The Russian River Valley near San Francisco is home to the Kistler Vineyards. This family-run operation has rapidly gained an enviable reputation for the production of some of the most innovative Burgandy styled mineral rich Chardonnay’s and Pinot Noir’s coming out of the United States. The total lineup of wines is making 10 Chardonnay wines (designated by vineyard) and just four designated Pinot Noir wines.
The company was formed in 1978 and remains a rather niche player. In part due to the small number of cases that are produced each year. At last count, this stood in the region of 35,000 cases. The wines can be difficult to come by as the Kistler marketing model makes great use of a highly focused mailing list.
Wines are aged in French Oak barrels (malolactic fermentation methods were used to achieve the unique taste of the wines) the end result is then bottled unfiltered. The result of the care lavished on the vineyards where the grapes are sourced (these stretch from the west of Sonoma County to just north of San Francisco Bay) are wines that are naturally balanced with focused, buttery flavors. The wines could best be described as ‘full-blown’ and yet with understated elegance. The classic methods used in the production of both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir creations has meant that the regional characteristics of each of the farms where the grapes are sourced have been allowed to mingle into a final product that is more than a sum of its parts. These wines are a unique expression of the Kistler Vineyards approach. However, that same approach has led many wine experts to note that should the Kistler operation be somehow magically transported to Burgundy’s Cote d’Or then the wines would quickly gain a reputation for being as good, if not better than the locally produced Burgundy grand crus. That is high praise indeed.
The Kistler Vineyards have received acclaim and recognition for wines that epitomize the California ideal for buttery, fruit forward Chardonnays. The use of malolactic fermentation is now falling out of favor and the owners of Kistler Vineyards are beginning to explore other methods of bringing new taste experiences to market. Although the output of the vineyard still remains fairly limited especially when compared to some of the other giant operations that call California home there are signs that things are changing. experts who are intimately familiar with both the wines themselves and the operation have noted that the last decade has seen a much more innovative mindset take hold at Kistler Vineyards and that the existing products are now reaching a level of maturity that positions them to go head to head with the best that California can offer.
The wines that are produced at this vineyard have been described as exhibiting power, harmony, distinction and poise. These are attributes that will position the vineyard for expansion beyond the currently limited market footprint. If you are lucky enough to stumble across a bottle or two of Kistler Vineyard wine – make sure that you grab hold with both hands – this is an operation that is going to go from streh=gth to strength.