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Average critic rating : 95.0 points
From Kistler’s home property, not far from the winery, the 2011 Chardonnay Vine Hill Vineyard bursts from the glass with superb aromas of tangerine oil, white peach, pineapple and wet stones. With good acidity, a long, full-bodied finish, and a precocious personality, it should provide plenty of pleasure over the next 3-4 years. ||There has been a progressive trend by Kistler’s winemaking team and owners to harvest at slightly lower sugars, back off slightly on the percentage of new oak used, and bottle their wines earlier. All of this is designed to preserve as much fruit and freshness in the wines as possible. Consumers who are only casually acquainted with the Kistler wines may not notice much difference with the Chardonnays, but the Pinot Noirs clearly reflect these subtle shifts in winemaking. This winery has long featured some of the finest terroirs on the Sonoma Coast and Russian River for Chardonnays, and their approach has clearly been very Burgundian, with full malolactic fermentation, no acid adjustments and letting the vineyard and clonal material push its personality to the forefront. Perhaps the biggest change of all has been the shift to 100% indigenous yeast fermentations for all the wines. Kistler’s 2011s are very successful, largely because most of the fruit was harvested before any significant rain fell, so the only challenge was trying to achieve full ripeness in this cold year. However, readers who like the gravelly/wet stone character of wines laced with minerality will find these 2011s appealing. The top Chardonnay cuvees emerge from the Kistler Vineyard, which includes the famous Mt. Eden clone. The 2012 Chardonnays came from a vintage that was warmer than 2011, but never exceptionally hot. The flowering took place much earlier and the harvest was at least two weeks before that in 2011. At the time of my visit, the wines had all been assembled in their bottling tanks, and would be bottled unfiltered. While they are still primary, they were all loaded with fruit and are much less evolved than a vintage such as 2011. They share some of that vintage’s characteristics, but overall, they are more fruit-forward, and the minerality does not yet appear to be as strongly etched in the 2012s as it is in the 2011s. I also believe the 2012s will outlast the 2011s by at least 4-5 years. The alcohols are in the 14% range, as they were in 2011. My favorites include the Durell, Trenton Roadhouse, Vine Hill, Hudson, Hyde, Kistler, and Cuvee Cathleen. I will publish more detailed tasting notes after I taste the wines again next year from bottle. However, I think they will all be as good as their range of scores suggest, if not better. As I previously suggested, the Pinot Noirs exhibit the biggest difference in the winemaking at Kistler Vineyards.||Tel. (707) 823-5603 Wine Advocate.December, 2013
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