Kistler Vineyards was founded in 1978 by Steve Kistler and Mark Bixler. While initially attracted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Kistler soon realized the potential California held for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Kistler was one of the early proponents of growing Burgundian varieties in Western Sonoma, where the long California days are tempered by the cold Pacific Ocean. Kistler took a step back from winemaking after 2017, installing longtime employee Jason Kesner as winemaker. Kesner continues to produce some of the highest quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California with consistently warm reception from wine critics in the trade.
Kistler bottles ten different Chardonnays all using the same heritage clone of Chardonnay. This helps accentuate the differences between each site while retaining key growing characteristics throughout the portfolio. Every Chardonnay is barrel fermented and aged “sur lie” for eleven to eighteen months to once again accentuate only the differences inherent to each site. Kistler produces a smaller quantity of Pinot Noir, which is fermented in small open-top stainless steel containers before aging in barrel for fourteen to eighteen months.
Kistler sources grapes from three distinct areas — the Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Mountains, and Carneros. The Sonoma Coast has the most direct marine influence, creating cool days with prolonged sun exposure slowly developing deep fruit. The Sonoma Mountains are cooled by elevation in relation to the surrounding valleys, yielding wines with pronounced elegance. Carneros lies at the juncture of ocean winds and bay fogs, creating wines that show both incredible balance and power.
Steve Kistler continues to explore what Sonoma holds for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay through his Occidental label. Kistler was inspired by his early encounters with vineyards right on the coast during his tenure with Ridge Vineyards. The Fort-Ross Seaview area is undoubtably at the forefront of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay production in Sonoma.