My Story

Like most people in the wine business, I love wine. That’s where my roots are and will always be.

I began this love affair with wine over 40 years ago tasting and collecting and eventually discovered the unique community of other wine lovers. When I was introduced to the internet that wine lovers’ community expanded. The ‘wine boards‘ became a place where I could share my thoughts and ideas about wines with people I had never met! This is how my days as ‘Florida Jim‘ started… it started as my ‘online‘ identity and has stayed with me as a sort of personal identity. I am from Florida, having called it ‘home’ for over 50 years, but my love of wine has now led me to the wine country of Northern California and my new ‘home’.

When a friend started to make wine I thought it would be instructive to get closer to the process and I volunteered to help. Cellar rat, intern or whatever one might call it, my first several years of helping were doing the hard manual labor that is part of the process; sorting, cleaning, punching down, more cleaning, pumping over, bucketing must into a press, cleaning, preparing barrels, even more cleaning and anything else that required a strong back and a determination to learn. No pay, long hours, hard work – that may not sound inviting but it really is the best way to learn

I believe it is fair to say that I have sorted more fruit in the winery where I work than any other person there. I helped everybody that would let me, and I learned what is good and what is discard.

And not just hours in the winery. I spent a considerable amount of time in the vineyard: pruning, helping with the pick and finding out what good (and not so good) fruit is all about. Green harvest, shouldering, leaf pulling; it’s all part of getting the fruit ready for the pickers and the winery.

But I was not born to the vineyard and I own none. I did not grow up with a winemaker and I did not own a winery. So I always felt that helping was about as far as it would go. Then in 2006, I met Steve Edmunds of the Edmunds St. John winery and was his cellar rat for a harvest. Steve purchases his fruit and rents space in existing facilities to make his soulful and delicious wines. He owns his label and his experience, and nothing else. That I could do.

I have come to know a number of very talented people in this business but none are as intuitive or inspirational as Steve. He believes, as I do, in letting the grape and the place speak, in lower alcohol wines that are fresh and fun. He says that wine should be affordable and puts his prices where his mouth is. Most of all, he believes that California can produce lithe wines with intensity and character, and so do I.

With those precepts in mind, in 2007 I made my first wine (never commercially released) and each year since I have continued. I have a clear vision of what I want from a wine and the kinds of wine I love to drink. I prefer the feminine to the masculine, grace to power, individual and vintage character to a consistent taste profile. Cowan Cellars wines are low alcohol, never see new wood and I always time the picking to retain the acidity of the wine. All of this translates into wines that accompany food well, which is very important because I also love the food that my lovely wife, Diane, prepares for our daily meals – usually vegetarian, and always light yet flavorful.

If you want a wine of personality and quality at a reasonable price, I urge you to try our Cowan Cellars wines. And please, join us for a meal sometime. We’ll bring the wine.


“Florida Jim” Cowan