Today we were focused on the whole reason we included Sonoma on this particular trip and a reason for which I had quite a bit of excitement…a semi-trade, private reserve tasting at longtime Sonoma Valley stalwart, Chateau St. Jean.
My family from my grandparents down to my sister and I have been making our way over to our neighboring Valley for decades to picnic and tool around the beautiful grounds.Â I have to admit however, that despite having many of their more mass-produced wines, I couldn’t remember ever tasting any of their Reserves or winery-only limited run wines.Â I was about to cross those off my list!
WineLog.net is a member and sponser of Wine 2.0, the premiere wine industry group for utilizing new tech to bring wineries and wine-o’s closer and as such, we get invites to the various events that the Wine 2.0 folks host and promote. Implementing that philosophy, WineTwo is an interesting “trade” group in that they include your savvy wine consumer as a member as well as traditional peeps of the wine biz.Â I received a rather exciting email from Cornelius Geary of WineTwo and RadCru (very big thank you!) in the middle of June that detailed an invite to a nifty limited event at the above-mentioned winery.Â We were instructed to quickly reply in order to be on the list to taste a number of Chateau St. Jean’s (that’s “gene”) reserve and limited run wines.Â I dashed off my reply and quietly formulated a plan on how to attend and make an entire weekend around the event (while chuckling evily) and the Pops & Son 4th Wine Trip was born!As is usual on these trips, Pops and I arose early Saturday morning (well, early for me on a non-workday, at around 8!) and walked across the street to another on of our favorite home style restaurants, Black Bear Diner.Â Here we had our second breakfast of the trip and third meal overall.Â After getting nicely satiated with my favorite dish, Joe’s Scramble, we hit the road for the short, but gorgeous drive to the winery.
The Chateau is found on one of the most beautiful wine country drives in the world, along the Valley of the Moon Highway Scenic Route or Sonoma Highway (CA Route 12). It is a beautiful 12 mile stretch of slightly winding road that includes some of the most beautiful parkland, small towns and wineries that are to be found in the more Southern portion of Sonoma Valley. We pulled into their long driveway past some of their estate vineyards and I once again noticed the smoky air, still being funneled down from the large fire in Lake County.Â You can see the haze in the photo to the left.
Per the norm with our family, Pops and I arrived 45 minutes early to the day’s session.Â I actually hadn’t been to the Chateau since I was a wee lil one, so it was nice to get to walk around for a bit.Â The grounds are beautifully landscaped and I could have just relaxed in one of the many chairs on on one of many benches all day, enjoying the wind through the gardens.Â Alas, heavy lifting work (wine crystal) was to be done and I headed off in search of the people in charge of the activities for the day.
After strolling around a bit and talking to many of the friendly people on the staff at the winery, I was directed to Philippe Thibault, the energetic and knowledgeable Hospitality Manager for the property.Â He lead us over to the small Redwood grove where we would be tasting their wines.Â Being so early, no one else had yet arrived, but Philippe took care of that by giving us some early background on the winery’s history and calling for some outstanding single vineyard Pinot Blanc to whet our palates for the upcoming wines.
While grapes have been grown on the 250 acre property since the 1920’s when it was a summer home for Michigan mining baron Ernest Goff, Chateau St. Jean as it is today, was established in 1973.Â Family members Robert and Edward Merzoian and Kenneth Sheffield purchased the estate and named it after Jean Sheffield Merzoian, their sister, sister-in-law or wife, depending on the family member; hence the pronunciation. They replanted with a mixture of red and white grapes.Â The Chateau has been meticulously restored and is now listed in the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Other attendees of the day started arriving while we chatted with Philippe and it was then that we found out that Cornelius, the event planner, would be unable to attend and J. Smoke Wallin and his wife Anitra would be leading the proceedings.Â We were poured some more Pinot Blanc into our Riedel stemware and then we chose and a table and got started.
