OCCIDENTAL, Bodega, Sonoma Coast

Steve Kistler, founder of the iconic Kistler Vineyards, has started a new project on the Sonoma Coast, and it’s getting rave reviews.  With the 2011 vintage, Kistler Vineyard’s top Pinot Noirs — Cuvée Catherine and Cuvée Elizabeth — became Occidental wines.  For the 2013 vintage, Steve built a new winery next to the Bodega Headlands Vineyard, amidst 40+ acres of vines overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Having retired as CEO and Winemaker at Kistler Vineyards at the end of 2017, Steve now devotes his efforts to this family ‘legacy’ project.  You guessed it, Steve’s daughters are Catherine and Elizabeth (Lizzie), and both of them are involved in Occidental. 

Occidental is exclusively a Pinot Noir winery, with 4 Sonoma Coast vineyards — SWK, Bodega Headlands, Bodega Ridge and Occidental Station.  These vineyards are planted to a selection of proprietary clones of Pinot Noir, developed by Steve Kistler over 20+ years, and derived from Vosne Romanée Grand Cru vineyards.  Annual production for the first years will be about 6,000 cases.  In time, as vineyards are expanded, and a multitude of individual blocks are identified, the number of separate bottlings will increase to reflect the diversity and character of the sites.

‘The Occidental wines are produced from vineyards on a southwest-facing ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean, just outside the town of Bodega. This ridge and the surrounding headlands mark the western edge of the Freestone-Occidental area and are among the coldest and latest ripening sites where pinot noir is grown in western Sonoma.  The Occidental pinot noirs are crystalline wines with vivid aromatics and intense red fruit flavors. They have a wonderfully chiseled quality, layered with savory and mineral character.  The beauty of these maritime sites and the challenging conditions these vineyards face – all of this is reflected in the Occidental wines.’ – Steve Kistler

'While a lot of noise is made about getting lower sugars in California, and that alcohols have gotten too high, this particular site appears to provide full phenolic ripeness at a much lower sugar level.  Moreover, if the crop yields are kept low, excellent intensity and richness are also present.  So perhaps in selected microclimates, California is capable of making very concentrated, ageworthy wines with alcohols in the 12.5-13.5% range.  Although those terroirs and sites are few and far between, this would appear to be one of them.' — Robert Parker