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  • Theresa Downs

Kistler Vineyards: Sip Wonderful Chardonnay Wine Truest To The Land

Part of a Chardonnay blog series

What's Their Story:

Kistler Vineyards was founded in 1978 by Steve Kistler and Mark Bixler with the express notion that wine should be made from a single clone and reflect the place it's from. That principle has been the guiding factor since its inception.

I digress a bit – time to discuss wine husbandry. There are a couple of methods for creating wine vines:

1. A cross is when a grape is bred from two different Vitis vinifera (wine grapes, mostly European varieties to us) varieties. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

2. A hybrid is when a grape is bred from two different species of grape vines: Vitis vinifera and a non-Vitis vinifera vine, such as North American Vitis labrusca. For example, Marquette and Seyval Blanc are two different hybrids, and both are grown in the United States.

3. A clone is a vine taken directly from a shoot of an existing plant (a copy, if you will). So when you hear folks raving about Dijon (not mustard) or 777, 75 or 76 or Wente, they are talking about wine clones.

I bring this up because it's important to grasp a little of this to understand Kistler's mission. They believe wine is truest to the land if you make wine from the same clone instead of using a variety of clones. It's just one philosophy; many other winemakers believe using multiple clones also produces amazing wines. Using a single clone makes for a consistent wine, and Kistler has been recognized as producing consistently magnificent wine through the decades.

When vaulted wine publications talk about California Chardonnay, Kistler is always at the top of the list.

In 2008, Steve Kistler sold his winery interest to Bill Price of the prized Durell Vineyard. Mark Bixler passed away in 2017. The winery is still family-owned.

Why The Winery Made The Grade: Chardonnay

You need to visit Kistler to understand the fuss about California Chardonnay. A cult favorite since the 1980s, its wine successfully straddles the line between great big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays and more fruit-driven, restrained Chardonnays. By the way, accept any offer of Chardonnay from Durrell Vineyard; it's memorable.


Kistler houses its tastings in a 100-year-old elegant renovated farmhouse. It's Intimate yet spacious, with lots of charm and modern touches. Tastings are accompanied by fare that's locally sourced. This is one of the best tastings in Sonoma.

Which Winery Visitor Type Would Love It :

All wine drinkers would enjoy a visit – this is a premium winery. Authenticity Seekers would enjoy the carefully curated tasting by outstanding, knowledgeable staff. Casual Wine Drinkers would love outdoor verandas for a sit and a sip. Luxury Seekers would be impressed by the beautiful grounds and the grandeur of the farmhouse, and Oenophiles would swoon over the wine.


Address: 7095 Trenton-Healdsburg Rd, Forestville, CA 95436

Phone: (707) 657-7665

Appointments are required.

Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Tuesday - Saturday

Tours/Tastings Offered:

Kistler Vineyards offers one tasting for groups of 1 to 5 members or one for groups of 6 or larger; prices are $175.00 and $190.00, respectively. Tastings include sampling five different wines and a small shared plate.

Read the next blog in the Chardonnay series: MacRostie Winery & Vineyards

Or read all of the Chardonnay blogs in our new guide, Chardonnay Wineries of Sonoma and Napa.

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