Chateau St. Jean
2005 Reserve Chardonnay
California: Sonoma County
What we say
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Mission Codename: Generous Expressions
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Secure an ample allocation of an exceptional Sonoma County Chardonnay for our wine-loving Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Chateau St. Jean
Wine Subject: 2005 Reserve Chardonnay, Sonoma County
Winemaker: Margo Van Staaveren
Backgrounder: Chardonnay is arguably the greatest of all white grape varietals, showing its influence in the legendary sparkling wines of Champagne, the great whites of Burgundy and of course its expression as ‘the’ white wine of California. Chardonnay represents over 50% of the planted white grapes in California with nearly 100,000 acres planted. With such a great number of wines made from this grape, it stands to reason that finding wines of immense quality would be hard, but look no further. In this wine, we have found perhaps the ideal expression of the California Chardonnay.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – A gorgeous and glistening golden-yellow, this wine maintain its color right out to the edge of the glass. Showing a loose and fast-moving surface when swirled, this wine leaves behind widely-spaced, chubby that are slow to emerge before they glide slowly down the inside of the glass
Smell – On opening, this wine presents a delightful rush of bold aromas of soft citrus, soft Asian mango, pear and earthy vanilla. After some swirling, the wine softens and opens up to reveal additional aromas of tart apple, soft spice, green fig, soft oak, subtle hazlenut, a hint of clove and wet river rock (minerality)
Feel – Wet, round and velvet smooth up front, then slightly dry, as the wine shows off a medium-bodied structure that fills the palate as soft yet structured tannins take hold
Taste – Rich and bold, with a delightful balance of bright California fruit – set against a richer and more serious Burgundian style with flavors of tart apples, citrus and lightest sweetwood with a light minerality and a bright acidity that give support to the intense flavor
Finish – This wine finishes exceedingly long and clean with long-lingering flavors that are supported by the great acidity and mineral components
Conclusion – This is a incredible Chardonnay that we cannot stop sipping and discussing! Not your usual buttery or overly-light California Chardonnay, this wine is one for those who love to really take their time to explore and appreciate the finest points of a wine. This rich and delicious wine invites contemplation and we encourage you to taste at different temperatures, with different foods and on its own. Sample the wine upon opening – and then again after 30 minutes of decanting. The differences and the range of experiences available with this wine are absolutely astounding. Those who follow my white wine reviews here know that I am notoriously hard to please, especially where Cali Chardonnay is concerned. This beautifully balanced wine really blows me away
In order to learn everything that we could about today’s winery, I was sent in undercover. This time, my job was easy. Posing as a tourist, I took advantage of a handful of the excellent tours and educational opportunities that the winery has to offer.
Not only were these programs fascinating – even for a crusty Wine Spy like myself – but the winery itself is a gorgeous delight. Delightful, too are the people of Chateau St. Jean. In all, I learned a great deal more than I thought I would, and I had a great time doing it as well.
What follows is a list of the wonderful opportunities that exist for Operatives like you. The general public is, of course, invited as well:
The Wine Education Program is an innovative addition to our offerings at the winery. Destined for anyone from the novice to the connoisseur, the program offers courses ranging from an introduction to the basic tools and techniques of wine appreciation to the interactive dynamics of balancing food and wine.
Terroir is French for “sense of place” or a vineyard’s unique combination of climate, soil and growing conditions that will determine a grape’s flavor and intensity. Chateau St. Jean is a pioneer in vineyard designation in Sonoma County; we make “wines of terroir”. Enjoy a guided tour of our stunning estate with an educated host.
Complimentary. Offered Daily at 11am & 2pm. Duration 1/2 hour.
In a majestic setting, we will lead you through a professional tasting of our very best wines presented in fine Riedel glassware. The rich history and winemaking tradition at Chateau St. Jean will be shared as well as savory bites to complement our finest Sonoma County wines.
$25.00 per person. Appointments at 10:30, 1:00 or 3:00. Duration 1 hour.
Taste each component of our “flagship” wine before taking on the challenge of blending this prestigious wine from using all five Bordeaux varietals. This great team building exercise is sure to be a memorable experience for all participants wanting to be “Winemaker for a day!”
$75.00 per person. Eight person minimum. Duration 2 hours.
Your guests will be greeted with a taste of our Pinot Blanc in the beautiful Mediterranean gardens and will enjoy a guided historical & terroir tour. You will then be escorted to a shady patio for a private reserve wine tasting followed by a picnic box lunch with assorted Sonoma County wines.
