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2024 Spring Release Newsletter

2021 Bodega Headlands Vineyard Cuvée Elizabeth
2021 Running Fence Vineyard Cuvée Catherine
2021 SWK Vineyard
2021 Bodega Ridge Vineyard
2021 Occidental Station Vineyard

We are proud to announce the Occidental 2024 Spring Release, which includes our five single-vineyard pinot noirs from the 2021 vintage. This release marks a small milestone for us and is the 10th vintage of Occidental pinot noir that we have produced.

Before talking about our 2021 pinot noirs, Catherine and I want to say a brief word about the 2023 harvest, which finally ended the second week of November when we drained the last of our fermentors of Running Fence Vineyard pinot noir.

By any definition, that is a late end to harvest, even if you are growing Cabernet, let alone pinot noir. From the outset, budbreak, flowering, fruit set, and veraison were all four to five weeks later than normal. This certainly created more drama for the 2023 growing season and more than a few anxious moments wondering if our vineyards on the coast would be able to ripen their crops before the fall rains arrived. In the end, Mother Nature was kind to us and during the first two weeks of October we picked all our coastal fruit at a comfortable pace and at peak levels of maturity.

This winter, to walk through our cellar full of very promising 2023 pinot noir resting safely in barrel – we couldn’t be more pleased.

The extended growing season in 2023 is another reminder of the greater risks and rewards of growing pinot noir where we do and helps us appreciate how lucky we are to be farming these special sites.

While many parts of California and the United States experienced record heat in 2023, our vineyards and those of our neighbors on the western edge of the Freestone-Occidental region struggled to ripen our small crops of pinot noir until the end of October. A tale of two worlds apart.

With each passing year, there seem to be fewer grape growing regions around the world that can consistently produce compelling pinot noir while maintaining alcohols in the classic 13-13.5% range. The western edge of Freestone-Occidental remains one region that can, given its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

These are the pinot noirs that excite us today and that we want to be making – crystalline, red-fruited pinot noirs that carry a strong coastal signature, along with a modest level of alcohol. Pinot noir can be a great articulator of site, but only when it is grown in regions that produce phenologically ripe fruit at lower sugar levels. We know from experience, when alcohols rise in pinot noir, it is seldom without the loss of a certain measure of transparency.

Our 2021 pinot noirs are outstanding wines that combine the purity and precision of our 2018s along with the depth and immediate appeal of the 2019s; all alcohols are 13.3% or under.

The 2021 Pinot Noirs: Our brief tasting notes

2021 Bodega Headlands Vineyard Cuvée Elizabeth

Luminous, aromatic, and beautifully lifted. A high-toned bouquet of red berry fruits is accented by floral notes of fresh rose petals. There is a crystalline, salty edge bracing the raspberry and bright tart cherry fruit. For all its concentration and intensity, the finish is graceful and very fine.

2021 Running Fence Vineyard Cuvée Catherine

Wildly expressive and laced with a briny quality that sets this wine apart each year. Intense aromas of red and black berries lift and give way to a faint tang of kelp. Blood orange citrus electrifies the palate. Its complex flavors are framed by fine-grained tannins and an underlying minerality. Vivid and refined with a precise tart finish.

2021 SWK Vineyard

A striking bouquet of wild strawberries, pressed flowers, with touches of wet stone that emerge with time. The palate is beautifully balanced, with an array of pure raspberry and wild strawberry flavors accentuated by a discrete saline element. Intense yet amazingly focused with superb persistence and drive on the finish.

2021 Bodega Ridge Vineyard

Wonderful transparency and complexity on the nose. Opens with alluring aromas of black raspberries and cherries, with a palpable marine element. Orange rind nuances underlie the dark berry flavors. A steely mineral backbone accentuates the wine’s coastal character and drives the cool, linear finish.

2021 Occidental Station Vineyard

An incandescent deep ruby hue. A stunning bouquet of cassis, boysenberry, and violets leaps from the glass. Hints of graphite and minerals frame layers of blackberry and purple currant fruit. Harmonious and superbly balanced with a dramatic, mouthwatering finish.

We encourage members to begin enjoying our 2021 pinot noirs soon after their release. The 2021 wines especially will benefit from being opened in advance. We find that decanting them, even double decanting, an hour or two before service will enhance their compelling primary aromas and flavors. We believe they will be long-lived wines and will certainly reward extended aging. Over time, these wines will develop complex tertiary flavors and character in bottle and will age gracefully for two decades.

Looking Back

To celebrate the release of our tenth vintage of Occidental pinot noirs, Catherine and I enjoyed revisiting all our pinot noirs from 2011 onward. We have written some notes on how the wines are progressing and hope you find them useful. Please find our tasting notes here.

Looking Ahead

This winter we bottled our 2022 vintage pinot noirs, which continues our string of outstanding recent vintages. We are excited to offer magnum format bottlings of both the 2022 Running Fence Vineyard Cuvée Catherine and 2022 Bodega Ridge Vineyard wines.

This spring, we will begin planting the first blocks at our new property outside of the town of Bodega, just two miles from the coast on the westernmost edge of the Freestone-Occidental area.

Your Allocation

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

The Occidental pinot noirs are offered on a first-come basis, which likely means that the release will proceed at a fast pace. Once again, we have been conservative with our initial allocations to give all members an 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.

In this release, we will be offering a small number of cases of magnums of 2021 Running Fence Vineyard Cuvée Catherine. This wine will be Wish Request Only for all.

Please take a moment to review and update your personal information before the release starts. If you have any questions, please contact us at 707-827-1655 or email We will be happy to assist you with your order.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year. We appreciate your continued support.

Steve Kistler and the Kistler Family
Proprietors, Occidental

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