Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kistler Chardonnays

The more I taste the younger vintages of the chardonnays of Kistler, the more I find them to show elegance, complexity and personality. They are all whole cluster pressed, the must is then settled over night and fermented with its natural yeast in French oak, 40-60 percent new depending on vintage and vineyard. All wines undergoes full malolactic fermentation and are barrel aged on their lees for 12 to 18 months, with frequent bâtonnage during the first year. Consider that treatment, the wines are surprisingly elegant. And they have become even more elegant in recent years. I strongly recommend you to decant the Kistler chardonnays at least 30 minutes prior to serving them, or even one hour in advance, and also to serve them at around 12-14 degrees rahter than too chilled. This is the best way to maximize the pleasure of drinking those wines!

2004 Chardonnay Vine Hill Vineyard / 93-94
The grapes for this wine are sourced from the 8.10 hectare estate vineyard in the heart of Russian River. With a production of about 2 700 cases, it’s normally the largest of the vineyard selections from Kistler. Like all of his chardonnays, it's unfiltered and therefore slightly hazy, in this case also with a first hint of golden straw maturity nuances. On the nose, the wine shows lovely notes of ripe pears and lemon zest, and apart from a slightly more roasted touch of oak ageing than you normally find in Burgundy, it’s actually quite burgundian like. For sure, the cooler climate of Russian River is shown here, and the alcohol (14.1 percent) it very well integrated. When I first tasted the wine, it showed more ripe fruit, but with some air and the time in the glass (and especially after two hours in the decanter), the sweet notes almost disappeared. That’s when the highly appreciated complexity takes over. And there’s a lot of fresh acidity and also mineral notes from the goldridge soil, and the long lingering aftertaste is so incredibly elegant. The 40 percent of new French oak is incredibly well integrated. Drink it now thru 2012.

2005 Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard / 95
Color is slightly more golden yellow in this wine, still with a youthful greenish touch. As expected (this wine was not blind tasted), both the nose and body shows good concentration. The Chardonnay grapes of Old Wente Clone are sourced from the legendary E-Block of Lee Hudson Vineyard in the cool Carneros of Napa Valley, from where Helen Turley of Marcassin made her legendary wines many years ago, hence the great reputation of this site. At first, this wine is rich and creamy and almost buttery. But there is more to come if you are patient – with air it really opens up, and after half an hour in the glass, it reveals more of a grand cru power and finesse. There is lemon zest, a delightful smokiness from the oak and the ageing on the lees and fine notes of pan roasted brioche and the bacon fat. The more wine evolves in the glass, the more complex it becomes. No wonder the Hudson Vineyard selection so often is the very best of the Kistler chardonnays. On the palate, oak is still present although well integrated with the rich but still very elegant fruit. Notes of roasted hazelnuts and nutmeg are there in a very soft and delicate way, but the cleanliness of the fruit and the fresh acidity – and a salty sensation I guess derives from the minerals in the soil – gives the wine a great balance. I just love this wine! Drink it over the next 4-5 years.

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