A single-clone for consistent, opulent elegance
In 1978 Steve Kistler and Mark Bixler founded Kistler Vineyards to materialise an idea ahead of its time: that terroir-driven, single-clone wines could and should be made in California. This is the principle that guided Kistler at its inception and remains true today, in a constant pursuit of precision, expressiveness and elegance.
Location: Sonoma, California, USA
Interesting fact: In the words of Robert Parker, the famous American wine critic and founder of The Wine Advocate, “If the Kistler Winery could be magically transported to the middle of Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, it would quickly gain a reputation as glorious as any producer of Burgundy grand crus.”
Kistler Vineyards Wines
Kistler Vineyards defines itself as a ‘single clone Chardonnay house’. This definition is testament to the goal that set the project’s foundation: making focused, site-specific and single-clone wines. When Steve Kistler and Mark Bixler founded Kistler in 1978 this approach was far from obvious; their pioneering, visionary philosophy would eventually influence a whole generation of Californian winemakers, newly attuned to the local potential for Burgundian grapes and styles.
The vineyards owned and farmed by Kistler stretch from western Sonoma County to just north of the San Francisco Bay – fifteen vineyards planted to one heritage Californian selection of Chardonnay and from which eleven vineyard designated Chardonnays are produced. Kistler has been working with the same singular clone of Chardonnay since the mid 1980’s. The parent material was imported from Burgundy in the early 20th century and subsequently selected for and by Californian farmers and winemakers over decades of observation and experimentation through which the plants most suited to the local growing conditions were found. Further selection was conducted at Kistler, honing on the characters the team finds most compelling and have shaped the house’s style: low yields, small berries, fruit with amazing flavour concentration and a distinct ability to retain acidity while ripening fully.
The meticulous understanding of the vineyards and plants is further nurtured in the cellar, where the wines are fermented with spontaneous yeasts only, at moderately cool temperatures and with little to no manipulation of the fruit. All the Chardonnays are barrel fermented in Kistler’s subterranean chais, where only custom-made St.Romain barrels are used. This relentless attention to details is the basis for wines of intense focus, with a strong mineral backbone, natural balance and robust elegance.
The same approach has extended Kistler’s programme to Pinot Noir: two heritage selections of Burgundian material, treated with goldsmith precision and handled delicately in the cellar.
Even though Steven Kistler retired from his brainchild project in 2017, the groundwork for the Kistler’s future has been firmly laid: Bill Price, longtime owner of Durell Vineyards purchased an interest in Kistler Vineyards from Steve in 2008 and Jason Kesner joined Steve in the cellar in 2008 for a smooth and capable transition of the winemaking programme.