Crocker & Starr Review
Address: 700 Dowdell Lane St. Helena,California 94574.
Phone Number: 707-967-9111
Tasting Hours: By appt.
Region: Napa Valley AVA, St. Helena AVA, California
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
Review Date: 9/11/2016
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
As I turned off California Highway 29 and onto Dowdell Lane, I did not know quite what to expect, as the first part of the drive is mostly industrial parks with wine storage warehouses and the like. However, just past that, it was as if I entered a completely different place. To the west was a farmhouse, and in the distance to the north, a winery building that looked both historic and modern all at once. To the south, vineyards extended as far as the eye could see, 85 acres of prime vineyards belonging to Crocker & Starr.
This year, Crocker & Starr is celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Founded in 1997, the winery is a partnership between vintner Charlie Crocker, who bought the property in 1971 from the Dowdells, and Pam Starr, a winemaker who has been crafting wines for 33 years. Today, Crocker & Starr is comprised of 100 acres, 85 planted to vine. About 35 of those acres are used to make wines under the Crocker & Starr brand, while the remainder of the fruit is sold. The winery makes around 3200 cases, give or take, depending on what nature provides as its bounty.
Upon my arrival, my companion and I were greeted with glasses of refreshing sauvignon blanc by our tasting host, Laura, on the porch of the restored farmhouse that dates back to 1918. The porch itself felt inviting, with welcoming signs and a table of glasses. A basket of colorful parasols caught my attention, and Laura explained that they were for visiting the vineyards, for guests who did not want to be exposed to direct sunlight. It was the first time I had ever seen this at any of the wineries I have visited these past eight years.
I took up Lauras offer for a parasol as we headed down to the edge of the vineyards, where Laura told us a bit about Charlie Crocker and his career in the railroad, banking, and engineering businesses prior to purchasing the land that would become Crocker & Starr. As she spoke, we sipped the delectable Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc ($34; 1600 cases produced), whose grapes come from the estate and the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, and gazed across the expansive, meticulously maintained vineyards.
We returned to the stone house for our personalized, intimate tasting of the red wines, whose total production equals that of the sauvignon blanc, about 400-500 cases each. The room was beautifully decorated with Crocker & Starr mementos and artwork and offered a lovely view of the vineyards we had just visited. We began the seated tasting with two vintages of the Crocker & Starr Casali, the 2013 Casali 6 ($80) and the 2012 Casali 5 ($90), both malbec-dominant red blends inspired by Pam Starrs visit to Mendoza, Argentina, a few years ago. Both wines showcased the malbecs characteristic dark purple color and aromas of violets. However, it was the 2012 vintage Casali 5 that won my heart. This allocated, library offering, a blend of 82% malbec and 18% cabernet franc, was like taking a sip of Mendoza. Dark, spicy, and meaty, I, too, was immediately transported back to my 2013 visit to Argentina, where I last had malbec of this quality. I imagined pairing this with an Argentine asado after horseback riding in the Andes, like I had experienced during my trip.
We concluded the tasting with the 2013 Crocker & Starr Stone Place Cabernet Sauvignon, named for the vineyards proximity to the stone estate. Fermented and aged in French oak, 50% new, this wine showed great depth and complexity, an age-worthy wine, as well as a fitting testament to the Crocker & Starr twenty-year legacy of winegrowing and winemaking in this unexpected location beyond the warehouses of Dowdell Lane.
Address & Contact Information:
700 Dowdell Lane
Tasting Hours: By appt..
|Red Wine||White Wine||Service||View/Ambiance|
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