Chateau St. Jean or Château Margo as the winery's staff and the brand's staunchest adherents are fond of saying has been one of California's most heralded and consistent wineries over the last three decades. Not surprisingly, much of the winery's success lies in the fact that Margo Van Staaveren has been making wine at Chateau St. Jean for the past 27 years.
Since graduating from UC Davis in 1979, Margo has never worked full time anywhere else. Like most California wineries, Chateau St. Jean has undergone several changes over the years in ownership as well as philosophy, but with Margo Van Staaveren always minding the vats, one bright, constant star has managed to guide Chateau St. Jean in the path of excellence.
When Margo first arrived at Chateau St. Jean, Dick Arrowood was the winery's chief winemaker. Now legendary, Arrowood later began his own winery, producing wines of unabashed excellence and critical acclaim. Margo concedes a great debt of gratitude to Arrowood, whom she considers a crucial mentor. However, when Arrowood moved on, Margo's husband, Don Van Staaveren took over as chief winemaker and he and Margo embarked on a new project that has since left an indelible stamp on the world of wine – the introduction of Cinq Cepages, one of California's first great meritage wines. The 1996 Cinq Cepages was named Wine of the Year in 1999 by Wine Spectator but, perhaps, even more impressive is the fact that Chateau St. Jean had five of the six top rated wines on California's Top Hundred List that year.
Chateau St. Jean is as renowned today for its glorious Chardonnays as it is for Cinq Cepages, thanks to Margo. Unequivocally, Margo Van Staaveren reigns over Chateau St. Jean, not only as the unofficial queen of Chardonnay, but also officially as the winery's chief winemaker. Several years ago, Margo finally accepted the much-heralded position of head winemaker at Chateau St. Jean. In fact, "when we announced that she was taking over as winemaker, they (winery employees) had a cape for her and a crown," said Dan Leese, the winery's president and managing director. I guess we are not the only ones who recognize royalty when we see it. Long live the queen!