That time had come as we were planning our trip this year and I made a point to make sure Crocker & Starr was in the itinerary. Again, it almost did not happen. We originally had a Wednesday appointment the day we arrived but fighting traffic after a delayed flight we blew the appointment time. Pam was super-accommodating and was flying out to Seattle that Wednesday, but would be back in St. Helena that Friday. We booked a late morning appointment and this time were able to see the tasting appointment fully through.
Later Friday morning we made our way down Hwy 29, or Main Street as it’s called in St. Helena, to the Crocker & Starr appointment on Dowdell Lane. Crocker & Starr (C&S) is located in the Southern section of St. Helena, in between Hwy 29 and the Silverado Trail. The site of the property has historic significance as it was the site of a prominent winery and distillery before prohibition called Dowdell & Sons.
When we arrived, we were greeted with freshly chilled Sauvignon Blanc on the porch of the house on site which I believe houses the business side of the winery. Crisp and citrus laden, this was a welcome refresher as the temperatures were starting to climb. My tasting note is as follows:
2011 Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc
Medium gold and straw in color. Citrus lemon and lime aromas meet subtle grassy and mineral notes with a hint of pineapple. Being fermented in steel (95%), the wine focuses on the fruit and mineral notes Sauvignon Blanc is typical of. The remaining 5% was fermented in barrel and lends a small dollop of creaminess that rounds out the wine nicely and adds to the length of the finish.
Pam joined us to taste the red wines and it was great to have her there to taste her wines with her there first hand. We moved over to the Casali, a rustic stone barn like structure. A table was set up on a patio covered with a veranda that overlooked the vineyards to the east. Pam has a hearty laugh and a welcoming smile. She is a straight shooter and a consummate business person, a very refreshing person to speak to. We talked about our careers, the wine business, and other matters of wine and life. We talked about her philosophy on wine and business, something I like to ask most of the winemakers I meet. I could have gone on a while more but we had to make a lunch appointment and meet our friends that were flying in to meet us at that lunch. Here are the notes and some background on the fantastic red wines we tasted.
The Cabernet Franc was the first red and it blew us away. The structure, depth and persistent elegance of this wine was impeccable. It showed power with restraint. The vines for the Cabernet Franc are some of the oldest vines on the property and planted on some of the prime sectors of the estate. The great site and exposure of these vines has created a unique wine from a varietal that rarely impresses me when it does not originate from France. In France there are two regions where Cabernet Franc hails: the Loire Valley and the right bank of Bordeaux (Pomerol and Saint-Emilion). In the Loire Cabernet Franc wines are typically 100% Cabernet Franc. The wines tend to be elegant, medium bodied red wines that typically show pepper and spice, with tobacco and black tea. In Bordeaux it adds complexity, lift and mid-palate to the blended Claret wines of the Right Bank. This wine presents to the taster both the structure and elegance of the old world, with more depth, fruit and texture coming from the new world. The balance of the wine is superb. A fresh palate experience starts out strong and carries through a full and juicy mid-palate and finishes with ripe tannins. My tasting note is as follows:
2009 Crocket & Starr Cabernet Franc
An inky core with purple/red edges. Notes of pencil lead, wild berries, violets and crushed rocks meet scents of mocha and dusty earth tones. Vivid flavors of blueberry and blackberry mix with the mocha, violet and earthy notes, delivering a persistent and long finish. Tight, youthful tannins frame the flavors and the juicy acidity freshens the palate. The blend is 97% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. This wine saw 70% new French oak for 17 months, neutral oak made up the other 30%.
The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon “Stone Place” showed the complex and layered side of the grape that is found in the best wines of the Napa Valley. Packing a multitude of aromas and flavors, the wine was kicking on all cylinders. The best parcels of the vineyards are old vine heritage-clones and form the core of this wine’s DNA. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2008 Stone Place was aged for 20 months in 80% new French oak barrels. The Crocker & Starr vineyard sections lie in the central section of St. Helena, with the bulk of the Cabernet Sauvignon vines resting in the eastern and southern sections of the vineyard. My tasting not is as follows:
|2008 Crocket & Starr Cabernet Sauvignon “Stone Place”|
This wine exhibited a dark core with nice vibrant red edges. The nose was full of black cherry, currants, sweet oak, and mocha, with flecks of purple floral notes. The palate delivered the black cherry and mocha in spades, with spice, dusty earth and tobacco notes. The wine passed through the palate with ease from the depth of the wine’s concentration, finishing in a solid structure of youthful, but ripe tannins. A sexier wine than many of the 2008 I have had, this is an impressive effort.
We enjoyed our visit and conversation with Pam and look forward to trying these wines and the futures releases. I highly recommend these wines and savvy wine aficionados should check them out if they are in Napa on their next visit or search them out at your local wine shop or on wine-searcher.com.
|Charlie Crocker and Pam Starr in their estate vineyards.|