Sonoma County is a diverse growing region with a complex terrain of small valleys, benchlands and hillsides. A coastal appellation, it is favored with fog in the morning and sunny afternoons cooled by maritime breezes. From the cool Carneros area in the south to the more moderate Russian River and Alexander Valleys further north, a wide variety of grapes can enjoy the optimum climate to achieve rich varietal flavor.
Chateau St. Jean was a pioneer in vineyard designated wines in Sonoma County. Several of the single vineyard wines it produces today – such as Robert Young Vineyard and Belle Terre Vineyard Chardonnay – are examples that Chateau St. Jean has been making for over 30 years.
Here’s a look at the key vineyard sources for the luxury wines of Chateau St. Jean:
St. Jean Estate Vineyard – Sonoma Valley
The St. Jean Estate Vineyard surrounds the winery and tasting room in Kenwood. The property consists of 270 acres with 90 planted acres of premium varieties. Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot are planted. In select years, Chateau St. Jean produces a single vineyard Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Viognier from the vineyard. The Bordeaux varieties, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, also contribute to the winery’s flagship wine – Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon
La Petite Etoile Vineyard – Russian River Valley
La Petite Etoile Vineyard (“the little star”) is a 44-acre parcel in the rolling hills of the northern Russian River corridor. Lingering morning fog and afternoon maritime breezes make this the perfect home for growing low-vigor Sauvignon Blanc and luscious Pinot Noir. Chateau St. Jean began farming this vineyard in 1978 and purchased the vineyard in 1988. The winery now produces both a La Petite Etoile Fumé Blanc and Pinot Noir.
Robert Young Vineyard – Alexander Valley
Tucked in a sheltered cove at the northern end of Alexander Valley, the Robert Young Vineyard has a long history of growing superior wine grapes in its fine alluvial loam soils. Robert Young saw an opportunity to custom tailor a Chardonnay clone that was best suited for his vineyard site. Using the best selection from his original plantings of the Wente clone, Robert Young had his “Robert Young Clone” certified in 1989. Chateau St. Jean produces both a vineyard designated Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc from this famous vineyard.
Belle Terre Vineyard – Alexander Valley
For more than three decades, Belle Terre Vineyard has been synonymous with vineyard designation at Chateau St. Jean and, without question it is one of the most consistent and well-farmed vineyards in Sonoma. Belle Terre Vineyard, owned by the Dick Family, is located on the Russian River in Southern Alexander Valley. Chateau St. Jean has produced a Belle Terre Chardonnay since 1975. The terrain at Belle Terre consists of gently rolling land with well-drained, gravelly and sandy loam soils. In addition to a vineyard designated Chardonnay, Chateau St. Jean also crafts a Belle Terre Late Harvest Riesling and the Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the vineyard contributes to Cinq Cépages.
Lyon Vineyard – Alexander Valley
The Lyon Vineyard is located in the most northern part of the Alexander Valley, adjacent to the Russian River. Chateau St. Jean has a long term relationship with grower Mark Lyon that dates back to 1980. Chateau St. Jean sources both Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from this vineyard. The 2006 vintage marked the inaugural release of Chateau St. Jean’s Lyon Vineyard Fumé Blanc.
Durell Vineyard – Sonoma Valley
Chateau St. Jean introduced a Durell Vineyard Chardonnay with the 1996 vintage but had been working with this highly acclaimed vineyard since 1991. One of the characteristics that makes this vineyard so intriguing year after year is that it does not exhibit typical Carneros flavors. Durell Chardonnay always surprises with its big tropical fruit notes and spicy perfume aromas. In addition to the vineyard designated Chardonnay, Chateau St. Jean also produces a Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir and Syrah.
Benoist Ranch – Sonoma Coast
The Grace Benoist Ranch, located in the cool Sonoma Coast appellation, benefits from the moderating influence of the San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Chateau St. Jean began making a Benoist Ranch Syrah with the 2004 vintage and a Benoist Ranch Pinot Noir with the 2005 vintage.
Cold Creek Ranch – Sonoma Coast
The Cold Creek Ranch is tucked away in the coveted Sonoma Coast appellation where maritime influences produce Chardonnay with forward fruit flavors and lively acidity. This vineyard is the newest addition to the Chateau St. Jean portfolio of vineyard designated wines; however, it has contributed to the Reserve Chardonnay program for many years. The inaugural release from Cold Creek was the 2007 Chardonnay which will be followed-up with a 2008 Pinot Gris.