Interesting article in the SF Chronicle's "Wine" section
ATTN: Moderators -- I am hoping that the more specific nature of this article, and the focus on Wine, will permit this thread to remain on the Wine Board, rather than get transferred to the more generalized Media Board, where wine people may not view it.
I'm curious to know what other people think, about the winemaker's wines, the critic, and the article's author.
I'll add in my own 2¢ later, so as not to color the discussion . . .
Ok, so she has an agenda, and a mighty big, monetary one at that.
I try not to attach too much to the fact that she's writing a book and is basically promoting it. Respected journalists, authors, celebrities, politicians do this all the time. One should not completely dismiss what they have to say on this alone.
Removing the article itself from the author and her agenda, I found she made some salient points.
Re: ESJ wines... Her description of the '05 Parmalee Hill was spot on, IMO. I also liked the fact she resisted calling it "Rhonish." In my limited experience with his wines, I don't find them Rhonish, nor Californian; instead, the only word that comes to mind is Edmunds-St.-Johnish. It sounds silly, but I believe it to be true. His wines are so unique and is perhaps the biggest reason why he has as big a cult following at 1/10th price of other California cult wines.
Re: Mr. Edmunds. I spent no more than 90 seconds at his booth at a tasting in NYC so it is quite possible that what follows has approximately zero relevance or is 100% in error. We didn't speak at all, other than, "Good afternoon Mr. Edmunds, may I try the Rocks and Gravel?" "Sorry, the entire batch is corked. How about a syrah?" Even though there wasn't any conversation, I remember thinking at the time that the silence was instructive. He seemed rather detached from the entire event. Where other winemakers would tell you stories, show you pictures from the vineyard, go over the production process, etc. (all fine and good btw; most winemakers are extremely friendly and hospitable, albeit, have the same financial agenda as well), he seemed content to let his wines speak for themselves, and for him. And speak they do.
This makes an interesting counterpoint to your earlier post about California wines. While California has the climate to run the flavors and sugars up in the fruit to get the "fruit bomb" effect, those options are not always available in other wine growing regions. Of course, wine makers like Steve Edmunds have the option to pick the fruit earlier to get the wine they are looking for, it is certainly not letting California be California.
While people should make, sell and drink whatever they like, from the comparative advantage viewpoint of international trade, it makes more sense to make wine that only can be made in California and let the French make French wine.
A few things I'm starting to find tiresome:
(1) the whole discussion of "overblown California wines" vs. "restrained French-style wines," as if there were not a range of styles being produced in CA as well as the rest of the world (including France).
(2) the fact that these articles seem to invariably be written by people who proclaim themselves from the start not to be fans of the "California style".
(3) the finger-pointing at Parker every time someone wants to air this issue, as if he was the only wine critic that anyone ever read.
I understand the influence of Parker, but it's not like he's the only wine critic in the world. While he may have fallen out of love w/ Edmunds St. John, there are still others carrying the torch. Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar has given almost all the recent releases of ESJ ratings in high 80s low 90s (some reviews by Tanzer, some by Josh Raynolds). Indeed Raynolds noted of the 2006 "Old Black Magic" "Those who prize volume over balance will like this far less than I."
I've not had enough of the wines to form an opinion myself - they're not distributed very broadly in South Florida (at least that I've seen).
I just figured out that this article about why California wines suck and why Parker sucks is by the same author who wrote a recent article in the LA Times about why California wines suck and why Parker sucks, as linked to and discussed here ->
... and who has a new book coming out about why Calfiornia wines suck and why Parker sucks. So perhaps it's not so much a trend as just a pre-book-release publicity tour.