Monday, September 6, 2010

2007 Chardonnay line-up from Kistler Vineyards

Kistler Vineyards belongs to the better producers of chardonnays in California, and since their first vintage 1979, they have both put more focus and refined their ways of farming and making great wines, as well as gained some kind of a cult status for their wines. In the 80s and early 90s, the wines tasted richer with more forward oak flavor, now vintner and winemaking team Mark Bixler and Steve Kistler have found a much finer alance and therefore greater complexity in their wines.
They own around 24 hectares of vines in Sonoma Valley and Russian River Valley, and besides that they either farm and buy or only buy grapes from several top notch vineyards in Carneros, Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. The grapes are whole bunch pressed, and the juice is then fermented with its natural yeast in small French oak barrels, of which 40 percent at the most are new, with the balance of one and two year old barrels. In the past, much more new oak was used.
Thanks to the same vinification across the range of wines, each vineyard selection will display the terroir of each appellation and vineyard. That makes Kistler Vineyard quite unique, only a few other producers in northern California works with such a wide range of Chardonnay vineyards as they do (Patz & Hall will be another very good example).
The total production is around 15 000 cases annually.

2007 Dutton Ranch / 92 p
The Dutton Ranch, or Dutton Ranches as one should call the wine if one wanted to be more correct, was the first wine made by Kistler already in 1979. The grapes are normally sourced from four of the several dozens of vineyards which covers a total of 380 hectares that Dutton family owns in Russian River. This is one of the most elegant wines in the range and it offers a lovely bouquet of citrus, white flowers, honey and bees wax, and just a fine touch of oak. On the palate it is medium bodied with a lively acidity (the vineyards are all located in the cooler parts of Russian River), a silky texture and just a dash of roasted hazelnut flavors from the oak barrels. As all wines, it benefits from decanting to breathe half an hour before enjoying it.
Drink it 2010-2014.

2007 McCrea Vineyard / 93-94 p
According to Steve Kistler, this vineyard gives one of the finest chardonnays in Sonoma County. It’s located at 240 meters of altitude in Sonoma Mountain and was originally planted with old low yielding clones back in 1970. The wine is elegant with a fine cool climate fruit aroma (citrus and yellow apples), and the oak is very well integrated with just a dash of roasted hazelnuts which is part of the signature of Kistler chardonnays. The cool scented but ripe, intense and almost fat fruit flavor is on finely balanced with acidity and oak (more flavors that actual taste) and there’s also a lovely salty taste of mineral. It’s easy to agree with Steve Kistler, this is a very fine wine. For those who seek a more refined taste, I would recommend a few more years of bottle age – this is one the wines that turns quite burgundian over the years.
Drink it 2010-2016.

2007 Durell Vineyard / 92-93 p
The Durell Vineyard is located very close to San Pablo Bay in the south of Sonoma Carneros, so it therefore belongs to the Sonoma Coast appellation. The soil is poor and stony and the vines in the lot that Kistler works with, was planted in 1993 with low yielding clones from Hyde Vineyard and of the Old Wente selection. As expected of this cool site, this wine always show a zesty citrus flavor, a fresh acidity and a touché of mineral. Perhaps the winemaking philosophy should be a bit more careful, the oak is at the moment more present on both the nose and the palate since the body is slightly lighter, and also since the acidity and mineral notes makes the aftertaste a bit shorter. That oak flavor will of course soften over the coming year, and it may be a good idea to let the wine mature for another six months or so before pulling the cork.
Drink it 2010-2016.

2007 Hyde Vineyard / 95 p
In whatever bottle the grapes from Larry Hyde’s vineyard ends up, the wine tend to taste pretty good. In the hand of the magicians Steve Kistler and Mark Bixler, it should taste better than good. And it does! This is normally one of my personal favorites from Kistler. As young as it is today, it offers a ripe and intense nose and palate with a spicy note of oak – however in full balance. But looking beyond the oak, there is a fabulous nose and taste that is reminiscent of a very fine and serious wine from Meursault (domains such as Roulot and even Coche-Dury, but slightly riper). The quiz weather this is American or burgundian is more apparent on the palate, where the texture is superb, silky, viscous and ripe as a grand cru wine, with a fresh acidity, very well integrated oak (it’s more of a texture than a taste) and a lingering aftertaste. This is a beautiful wine that will age just perfectly over the next years. And the burgundian equality will be more obvious in, let’s say, 3-4 years from now.
Drink it 2010-2017.

