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Wine of the week

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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.”

One of the best aspects of chardonnay is that it has many faces, Van Staaveren said.

“Chardonnay can be made in many, many different styles,” she said.

“It is a matter of personal preference regarding which style you like ... oaked, unoaked, lightly oaked and then there’s cool climate and warm climate. The point is to be open and willing to taste them all until you find the style you like. And that despite the ubiquitous nature of the variety, it never goes out of style.”

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