn.

This year, afore RhoneRangers 2016, we decided to hold another Woodshed Rhones dinner. Alas, Steve had already scheduled at
sales trip to NYC and couldn’t join us, but agreed to supply some wines for us. Because BayWolf had closed last Fall, that venue
was no longer available. At BobLindquist’s suggestion, we met at the Heirloom Cafe ( down in the
Mission district. Bob made all the arrangements for our dinner and serving of the wines.

Bob & Louisa Lindquist/Qupe&Verdad
Ethan Lindquist/Ethan
Susan Clough & TomHill
Dave Yates/Jaffurs
Bryan Harrington/Harrington
Ken Zinns/Harrington
Cyrus Limon/Cold-Climate Syrah blogger
Florida Jim/CowanCllrs
Alan Rath
Brian Goehery/Wines on Piedmont
Paul Gordon/HalconVnyds

Some TN’s on the night’s wines. It’s difficult in this venue to talk/eat & take very detailed notes:

The Wines
Edmunds St John

  1. Edmunds StJohn Viognier (Alban/Durell vnyds) 1997: Light gold color; a beautifully fragrant/perfumed/youthful Viog/peach/pear w/
    no signs of oxidation; soft/lush/rich lovely Viog/peach/pear flavor; very long/lingering fresh/youthful ripe/pear/peach/Viog
    amazingly youthful w/ loads of subtle Viog fruit; :definitely not a DollyParton Viognier.

  1. Edmunds StJohn Los Robles Viejos (RozetVnyd) 2000: Deep gold color; rather oldRhoneWhite nutty/toasted hazelnuts some caramel/
    butterscotchy rather complex nose w/ slight oxidation; soft/rich/lush mouthfilling some caramel/butterscotch light pungent/
    smokey/oldRhoneWhite/nutty rather complex flavor; very long oldRhone/toasted hazelnuts/nutty some caramel/butterscotch finish;
    lots of oldRhone character but not much oxidative character to speak of; a lovely complex oldRhone.

  1. Edmunds StJohn Heart of Gold (WylieVnyd) 2010: Light gold color; somewhat pungent/smokey fairly strong floral/pineapple/
    perfumed slight earthy/ElDorado bit complex nose; lightly tart strong pineapple/floral/mango slight pungent/smokey bit
    complex flavor; very long floral/mango/pineapple finish; quite youthful and not showing any of the nutty character of
    a mature whiteRhone.

  1. Edmunds StJohn Les Cotes Sauvages NV (1988): Med.light color w/ much bricking; some funky/pungent/wet army blanket slight
    blackberry/Syrah rather tired/pencilly/oldRed nose; soft rather dried out/tired/metallic pencilly/cedary/oldRed slight
    wet wool slight Syrah/blackberry flavor w/ light drying tannins; not at all unpleasant but not much left of this wine.

  1. Edmunds StJohn Les Cotes Sauvages 1990 (en magnum): Med.color w/ some bricking; beautiful smokey/pungent cedary/pencilly
    very Rhonish/roasted light blueberry/Syrah fragrant/perfumed quite complex nose; lightly tart very smooth/silky quite
    Rhonish/roasted/smokey light blueberry/strawberry complex flavor w/ light velvety tannins; very long/lingering quite
    Rhonish/smokey/cedary velvety light blueberry finish; an elegant/gentle classy old lady.

  1. Edmunds StJohn Les Cotes Sauvages 1992: Med.dark color w/ some bricking; slight funky/wet wool/army blanket rather
    cedary/pencilly/oldRed complex nose; light bit tart/metallic slightly funky/wet army blanket some cedary/pungent
    flavor w/ light smooth tannins; a bit strange/funky, not TCA, but not unpleasant, just different.

  1. Edmunds StJohn Syrah (DurellVnyd) 1995: Med.dark color w/ some bricking; beautiful elegant/fragrant/perfumed quite
    Rhonish/roasted/pungent/black olive/tapenade light blackberry/Syrah rather cedary/pencilly very complex nose; light
    smooth/velvety very Rhonish/roasted/olive tapenade light blackberry/blueberry/Syrah cedary/pencilly/oldRed very
    complex flavor w/ light silky tannins; a lovely/elegant quite Rhonish classic fully-mature EdStJ Syrah.

