2017 Kistler Chardonnay Vine Hill Road Vineyard

Year: 2017
Appellation: Russian River Valley
Country: USA - California
Wine Advocate: 96
Vinous Media: 96
Jeb Dunnuck: 97
White Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 14.3%
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"The 2017 Chardonnay Vine Hill Vineyard grows in very pure sandy soils with almost no organic material. It has a singularly perfumed, layered nose full of citrus and flowers: lime, lemon and orange peel with lovely citrus blossom perfume, petrichor, honey, toast, quince paste, dried hay and guava. Medium-bodied, it explodes with flavor layers in the mouth, broad and textural with seamless acidity and an incredibly long, layered finish. Wow!

2017 was a lovely vintage at Kistler. Winemaker Jason Kesner says that beginning in 2016, “our focus shifted—more toward natural pHs and less on sugars. We maintained that approach in 2017.” He goes on to explain, “It was a relatively moderate season. We had mixed conditions during bloom, which led to low crops, but we have low crops anyway. The biggest challenge was that Labor Day heat. If we didn’t have the heat, I think we would have finished up four to five days later than we did. But we made the decision to pick as opposed to letting fruit sit through the heat. We started harvesting eight days before the heat and finished picking the Sunday before Labor Day. It was 117 degrees on the crush pad the last day we harvested. We did several 21-hour days to get it all in.”

Stylistically, “It’s a tale of two vintages for me, potentially,” Kesner says. “I’d be surprised if the wines harvested after the heat aren’t a different set of wines than those that came in before the heat. The real challenge was fitting in four to five days of work in two days. It left a memory, let me put it that way. Stylistically, the 2017s are an interesting marriage between the 2015s and the 2016s. There’s a richness, a beautiful, light layer of fat woven through the wines—a gloss, or marbling if you will, with that energy and verve of the 2016s from our focus on pHs.”

The original Kistler vineyard, now 40 years old, is slowly being replanted vine by vine instead of being torn out entirely. “We could replant the whole vineyard, but I chose not to,” Kesner says. “Instead, we are going between each of the old vines, off-setting the spacing and plugging in St. George rootstock. Each of the rootstocks will be budded from its neighboring vine, so eventually we will replicate the heritage selection we already have. It will be a duplicate of the vineyard and will allow us to let those old vines bow out gracefully over the next 40 years. It helps me sleep—I feel like we’re doing the right thing. I want to make these moves now in a respectful, reverential way, so that the original vision of this place continues on for another 40 years. Thirty years from now, we will be talking about the average age of the vines, not the average age of the vineyard.”" (WA)

"The 2017 Chardonnay Vine Hill Vineyard, from Kistler's estate ranch in Sebastopol, is subtle, nuanced and incredibly classy. In this tasting, the Vine Hill is silky and lifted, with striking nuance and exceptional balance. Lemon confit, white flowers and mint, along with the wine’s mid-weight feel, speak to elegance above all else. Bright saline notes punctuate the finish. The Vine Hill is a modern-day classic Kistler Chardonnay." (VM)

"From a 16-acre site in the Russian River Valley, the 2017 Chardonnay Vine Hill Vineyard offers a fresh, racy profile that carries stunning intensity in its crisp citrus, charcoal, and white flower aromas and flavors. With incredible elegance, high yet integrated acidity, and focused, crystalline texture, this is one for the Chablis lovers out there." (JD)

Winery Notes:
Green-tinged pale yellow. Vaulted yet refined with both citrus rind and citrus floral redolent aromatics which are seamlessly intertwined with the more earthen influenced tones, marked by struck flint and toasted hazelnut. Deeply textured yet tightly wound and sharply delineated given it’s low pH nature. Layered flavors of lime blossom, green orchard fruit and crushed rock. Finishes as always with impressive length, energy and spine.