Chateau St. Jean has a long history of crafting expressive Pinot Noir from various regions throughout Sonoma County. This passion for excellence in Pinot Noir has led Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren to the Sonoma Coast, where the Benoist Ranch sits close to San Pablo Bay in a Sonoma corner of Carneros.
The inviting aromas of black raspberry, savory spice and sweet tobacco ring true on the lush palate. Flavors of raspberry, clove spice and smoked charcuterie stand alongside the firm backbone this wine offers from the cool climate growing region of the Benoist Ranch. The French oak aging of this wine integrates and smoothes the tannins, creating a creamier texture. The wine is well-balanced with bright acidity and offers crushed rock minerality on the lingering finish.
Despite drought conditions, the 2014 vintage proved to be ideal, with excellent quality reminiscent of 2012. The winter was one of the driest on record in California, but substantial rains in early spring were timely and set up the vines for a strong start. Summer temperatures were milder than expected with no extremes, and after early bud break and veraison, harvest was unusually early in 2014.
The Benoist Ranch is tucked away in the far Northwest corner of the Carneros, within the Southwest area of the Sonoma Coast appellation. Unlike most of this region, which is largely uplifted bay bottoms with soils composed of clay, the soils at Benoist Ranch are variations of soils influenced by volcanic origin. Combining these well-drained, rocky upland soils with the extreme western location closer to the Pacific Ocean and San Pablo Bay make this site an ideal place to grow Burgundian varieties. The vineyard parcels at Benoist Ranch conform to various soil types and the changing contours of the Ranch topography. Individual vineyards within the Ranch average only eight acres in size and spacing is dense to ensure low per vine yields of fully concentrated fruit.
After primary fermentation, the wine is drained from the skins and sent to barrel the next day. The malolactic fermentation occurs in the barrels and lasts for a month enabling us to retain all of the fruit character from the vineyard and develop richness and integration with the oak components. The wine was aged 17 months in 100% French oak barrels with 35% of those barrels being new.
Margo Van Staaveren’s has been Winemaker for Chateau St. Jean since 2003 and has worked at the winery for over 40 harvests. She was named “Winemaker of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast magazine in 2008. During her long 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.
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