2016 marked the 20th vintage for Pam Starr under her Crocker & Starr label. They opened a new winery in 2016 as well, so the future is looking bright for this purveyor of pure, delicious St. Helena wines.
The estate vineyard dates back to the late 1800s, but venture capitalist Charlie Crocker purchased the estate in the early 70s and began replanting Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon where Merlot, Riesling, and Zinfandel had put down roots. When the St. Helena AVA was approved in 1995, Charlie tapped the winemaking talent of Pam Starr, who was making wine at neighboring Spotteswoode, and this project kicked off.
Over the past two decades, the estate has grown to some 85 planted acres of Bordeaux varieties. The team transitioned from conventional to organic farming, which Pam credits for providing a sense of “verve” to the wines. They held onto the best older Cabernet Sauvignon vines, but planted Cabernet Franc and other red varieties, and Sauvignon Blanc in some more clay-dominated areas of the estate.
I recently tasted four new releases from Crocker & Starr, all four of which are exciting, absolutely delicious, and age-worthy (even the Sauv Blanc would be cool with three or four years on it). I was really impressed with the flagship Stone Place Cabernet, but also surprised by the depth and purity of the Malbec-dominated blend and the Cabernet Franc.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2015 Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc - California, Napa Valley
Medium yellow color. On the nose I get lemon/lime, green melon, guava, and a host of sliced jalapeno, white pepper, white tea and herbal spice notes. Bold texture on the palate, a creamy/waxy feel combines with bright acidity for a fresh balance. Yellow apple, lime, green melon, the juicy fruit is topped in honeycomb, white flowers, white pepper, some sea salt notes, too. Quite harmonious on the palate, and straight-up delish. Crocker Vineyard fruit blended with some from Las Trancas Vineyard in southern Napa. Fermented in a mix of stainless steel, new and used French oak, and concrete eggs, and aged eight months on the lees. (90 points IJB)
2014 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Franc - California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
Bright purple color. Beautiful dark but vibrant plum and currant fruit on the nose, along with sweet pipe tobacco, eucalyptus, pine forest and slight notes of vanilla and clove. Full-bodied and structured but maintains a fresh appeal and lively acidity. Juicy black currant and dark plum fruit is doused in charcoal, tobacco barn, black pepper glaze, along with vanilla, cedar and coffee mixed in nicely. Very pretty and silky despite a bold presence on the palate, this has plenty of time to open up in the cellar. From the Crocker Vineyard. Aged 20 months in 80% new French oak, includes a 1% shot of Petit Verdot. (91 points IJB)
2014 Crocker & Starr Casali 7th Edition - California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
Deep purple color. So dark and juicy on the nose, with plum cake and blackberry, also some cola, coffee, scorched earth and violet petals. Full and juicy on the palate but quite serious in its tannic grip, medium/low acidity. Great concentration of fruit (blackberries and dark plums), bold but also smooth. Notes of violets, charcoal, iron and coffee grounds with a loamy, mineral streak. Lots of fun, but a serious wine for the cellar. 92% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, aged 17 months in 55% new French oak. (91 points IJB)
2014 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Sauvignon Stone Place - California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
Deep purple color. Deep and dark on the nose but pops with liveliness as well, black currants and blackberries mixed with tobacco, menthol, rich dark soil, coffee, Full-bodied and saucy but structured tannins and moderate acidity keeps it balanced despite its boldness. Juicy blackberries, black cherries and currants, the fruit is ripe but zesty, with notes of eucalyptus, coffee, dark chocolate, loamy soil, graphite, rounded out with warm spice, roasted chestnut and vanilla. Beautiful now but should improve nicely over the next five to eight years. All Cabernet from 40-year-old vines, the wine is aged 19 months in 90% new French oak. (93 points IJB)