Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The First Sips of Our Sonoma Sojourn: Chateau St. Jean

And now onto the wine!  Our first social call on our Edible Skinny Vine to Vino Tour was to the Sonoma favorite Chateau St. Jean.

ChateauSt. Jean is the quintessential Sonoma winery with its gracious style, elegant architecture, and inviting gardens.  The winemaking estate is located at the foot of Sugarloaf Ridge in the Sonoma Valley near Kenwood, California.  Though the chateau was built in 1920, it was only in 1973, when the winery was established, that the estate began enchanting its visitors. 

Constructed almost a hundred years ago the Chateau was created 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 part of Chateau St. Jean vineyards) were initially planted with white grapes, but Prohibition curtailed alcohol imbibing 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.

In the summer of 2000, Chateau St. Jean winery opened the doors to its new Visitor Center and gardens.  In keeping with the Chateau architecture and sense of place, the wine tasting and retail rooms are housed in an elegant garden structure surrounded on three sides by terraces and outdoor garden spaces.  Inspired by formal estate gardens in Italy and the south of France, it features colorful shrubs, fragrant citrus, rare palms, and two effervescent fountains.

For our first sips of our Sonoma sojourn, Edible Skinny was able to experience the lusciousness of Chateau St Jean's Reserve tasting room.

One of the first wines we tasted was Kelly’s Top Pick, their 2010 Reserve Chardonnay Sonoma County ($50).  This wine was Kelly’s definition of a perfect Chardonnay: one that dances with butter and cream.  With aromas of warm lemon cream pie and toasted hazelnuts and a palate of lemon, browned butter, and baking spice it was the poster child of malolactic fermentation.

One of the first shining stars of their red tastings was their 2011 Sonoma County Pinot Noir ($65), which was a cheerful combo of cherry (very cherry!) and chocolate crush.  But my absolute favorite from the Chateau St. Jean Reserve tasting was their 2010 Cinq Cépages ($75). 
In 1999, Chateau St. Jean was the first Sonoma winery to be awarded the prestigious "Wine of the Year" award from the Wine Spectator Magazine for its 1996 Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux-style blend of "five varieties," (which includes (for those who don’t know it off the top of their head): Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Malbec).  Already considered the winery’s Flagship Wine, Chateau St. Jean then received even higher acclaim when it received the "#2 Wine of the Year" from Wine Spectator for its 1999 Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon.

Every year head winemaker, Margo Van Staaveren (who has been at the winery for 30 plus years) must decide whether the Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon grape varietal will be at the forefront of this bottle.  As winemaker, she makes the final decisions involving flavor fusing and style to produce a wine that is blended to be completely distinct from year to year.   

The 2010 Cinq Cépages wine received a 92 Points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and you can taste why!  The wine is ruby red in the glass and with a single sip you are swirled into a world of blackberry, blueberry, plum, and pomegranate.   This well-balanced and yet complex wine has smooth, silky tannins that offer solid structure but in no way overwhelm the mouth.  The post swallow result can’t but help blossom into a smile!

It was the perfect start of a beautiful romance with Edible Skinny and world of Sonoma wines!

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