2007 Hudson Vineyard / 91-93 p
Lee Hudson is one of the best growers in Carneros, and Kistler have since 1994 been buying grapes from the famous E-Block that was originally planted with the Old Wente clone for Helen Turley. Compared to the Hyde vineyard selection, this wine is more dense and ripe (which surprised me a bit) and therefore more Californian in style. Still you’ll find some classic notes on the nose. The fruit is slightly sweet, and to be honest a little bit to warm and ripe to offer that brightness and finesse I expected, but since the wine is young and (perhaps) a bit closed, and it opens up during the time it sits in the glass, I expect it to taste a bit dryer and more elegant within a year or two. Of all the wines in this horizontal tasting, this was the one that confused me most. I look forward to taste it soon again.
Drink it 2010-2014.

2007 Parmlee Hill Vineyard Stone Flat / 94-95 p
Although the Parmlee Hill vineyard far out in Sonoma Coast was planted in 2000, it shows already a great potential to make one of the best and most impressive wines in the range. The nose is open and expressive, for the cool climate typical with its intense and almost sweet scented stone fruit qualities (due to the extended hang time on the vines), and there is also a slightly smoky aroma that I suppose comes from a combination of the soil and the oak barrels. On the palate it rich, finely textured and marked by fresh acidity, and although the oak is present with both a young bitterness and sweet vanilla flavors, it’s well integrated in the long aftertaste. During the 30-40 minutes I had the wine in my glass it gradually opened up and became more and more complex. It was a very positive first meeting!
Drink it 2010-2016.

2007 Vine Hill Vineyard / 93-94 p
Vine Hill Vineyard covers 8.10 hectares of vines and is one (the second) of two estate vineyards. It’s located at Vine Hill Road in the heart of Russian River Valley, and was planted in 1988 with a suitcase clone of Chardonnay that is said to have been taken from Corton-Charlemagne. It may well be so, at least this wine normally show the lightest body and finest texture of the chardonnays from Kistler. On both the nose and the palate, finesse is the dominant personality. The oak is perfectly well integrated, so the delicious floral note shines through and adds elegance to the wine. Acidity is lively but well balanced, and although the aftertaste is fine and harmonious, I miss the magic in the finish. Still it is a very fine wine. Perhaps it’s just a bit too young at the moment.
Drink it 2010-2015.

2007 Kistler Vineyard / 94-95 p
When Kistler Vineyards was founded in 1979, this was their first estate vineyard and the home of their small winery. At that time, the 14 hectares at 600 meters elevation above Sonoma Valley was planted to Chardonnay of the Martin Ray clone from Mount Eden Vineyards in Santa Crus, as well as some Cabernet Sauvignon which is not longer there. In 1995, two more hectares of Chardonnay was planted. I was surprised how closed this wine was at first, but that shyness also made the wine even more burgundian and classic. Even though the cooler fruit flavors of citrus and yellow apples are most evident, there’s also a touch of butterscotch, but the oak flavors are very mild. It’s really a beauty, and it will taste just phenomenal in the next year or two.
Drink it 2010-2016.

2007 Cuvée Cathleen / 92-94 p
This is the white special cuvée of Kistler (there are few top selections of Pinot Noir) and the source of the grapes varies depending on the vintage. Normally, a majority of the wines comes from either Vine Hill Vineyard or Kistler Vineyard, but since this is a cuvée of the best barrels in the cellar, there will always be a blend of vineyards. In this vintage, most or even all grapes comes from Kistler Vineyard, and as always it is the most concentrated wine. It’s not, a huge wine as so many “reserve” selections can be – the house style and finesse is still evident. However, there are more oak flavors here, both some spiciness and a sweetish note of vanilla, but thanks to the acidity the overall balance is just fine. One of the tasters made a very interesting remark, that this wine shows a little bit of everything – both the depths, the higher aromatics, the intensity, the lightness, the mineral notes and the acidity.
Drink it 2010-2016.

1 comment:

  1. Acidity more harmfull for health.It cant do any work.....
    Thanks for information.......