Winemaker Niki Williams of Chateau St Jean is back with Alexandra O’Gorman of Foley Family Wines on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. They were here a month ago on this June 8, 2022 episode which was cut short by an impending NBA broadcast. So now they are back for a full show. Barry Herbst from Bottle Barn will also join us.
Alexandra O’Gorman tells about Foley Family Wines. As the owners retired they acquired a central California winery and named it Foley Estate. Later they purchased other family wineries, now totaling nineteen.
Niki Williams grew up in central Illinois among corn, soybeans and beef cattle. She worked for a travel company based in Chicago and got an exposure to wine by visiting other countries. The idea of terroir proved attractive. After working in theater she studied winemaking at UC Davis. She has been at Chateau St. Jean for the last four months. She worked for Merryville Family Wines at the Starmont Winery and previously at Franciscan Winery and its successors. “It’s been a really good crash course in winemaking,” working with different varieties, vineyards and wine styles over the last ten years.
Chateau St. Jean
The winery opened in 1972 and was one of the first wineries in Sonoma Valley. It was famous for Chardonnay even then. Its previous owners stopped winemaking at the property so is the first winemaking at Chateau St. Jean since 2016. They are finishing some construction now. Chateau St. Jean has always been a destination for big events. It’s a beautiful facility with amazing gardens in a hillside setting. Tom Simoneau says their blend called Cinq Cépages is like the Mouton Rothschild of Sonoma County. They won Wine of the Year for their 1996 Cinq Cépages blend. That was the first Sonoma County wine to win that prestigious award. They also have a 2016 Cinq Cépages to taste.
A 2020 Sauviglon Blanc from Alexander Valley is next. The vineyard is in a cool area so the wine is nicely acidic. From a single vineyard block, it used 85% in stainless steel and 15% neutral French oak barrels. Robert Mondavi called his Sauvignon Blanc Fumé Blanc so that people would know it was dry. It worked and many followed him.
Alexandra O’Gorman describes her job, whose title reaches all the way around her business card. She coordinates hospitality activity of nine properties in Sonoma County for Foley Family Wines. The company mission is to have good food and wine experiences in their locations. The grouop includes several historic properties like Chateau St. Jean and Sebastiani.
They taste a Chardonnay that Tom Simoneau says is well balanced, creamy and with a full mouth feel. It has a little nuttiness from the oak and a hint of nutmeg, but also bright crisp citrus fruit. It is sourced from around Sonoma County so there is a range of fruit flavors from tropical to melon, apple and peach. It was fermented and aged in barrel and 45% new French oak. It is only available at the winery or through the wine club.
Niki Williams has also brought a 2018 Alexander Valley Malbec, which Tom Simoneau calls a “knockout.” Tom Simoneau describes it as a combination of Merlot and Cab. If the color purple had a taste it would be Malbec. She describes it as voluptuous and Barry notes the silky tannins.