Crocker & Starr

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Crocker & Starr

Pam Starr is simply a Rock Star. I believe she is in the elite top 10 winemakers in Napa, but she is also much more than this. Knowing Pam Starr and following her exquisite wines for years, just about all would agree! Her technical pedigree comes from UC Davis in Fermentation Science. She started as intern at Sonoma Cutrer, Edna Valley Vineyard, then six years at Carmenet Winery and then winemaker for Spottswoode Vineyard. In 1997 she and Charlie Crocker established Crocker & Starr.

Charlie Crocker comes from the one of California’s oldest families, with his grandfather who was involved in the Central Pacific railroad in the mid 1800’s. His family heritage was a force in California’s development. Charlie also was involved in high tech and ran several companies very successfully. He had always had a keen interest in wine. Charlie in 1971 purchased the Dowdell property in St Helena. Today 85 of the 100 acres are planted in the classical Bordeaux grapes.

The blending of these two personalities is as smooth as their wine — seamless and magnificent.

What I enjoy most in knowing Pam, is her genuineness and friendliness. You can stop by and see her in the vineyards, driving a forklift, punching down tubs of grapes, just about anything and everything. She is immersed in the business of “perfection”. Yet she has time, to sit down and talk, provide a bowl of water for my dogs, and even converse about mundane “non-wine issues”. She is above all else, real and kind. Why wouldn’t you like her wine?

Her enthusiasm spills over into her craft of winemaking skills. I am speaking as a customer and wine club member from this perspective. Since meeting Pam, some 10+ years ago, her wines started out at a 10 (scale of 1-10) and have remained at this quality the entire time!

Let’s talk about the wines she produces. First, and why I sought Crocker & Starr out 10 years ago, is their Cabernet Franc. Each year they produce one of the most consistently solid and best Cabernet Franc’s in the Valley. The wine always shows a deep purple, with concentrates of black raspberries and tobacco. As some Cab Francs can be “strong”, C & S’s  are strong in texture, but surprisingly soft and velvety to drink. They have enough balance of structure, tannin and acid to last 10-15 years without fail.


While initially attracted to their Cabernet Franc, I was introduced to their Cabernet Sauvignon which was also in a league of their own. This wine is called Stone Place, comes from some of the oldest vines on the property (40+ years). This produces small concentrated berries which gives the wine a deep ruby color with immense complexity. Pam’s best describes it as “a complex nose showcases aromas of cocoa, black cherry, coffee bean, lavender and vanilla spice. Flavors of black plum and huckleberry preserves, expand on the palate with ripe berry and black chocolate lingering on the wine’s silky finish”.  Again, in the top tier of Cabernet Sauvignon’s in the Valley.

She also produces two of my favorite other wines!!  The Sauvignon Blanc which has phenomenal citrus and liveliness to awake any seafood pairing. This is a stable in the cellar for these occasions and especially for an Ahi ceviche with mango, serrano peppers, etc.


The other wine is her Casili Blend, which today, is their 5th release. It is a combination of Malbec (82%) and Cabernet Franc (18%) which we serve often with Spanish or high Mexican dishes— it is the perfect compliment.


Perhaps one of the best things about the winery when visiting is sitting in the “cottage” or at the solid wood table just outside, with a great view of the vineyards. From there a simple flat stroll to the vineyard in which winery personnel can explain the trellising system, climate and their unique terroir. A new physical processing plant is going up as this is being published, but more on that later in another article.


Very seldom to you find a winery or winemaker who can have the broad scope of winemaking of varietals, blends and reds and whites wines. Today, Crocker & Starr is our go to wine for just about any occasion or event. I have proudly introduced 100’s to her wine. Pam excels at all with a humbleness of a simple farm worker— that and exceptional wines, is what makes her a Rock Star.


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