Meet Crocker & Starr's winemaker, who translates the flavors of St. Helena's complex terroir into Cabernet varieties.
The vineyard is Pam Starr’s playground and a deep source of pride. With her partner, Charlie Crocker, she revitalized an estate whose history dates back to the 1870s. Unlike most Napa Valley wineries that launch with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pam followed her passions, launching with 100 cases of Cabernet Franc, and expanding into Sauvignon Blanc, also an unexpected choice.
“St. Helena is a very special appellation growing region because two mountain ranges come together here,” says Pam. “I have five different soil profiles, and there are a lot of complications, so that makes exciting grape growing because soil is location, location, location.”
Crocker & Starr marks its 20th season in 2016—and the first with its own dedicated winemaking facility. “I’ve been unleashed from all creative impediments and feel like a kid in a candy store,” says Pam.
To enable this creative winemaking, Pam enlists all five senses. She tastes and touches; looks for the changing color of the berry; evaluates the smells of fruit or French vanilla; and listens for the sound of fermentation giving off CO2 or percolating.
Pam enjoys talking visitors through her process and says it’s made her more thoughtful about why she does what she does. Her eagerness to share is typical of the warm welcome you can expect from the Napa Valley community.
“People open their arms for people who come to visit Napa Valley because there’s so much to show, so much to share,” says Pam. “I wouldn’t be here without you popping corks of my wine—I just couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have you, and for that, I’m very grateful.”