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Edmeades Winery 

Old vine Zin from the outer territories

click to enlarge JAMES KNIGHT

Edmeades. The name has a doleful sort of ring to it. Like, say, Roanoke. Edmeades. The name is distinguished, yet calls up an antique image of gray-mustachioed whimsy. Like, say, "Dr. Edmeades' Vital Health Tonic, Guaranteed to Bring Rest & Revitalization to Care-Worn Mothers and Excitable Millennials."

Indeed, there was a Dr. Donald Edmeades, a cardiologist from Pasadena who, against local advice, planted grapes in the wilds of Anderson Valley in the 1960s. But when I finally discovered the Edmeades tasting room in the spring of 2012, after an arduous journey on foot disembarking in the parking lot behind the Hotel Healdsburg, I found it all but abandoned, greeted by a solitary stag's head on the wall. Whoever was once here left only this sign: "Edmeades' Folly."

Some helpful folk in the adjoining Murphy-Goode tasting room provided the missing pieces to this puzzle. Edmeades was acquired by Jess Jackson in 1988, long after the good doctor had moved to higher pastures in 1972. While the winery first brought attention to the Anderson Valley with its Cabernet Sauvignon, Jackson Family Wines refashioned the brand as a spotlight on Mendocino County Zinfandel, sourcing grapes from some of the most historic vineyards on Mendocino Ridge.

Although they've tricked out the tasting room with a few rural accoutrements meant to set the Mendo mood—plus a typewriter and encyclopedia set, for the long northern nights, no doubt—it sits dimmed and disused. Edmeades Zins are available at the Murphy Goode bar through the breezeway for another month or two while the whole kit is trucked up to Anderson Valley. But is the giant family of wineries shunting off its poorer relation to the boonies? Never fear: Edmeades is getting its own tasting room in Philo, a burgeoning wine destination in its own right, where the winery operates with a good deal of autonomy and the grape's natural yeasts run wild and free.

For now, enjoy the 2009 Shamrock Vineyard Zinfandel ($31), warm and lively with red cherry fruit, just half a block off the Healdsburg Plaza. From grapevines planted by Italian immigrants back in 1878 and still squeezing the good stuff out of the dust, the 2007 Ciapusci Vineyard Zinfandel ($35) has the fragrance of grapes plus Christmas spice and split redwood, its earthy, boysenberry fruit flavors backed up with a warm drop of maple syrup. At 15.9 percent alcohol, this is what the old-timers might call a sipping Zin.

Edmeades Winery, 20 Matheson St., Healdsburg. Open daily 10:30am to 5:30pm. $5 fee, refunded with purchase. 800.994.2454.

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