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by Fred McMillin
Big Butter Bombs
Malolactic fermentation converts tart malic acid (found in grapes, green apples, etc.) to the milder, buttery lactic acid (found in milk).
"I'm very careful about the use of malolaetic fermentation. For example, the Chardonnay grapes from one of our vineyards make big, butter bombs if I use malo on them. So I never do it, except in the annual trial lot."...Steve Reeder, Winemaker Chateau St. Jean
The Rest of the Story
My panel just gave a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to one of Steve's vineyard-designated Chardonnays. The vineyard is located in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley. The Dick Family has been producing premium Chardonnay grapes there for three decades in its Belle Terre Vineyard. Chateau St. Jean recognized what they had long ago, producing their first Belle Terre Chardonnay in 1975. The bottle my panel adored is the 1997... delicious with S.F. Vivande Restaurant's "Oysters in a Trencher." (Trencher? A Joan of Arc favorite; see the Dec. 7, 1999 WineDay, "A Trecher Quencher".)
Wine of the Day
1997 Chateau St. Jean Belle Terra Vineyard Chardonnay
How good is St. Jean (pronounced "saint jean")? Here's the track record.
"When I was starting to explore California wines in the early 1980s, Chateau St. Jean wines were blockbusters; I was simply overwhelmed by their fruit and power." (Stephen Brooks, Wines of California)
"St. Jean was the first ultra-modern, multi-million-dollar winery developed in the Sonoma Valley...It immediately developed a strong reputation for vineyard-designated white wines, [including) the Belle Terre Chardonnay." (Norm Roby, Connoisseurs' Handbook of California Wines)
Others noticed the success. Before long it changed ownership for a mere forty million dollars.
Last year the Wine Spectator's James Laube wrote that St. Jean wines, with "always impeccably high standards...are now better than ever."
When I last checked, Chateau St. Jean was the only winery to have five wines selected for The Spectator's Top 100 Wines in one year. Also, they produced the Spec's Wine of the Year in 1999, which we'll cover later.
This page created August 2000