“Ten Medium Intensity Questions” with Pam Starr

 Photo courtesy of Joe Hendricks

Photo courtesy of Joe Hendricks

Pam Starr has been the co-owner, manager and winemaker of Crocker & Starr since its inception in 1997 when she helped resurrect the vineyards on the Crocker Estate in St. Helena and established a winery to create world-class wines. Pam knew she had found her calling when she interned with Sonoma Cutrer after graduating from UC Davis with a degree in Fermentation Science. As she puts it, “I was simply smitten – the way one is when falling madly in love.” And it’s been her life since. Passionate about translating terroir into wine, Pam is known for her distinctive Bordeaux-style blends that express a deep sense of place. Read on to learn more about Pam Starr with Charles Communications Associates' ongoing profiles - “Ten Medium Intensity Questions.”

1.    As a child, you collected…

Flowers, rocks, shells, plants, bugs…I had an innate love for the natural world. My sisters and I were born to Midwestern Canadian parents, people known as survivors, we settled in the countryside of NW Oregon. For fun we would have slug races and climb trees and wait for the deer to come so we could watch them lick the salt blocks. We were immersed in nature.

2.    Name a book that has had the most impact on your life? 

My dad used to read us Grimm’s fairytales before bedtime and my favorites were ‘The Fisherman and His Wife’ and the ‘Elves & the Shoemaker.' My favorite book though would have to be The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I have always loved fantastical stories that can still teach you something.

3.    Recall the biggest and best mistake you ever made and what you learned from it. 

One and the same. My biggest mistake is my tendency to react too quickly. I’m a very direct and literal, but always perfectly honest person and sometimes that gets me into trouble.

4.    Cabin in the woods or penthouse in the city and why? 

Cabin (or better yet an airstream) in the woods. I appreciate the lessons learned from the connection you have to the ebb and flow of nature when you live in a rural area.

 Photo courtesy of Crocker & Starr

Photo courtesy of Crocker & Starr

5.    What do you think about a future with driverless cars?  

To embrace driverless cars would be to shape a future that is no better than George Orwell’s 1984. Driving is a cerebral act, and to give it up would mean to give up the capacity to think for ourselves. Not to mention, we have ‘driverless cars’ already: they’re called busses, trains, and planes. I think we need to live in a society that promotes communal transportation, instead of isolation without responsibility.

6.    In 10 years how do you predict technology will change winemaking?   

Thirty three years to get an optical sorter – 10 years is not enough time for great technological change, unless someone is going to take winemaking to outer space. Tech has had more impact in past 10 years than it has in the last 30. I predict that technology will actually lose its fascination; it will be used to make better, middle of the road wines, but I don’t think technology will play any more of a role in extremely high-end, single vineyard or estate wines than it currently does. Unfortunately the young generation doesn’t know how to make wine without technology. Today, young wine entrepreneurs must produce and market their wine at the same time. Technology assists new wine companies that need staff.

7.    Most memorable bottle of wine you've tasted? 

That would have to be a magnum of 1918 Gruaud Larose, St. Julien that I had for my 50th birthday. The oldest wines tell the best stories.

 Photo courtesy of Mas.org

Photo courtesy of Mas.org

8.    What is your most memorable wine tasting experience? (*wink*wink*)

Well I was passing through New York City, and a friend of mine asked if I had ever met Levi Dalton. She thought we’d hit it off and suggested that I bring some of my wines to taste so we emailed back and forth and just couldn’t coordinate a time to meet. Levi and I came to the determination that the only way it would work is if we met in Penn Station as I was leaving and he was arriving. So I pre-opened two bottles, Crocker & Starr’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and bought them in brown paper bags along with some paper cups. We sat on a bench overlooking the departures and arrivals. I had to discreetly pour under the bench. It felt like something out of a film noir but we developed a great camaraderie.

9. If you weren't a winemaker, what career path might you have followed? 

Before I stumbled into the wine business, I was studying to take the dental admissions test. My father was an orthopedic surgeon, my mother was a nurse, and one of my sisters is a doctor of internal medicine so I felt compelled to go into the field. But my creative side got the better of me. If I didn’t go into wine though I definitely would have pursued something medical most likely. Maybe food borne diseases!

10. Name one thing every person should try at least once.

Everyone should put themselves to the challenge of what used to be the American dream and try to purchase their own home. Access to various life adventures is limited but everyone has a soul, a spirit, a brain – everyone should connect the three by setting a personal goal, putting themselves to the challenge of achieving it, and asking the universe to assist with the inevitable challenges along the way.


All the Swirl is a collections of thoughts and opinions assembled by the staff and industry friends of Charles Communications Associates, a marketing communications firm with its headquarters in San Francisco, California. We invite you to explore more about our company and clients by visiting www.charlescomm.com.