chateau st jean

Winemaker Niki Williams of Chateau St. Jean with Alexandra O’Gorman, Part I

Alexandra O’Gorman, Tom Simoneau & Niki Williams.

Chateau St. Jean winemaker Niki Williams and Alexandra O’Gorman from Foley Family Wines join Steve Jaxon, Harry Duke and Tom Simoneau on California Wine Country today. Dan Berger is away this week. Alexandra O’Gorman’s title is Senior Director of Luxury Sonoma Estates at Foley Family Wines. Niki Williams is the winemaker at Chateau St. Jean winery.

Alexandra tells how the company has invested in many family wineries and they have also acquired Chateau St. Jean. They have done renovations to the winery and they have brought winemaking back to Chateau St. Jean. Tom Simoneau tells the story of how a previous owner stopped winemaking on site. Wine has not been made there since 2016, so all the equipment is being renovated and replaced. The estate vineyards are also being refreshed.

While they are tasting a Pinot Blanc, Niki Williams tells her winemaking history. With a bachelors degree in English she graduated without “a clue.” She stated doing acting and improv and worked with a travel company where she got an exposure to wine while traveling to Europe. She decided to become a winemaker and studied at UC Davis. She worked at the Starmont winery and for some Constellation wineries, Franciscan, Mt. Veeder and The Prisoner Wine Company.

Alexandra O’Gorman describes her job for Foley Family Wines where she oversees several wineries that they have purchased. They focus on a guest experience with fine wine, beautiful locations and new culinary choices. Their first vintage was 1974.

Chateau St. Jean is promoting their Summer Fête, a French-themed soirée, on July 9.

Tasting Chateau St. Jean Wines

They are tasting the Alexander Valley Pinot Blanc. Most of the fruit is from Robert Young vineyards. 40% fermented in barrels and 60% in steel tanks, so it is balanced between the barrel & lees contact flavors and the steely flavors. It has creamy pear flavors from the oak but is very well balanced.

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The Belle Terre Chardonnay is a single-vineyard wine and one of the first. They try to capture the unique terroir of the vineyard. This vineyard is in Alexander Valley in the southern part, close to the Russian River. This is 100% barrel fermented for the creamy mid-pallette texture. It does not get full ML so you also get the fresh acidity. Tom Simoneau compares it to his own Brenda Lee Chardonnay, made similarly. It is less creamy than the Pinot Blanc. The acidity brings out the lovely minerality on the finish, which comes from the soils. The vines have been around since at least the early 70s.

Lastly they taste a Pinot Noir, which Niki calls her favorite grape. This is the 2017 Benoit Ranch Pinot Noir. This vineyard is in the northwest corner of Carneros in Sonoma. Tom Simoneau likes the finish, it has a “soft grip.”

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