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Rhone Rangers to Honor Steve Edmunds with Lifetime Achievement Award

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June Wine Dinner Planned in Sonoma 

April 19th – Paso Robles, CA The national Rhone Rangers will present its eighth Lifetime Achievement Award on Friday June 28, 2024, to recognize the significant contributions made by an individual to the American Rhone wine movement. This year’s honor will be bestowed to Steve Edmunds, founder and owner of Edmunds St. John Winery in Berkeley, CA. Edmunds is also one of the original founders of the Rhone Rangers organization. 

A native of Oakland, CA, Steve Edmunds took a job in 1972 selling equipment and supplies to home brewers and winemakers. A friend who worked for a wine importer offered to set up a wine tasting, to teach him what he knew about wine. The tasting proved to be a true epiphany; a whole world he’d never imagined was suddenly lighting up his mind, and he was on fire.

Within 6 months, Edmunds took a job with a brand-new wine shop in Sausalito, and shortly after accepted the position there as wine buyer. He developed a reputation for his keen palate, and the impressive depth of his wine knowledge, and for being someone who introduced hundreds of wine enthusiasts to the likes of Chateau St. Jean, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Clos du Val, and Joseph Phelps, among many others. Edmunds also made wine at home (as well as beer). Over the next ten years, he worked at many wine shops, and had a brief stint as a tour guide for Robert Mondavi.

With a growing family, and rising expenses, Edmunds took a job as a mailman. However, Cornelia St. John asked him, “Are you just going to be a mailman the rest of your life?” and offered to invest in a winery.  Thus, Edmunds St. John began to germinate.

Not having their own vines, nor the resources to acquire, purchase, plant, and wait for a crop, Edmunds and St. John depended on finding grapes to purchase. After an exhaustive tasting of wines from grape varieties he thought they might find, he settled on the ones known for the wines they produce in the Rhone and South of France: Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Grenache. Both Syrah and Grenache were located quickly, but Edmunds had almost completely given up on Mourvèdre, when he stumbled across an old planting, farmed beautifully and organically, by two brothers named Brandlin on Mt. Veeder, in Napa, CA. The wines that resulted put Edmunds St. John on the map, to the point that in 1993 Robert Parker would comment, “Of the group of California wineries dedicated to producing wines from grapes that have been made famous by France’s Rhone Valley, Edmunds St. John may be its finest practitioner.”  It was around this same time that Edmunds and several other vintners began meeting to discuss how they could market and increase awareness of the Rhone wines that they all enjoyed crafting, leading to the formation of the Rhone Rangers. (Edmunds coined the name by happenstance when discussing the gathering with a client. The next note he sent out to the vintners simply began, “Dear Rhone Rangers”.)

Edmunds St. John continued to make wines, mostly Rhone-style, for more than four decades, and his wines became particular favorites of other winemakers. In 2022, Edmunds was unable to make wine due to medical issues, and in ’23 St. John suffered a fall, making harvest impossible, leading to an announcement that Edmunds St. John Winery would cease winemaking operations.  It gives the Rhone Rangers organization much pleasure to recognize the great contribution that Steve Edmunds has contributed to the Rhone wine movement, in naming him the 2024 Rhone Rangers Lifetime Achievement Honoree.  Jason Haas, Proprietor of Tablas Creek Vineyard, commented, “Steve has made soulful wines for 40 years, in a style that’s been consistent with who he is: thoughtful, understated, respectful of tradition without being bound by it. I’m very happy that The Rhone Rangers will be honoring him with their lifetime achievement award this summer, and he’ll get the chance to see how much his work has meant to those of us in the American Rhone community.”  

Past Rhone Rangers Lifetime Achievement honors have been awarded to notable Rhone wine luminaries, including Randall Grahm – Bonny Doon Vineyard (2013), Robert Haas – Tablas Creek Vineyard (2014), Robert “Bob” Lindquist – Qupé/Lindquist Family Wines (2015), Bill Easton – Terre Rouge (2016), Sondra Bernstein – the girl and the fig (2017), Gary Eberle -Eberle Winery (2021), and Frederic Cline – Cline Family Cellars (2023).

The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Steve Edmunds during the Rhone Rangers Summer Gala evening wine dinner, to be held at the girl & the fig’s suite D in Sonoma, CA on Friday, June 28, 2024.  The evening will include speakers from throughout the Rhone wine community.  Tickets are $250 per person and include a multi-course dinner, in addition to VIP Access to the Rhone Rangers Savor Summer wine tasting on Saturday, June 29, 2024, at Cline Family Cellars. The afternoon wine tasting will be held on the lawn at the winery, featuring 30 Rhone Ranger wineries from throughout the national organization, representing Sonoma, Napa, Lodi, El Dorado, Lake County, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara County, Oregon, and Texas. Wine tasting only tickets are available for $75 per person. For tickets and additional information on participating wineries, please visit www.rhonerangers.org

About the Rhone Rangers

Founded in 1998, the Rhone Rangers are a group of 100+ wineries throughout the United States dedicated to making wines from the 22 grape varieties originally made famous in France’s Rhône Valley. These varieties range from the better-known Syrah and Viognier to the up-and-coming Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Roussanne, and obscure grapes like Counoise and Picpoul. 

The Rhone Rangers started from a small gathering of American vintners who began meeting informally in the 1980s. As their numbers expanded, the non-profit organized under the name “Rhone Rangers,” with a focus on promoting the enjoyment of Rhône varietal wines produced in the United States. These grapes include the 22 traditional varieties approved by the French government for the Côtes du Rhône, as well as Durif (Petite Sirah). For a wine to qualify as a Rhone Rangers wine, the winery must be a member of the national organization and 75% of the wine’s content must include one or more of the twenty-two traditional Rhone grape varieties. For more information, please visit www.rhonerangers.org.

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