California Wine: The Hidden Gems of El Dorado

Photo courtesy Edmunds St. John Wine

As Californians, we're lucky to enjoy what's basically an embarrassment of riches of local wine. What other state in the country produces top notch wine from every grape under the sun in a every style? We have the killer Cabs of Napa, righteously smooth Pinots from Russian River, chalky crystalline sparklers from Anderson Valley, crisp Chardonnay from Santa Barbara, chewy Zin from Paso...the list goes on and on.

But there's another inland American Viticultural Area that's remains a hidden gem with regard to other wine regions who've now been vaunted for decades. Founded in 1983, the El Dorado AVA is a mountainous growing region about an hour east of Sacramento. Altitude, diurnal/nocturnal temperature shift, and interesting soils provide excellent conditions for a long growing season and even ripening. A plethora of unique microclimates make it possible to cultivate a diversity of cepages, from German Riesling, to Tuscan Sangiovese and French Gamay Noir. This prodigious region flies low on the radar of the average wine consumer: it's doing its own thing.

In line with the general low profile of the region is winemaker Steve Edmunds, who does not care if his El Dorado wines score 87 points or 100 points. What he does care about is making an honest, clean wine from star quality grapes. The Edmunds St. John wines are sensually satisfying, enchanting on the nose, delightful on the palate. Particularly captivating is the 2010 Bone Jolly Gamay Noir. Made from the mainstay grape of Beaujolais, the most southerly part of Burgundy, Bone Jolly is one of those alluringly versatile reds that can be enjoyed at room temp and also chilled. It is transparent; a gem-toned red that shows flecks of violet when swirled. On the nose the wine is fresh and spicy with notes of sour cherry and raspberry. On the palate it is agile and fun, easy to drink, with mouth-watering acidity and lovely red fruit character. It's food friendly as well, and can pair easily with everything from antipasti or gazpacho to roasted meats in sauce and pasta with tomato. Caveat Emptor however: this wine stays on the mind and is hard to put down.

2010 Edmunds St John Gamay Noir Bone-Jolly El Dorado County $15.95

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