During my 30 Wineries in 30 Days journey, I had the opportunity to visit just a few more wineries. Occidental was one that was highly recommended right from the start! While making reservations for the trip, one of my other wineries suggested them. So, I reached out and made the appointment. Occidental was originally supposed to be my first winery visit. However, due to scheduling issues, they reached out to me to reschedule. And, I’m glad they did! It allowed the anticipation to grow!
I don’t think any other winery had been so highly recommended as Occidental. Occidental is a pretty new kid on the block. However, their owner and wine maker is certainly not new to the world of making wine – Steve Kistler. Steve built the Kistler brand into a highly respected name in Chardonnay. He’s stepped away from Kistler and he wants to focus on making batches of coastal Pinot Noirs. And he’s doing great!
I just giggle anymore when I pull up to a locked winery gate. I’ve definitely learned to review my reservation notes so I’m not scrambling to figure out what trick I’m supposed to use to get inside. Occidental is just an easy call up to the winery to be let in. It’s a gorgeous drive up to their winery and office up through the pastures and hills. And, as you can see, I enjoyed a clear blue sky the day I visited. Some of the hills are pretty steep! I just reminded myself that I’ve off-roaded in this Jeep and these hills weren’t that steep comparatively – I could still easily see over the hood.
I finally came upon their office and tasting room amid pretty young vineyards. They planted their first vines just about nineteen years ago. The vines around the vineyard are younger than ten years old. The land on which the vineyards are planted were previously cow pastures and had never had grapes planted. This was about as new as it gets.
After making introductions, Mia led us into the vineyards for a tour. This wasn’t a private tasting. Normally I love having others along during the tasting. However, I was pretty miserable this time. The other person joining me was a winemaker himself from Canada. He did most of the talking – far more than Mia or myself. We learned all about his winery and production techniques. That’s not why I signed up for this experience!
In between his stories, Mia tried to explain about the vineyards and their production techniques. We had a great tour of their facility. Everything is new and fresh and as high-tech as you get for a winery that tries to make wines as naturally as possible. Mia mentioned a couple of times that their wine only sees a pump twice during the entire production process. Gravity does the rest of the work. They even do as few push downs as possible during fermentation which is rather unique – at least from what I’ve heard on other tours.
They’re a relatively small winery – producing fewer than 10,000 cases of wine each year. They’re currently making five different Pinot Noirs. Once our tour was complete, we were able to taste three of them. My barrel nerd came out when I saw that Steve chooses to use a single cooper and barrel for all of his wine. I think it’s only the second time I’ve seen that – Williams-Selyem being the first. Though, from what I learned about Kistler, I’m not overly surprised. The photo below is probably half of their barrel storage – the second half located behind me.
Our tour ended at their amazing tasting room that allows you to take in the views from the top of their hill looking out over their vineyards.
As I mentioned, we had the opportunity to taste three of their Pinot Noirs. Occidental currently does one release each year which is currently open. Once they grow a little more they’ll begin to offer two releases.
First was their 2017 Bodega Headlands Vineyard Cuvee Elizabeth followed by their 2017 Running Fence Vineyard Cuvee Catherine. Elizabeth and Catherine are Steve’s daughters. Both of his daughters have returned from college and now help their dad at the winery. As with his Kistler wines, all of Occidental’s are individually numbered. The third wine, Occidental Station was probably my favorite if I had to choose.
I enjoyed his wines. And I’m looking forward to watching this brand grow in the future.