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Parker 95 points:Not surprisingly, the 2008 Chardonnay Kistler Vineyard Cuvee Cathleen possesses attractive notes of tropical fruits, brioche, hazelnuts, honeysuckle and that unbuttered popcorn and steely minerality found in many of its siblings. Full-bodied with layers of fruit as well as a terrific finish, this is a young, backward but extremely promising effort.
Not only have the 2008s lived up to or exceeded their potential from last year’s barrel tastings, the 2009s appear to be fabulous as well. Of course, 2008 was a much more challenging vintage and 2009 was a cool year, much like 2005, with slightly lower alcohols and higher yields than the short crop of 2008. All of the 2009 Chardonnays finished with around 14+% alcohol levels and had more minerality than usual. Kistler’s bottled 2008s were all concentrated. The 2008 Chardonnays have the potential to last even longer than the 2009s given the fact that they are even more concentrated than those wines.
All of our ten vineyard designate Chardonnays are marked first and foremost by regional characteristics. Beyond that lies the personality of each of the vineyards from which they hail. All of the sites are planted to the same clone, a California heritage selection that we have been using for close to thirty years. Each wine is produced in the same fashion, with the focus being on the traditional techniques that elicit the earth driven, complex noble sulfides and resulting minerality inherent in the fruit from each site.
Each of our Chardonnay vineyards exhibits characters unique to the site, and hence unique to the wines bottled as vineyard designates. The bottling of wines of site is not a process we take lightly, as it is the main focus of our efforts. We often take years to assess the quality and individual personality of a site prior to deciding to bottle it on its own. We have been working with many of these sites for well over twenty five years.
Produced solely from one specific block at the Kistler Vineyard, the only section of the vineyard that has a broken shale interwoven with the red volcanic ash. Since its planting in 1989, the block stood out in our minds, and clearly called for a separate bottling. Produces one of our most complete and complex chardonnays, and nears perfection on an annual basis.
The year 2008 reminded Napa Valley producers of the climate conditions their European colleagues often battle. The wild weather put the vineyards to the test and required more measures than usual to ensure an optimal harvest. Due to the exceptional weather conditions, the terroir played a significant role in shaping the character of the resulting wines. Some of the influencing factors were soil quality, vineyard-specific weather patterns, the age of vines and the farming methods used
After the extensive 2008 Napa Cabernet tasting, there were no great qualitative differences, however, as the wines at the tasting all represented some of the best that these top producers have to offer. Although the scores ranged between 86 and 96 points, the differences will even out through longer ageing, as the wines will reach their optimum drinkability within 10–15 years. It was wonderful to note that a great deal of the wines were characterised by a seductively succulent fruitiness, which made many of them enjoyable already – more than half of the wines have scored 90 or more points, despite their young age. Whereas the great 2007 vintage contains very refined and long-lived wines, the 2008 wines charmed tasters with their open and generous style, even though their best days are still far in the future.