Anderson Valley AVA
"He just knew it would be a great spot to grow grapes”
One hundred years ago a group of Italian immigrants settled into the steep ridge-tops of a remote northern California location now known as the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. Armed with a rich tradition in grape growing, they began planting warm-climate varietals such as Zinfandel, Carignane and Mourvedre. The vines flourished until Prohibition, after which most of the vineyards perished or were abandoned. Even after Prohibition, the Anderson Valley remained largely untouched due to its isolation from commercial markets.
In 1962, Dr. Donald Edmeades a Pasadena physician and avid wine enthusiast, was the first to resurrect the area’s grape growing culture. Dr. Edmeades had frequented the area for years while on vacations at a dude ranch in the nearby hills. “He simply loved the area,” says son, Deron Edmeades. “Somehow he just knew it would be a great spot to grow grapes.”
Dr. Edmeades purchased 108 acres of what had once been an apple orchard and planted 11 acres of Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, French Columbard and Chardonnay. “While I was still going to school I came up to the vineyard during the summers to help out,” recalls Deron. “He was very content to live his dream of owning a small vineyard, and being able to ride his horse around the property.”
Edmeades’ first commercial crop was in 1967. He prearranged to sell all of his grapes to nearby Seghesio and Parducci wineries, and continued to do for the next half-dozen years or so.
By 1970, son Deron had moved to Mendocino to help his dad tend to the vineyard. About that same time, the California wine industry was beginning to take off. Vineyards were being planted seemingly everywhere and new wineries were popping up left and right. To take advantage of the obvious potential, father and son laid plans to start a winery of their own.
Tragically, Dr. Edmeades died of cancer in 1972, the same year Edmeades became a bonded winery. Taking the reins, Deron forged ahead with the winery. The first year he produced 500 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and an old-vine Zinfandel made with purchased fruit from hillside vineyards the Italian immigrants had planted long ago. Deron had no formal training in winemaking but gained quick practical experience by trial-and-error and help from nearby wineries. “It was a small and close knit community of wine growers and producers,” recalls Deron. “I relied heavily on the unselfish help from my neighbors.”
In spite of the inexperience, Edmeades’ production grew significantly each year. “It quickly expanded beyond my winemaking capabilities,” admits Deron. So, in 1975, Deron hired a rookie winemaker just out of school by the name of Jed Steele. (Some of you may recognize Jed’s name as one who gained wide recognition as principal winemaker for Kendall-Jackson; and afterwards went on to help start a handful of now well-known wineries, then eventually starting his own Steele Winery label.)
Over the next dozen years Edmeades Winery produced some of the finest wines in California, building a strong reputation for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and, Zinfandel in particular. Using grapes purchased from surrounding old-vine, hillside vineyards, Edmeades year after year rolled out Gold Medal winning Zinfandels.
High quality wines and success in competitions was not enough however, as Edmeades became victim to the late 1980s high-supply, low-demand syndrome plaguing the California wine industry. “It was a real struggle,” says a disappointed Deron Edmeades. “The wine industry was soft and we were at a level that proved difficult to keep it going; too small for most distributors and too big to do it all ourselves.”
In 1988, recognizing the Anderson Valley as a valuable grape growing area, fast-growing Kendall-Jackson purchased the Edmeades property. Today under the Kendall-Jackson flag, winemaker Van Williamson continues the Edmeades Winery legacy. The original vineyard has been expanded to 68 acres and replanted in even amounts to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Not surprising, the winery still devotes the lion’s share of its production to Zinfandel. In fact, they currently have four different bottlings of Zinfandel with yet another on its way. “I select the best Zinfandel grapes I can find along the hillside in Mendocino County,” says Van. Sources such as the Zeni, Eagle Point and Ciapusci Vineyards provide a steady stream of world class Zinfandel grapes.
Looking ahead we can expect more of the same high quality Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay that has not only help to bolster the Edmeades Winery reputation, but all of as well.
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
Our winemaking staff is delighted to share with you our 1996 Mendocino Zinfandel, the signature wine from Edmeades. We focus on crafting powerful and complex Zinfandel from Mendocino County’s remarkable old vine vineyards. The ’96 vintage offers fragrant aromas of raspberries, black cherries and black pepper… Lush and round in the mouth, the deeply concentrated fruitiness is balanced by a firm structure.
Our 1996 Zinfandel was harvested from select hillside vineyards in the Redwood Valley viticultural area, above the Russian River. Most of these vineyards were planted around the forties as Italian immigrant families settled into the Mendocino area, bringing a long tradition of grape growing and winemaking. We are blessed with having the intensely flavorful fruit from these old head-trained vineyards.
As with all Edmeades wines, we strive to capture the natural, intense fruit of the vineyard by assessing each lot of wine independently, trying not to intervene with the natural process of turning grapes to wine. The grapes begin fermentation in small one-ton, open-top bins using only the wild, natural yeast and malo-lactic bacteria found in the winery and vineyards. Native yeast fermentation produces a wider range of aromas and enhances complexity of the finished wine. Following a three-day cold soak, the caps of the skins are punched down by hand twice a day to soften tannins and maximize color extraction. When the fermentation slows down we press the skins and send the juice directly to barrels where the last remaining sugar is fermented. This wine spent 10 months in a combination of French and American oak barrels, imparting delicious notes of vanillin and cedar box. Our wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined to retain all of the wines’ complexity.
All of our staff and growers hope you enjoy the fruit of their labor and the tradition of their heritage.
Best wishes,Van Williamson