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.
"Aged in 50% new French oak for 16 months, the medium ruby-purple colored 2016 Pinot Noir Benoist Ranch springs forth with floral notes of lilacs and rose hip tea with hints of exotic spices in the background over a core of black raspberries and blackberries plus a touch of chargrill. Full-bodied, rich and velvety in the mouth, it packs in the spices, finishing on a lingering perfumed note." - Lisa Perrotti-Brown, October 2018
Always a showy wine, with aromas of cherry and ripe brambleberries, accented with earth and herbs typical of this growing region. Vibrant, with bright acidity and flavors of black cherry, black tea and a touch of spice led by cloves and cinnamon.
The extended drought caused concern as the 2016 growing season began, but welcomed winter rain hinted at the relief to come. After a relatively dry January significant rainfall arrived in February, along with mild temperatures. Bud break was early, but was slowed by heavy April showers. While still early by historical standards, picking began about a week later than 2015, in mid-September. A traditionally sized harvest followed the lighter vintage of 2015, and the extended mild season helped balance the acids and add complexity to the fruit.
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.
The Pinot Noir grapes were handled very gently from vineyard to winery. Fruit underwent a three-day cold soak prior to fermentation. Free run juice was drained and the new wine sent directly to barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. The wine was aged for 16 months in 100% French oak (18% new) before being assembled, bottled and allowed an additional six months of age before release.
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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