$50.00 per person. By appointment, 10 guest minimum. Duration 2 hours.
“Cinq Cépages” stands for Five Varieties. You will taste each component of this iconic wine and you will find out what each one of these Bordeaux varieties bring to the final blend. An extensive reserve tasting of our finest wines will conclude this fun and informative exercise.
$25.00 per person. Eight person minimum. Duration 1 1/2 hours.
or call: (707) 833-4134 ext. 5258 to make an appointment.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Robert Young vineyard – the principal source of grapes for today’s incredible wine – can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Awards & Accolades:
92 Points – Wine Spectator – “…a nice smoky, toasty oak edge…an exotic yet elegant mouthfeel…”
About This Wine:
This medium-bodied Reserve Chardonnay opens with inviting aromas of lemon citrus, mango and fig. Unctuous notes of creamy lemon bar and papaya are layered with subtle hints of hazelnut and clove. The well-balanced acidity and complexity of flavors lead to a long finish with hints of vanilla and lemon oil.
The Vineyards: Chateau St. Jean’s Reserve wines are crafted by selecting the vineyard lots from throughout Sonoma County that offer the most generous fruit expression and the ability to age. The 2005 Sonoma County Reserve Chardonnay is our 9th vintage of this wine. For this blend, we selected fruit from the critically acclaimed Robert Young Vineyard (54%) and Belle Terre Vineyard (19%) in the Alexander Valley along with Durell Vineyard (16%) in Sonoma Valley and Cold Creek Vineyard (11%) in Carneros.
The Winemaking: Classic winemaking techniques such as sur lie aging for 17 months are used for this wine. Each lot is kept separate throughout the winemaking process and aged in 100% French oak (56% new). A barrel selection from each lot is made to craft the final blend. Only 66% of the final blend underwent malolactic fermentation as we tend to keep most of the Robert Young Chardonnay component a non-malolactic wine.
About The Winery:
In 1920, “The Chateau” was built as a summer home for Ernest and Maude Goff, and their children. The family, originally from Saginaw, Michigan, made its fortune in iron mines there, and in lumber in the Pacific Northwest. The 250 acres of land now Chateau St. Jean vineyards were initially planted with white grapes. Prohibition curtailed grape growing, however, and the family opted to grow prunes and walnuts instead.
When Chateau St. Jean was established in 1973, the decision was made to preserve the Goff legacy. “The Chateau” was fully restored and opened to the public. It has since been listed in the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The fishponds in the shape of Lakes Michigan and Huron, and the arched footbridge, delight visitors just as they did 80 years ago.
About The Winemaker:
2006 marked Margo Van Staaveren’s 27th harvest at Chateau St. Jean. During the course of her 25+ year tenure with the winery, Margo has played a pivotal role in every facet of the winemaking process. As winemaker, she makes the final decisions involving blend and style to produce consistently high quality wines in the super premium and luxury category.
Margo is a firm believer that great wines are grown – a conviction she shares with the Chateau founders who led the way for Chateau St. Jean to become a pioneer of vineyard designated wines in the early 1970s. To achieve Chateau St. Jean vineyard designation, the superior quality of the vineyards must be proven year after year and the grapes must consistently exhibit exceptional varietal character.
The art of blending is the cornerstone of Margo’s winemaking philosophy. To her, one of the greatest accomplishments is to create a wine style or signature blend that carries from vintage to vintage while still capturing the uniqueness of that particular growing year.
One of the things she enjoys most about her job is putting together the final blend for the Reserve wines. “Since no two vintages are alike, it gives us the opportunity to carefully search for the vineyard lots that offer the biggest fruit expression and the ability to age in order to create a wine that truly captures the best of the vintage,” says Margo. The Reserve wines represent the most concentrated, distinctive and balanced wines made at Chateau St. Jean.
Margo Van Staaveren graduated from the University of California at Davis in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science in Fermentation Science. Shortly after graduation, she joined Chateau St. Jean as a Laboratory Technician in 1980. By 1989, she had worked her way to being named Assistant Winemaker and later named Associate Winemaker. Margo was named Winemaker and Director of Operations for Chateau St. Jean in August of 2003, continuing a rich legacy of winemaking as the fourth winemaker in the winery’s history.
Harvest Date: Sept. 26-Oct. 2, 2005
Harvest Sugar: 24.4° Brix
Total Acidity: 0.63 g/100 ml
Alcohol: 14.4% by volume
Bottled: April 2007
Release: April 2008
Case Production: 4,029 cases