Edward Sellers. Oh, I get it. Sellers. Cellars. Har, har. What clever consultant group cooked that up? Probably the same who thought: well, people like cake and bread. Let’s call it Cakebread Cellars. Brilliant!
Wait. What? They’re both real winemakers? Damn, I need a catchier name (and money…and a midlife crisis).
Bored with sailing, piloting, and entrepreneurial…ing, Ed S. bought thirty acres of Californian sunshine in a place called Paso Robles. In 2004, he entered the ranks of an entrenched revolution along Cali’s central coast. Why a revolution? Blame Napa.
After WWII, California chose to make wine the world would recognize. It planted the grapes of Bordeaux (merlot, cabernet) and Burgundy (chardonnay, pinot noir) because the British and Dutch, respectively, had set them as the standards of fine wine over the prior century.
The problem is that American culture remains the culture of the cocktail and beer. We don’t drink with breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We drink at wineries, bars, frats, parties, and after work. Thus, “good” wine must be smooth wine. Acidity needs to be low, and bitter tannins non-existent. Otherwise, it won’t work. So we make it that way.
Even if we wanted to be Bordeaux or Burgandy, we rarely can. Excluding its coastal fringes, California is hotter and sunnier than France. That translates into riper fruits, higher alcohols, and softer structures. Therefore, during the reign of Reagan, the rich and rebellious likes of Gary Eberle, Randall Grahm, Joseph Phelps, and Bob Lindquist put new grapes into bottles, partly out of necessity (see my video on Grahm).
Ed represents the latest ebb in this tide of self-proclaimed Rhône Rangers, named for their heralding of Côtes du Rhône grapes (e.g. grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, cinsault, carignan, viognier, marsanne). These grapes can handle the heat, but still lack the name recognition of merlot, cabernet, chardonnay, or pinot noir.
Paso is still wine-country for cowboys, motorcyclists, and leather enthusiasts. Ed’s wine, likewise, forges little new ground. It is pragmatic. It conforms to Paso’s fix on the Rhône model, mainly because their grapes are available there.
Tonight’s wine is Ed’s Syrah Sélectione. It’s a blend of only Syrah from his best growers. This 2005 was his second effort.
The wine is boarderline black in the glass. The whole room reeks of black cherry and cigar. My palate sinks under weight and alcohol, like getting sat on by the world’s heaviest pumpkin. There is no acid, but enough tannic kick. My mouth still glows with dark fruits, toasted oak, leather, and cocoa-dusted licorice.
It’s all a bit sensational. I’ve walked into baroque cathedrals with less flair, driven through forest with less wood. Luckily the gobs of fruity depth are enough to make you forget it’s 15.6% alcohol.
Ed’s Syrah should match your barbeque sauce-slathered ribs, fried onions, blue cheese burgers, buffalo wings, or chocolate bar: like Scipio’s legions facing Hannibal’s elephants.
But it’s really a meal unto itself: too soft, strong, yet structureless to really cleanse your palate during a feast like that. I’m sure it kills at tastings. It certainly wowed me in their downtown Paso tasting room, after my senses had been worked by other wineries.
It’s an impressive drink by design. Unlike Randall Grahm’s la Cigar Volant, and all its Frenchified complexity and food-readiness; Edward Sellers’ Syrah is proudly Californian. It’s meant for most Americans that want an impressive glass to wrap their brain around after a hard day’s work. If you’ve spent 40 dollars to indulge in something, this syrah delivers that escape.