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In 1916, Ernest and Maude Goff bought approximately 300 acres in the Valley of the Moon. The Goffs, having established their family fortune in the iron ore mines in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and lumber in the Pacific Northwest, came to California from Saginaw, Michigan, with their four sons and one daughter.
Construction on the family’s summer home began in 1920. The Goffs designed an elegant house with solid oak banisters, an oak paneled hallway and a large oak fireplace in the living room that now serves as the Reserve Tasting Room in the Chateau. They designed fish ponds to the south of the house in the shapes of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Wine grapes grew on the property at this early time, but with the onset of Prohibition, prunes and walnuts were planted. A variety of exotic and ornamental plants were also on the property – palm, pine, pomegranate, fig, coffee, cork, oak and tea, as well as one apple tree. The Goffs occupied the property until the late 1960s.
In the early 1970s, Ken Sheffield, Bob and Ed Merzoian, San Joaquin Valley table grape growers and shippers, began a search for the perfect setting to build a premium California winery. The Valley of the Moon was their first choice because of its rich viticultural heritage. Their attention focused on the remaining 250 acres of the Goff estate. The parcel had several advantages: The existing family home could be used as headquarters until new offices were constructed, and the land had proven that it could grow a variety of grapes.
Chateau St. Jean was founded in October, 1973 and named after Jean Sheffield Merzoian, sister, sister-in-law, and wife to owners.
The inaugural vintage was produced at another winery by Dick Arrowood, Chateau St. Jean’s first Winemaker. The first vintage made on property was 1975.
In 1980, the winery and grounds in Kenwood were completed. The winery was designed from the ground up to accommodate numerous lots of grapes and keep them separate throughout the winemaking process. Since fine wines and individual vineyards have been closely associated for centuries in Europe, the Chateau’s founders reasoned vineyard designation was equally valid in Sonoma County.
Don Van Staaveren named Winemaker.
Steve Reeder joins CSJ as Winemaker.
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.”
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 new wine tasting and retail room is housed in an elegant garden structure surrounded on three sides by terraces and outdoor garden spaces. Each of these garden “rooms” offers intimate and unique areas for wine tasting, picnics and strolls. The statue of Jean, the winery’s namesake, stands in the main courtyard garden by the decorative pool.
Margo Van Staaveren named Winemaker.
Margo Van Staaveren named “Winemaker of the Year” from Wine Enthusiasts Magazine.
2012 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon named #78 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines on 2015.
2017 will mark the 25th anniversary of Chateau St. Jean's flagship wine with the release of the 2014 Cinq Cépages.