Skip to main content

2021 Spring Release Newsletter

2018 Bodega Headlands Vineyard Cuvée Elizabeth
2018 Running Fence Vineyard Cuvée Catherine
2018 SWK Vineyard
2018 Occidental Station Vineyard

We are proud to announce the Occidental 2021 Spring Release, which includes our four single-vineyard pinot noirs.

Before discussing our 2018 pinot noirs, our family would like to thank all of you who sent us well-wishes during this difficult harvest season. We are happy to report that all our vineyard and winery workers and their families have stayed safe and healthy; their welfare has been a priority throughout this challenging year.

Early in my career I came to understand that, to make world-class wines, it would be essential to train our own full-time crew to farm our vineyards rather than to rely on outside contracted labor. Today, many of the people who help us in our vineyards and winery have been with us for over twenty years. Our vineyards never looked better than they did this year – a testament to their high level of commitment and skill.

With winter upon us, pruning is now well underway in our coastal vineyards. All our workers seem especially happy to be back working outside and for the new season to be starting. In the winery, our 2020 pinot noirs are resting safely in barrel and look very promising.

We managed to find some silver linings over the past year. Since we were not able to host visitors after March, Catherine and I decided to spend even more time together tasting in the cellar. At Occidental, we have the luxury of fermenting each vineyard block separately in its own fermenter and then maintaining these discrete lots in barrel. This allows us to compare the various expressions of our vineyard blocks alongside one another, and to identify which blocks are most distinctive and deserving of their own bottling. Once every month, Catherine and I would taste through each lot in the cellar over the course of three consecutive days. All our tastings were done blind, with each of us taking turns leading the discussion of the wine and trying to guess which vineyard block it represents. Tasting together in this way was a great learning experience, though humbling at times, and certainly sharpened our skills. Each year, Catherine plays a more important role in the selection process and I thoroughly enjoy our spirited discussions.

Since Occidental releases its pinot noirs nearly a year later than most other producers, much has already been written about how special the 2018 pinot noirs are. The growing conditions on the coast were ideal in 2018. The summer months were cooler than normal and these mild, slow ripening conditions (with very little disease pressure) lasted until mid-September when our vineyards finally reached the early edge of ripeness and we began to pick. For the next ten days, temperatures remained below normal and we were able to continue picking at a comfortable pace, just as each block reached its optimum degree of ripeness – a winemaker’s dream that seldom comes true.

I am particularly fond of the 2018s for another reason; these are my first wines after stepping away from Kistler Vineyards. What a welcome change it was in 2018 to finally be able to focus all my attention on farming Occidental vineyards and to be making only our pinot noirs.

Here are my brief tasting notes on our pinot noirs:

2018 Bodega Headlands Vineyard Cuvée Elizabeth

Opens with a high-toned perfume of red fruits and florals – tiny red raspberries, tart cherry, and rose petal. An enticing and elegant wine with a discreet saline element that becomes more apparent with air. The texture of the wine has a certain laciness to it, as oyster shell minerality underpins the finely etched red fruits. The Cuvee Elizabeth finishes gracefully, with the salty red-berry flavors lingering on the palate in a captivating way.

2018 Running Fence Vineyard Cuvée Catherine

Vibrant ruby with a touch of violet in the glass. Pure minerals, then fruits begin to appear. A distinct brininess and iodine character conveys a subtly wild aspect to the wine. The red and dark berry flavors are hyper-defined. There is tension between the wine’s vivid blood orange, black raspberry, and black cherry flavors and its persistent minerality. Many dimensions of this wine are waiting to emerge with age. The first Occidental pinot noir ever bottled in magnum. An outstanding, marine-influenced pinot noir.

2018 SWK Vineyard

High-toned and heady all at once. A bouquet of red and black fruits is layered with fresh thyme, crushed stone, sea water. Savory as well as floral, equally red and black fruited, the wine is totally harmonious. Expresses a tremendous depth of flavor that is more linear than rounded. Nervy, chiseled, and tightly-wound – no other Occidental pinot noir is so salty and mineral-rich in character. Well-defined flavors of tiny alpine strawberries, violets, red currants. Finishes long and hauntingly persistent.

2018 Occidental Station Vineyard

An intense bouquet of boysenberry, violet, and cassis aromas. Superb concentration of purple and red fruits on palate without any dimension of weight. There is tension between the stony mineral backbone, bright acidity, and striking red cherry and black currants. Silky tannins are entirely folded into the fruit. Finishes bursting with vibrant purple flavors and a rising violet perfume.

We encourage members to begin enjoying our 2018 pinot noirs soon after their release. We find that decanting them an hour or two before service will enhance their compelling primary aromas and flavor. Over time, our 2018 pinot noirs will develop complex tertiary flavors and character in bottle and will age gracefully for two decades or more.

Occidental Pinot Noir in Magnum

The first wine we have chosen to offer in magnum is the 2018 Running Fence Vineyard Cuvée Catherine. We will bottle at least one pinot noir in magnum each year. For this initial offering, all magnums will be sold as Wish Requests. This will give us a better idea of how many magnums members wish to buy so that we can adjust future allocations accordingly.

Looking Ahead

In 2022, Occidental will begin offering its wines twice per year, in both a Spring and Fall Release.

In the 2022 Fall Release, we will offer our newest pinot noir, the 2019 Bodega Ridge Vineyard. For years, we have waited patiently to produce our first vintage from this exceptional vineyard.

From the start, there was never any question how promising this site would be, but it also proved to be one of the most difficult to plant and get established. It is a 25-acre vineyard that sits on the highest point of the ridge overlooking the Running Fence Vineyard and the Occidental winery. From this vantage point, you can see the Freestone Valley to the east, and the fishing boats on Bodega Bay to the west. Much of the vineyard is planted on steep south-southeast facing slopes, but there are varied exposures and aspects throughout the site. The soils are shallow, marine sandstones that are low in vigor, self-regulating, and with just enough water holding capacity to be dry farmed. In other words, ideal. The Bodega Ridge pinot noir is certain to become one of our most prized bottlings.

Visit Occidental

For most of this year, my daughter Catherine and Mia Molinar have missed being able to host you at our tasting room, which looks out over the headlands of Bodega. This is a great setting to taste our pinot noirs and to better appreciate where these wines are grown and why they have such a distinct coastal character.

We look forward to hosting members again in Spring 2021. Catherine has kept track of all the requests we have received, and we will be reaching out once we open our doors again. Until then, we just ask for your patience and understanding, and hope to see you soon. To schedule a visit, please see the Visit page of our website.

Your Allocation

Allocations are based on your length of time on our list, your purchase history, and the production level of each wine.

The Occidental pinot noirs are offered on a first-come basis, which may mean that the release will progress at a fast pace. Again this year, we have been conservative with our initial allocations to give all members a better opportunity to purchase our wines. If you wish to purchase additional bottles, please make a Wish Request. We will grant as many requests as possible at the end of the release.

Please take a moment to review your personal information before the release starts. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us by phone at 707-827-1655 or email Susan, Catherine, Mia, or Cassie will be happy to assist you.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year. In these unprecedented times, we especially appreciate your continued support.

Steve Kistler and the Kistler Family
Proprietors, Occidental

To receive an allocation of our wines in future releases, please join our Mailing List.

Sign Up