Chateau St. Jean was founded in Sonoma Valley, near Kenwood, in 1973 by Robert and Edward Merzoian and Ken Sheffield. The three business partners were grape growers who wanted to make wine. Their first winemaker Richard Arrowood went on to establish his own winery in the 1990s, leaving a legacy of outstanding winemaking, especially with Chardonnay. In 1997 the 117-acre estate was purchased by Beringer Wine Estates. With vineyards in Sonoma Valley and the Russian River Valley, the estate grows a wide variety of red and white grapes and purchases additional varietals, including Pinot Noir and Riesling. Robert M. Parker Jr. has written that though Chateau St. Jean is often considered primarily “a white wine producing estate because of the brilliant quality of their Fume Blancs and Chardonnays, they also fashion very fine Cabernet Sauvignons as well as an excellent Bordeaux blend…”
Sonoma County is not an AVA, but it is a commonly used informal designation for wines made outside of more specific AVAs within Sonoma, which is a large wine producing region just west of Napa Valley. Though Sonoma is often overshadowed by its glamorous neighbor Napa Valley, it has a long history of wine production. The area specialized in jug wine until the mid-20th century, when Sonoma producers took a cue from Napa and started improving quality. Unlike Napa, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king, Sonoma specialized in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, though excellent Cabs are produced too. There are at present 16 AVAs within Sonoma County, and, like much of the West Coast of the United States, new AVAs are created in Sonoma County with regularity. Some Sonoma appellations, such as the Russian River Valley, are renowned for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.