by Fred McMillin
for May 4, 1998
In a Class by Itself
In my last blind tasting of white wines, the winner's rating was 21% higher than that of the second place wine. The usual margin is about 5%.
The panel didn't know it, but the critics agreed with their assessment of what proved to be a 1995 Chardonnay. For example...
Robert Parker: "nicely executed, restrained, elegant."
They are talking about Chateau St. Jean's Robert Young Vineyard 1995 Chardonnay, from the upper Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. Such quality is no suprise, once you know the winery's origins.
St. Jean Milestones
1974—Three wealthy Central Valley grape growers create the winery. Recognizing that the great European wines were associated with specific vineyards, they designed the winery to process the many lots of grapes separately, from crusher to bottler.
1980—Taking full advantage of this design, winemaker Richard Arrowood startles the wine world by bringing out nine different Chardonnays from one vintage.
1984—Founders Ken Sheffield, Robert Merzoian, and Edward Merzoian sell Chateau St. Jean for $40 million. Ownership first goes to Suntory (Japanese) and then Beringer. Critic Robert Balzer comments that the "Robert Young Vineyard Chardonnay has brought the winery national fame."
1992—By now it's clear that the public likes St. Jean Chardonnays; production from all of their sources reaches 120,000 cases.
1995 Chardonnay, Robert Young Vnyd., Alexander Vly.
As to the name, pronounce it St. "jeen," not St. "zhah." The winery was named after the wife of one of the co-founders wives, Mrs. Jean Merzoian.
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