Kistler Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard 2011, Carneros
W hen I think a wine is going to be good I love to buy at least three bottles and compare how the wine changes over a period of years. Most wines will improve with only a little bit of aging, including white wines.
The danger, of course, is holding onto wines too long and you end up drinking them past their peak. I was afraid I had done that with this 2011 Kistler Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard.
I shouldn’t have worried. Even with nine years of age on it, the Kistler Chardonnay was bright, lively and refreshing. Notes of pear, lemon and tropical fruit still were there. This is a full-bodied wine, with layers of complexity, a silky mouthfeel and a long finish.
For my wife and I it lacked nothing. Everything we could want in a Chardonnay was packed into this luscious wine.
The Hudson Vineyard was recently mentioned in Wine Spectator Magazine as one of the best Chardonnay sites in the cool-climate Carneros district at the southern end of Napa and Sonoma. Kistler has been producing wine from this vineyard since 1994.
The Kistler web site says the Hudson vineyard is in the southwestern end of Napa County with a mix of volcanic and marine sediment soils. They say it produces a Chardonnay of “great depth, concentration and elegance; notable for its high pitched pure yellow orchard fruit, iodine and a beeswax-like savory character.”
That description certainly matches the wine in our bottle.
Kistler makes all of its wine from the same Chardonnay clone, planted in 15 vineyards from Carneros to Sonoma Valley, to the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Kistler produces 11 vineyard designate Chardonnays.
This particular clone was brought to California from Burgundy in the early 20th century, and winemakers have made great wines with it throughout the years. Winemakers like these characteristics: low yields, small berries, great concentration in the fruit and its distinct ability to retain its natural acidity during the ripening process.
Kistler harvests the fruit in the cool of the night when the fruit is at its freshest and brightest, and the flavors and acidities are fully intact. Kistler says the fruit is in a different physiological state at three in the morning than it is in the heat of the day.
I remember looking for Kistler Chardonnay back in the 1980s, and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Shortly after the winery opened Chardonnay lovers discovered it and it quickly became a cult wine. All the serious wine critics raved about it.
I kept going to their website and signing up to get on their allocation list, but for years couldn’t get any wine. Finally, I received an allocation and bought all of it. I did that for several years and have a nice stash of Kistler in my cellar. Every one I have had has been outstanding.
We bring it out for special occasions, or when we need the wine to give us a pick-me-up. During COVID-19 quarantine we have been drinking a lot of special wines. They help our attitude.
When I bought this wine from the winery in 2013 it cost $75. The price has gone up to $90-100, depending on where you can find it.
Winery: Kistler was founded in 1978 on the idea that compelling wines could be made from specific vineyard sites. The winery is still family-owned and operated.
Founders Steve Kistler and Mark Bixler believed that California was a perfect place to grow and produce outstanding Chardonnay. Kistler, who studied creative writing at Stanford University, was the winemaker until 2017, and Bixler, who got a PhD in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley, ran the business and sales side of the company as well as helping out in the lab. Kistler also oversaw the vineyard work.
Bill Price, longtime owner of Durell Vineyards, purchased a controlling interest in Kistler Vineyards from Kistler in 2008. That’s when the company brought in Jason Kesner as Steve’s assistant winemaker, with the intention of a long transition until Kistler retired, which he did in 2017. Kesner had been the vineyard manager at Hudson Vineyards.
The Kistler web site has a great quote from Kesner about the pace of change at Kistler:
“Steve and I had an eight year viticultural dialogue before he invited me to join him in the cellar…We started working together in the spring of 2000 when I began growing the fruit at Hudson Vineyards for the Kistler bottling, among others.
“After joining Kistler in 2008 our oenological dialogue spanned nearly another decade. All in all a much different pace than is common in the new world. That pace colors a lot of how we do things at Kistler, always have and always will.”
Kesner now oversees all production, farming and day-to-day business.
In 2014, Kistler opened its first tasting facility at its Trenton Roadhouse property, a 60-acre vineyard that features a 100+ year old renovated farmhouse and barn.
Goes with: We had this extraordinary wine with a simple meal of steamed shrimp. I added hash brown potatoes and a wedge salad for myself and Teri added some vegetables. We love steamed shrimp when we want a fast, easy, healthy meal.
The Kistler Chardonnay was perfect. Its crisp citrus flavors brought out the best flavors in the shrimp. As usual, we started drinking the wine right out of the refrigerator. It was very good immediately, but as it warmed up and more flavor was released the wine was spectacular. Particularly with older wines it really helps to let the wine warm up a little and get some contact with air.
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Kistler Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard 2011, Carneros