The 2014 Chardonnay Kistler Vineyard has very pretty white grapefruit, lemon curd and white peach notes over nuances of honeysuckle, allspice and baker’s yeast plus a touch of chalk dust. Full-bodied and packed with finesse, the rich, concentrated citrus and stone fruit flavors are beautifully marked by crisp acidity and it finishes with loads of mineral layers.
Kistler Vineyards remains one of the absolute benchmark producers of great Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, sitting right up there with the highest quality examples of these grapes from throughout the world. While the wines come from as wide a range of top terroirs as Sonoma can provide, interestingly nearly all of the Chardonnays are produced from a proprietary selection of Wente clones taken from a Larry Hyde block in the early 1980s. The exception is the Kistler Vineyard, which contains some original Martin Ray Mount Eden clonal material. This can be found in the straight Kistler Vineyard Chardonnay bottling, as opposed to the Cuvee Cathleen, which is mainly Wente selection. All the vineyard-designate Chardonnays are produced in precisely the same manner, meaning the differences between them are almost exclusively down to the differences in terroir. And as readers will see from my notes, the differences are striking. Now the bad news – I tasted mainly wines from the 2014 vintage for this report, where, despite it being a drought year, yields were pretty much average. In 2015 and 2016, poor flowering meant that yields were hit dramatically for Kistler, down 25-30% in 2015 and as much as 40% in 2016.