Kistler Vineyards: Crafting Excellence in Californian Wines
Established in 1978, Kistler Vineyards stands as a pioneer in the realm of Californian winemaking, guided by the vision of founders Steve Kistler and Mark Bixler. Their belief that exceptional wines of site could thrive in California laid the foundation for a four-decade journey marked by dedication, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to quality.
Kistler specializes in crafting single clone Chardonnays, with a focus on a unique heritage Californian selection planted across fifteen vineyards, spanning Carneros, Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, and Sonoma Coast. This dedication to site-specific wines is unparalleled in the new world, reflecting a commitment to showcasing the true essence of each vineyard.
Since the mid-1980s, Kistler has been working with a singular Chardonnay clone imported from Burgundy in the early 20th century. The selection process involves decades of refinement, emphasizing low yields, small berries, and a remarkable ability to retain natural acidity during ripening. This meticulous approach ensures a perfect balance, making the fruit the sole ingredient needed for crafting exceptional wines.
Kistler’s Pinot Noirs are informed by two heritage selections originating from a Grand Cru vineyard in Burgundy. A 25-year journey of selection and refinement has led to the conclusion that both clones contribute to the richness and complexity of the wines. Similar to Chardonnay, the Pinot Noir approach emphasizes low yields, small berries, and a delicate touch to let the individual site characteristics shine through.
The winemaking process at Kistler is a testament to precision and artistry. All Chardonnays are fermented in subterranean barrel chais, allowing native yeast and biological patinas to shape the wines. Pinot Noir fermentations are meticulously watched over, guiding the process with minimal intervention. The use of hand-stacked French cooperage, air-dried in St. Romain, further enhances the uniqueness of each vintage.
Kistler’s relationship with growers is fundamental to their success. Instead of traditional fruit buying, the winery plants in partnership with growers, selecting optimal soils and working closely on vine establishment with heritage clones. This collaborative approach, established since the late ’70s, ensures a deep understanding of each vineyard’s potential.
In 2008, Bill Price, owner of Durell Vineyards, joined Kistler Vineyards, ensuring a seamless transition and continuity. Jason Kesner, winemaker since 2008, played a pivotal role in laying the groundwork for the next forty years. Steve Kistler’s retirement in 2017 marked a transition, but his legacy and viticultural dialogue continue to influence the winery’s unique approach.
At Kistler Vineyards, the blend of tradition, innovation, and a profound respect for the land creates wines that are not just products of the moment but reflections of California’s terroir and the dedication of those who have shaped its winemaking history.