Occidental is a new project dedicated to Pinot Noir from longstanding, cult status winemaker Steve Kistler and his partner, Mark Bixler. Maybe new isn’t exactly the right word to use here since the project took root awhile back with the acquisition and planting of two vineyards in far western Sonoma County, but it is the first time that Occidental’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir will be available in the market. Bear in mind that Kistler Vineyards wines are sold exclusively through their mailing list and to a few select A-list restaurants. Given this, it is with added excitement and great enthusiasm that we debut the Occidental 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir to TWH customers!
Running a successful winery for over 30 years with a long wait list just to get on to their mailing list to get an allocation of wine just wasn’t enough of a challenge for Steve Kistler and Mark Bixler. It is true that Kistler Vineyards built their reputation on Chardonnay, but many insiders like to talk up their smaller production Pinot Noirs. So it makes perfect sense that these two passionate wine producers would want to take their years of experience and custom build a winery and wine program to their exact specification and apply it to Pinot Noir. The two vineyards that comprise the 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir are Bodega Headlands and Occidental Station. Much of the acreage is planted to Calera clone Pinot Noir, is south-facing and benefits from the Petaluma Gap’s cold, windy climate, being situated only miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.
Steve’s approach to winemaking starts with meticulous work in the vineyards and continues with great attention to detail in the winery. The resulting wine is an alluring combination of silky, cherry-laden fruit and a persistent, charged finish. Fruit from both the Occidental Station and Bodega Headlands ended up as single-vineyard bottlings under the Kistler Vineyards label over the past several vintages, selling them only to mailing list customers. Starting with 2011 these two vineyards are now bottled under the Occidental label. The 2011 and 2012 vintage of these wines have been reviewed by Robert Parker and Antonio Galloni, garnering ridiculously high scores and gushing reviews. No reviews of Occidental’s 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, a blend of Occidental Station and Bodega Headlands fruit, have been published yet, but I suspect when they are, they will be no less glowing.
I can’t deny that my expectations before tasting the Occidental 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir were high- perhaps exceedingly high. For you see, there was a time, not too far in the distant past, that a dear friend of mine had stockpiled an allocation of Kistler wines and was extremely generous when it came to sharing them. As a result, I know the quality of wine that Steve Kistler and Mark Bixler deliver. Along with the entire Wine House crew, I sampled the Occidental 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, trying hard to keep my expectations in check. I found the fruit to be precise and intense, though refined, with layered aromatics and a luxurious palate feel; nothing short of a wine with a background this prestigious should and does deliver!
Ah, the holidays. Every year I am panic stricken that nothing will get done, but miraculously things work out in the end. Never how I intended or expected, but thankfully, usually even better! This week I attended a school musical featuring my daughter, prepared food for a bake sale and a teacher appreciation luncheon, dug out a trench to keep water from flooding my mother’s back yard, weathered the storm with my husband and daughter who both had school cancelled due to “incremental weather”, and so the week wore on with more excitement including a missed performance of A Christmas Carol because my daughter came down with a raging fever. I sure hope Santa leaves me a special bottle under the tree, say something like Occidental’s 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, this year…I’ve done my best to be more nice than naughty!