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Starmont Chardonnay 2003
Sitting at the crossroads of Carneros and Napa Valley, Starmont occupies a portion of the historic Stanly Ranch. Established as a wine growing region over 150 years ago, Carneros is world renowned for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. With foggy mornings and cool afternoon bay breezes creating the perfect conditions for these varietals, Starmont wines are expressive, food-friendly and distinctly Carneros.
The Starmont story began over 25 years ago, starting as an integral part of the Merryvale brand. Led by the Starmont Chardonnay and delivering high quality Carneros and Napa Valley wines at approachable prices, Starmont complemented the more mature Merryvale portfolio. For a decade and a half, these two brands shared space at our venerable St. Helena facility. It was a perfect partnership, but as Starmont grew from a single wine into a full-fledged brand, it became time to move out.
Opportunity to find a new home was realized in 2005. Starmont acquired 50 acres of prime Carneros vineyard, a portion of the Stanly Ranch Estate first planted in 1872, and broke ground on the new winery the same year. Honoring the heritage of the vineyard, Starmont has constructed a state-of-the-art “green” winery. Among other steps taken towards sustainability, the Starmont Winery recycles 100% of winery process water, diverts over 98% of waste away from ending up in a landfill and generates enough electricity each day to power over 250 homes. In creating a certified Napa Green Winery, Starmont ensures that the surrounding area will remain pristine for future generations to enjoy.
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960s, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980s, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those are the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.