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Wine of the week

Great chardonnay is in Chateau St. Jean's DNA.

That's how Margo Van Staaveren put it, reflecting on why the Kenwood winery's bottlings show so well in blind tastings.

Van Staaveren is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Chateau St. Jean, 2011 Robert Young Vineyard, Alexander Valley Single Vineyard Chardonnay at $25.

It's a complex chardonnay with notes of white peach, melon and mineral.

This single vineyard bottling is a standout with bright acidity and a lingering finish.

Van Staaveren said crafting a single vineyard bottling is still a complicated affair.

"One would think there aren't many variations when making a single vineyard wine, but actually we have different parcels, picking dates and barrel types to create options for blending," she said.

"We taste through every lot each month and because of our history with the vineyard we know the usual suspects."

The most challenging part of producing chardonnay is finding the pitch perfect spot, Van Staaveren said.

"I work with an unbelievable vineyard and have a commitment from the Young Family to grow outstanding and distinctive grapes that truly express what unique spot in the Alexander Valley they are grown," she said. "Plus, I have the great benefit of working with this vineyard for over 30 years now and you just get to know the rhythm of the vineyard and how to work with it."


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