  1. Edmunds StJohn Syrah (BassettiVnyd) 2005: Med.dark color w/ very slight bricking; beautiful fragrant/perfumed quite
    smokey/pungent classic cold-climate/cracked black pepper/Syrah/blueberry/blackberry bit licorice/pungent slight
    earthy complex nose; quite tart classic c-c/black pepper rather blueberry/blackberry/Syrah slight tapenade/very
    savory very complex flavor w/ some hard/angular tannins; very classic c-ac Syrah but not the strong Rhonish character
    of the Durell; can probably go another 10 yrs or longer.


  1. Qupe Marsanne 2000: Deep gold color; classic aged RhoneWhite/nutty/toasted hazelnuts quite honeyed slight apple
    very perfumed/fragrant complex nose; soft rich/lush strong nutty/toasted hazelnuts/honeyed complex flavor w/ a
    honeyed/nutty finish that goes on&on; a classic fully-mature Marsanne that’s not straying into oxidized territory.

  1. Qupe Marsanne 2013: Med.light yellow color; very perfumey/fragrant floral/pineapple/mango/appley slight earthy/
    mineral almost Riesling-like nose; lightly tart rich/lush very floral/honeysuckle/mango/pineapple light mineral/
    chalky flavor; very long/lingering rich/lush/mouthfilling very strony floral/honeysuckle/appley/mango finish;
    the perfume strongly reflects the Rouussanne but the underlying Marsanne give the structure for a wine that
    should go out 10-15 yrs.

  1. Qupe Roussanne (BienNacidoVnyd) 2006: color; some aged/toasted hazelnuts/nutty strong floral/honeyed/
    honeysuckle light oak somewhat complex nose; bit softer rich/textured some nutty/toasted hazelnuts/oldRhone white
    strong floral/honeyed/honeysuckle light oak slight earthy rather complex flavor; showing some of the nutty oldRhone
    white character but still plenty of lush Roussanne fruit; very structured and will easily go another 10 yrs;
    a beautiful complex middle-aged Roussanne; one of Calif’s best.

  1. Qupe Roussanne (BienNacidoVnyd) 2011: Light gold color; beautiful fragrant floral/honeysuckle/honeyed slight figgy/
    waxy very light toasty/oak slight earthy/chalky nose; lightly tart rich/lush intensely floral/honeysuckle/Rouss
    very light oak/pencilly slight mineral/stony structured flavor w/ very long/lingering floral finish; this is a
    world class Rouss that should go out another 10-15 yrs.

  1. Qupe Syrah Sonnie’s (Sawyer-LindquistVnyd) 2011: Dark color; very strong smokey/roasted/Rhonish/smoked meats strong
    blackberry/blueberry/Syrah/bit peppery/green olive beautiful complex nose; fairly tart very Rhonish/smoked meats/
    roasted/olive tapenade strong blueberry/blackberry/Syrah/bit peppery light toasted/oak rather complex flavor w/
    some smooth/graceful tannins; very long/lingering very Rhonish/smokey/roasted very strong blueberry/peppery/Syrah
    finish w/ ample smooth tannins; very structured/balanced w/ lots of Rhonish character; great drinking now but shoul
    go another 10-15 yrs; a stunning Calif Syrah.

  1. Qupe Syrah Hillside (BienNacidoVnyd) 2006: Very dark color; intense blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah/bit cold-climate/
    black pepper some smokey/pungent/oak bit complex nose; lightly tart rich/lush/balanced very strong blackberry/Syrah/
    boysenberry/bit peppery light smokey/pungent/oak quite youthful bit complex flavor w/ modest smooth tannins; not showing
    that much savory/Rhonish character and loads of youthful fruit and still a long life ahead of it.

  1. Qupe Syrah (BienNacidoVnyd) 1999: Dark color w/ very slight bricking; very strong blueberry/Syrah/peppery rather smokey/
    Rhonish/roasted/black olive quite aromatic/perfumed savory complex nose; lightly tart rich/savory strong blueberry/
    Syrah/peppery strong Rhonish/smokey/roasted/olive tapenade/spicy structured/balanced fairly complex flavor w/ modest
    smooth/graceful tannins; starting to show some of that classic oldQupe/Rhonish character but still plenty of Syrah
    fruit; the balance should take it out another 10 yrs I would guess.

The usual BloodyPulpit:

  1. The EdStJ LCS ‘88 was my contribution. I’d had one a month before and thought it pretty good. This btl was toted from
    NM, but didn’t show as well. Could have been because the SouthWest baggage gorillas drop-kicked my styro shipper 60’
    across the tarmac.

