Although the 1995 Chardonnay Durell Vineyard is excellent, it was overwhelmed by its stablemates. While closed, it exhibits attractive, citrusy, pineapple, and mineral components, along with spicy wood. Full-bodied, but leaner, with some austerity, this wine needs to be re-evaluated after an additional 6 months of bottle age. It may have the potential to be outstanding, but it was closed and tight. Can anyone think of another winery that produces so many profound Chardonnays? While the production of the single vineyard Chardonnays is small, Kistler's total production reaches 18,000 cases. All of their marvelous Chardonnays are bottled without any filtration, and some without fining. It should be obvious from those comments that Kistler Vineyards is breaking new qualitative ground in view of what they are able to achieve at these production levels.
All of the 1995 Chardonnays are as strong as the brilliant line-up of 1994s. Moreover, Kistler Chardonnays all possess a complex, creamy, white Burgundy-like aromatic and textural profile. In fact, I find them difficult to pick out as California Chardonnays when inserted in a blind tasting of premier and grand cru white Burgundies. I am in the enviable position of being able to taste all of these wines side by side. While they all possess slightly different styles, they share the following characteristics: (1) outstanding purity, (2) natural, rich textures, and (3) a nicely layered mouthfeel. My comments on the 1995s are given in this article in the order in which owner/winemaker Steve Kistler and his assistant, Mark Bixler, thought I should taste them.
Readers having a difficult time finding the Kistler wines should realize that a healthy percentage of the 18,000 case production is sold via the winery's direct mailing list, with much of the balance going to our country's top restaurants. The winery also tends to release its wines later than others because of their aging potential.
Kistler Vineyards is at the pinnacle of the California qualitative pyramid. Particularly admirable is the fact that they got there the hard way - they earned it.