We shared a table with a young and very diverse mix of wine-lovers, along with Smoke and Anitra.Â Pops and I unwrapped the delicate spread of cheese, bread and olives and I prepared my palate a bit with some of bread.Â Philippe provided some thorough commentary on each wine as we progressed through the lineup. I found at least a little to like and sometimes to love with each wine.Â While I was a little underwhelmed with the FumÃ© Blanc, I really enjoyed the aforementioned Pinot Blanc and even the Reserve Chardonnay, though it isn’t in the style that I normally enjoy.Â Despite the toasty oak, it still retained some great crispness and finished with a mix of heavy and racy elements…a nimble linebacker, if I may.
As we progressed into the reds, we hit the highlights of the tasting.Â The Cinq CÃ©pages was a tremendous example of a legendary meritage continuing to hit its mark. Understated oak with a still closed nose and palate, but the depths of black fruit belie the future greatness of this blend.Â At one point I asked Philippe the rationale for having a Malbec after the ’03 Reserve Merlot and he instantly switched the order, but I actually think the original lineup was more correct.Â The ’03 Reserve Merlot was a masterful red wine with a healthy dose of aging that isn’t normally seen.Â No unstructured fruit bomb here.Â A new wine for the Chateau, it was a silky stunner, with all colors of fruit lurking in its depths, surrounded by good balance and structure and some dark chocolate.Â The ’04 Reserve Malbec followed, but was actually a smaller wine, and seemed a bit worn out after the wonderful Merlot. After finishing the Malbec and the dregs from some of the earlier wines, Pops and I had to leave to catch the final act of the day, a visit to a winery that I’d been meaning to visit for years, Kaz!
Kaz Winery & Vineyard are the twisted brainchild of one Richard “Kaz” Kasmier, former professional photographer and one who seems to be happily crazy in this world of stodgy wine.Â He believes in organic vineyard management and is more than willing to include or disclude new and old vinting techniques in order to make the best wine.Â His wines are geared towards food and always have big backbone of acidity to accompany their very pure fruit characteristics.Â With Randy Hall he also co-hosts the long-running Wine Biz Radio, found both online and on KSVY-FM 91.3 in the Sonoma Valley.Â His family is deeply involved in the operations of the winery, with his wife Sandi hosting some of our pours (free with blogger credentials!) and his son Ryan designing many of the labels and the cheeky website.
Pops and I drove just a bit North of the Chateau and pulled into the winery, a bit more in the backwoods of the valley off of Adobe Canyon Road on the outskirts of Kenwood. We strolled into the restored Barn and were greeted by Kaz, himself!Â He quickly popped the cork on some of his racy Trixie’s Secret Rosa and we got started.Â Tripping through the rosÃ© we decided to go right into the reds, where I was an instant fan of the ’05 Dudes and the ’05 Moo Vedra, buying a bottle of the latter when we left.Â Both were unusually mouth-watering vineyard-based expressions of two fav varietals of mine, Petit Sirah and MourvÃ¨dre, respectively.Â I especially loved the spicy tobacco and black fruit in the Moo, and I’m still hoping that Pops hasn’t slurped up that bottle, as I forgot it at their digs in Napa!Â We finished with a fortified wine from Kaz’s other label, the Bodega Bay Portworks.Â Incidentally, you can also rent the house that Kaz and Sandi own near the golf course in Bodega Bay.Â It’s a great pad and Pops and I have seen it many times before during our our numerous family visits over my lifetime (if you do go, be sure to visit Gourmet au Bay!!).Â After receiving a call from Moms and Na, intercontinentally (is that a word?) from Paris, we finally decided to call it a day, and bid farewell to Kaz, his family and his highly unique and delicious barn of wines.
Feel free to check out all of the reviews from our last day tasting, below. They’re in the order that they were tasted. If you would like to list all of these wines in your own WineLog, I’ve tagged them with “4thPSWT2008“, along with all of the others in this trip. Enjoy!