KISTLER VINEYARDS, Russian River Valley
Kistler – undeniably one of the world’s great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers – was established in 1978, when Steve Kistler and Mark Bixler planted the 30-acre Kistler Vineyard at 1750 feet on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas Mountains. Their first vintage was 1979, using fruit purchased from Warren Dutton. Then, in 1992, a new, larger winery was built at their vineyard on Vine Hill Rd in the Russian River Valley.
In addition to estate vineyards, Kistler has always purchased fruit from a selection of impressive vineyards in Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Mountain and Carneros. In many cases, Kistler established the reputation of these vineyards, whose names are now famous – including Hyde, Hudson, Durell, Dutton, and others.
Steve Kistler retired as CEO and winemaker at the end of 2017, passing responsibility for his remarkable legacy to Bill Price (owner of Durell Vineyard and a long-time partner in the winery) and Jason Kesner, vineyard manager and winemaking assistant since 2008. Jason managed the Hudson Vineyard in Carneros prior to joining Kistler.
Winemaking continues to evolve at Kistler. In the 1980s & ‘90s, heritage clones of Chardonnay (Wente) & Pinot Noir (Calera, Swan) were propagated and selected to create unique clones for most of the Kistler sites. In the early 2000s, whole-cluster pressing, native yeasts, minimal lees-stirring, and less new oak were used to preserve aromatics. No fining or filtration improved complexity. By 2006, lower sugar levels at harvest were desired, leading to lower alcohol. This is highly thoughtful, meticulously considered winemaking, intended to express the terroir of individual sites. The wines, both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, continue to progress toward a more complex, age-worthy form, showing impressive finesse and energy.
165 acres owned, plus long-term contracts, allow production of 10 vineyard-designated Chardonnays and 2 vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs in addition to the multi-vineyard ‘Sonoma Mountain’ and ‘Les Noisetiers’ Chardonnays as well as a ‘Russian River Valley’ and a ‘Sonoma Coast’ Pinot Noir.