Today’s Vintner in the Spotlight is Pam Starr, co-owner and winemaker of Crocker & Starr Winery in St. Helena California. In 1997 Starr helped resurrect the vineyards on the Crocker Estate in St. Helena and established a winery to create world-class wines. Pam’s love affair with winemaking began as a harvest intern for Sonoma Cutrer in Sonoma after graduating from the University of California at Davis in 1984 with a degree in Fermentation Science. Seduced by the fast pace, the pleasures of working the land and the wine itself, Starr had found her calling. “I was simply smitten – the way one is when falling madly in love. Winemaking is mysterious, it’s sexy, and it’s magical.” Pam Starr is known for her distinctive Bordeaux-style blends that express a deep sense of place. Enthusiastic and innately inspired, Starr views her job as translating soil into wine; “great wine must taste of the sun, of the earth it comes from and of the place it grows”. I present this week’s Vintner in the Spotlight, Pam Starr.
South Florida Food and Wine: For those not familiar with Crocker & Starr wines, tell us a bit about your winery and how you got started.
Pam Starr: In 1997, Charlie Crocker and I established Crocker & Starr Winery with a vision to create great wines which could stand among the world’s finest wines. With Charlie’s 100-acre organically farmed estate vineyard on farmland that has grown grapes for over 140 years and my winemaking expertise, vision and business acumen, we proved to be a spectacular match. Charlie and I co-own Crocker & Starr and I am the winery president and winemaker.
South Florida Food and Wine: If you had to classify your wine, what type is it? (value, moderate, cult) And why did you choose this classification?
Pam Starr: Crocker & Starr produces cult type wines with what I call “high ratio”. Wines that way over deliver for their price.
South Florida Food and Wine: Tell us about the different wines within the Crocker & Starr portfolio.
Pam Starr: We organically grow three estate wines, all distinctive and true to their “pin point” on the Saint Helena map. Our icon wine is the old vine Cabernet Sauvignon which is typically 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has become known as a collectors Cabernet as I capture this grape with power and balance. Next, our Cab Franc which is known to many Franc fans as dense and ripe as Franc gets with all the exotic flower and spice aromas. And finally, our Sauvignon Blanc which is the first C&S wine I designed and planted. The style of this Sauvignon Blanc is to capture the best attributes of this grape (Lime and guava flavors) in a pure, fresh and juicy style.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your most memorable wine moment to date?
Pam Starr: My 50th birthday which I celebrated at a very well know steakhouse in Tampa. The second of the two nights was officially Bordeaux night where we started with a magnum of 1918 Gruaud Larose which was alive and beautiful throughout the night. Just the promise that wines last nearly 100 years inspires my work.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the most challenging thing about being a winemaker/entrepreneur?
Pam Starr: Through the 29 years that I’ve been making wine, the best and biggest challenge I have is to make better and better wines every year. The entrepreneur challenge is to make it through the company’s growth phase where the multiple “hats” that I wear are tossed onto the lovely heads of people who work for us!
South Florida Food and Wine : Where can your wines be purchased?
Pam Starr: Crocker & Starr can be found in a limited number of restaurants and a few fine wine boutique shops. Most of our Crocker & Starr wines are sold to our Casali Club members and our mailing list at crockerstarr.com
South Florida Food and Wine: Who is the one person you would love to share a bottle of your wine with and why?
Pam Starr: Before Julia Child passed away, I was very fortunate to enjoy her company at various dinner parties and events but never had the opportunity to share my wines with her one on one. Julia’s passion for food and wine and her entrepreneurial spirit would make for a lively evening with me and my wines.
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your last day on earth, what would your final quaff and meal be?
Pam Starr: 2001 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Sauvignon “Stone Place”, a tin of epoisse cheese and a beautiful loaf of country bread.
South Florida Food and Wine: What was the last restaurant you ate at and did you order/bring your wine?
Pam Starr: La Toque in Napa and yes I brought a bottle with me as that is what we do when we entertain our guests. Of course, we order several bottles from the list as diversity is the spice of life!
South Florida Food and Wine: Other than your own wine, what is your quaff of choice?
Pam Starr: I’m definitely an “old world” wine fan and feel like I cut my teeth on Bordeaux and I right now I think I’d like to open a bottle of 1979 Troplong Mondot to inspire me for the harvest season.
Crocker & Starr Winery 700 Dowdell Lane Saint Helena CA 94574
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