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The 2009 Chardonnay Kistler Vineyard Cuvee Cathleen, from Wente clones, saturates the palate with honey, yellow flowers, marzipan, tangerine and apricots. It possesses stunning depth and intensity, along with persistent saline notes that add lift on the creamy, expansive finish. The Cuvee Cathleen is considerably richer than the straight Kistler Vineyard. Both are striking; which one readers ultimately prefer is strictly personal preference. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2019. I was blown away by these wines from Steve Kistler, his partner Mark Bixler and assistant winemaker Jason Kesner. Over the last few years Kistler has refined his approach, as he wasn’t totally satisfied by the way some of his earlier wines had developed in bottle. Today Kistler is picking his Chardonnays at lower Brix levels, using less French oak (with no stirring of the lees) and keeping the wines in barrel for a shorter amount of time, all in an effort to preserve as much freshness as possible. The result is wines that are totally different in style from past years. The Pinots see a maximum of 50% new oak barrels and that number will continue to trend downwards over the next few years. The 2009 harvest started around September 4 for both Chardonnay and Pinot. The 2009s were bottled in December 2010. Unfortunately, I was not able to taste the 2010s, as they had been bottled just prior to my visit. I will taste those wines in October, 2012. A frequent source of frustration among Wine Advocate readers has been the lack of in-the-bottle reviews for Kistler wines. Beginning this year, all wines tasted from barrel will be subsequently reviewed from bottle as well. Readers who haven’t tasted the Kistler wines in some time owe it to themselves to do so. These are some of the most thrilling wines being made in California today. - Antonio Galloni
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