Margo Van Staaveren has celebrated more than 30 harvests at Chateau St. Jean. During her tenure with the winery, Margo has played a pivotal role in every facet of the winemaking process. As chief winemaker, she makes the final decisions involving blend and style to produce consistently high-quality wines.
That’s no small task considering Chateau St. Jean produces an extensive portfolio of wines including vineyard designated wines, limited-production Reserve wines, and the flagship Cinq Cépages Red Wine blend. Margo has been instrumental in the production of the Cinq Cépages since the premier 1990 vintage release.
Margo’s Winemaking Philosophy
Margo is a firm believer that great wines are grown—a conviction she shares with the Chateau founders who led the way for Chateau St. Jean to become a pioneer of vineyard-designated wines in the early 1970s. To achieve Chateau St. Jean vineyard designation, the grapes must consistently exhibit exceptional varietal character each year.
The art of blending is the cornerstone of Margo’s winemaking philosophy. To her, one of the greatest accomplishments is to create a wine style or signature blend that carries from vintage to vintage while still capturing the uniqueness of that particular growing year. “I find that blended wines from the diverse Sonoma County region are even more explosive in their intensely forward fruit flavors,” Margo explains.
One of the things she enjoys most about her job is putting together the final blend for the Reserve wines. “Since no two vintages are alike, it gives us the opportunity to carefully search for the vineyard lots that offer the biggest fruit expression and the ability to age in order to create a wine that truly captures the best of the vintage,” says Margo. The Reserve wines represent the most concentrated, distinctive and balanced wines made at Chateau St. Jean.
Margo Van Staaveren graduated from the University of California at Davis in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science in Fermentation Science. Shortly after graduation, she joined Chateau St. Jean as a Laboratory Technician in 1980. By 1989, she had worked her way to being named Assistant Winemaker and later named Associate Winemaker.
Margo was named Winemaker and General Manager for Chateau St. Jean in August of 2003, continuing a rich legacy of winemaking as just the fourth winemaker in the winery’s almost 50-year history.
Chateau St. Jean is a pioneer in vineyard designation within Sonoma County — making wine from, and naming it for, an outstanding single vineyard.
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.
Soon after its inception, the winery began producing individually labeled Chardonnay from the Robert Young and Belle Terre Vineyards, with its first release of 1975 Belle Terre Vineyard Chardonnay.
Our Single Vineyard Designations
A Diverse Sonoma County
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 farther north, a wide variety of grapes can enjoy this optimum climate to achieve rich varietal flavor.
St. Jean Estate Vineyard
Sonoma Valley AVA
The St. Jean Estate Vineyard surrounds the winery and tasting room in Kenwood, California. The property consists of 270 acres with more than 93 planted acres on the hillside and valley floor of several varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Viognier, and Gewurztraminer.
In select years, Chateau St. Jean produces a single vineyard Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Viognier.
Additionally, all of the Bordeaux varieties planted on the estate vineyard contribute to the winery’s flagship wine, Cinq Cépages.
Robert Young Vineyard
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 – particularly Chardonnay – in its fine alluvial loam soils.
Chateau St. Jean produces both a vineyard designated Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc from this famous vineyard.
Belle Terre Vineyard
Chateau St. Jean has been producing Belle Terre Vineyard Chardonnay since 1975.
The vineyard is a part of a ranch owned by the Dick family located on the Russian River in southern Alexander Valley.
This vineyard terrain consists of gently rolling land with well-drained, gravelly, and sandy loam soils.
The Lyon Vineyard is in the most northern part of the Alexander Valley, adjacent to the Russian River.
Chateau St. Jean has enjoyed a long-term relationship with grower Mark Lyon since the early 80s and sources Sauvignon Blanc from this vineyard.
The 2006 vintage marked the inaugural release of Chateau St. Jean’s Lyon Vineyard Fumé Blanc.
Russian River Valley
The Hallberg Ranch is located in the Russian River Valley, just outside of Sebastopol, California.
The vineyard is managed by Kirk Lokka who is committed to growing the finest Pinot Noir grapes possible.
The vineyard is unique with Goldridge sandy-loam soils and enjoys beautiful sunny afternoon weather tempered by fog and cooling coastal breezes.
Chateau St.Jean introduced Durell Vineyard Chardonnay with the 1996 vintage, but had been working with the highly-acclaimed vineyard since 1991.
One of the characteristics that makes this vineyard so intriguing is that it does not consistently exhibit typical Carneros region flavors - instead it 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.
The Benoist Ranch is located in the coveted Sonoma Coast appellation where maritime influences from both the Pacific Ocean and San Pablo Bay produce Pinot Noir with concentrated black cherry and plum flavors and rich, earthy aromas.
Chateau St. Jean began making a Benoist Ranch Syrah with the 2004 vintage and a Benoist Ranch Pinot Noir with the 2005 vintage.
The stunningly beautiful Gap’s Crown vineyard is located on the western edge of Sonoma Mountain and ranges in elevation from 300’ to 840’.
The vineyard’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes are heavily influenced by cool ocean breezes and a natural fog pocket that stalls over the area allowing the fruit to ripen slowly over the course of the growing season.
This results in perfect balance between sugar development and phenolic ripeness. Chateau St. Jean Le Seul Chardonnay and hails exclusively from this vineyard.
Cold Creek Ranch
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.
The vineyard is the newest addition to the Chateau St. Jean portfolio of vineyard designated wines; however, it has contributed to the Reserve Chardonnay for many years.
The inaugural release from Cold Creek was the 2007 Chardonnay, followed up with a 2008 Pinot Gris.