Updated: Jan 13
Recognize this glowing face in the picture below?
I adore my Instagram and now real life friend Kathy aka @vinstagrape We met for the first time at Kistler Vineyards. Such a treat to drink mouthwatering wine and chat about how Insta brought us together.
Kistler has arguably the best Chardonnay house in all the land. I should probably mention the elephant in the room…. I’ve very publicly admitted online that I am NOT a Chardonnay lover. Why in tarnation would I book an appointment where 4 Chardonnays are poured and only 1 Pinot? Well, I’ve grown up friends. The little fledgling wine baby has leaped out of her nest and is soaring. My palette has expanded. Over the past 81 days I’ve immersed myself in everything Sonoma County wines has to offer.
My wine preferences have evolved. Where I used to like light, airy, easy drinking wine I’m now finding such pleasure sipping wines of incredible depth, balance, and layers upon layers of complexity. Kistler is one of those shining wine memories. A tasting experience where, as a wine drinker, you feel like you’ve truly arrived. Kistler sits on a gorgeous property in Forestville. A luxury tasting experience. 360 degree views. Looking out every window is like gazing onto an exquisite piece of vineyard art.
What’s fascinating about Kistler Chardonnay is experiencing the impact of terroir. The same grape clone is planted in various prime growing areas and then handled exactly the same way. Almost as if by magic each wine is noticeably different. Each Chardonnay has such a distinct flavor profile. I’m smitten. Smitten with my wine friend Kathy. Smitten with Kistler Chardonnay. Smitten with Sonoma County’s beauty and how it continues to amaze me on this joyful summer day!
Now on to more of the facts…
Located on Trenton Rd outside sleepy Forestville in west Sonoma County.
Tasting by appointment only.
The tasting room is in the Trenton Roadhouse, a 93 year old white farmhouse.
The Kistler brand waited 34 years before opening a wine tasting facility.
The launch of the exclusive, distinctive tasting facility was in 2015.
Steve Kistler suggested stark white interior for the look of the new tasting room.
He thought serious tasting needs to be conducted in a white room.
Tastings happen in the back of the house with a view of the barn and vineyards.
Both the beautiful tasting table and floor are ebonized wood.
Upstairs in the supposedly haunted attic, there’s a dining room that seats 22 people.
On the roof of the farmhouse are picturesque views of the pond and barn.
The old barn on the site has also been renovated into a large central tasting room.
On both sides are barrel cellars and in the back a covered crush pad.
After working at Ridge Winery in the mid 70’s,
Steve Kistler founded Kistler Vineyards in 1978 and partnered with the late Mark Bixler.
Steve helped make Dutton Ranch famous as a premier source of grapes.
Steve, a pioneer in California for French style winemaking.
Burgundian style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are Kistler’s specialty.
Fruit from cooler regions, Sonoma Mountains, Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast.
All ten Chardonnay vineyards use the Wente clone, a California grape, used for 30 years.
The four Pinot Noir vineyards use two clones imported from Burgundy 20 years ago.
Kistler plants old clone vines that have a lower yield and smaller grapes and clusters.
They prefer the intensity of flavor that results from the old clone vines.
Wines are allocated through a mailing list, based on customer loyalty and amount purchased.
Wines start at $70 and go up to $120. Minimum purchase, one case for each of two offerings.
A group of investors purchased a major stake in Kistler in 2008.
Now in 2018 Steve Kistler is stepping down as CEO.
Bill Price bought a small stake in Kistler in 2008.
Steve and Bill Price have worked together since 1998.
Steve sourced grapes from Price’s 200 acres Durell Vineyard.
Jason Kesner will step up to manage the vineyards and winemaking.
Some say if there were a Mount Rushmore of California wine,
Steve Kistler would be in the discussion for inclusion.
Bill Price is also well positioned in the Sonoma wine industry.
He is the founder of Sonoma’s Three Sticks, and Gary Farrell, Lutum Wines and Kistler investor.
Steve’s Second Act:
After working with men most of his life, Steve is now partnering with women.
He’s making wine with his two daughters, Catherine and Lizzy.
In a world class Pinot Noir operation on the headlands of the Freestone-Occidental area.
It started mid 70’s, he worked for Ridge Winery, and he’d pick up Zin grapes around Bodega.
In 1995 with Warren Dutton he planted 4 acres of pinot noir and named it Occidental Vineyard.
Then in the late 90’s a dream really percolated when he tasted pinot from that area.
So in 2011 things got serious, he established a family brand, Occidental.
Today Occidental farms 85 acres of pinot noir grapes in the Freestone-Occidental area.
The Bodega Headlands is where he calls home.