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The red café

A 2004 Sonoma/San Francisco travelogue; part 11

by Thor Iverson

[Bay Bridge]

Berkeley bound
17 August 2004 – San Francisco, California

Café Rouge – An excellent bistro a few steps from Steve Edmunds’ winery, which is why he’s chosen it as a spot for a midday lunch rendezvous. He’s on and off his mobile phone, arranging equipment to deal with a fast-arriving truckload of El Dorado County gamay and talking to his intern, who’s on-site with said grapes while he lazes through a four-bottle lunch. We nibble on charcuterie, cheese, salad, and other assorted goodies with three contributions of Steve’s (and one brought by me, though not mine).

Edmunds St. John 2003 Viognier Rozet (Paso Robles) – Lightly aromatic, with mixed white flowers and dried honeysuckle. It fills out on the palate, showing apricot jelly and a faint tropicality on the finish. Balanced and nicely structured.

Edmunds St. John 2003 Gamay Noir “Bone-Jolly” Witters (El Dorado County) – Steve is all a-twitter about the potential of his incoming 2004, but the 2003 is already a dramatic improvement over the first version of this wine…and the first version was pretty darn good. The nose is a bit tight for gamay, showing only a brief preview of pretty strawberry blossoms, but the liquid is lovely and balanced, with succulent floral notes (dominated by violets) and a beautiful finish rich with potpourri. Terrific.

Edmunds St. John 2001 Zinfandel Peay (Sonoma Coast) – 15.2%. Smoky blueberry bubblegum, blackberry, black cherry, boysenberry, and pomegranate – a veritable festival of fruit juice – with white pepper and graphite-like tannin. Big, powerful, and showing a hint of its alcoholic roots on the finish, but delicious and medium-term ageable.

Ridge 1996 Mataro Pagani Vineyard “ATP” (Sonoma Valley) – The remains of last night’s bottle, supplied by Mike Dashe. While Mike was initially put off by the wine’s less “clean” aspects, which he later decided to ignore when the wine proved too delicious to criticize, I know Steve’s a bit of a mourvèdre freak and won’t let a bit of funk bother him. Instead, Steve’s reflexive reaction is instead to wrinkle his brow and start complaining about the level of new wood, even before he’s tasted the wine. Afterwards, however, he admits that it’s not really woody at all, and is in fact rather enjoyable. A day of oxidation later, I find it even better than the previous day: rich spiced plum, coffee, black cherry, graphite tannin, and a zingy mouthfeel akin to the feeling of a trillion little bubbles dancing around my tongue. There’s the slightest sheen of vanilla toast on the finish, but overall this wine is simply masterful.

The restaurant is pure fun, with a light and authentically bistro-esque menu and a very clever wine list. There should be one in every town.

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Copyright © Thor Iverson

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