  1. The EdStJ Durell '95 was about as beautiful a Calif Syrah as you can find. I had the '91 at lunch w/ SteveEdmunds and
    it was every bit the equal of this '95.

  1. Qupe Marsanne: Bob was the first in Calif to release a varietal Marsanne. At that time it was 100% Marsanne and,
    upon release, a rather simple/appley kind of white that revealed nothing of the greatness the variety could achieve
    with btl age. Bob delights in pulling these old Marsannes from his library to show what amazing wines they evolve
    into. In recent yrs, Bob has been blending in a small amount of Roussanne to give it more aromatics when released.
    In light of how well his Roussannes age, this should have little impact on the ageability of the Marsanne.

  1. Qupe Syrahs: Bob’s top Syrahs are the X-Block, Hillside Reserve, and Sonnie’s. The X-Block is one of the oldest
    Syrah plantings in SantaBarbaraCnty. This was a Riesling block that was grafted over to EstrellaClone Syrah in
  2. The Hillside is a block way up on the ridge line above the wnry that was planted by the Millers at Bob’s
    behest. First planted about '94 and '97-'99, again to mostly EstrellaClone. More recent Syrah blocks in the
    mid-'00’s include some ENTAV clones. This '99 would probably be mostly X-Block plus newer stuff off the
    Hillside block. Bob feels that X-Block makes his best Syrah because of the age of the vines, but that the
    Hillside will, w/ greater vine age, exceed it. RandallGraham also takes from X-Block, which is down near
    the flats in the south end of BienNacido.
    The Sonnie’s (named after Bob’s Mom) is a newer addition from the Sawyer-Lindquist vnyd in the EdnaVlly,
    across OrcuttRd from JohnAlban. The S-L vnyd is biodynamically farmed. It was recently sold, but continues
    to be Bio and the crop enterily goes to Qupe/Verdad. I have always found the Sonnie’s to be my favorite
    Qupe Syrah from the very start, because of its greater Rhone character.

  1. Ageability: By conventional standards, folks tend to ascribe to the presence of extraction & tannins. To me,
    I would give equal weight to the balance in the wine. The Qupe/EdSt Syrahs are not big on extraction & tannins,
    which is why they don’t play well in Monktown. But those Syrahs have the balance that allows them to age
    very well and turn into some of the most complex Syrahs made in Calif. Forget the score out of Monktown.

  1. The multi-course meal at Heirloom was amazingly good and the wines, by & large, were great matches for
    the food. A restaurant I’d recommend to anyone in a nonce. Many thanks for Bob & Steve for sharing their
    wines with us from their libraries.

Again, thanks for your notes Tom!

I just saw yesterday on Facebook that the Unti Vineyards will not be sourced by ESJ any longer.

Considering the variety of awesome sources utilized in the Edmunds St-John Rhône-style reds over the past decades, I am excited to see what comes next.

Thanks for posting the notes, Tom! Fun evening and the only disappointment was that Steve was not able to join us this year. I didn’t take notes but my wines of the night were the Qupé 2006 Roussanne and Edmunds St. John 1990 “Les Côtes Sauvages” red Rhône blend, with the Qupé 2013 Marsanne and 2011 “Sonnie’s” Syrah and the ESJ 2005 Bassetti Vineyard Syrah close behind.

Sadly, I only have these two remarkably crappy photos to offer:



Thanks for the pictures, Ken!

As I understand it, the Edmunds St-John 1990 “Les Côtes Sauvages” red Rhône blend was from Washington’s Wahluke Slope…

Info on all the wines can be seen here (thanks, Mel!):

1990 LES COTES SAUVAGES (N/V CUVEE WAHLUKE) Grenache from the Wahluke Slope in Washington State, and from Pallini Vineyard in Ukiah. Mourvedre from Brandlin, Carignan from Brandlin, Syrah from Durell and Fenaughty.
I’d had a bottle of a Grenache wine made from these grapes in 1988 by a winery in Zillah, WA, that reminded me of some of the wines I’d drunk from the Northern Vaucluse, and decided to try my hand with them. I liked the result sufficiently that I wanted to see if I could work a bit more closely with the grower in ’91, to get a better handle on the fruit, but in December of 1990 the entire planting was killed by the hard freeze we came to know hereabouts as the Siberian Express. 5 or six days in Berkeley with temperatures in the upper teens and low 20’s. Pipes bursting under our house, all that good stuff.

I really wish I could find a straight Mourvedre or Carignan from Brandlin Vineyard up on My Veeder…