I had a blast at my tasting appointment at Kistler. Once again, it was the experience that made it great. Don’t get me wrong, the wines were all spectacular. But my THREE HOURS spent at Kistler were so much fun.
I arrived a couple of minutes late for my appointment – very rare for me. But, my appointment time was for 2pm right when I was scheduled to finish work. Kistler is located only about 7 minutes from my Airbnb so I left at the last possible minute. Why does this matter? You’ll see.
Kistler is also a winery behind a locked gate. I love their little roadhouse (former brothel) up on the hill. I’ve driven by many times so I was excited I was finally able to pass through that gate! I apologize for the rainy, through-the-window photo, but I loved the scene even if it was a yucky, rainy day.
When I called up to the Roadhouse, I was told to pull up to the white house and someone would come get me. Ummm….okay. So I sat in my Jeep. And out came my tasting host of the day with an umbrella.
Once inside, I was delighted to see I wasn’t alone! I even said so. Two lovely women were seated and already enjoying their 2013 Trenton Roadhouse Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast. When I came in they each stood up and shook my hand. I assumed these were winery employees. No other customers would stand and shake my hand. They’d stay seated and continue sipping on their wine. But, they told me they were friends. One was visiting from North Carolina for the week and the other was up from Carneros. Okay. Whatever. I didn’t give it another thought. Though, I did think it was weird that the gal from North Carolina didn’t have any idea what other wineries she might visit. But, everyone is different.
We moved into the tasting room which probably has gorgeous views on sunny days! But the view still wasn’t bad. I’d signed up for the 7-wine chardonnay and pinot noir tasting paired with “dips and butter”. I’ve been making fun of that pairing ever since I booked it. It wasn’t a cheap tasting and there was no refund or credit if you purchased wine. In fact, I knew that I would only be allowed to purchase up to 4 bottles of wine as their wines are so highly allocated.
The woman next to me quickly asked if she could keep the pen because it was so nice. I giggled as I’ve been swiping winery pens everywhere I go. I’m building quite the collection! And the Kistler pens were nice with just a “K” written on the barrel – perfect for someone whose name begins with a K! The tasting host said we could take anything that would fit in my purse. And I was pretty sure I could squeeze one or two of those Riedel Veritas Oaked Chardonnay or New World Pinot glasses in mine!
The tasting began. And, in the style I like, all wines were poured rather quickly side-by-side. Here’s the lineup:
- 2013 Trenton Roadhouse Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)
- 2017 Trenton Roadhouse Chardonnay (Russian River Valley)
- 2017 Durrell Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)
- 2015 Durrell Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)
- 2016 Stone Flat Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)
- 2015 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay (Carneros)
- 2016 Cuvee Natalie Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley)
- 2016 Laguna Ridge Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley)
I found it interesting that, similar to Williams-Selyem, they use the same barrels for every bottle and vintage. Though, they do use two different coopers. They also use only one chardonnay clone in every vineyard. So you’re really going to see how the terrior and vintage and aging impacts the wines. All other factors are the same (barrels and clones). Well….I guess there’s one other difference that was shared. The Durrell Vineyard and Stone Flat Vineyards are separated by a path – so they’re essentially the same. However, they have different rootstock.
For Pinot Noir, they have two different clones. I believe he said they were Swan and Pommard. Look at me knowing clones! I’m learning something on this journey.
Between the three of us we discussed the similarities. I was really intimated by the gal from North Carolina. She seemed to know wine and asked some great questions. I decided that the 2015 vintages of the Durrell and Hyde were my favorite. I’ve come to learn I like Hyde fruit. When I see that vineyard on a label, I wouldn’t be afraid to buy that wine without tasting it. Everyone wanted to know my favorite producer of Hyde. Ummmm….who would ask that?
My Visit Continued
As is usual in a group setting, we chatted about lots of things – restaurants, lodging options, etc. I’d mentioned that I had a super fun experience at a restaurant the night before when I was seated next to some winemakers. I won’t dive into that story here as I hope I’ll have a reason to share it later! But, they agreed that you never know who you might bump into in wine country.
Then something was mentioned about Gwyneth Paltrow. I missed what was said. But, the gal from North Carolina shared the she had the opportunity to host Gwyneth once. Ummm….who is this person? She was dressed very stylishly. She knew her wine. She travels for wine (like me). And, she has some pretty famous friends.
It was then that they came clean. They were in fact Kistler employees! They had decided to deceive me (their words). But everything they’d said was completely truthful. They were the ones who had designed that pen. They were also the ones who had designed this tasting experience! Normally for this tasting experience you need to have at least 2 people. However, I really wanted to taste Kistler wines and I wanted to taste as many as I could. So, I picked up the phone and called the winery. And they accommodated me! I wasn’t surprised I wasn’t tasting alone. I assumed they’d add me to another party doing the same tasting as they were pretty specific with which dates were available.
And then we relaxed and had fun. The Gwyneth story? They hosted her at the winery for a private tasting with her boyfriend. She even got to sit by the fire and chat with them for awhile.
Now they could ask me questions about my opinions on the fact that they did not have a tasting sheet out for me while tasting. They taste the wines side-by-side. And, they do a “dip and butter” tasting. Oh! I haven’t shared that with you, have I? Funny story – everything in the photo was for me. I thought it was weird the other two had to share a board since it was served before they let me know they worked for Kistler. Now it made sense and I no longer felt guilty!
OMG! That butter! It was crazy incredible. And, since I knew they were all employees who created this, I was honest with them – they need more dippers!!!
Remember how I said that the gal from North Carolina was pretty stylish? Apparently she stressed over what to wear to our tasting. They’d been planning this ruse for awhile. Apparently all of the winery employees were in on this. Someone else came in to ask a question of one of them. They let her know I was now in on their secret. She commented on the noise level of our laughter that it sounded like there must have been a dozen of us! We were enjoying ourselves. But one winery employee could have blown it. He walked by outside and waved like a giddy school girl up to us. Ha Ha!
I was so happy they came clean earlier rather than later. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at my clock when I got into my Jeep. I’d been there for three hours! Yikes!
Sadly, even though they brought me extra pens, multiples of their engraved glass water bottles, and a Kistler canvas tote, I didn’t get any special treatment when it came to purchasing wine. I opted for a bottle of each of the 2015 wines I’d tasted. I was only allowed 1 bottle of each. The 2017 wines I can get through my allocation, the 2013 isn’t available at all, and the 2016 wines didn’t excite me as much. But look at that packaging! Everything was just a little nicer than everywhere else. And their wines are really reasonably priced by comparison.
Kistler was one of the wineries I’d been most looking forward to. Funny enough, they appeared on my radar last year when I was seeking out Green Valley wine. I was pretty sad when I realized they produced mostly chardonnay. But, last fall I really started to fall in love with chardonnay. I was excited since they’d made an exception for me and allowed me to taste. And, I loved the one wine of theirs I had tried elsewhere before my visit. So, the lesson learned here is don’t be afraid to ask! I wouldn’t have been upset if they didn’t let me sign up for the tasting since it had a minimum of 2 people. I’m so glad I picked up the phone that day! I’ve also already placed the order for my allocation – much more confidently now that I’ve had the opportunity to taste their wines.