Chateau St. Jean’s Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer Win Top Votes from Millennials

“Who doesn’t like chardonnay?” was one of the daring questions Jessica Schmit, Chateau St. Jean Tasting Room Rep and recent SSU Wine Biz grad, asked the audience of 40 Millennials who showed up to last night’s SSU Wine Sense Club tasting.  When only one person was brave enough to raise his hand, Jessica dared him to a taste off of two CSJ chardonnays.  In the end, he selected, along with the rest of the Millennials, the 2008 Ch. St. Jean Chardonnay from Durell Ranch ($28) as the favorite of the evening.

This was the Magic of White Wine Tasting (red wines happen in two weeks!), featuring six white wines made by Chateau St. Jean winemaker, Margo Van Staaveren.  Margo has been working at CSJ for more than 28 years now, where she oversees the creation of 35 different wines!  Once again the wines were paired with food prepared by Club Chefs Giana and Kelly (featured in the photo).

Larry Williams, CSJ Director of Hospitality, enthralled the audience with his description of how to smell and taste wine, as well as using a map to explain the various Sonoma County appellations for each featured wine.  We started with a Fume Blanc (sauvignon blanc) from Russian River; then moved to a Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris from Carneros.

Next we did the dueling Chardonnay taste-off with the big, buttery, oak-spiced chardonnay from Durell Ranch in Carneros winning out over the leaner non-ML chardonnay from the Robert Young Vineyard in Alexander Valley.  We concluded with the second favorite of the night, the 2008 Ch. St. Jean Gewürztraminer ($15), which was an off-dry, fragrant wine filled with lychee and apricot fruit notes.  For more information on CSJ’s wines or to visit their beautiful winery, see

Food Pairing Magic

Our VP of Food & Wine Pairing, Giana Fugazi, had some help in the kitchen this week from Kelly Striving, our VP of Public Relations & Social Media.  Captivated by the all white wine theme, they created an enchanting menu.  The fume blanc and pinot blanc were paired with a tossed Caesar salad.  The chardonnays were highlighted by a Lemon Chicken Cream Alfredo Lasagna – which was to die for!  The chardonnays emphasized the lemon and butter of the rich dish, and elevated both food and wine to new levels.  The pinot gris and gewürztraminer were matched with Lemoncello Cupcakes with Lemon Curd and Cream Cheese Frosting.  The acid in both of these wines brought out the lemon in the dessert and created an exciting spark of excitement on the palate.  Giani has promised to send the recipes soon, so we can post them on this blog.

Peterson and Nicholson Ranch Wineries Wow Millennials with Sonoma Varietals

Last night we had our first tasting of the semester for the SSU Wine Sense Club.  Approximately 30 students turned out for the “Savoring Sonoma” tasting featuring famous Sonoma County varietals.  In order to represent the range of Sonoma grapes, we invited two wineries to pour.  Peterson Winery in Dry Creek represented the warmer appellations and Nicholson Ranch Winery located on the border of Carneros and Sonoma Valley highlighted cooler regions.

Nicholson Ranch Wines

Charles Whittaker, tasting room manager with Nicholson Ranch, described how their wines were made and the different locations for sourcing grapes.  We started with the 2007 Sonoma Valley Estate Chardonnay ($30) a big buttery satisfying wine; and then moved onto the 2006 Russian River Pinot Noir ($42) made from clone 777 and bursting with ripe raspberry fruit.  Next was the bigger more complex 2006 Sonoma Valley Estate Pinot Noir $38) with notes of dried cherry, spice and earth.  Finally Nicholson Ranch featured their big chewy dense 2006 Las Madres Syrah Los Carneros ($35) with dark berry, anise and tar.

Peterson Wines

Jamie Peterson, winemaker with Peterson Winery known for “no soul-less wines,” described philosophy and winemaking techniques for the 5 wines he brought.  We began with the Peterson Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($17) with crisp acid and lemongrass notes, with then moved into a comparison of two zinfandels.  The first was the 2006 Peterson Zinyard ($27), which is an usual low alcohol zin of only 13.1% made in the old-fashioned style with mixed berry and pronounced spice.  The second was the 2007 Peterson Dry Creek Zinfandel ($23) made in the current style of a big jammy full-bodied spice box.  This was followed by the Peterson Sangiovese 2007 ($28) made in the super-Tuscan style with an addition of $18% cab.  This was a plush mouthfilling wine with complex blackberry and coffee notes, but with the acid that makes sangio so enjoyable.  We ended with the 2005 Peterson Cabernert Sauvignon ($35) from Dry Creek, which intense ripe fruit on both nose and plate – big and satisfying.

Food Pairing

This semester we introduced the new role of VP of Food & Wine Pairing to our Board of Directors. Giana Fugazi is the new VP in this position, and she must have spent the whole day preparing food to match the wines.  For the sauvignon blanc, she created a tangy guacamole with crackers, and for the chardonnay there was a mozzarella and tomato spread with crackers.  Probably the biggest hit of the evening were the pork and duck sliders with apricot that she paired with the pinot noirs and sangiovese.  The zinfandels were matched with ripe fig and chevre on toast points.  Bravo to Giana!

Millennial Wine Favorites

At the end of the evening, we did a silent poll to identify everyone’s favorite wines.  Of the 9 wines tasted, all were voted number one by at least one Millennial.  However there were ties for first and second place, with the result that the top scoring wines were:

  • Peterson Zinfandel Dry Creek 2007 tied with Peterson Sangiovese 2007 
  • Nicholson Ranch Pinot Noir Russian River 2006 tied with Nicholson Ranch Pinot Noir Sonoma Valley 2006 

These results verify that this was a red wine drinking crowd.  Furthermore, they highlight the diversity of palates in the room – especially regarding the pinot noirs, which were quite different.  All in all, it was a delightful evening, and a great kick-off for the Fall semester.