Antonio Galloni, Vinous

  • This is another set of magnificent wines from Occidental. Steve Kistler told me the summer of 2017 was quite cool, so much so that he was anticipating a late harvest. Things accelerated as temperatures started to rise quickly. The Labor Day heat spikes resulted in a condensed harvest over just four nights, as opposed to the more typical 6-7, which was done with the goal of preserving as much freshness as possible, a major challenge when fruit was coming in much warmer than normal. In the cellar, the wines were made pretty much as they always are. The 2017s saw about 18 days on the skins, with native primary and secondary fermentation. The vineyard designates spent 12 months in barrel, with no racking, followed by 3-4 months in tank prior to bottling. - Antonio Galloni
  • 2017 Bodega Headlands Vineyard Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 95

    The 2017 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth is a very pretty and expressive wine. Bright floral notes and red-toned fruits grace this supple, racy Pinot from Occidental. Hints of Asian spice and blood orange add pretty, exotic overtones. The 2017 was done with fully destemmed fruit, but it has a very attractive savory quality. This is such a classy and restrained Pinot, but there is plenty of density and weight as well. I can't wait to see how it ages. - A. Galloni

  • 2017 Running Fence Vineyard Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 97

    The 2017 Pinot Noir Running Fence Vineyard Cuvée Catherine is a gorgeous wine with striking aromatic presence and tons of energy. Red berry fruit, pomegranate rose petal, mint and sage overtones all open up with a bit of time, but the 2017 requires a bit of patience. Even in the early going, though, the 2017 has a level of purity that is breathtaking. - A. Galloni

  • 2017 SWK Vineyard

    Score: 96

    The 2017 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard is rich, heady and bursting at the seams with personality. Black cherry, menthol, licorice, plum, espresso, lavender and savory herbs infuse the 2017 with striking layers of complexity and sheer character. Poor soils give naturally low yields and a wine with serious concentration as well as power. Statuesque and towering, the 2017 is a drop-dead gorgeous beauty, but it needs time to be at its best. - A. Galloni

  • 2017 Occidental Station Vineyard

    Score: 97

    The 2017 Pinot Noir Occidental Station is stunning from the very first taste. The purity of the fruit here is simply dazzling. Soft curves, silky tannins and soaring aromatics give the Occidental Station tons of allure. Super-ripe red cherry, red plum, blood orange, mint and sweet spice infuse the 2017 with tremendous nuance. All the elements meld together in a racy, inviting Pinot that hits all the right notes. The Occidental Station is the one wine in this range that has stems (30%), but they aren't especially notable. In a word: stunning. - A. Galloni

  • 2018 Freestone-Occidental

    Score: 94

    The 2018 Pinot Noir Freestone Occidental is a truly remarkable wine. Maybe that is the vintage, or the added complexity the vines are acquiring with time, but the 2018 Freestone Occidental makes me incredibly curious to taste the rest of the 2018s. Bright, focused and beautifully sculpted, the 2018 is a wine of total elegance and finesse. Moreover, it captures the savory, energetic, saline style that is so typical of this part of the Sonoma Coast. - A. Galloni

  • It is always a pleasure to stop by Occidental. Once again, I saw Steve Kistler more relaxed than ever. The 2016 Occidental Pinots are stunningly beautiful. Readers will find a set of intensely saline Pinots built on energy that stand in stark contrast to the dark, inky Pinots Steve Kistler once made at Kistler, the winery he founded in 1978. Kistler relates that much of the inspiration for Occidental came with the 2010 and 2011 vintages, years in which ripeness was naturally achieved at lower sugars and simply could not be pushed beyond a certain level. But what is most important is just how exquisitely beautiful these wines are. Steve Kistler is certainly making the most of this second chapter in his brilliant and storied career. Readers who can find these wines should not hesitate, as they are positively brilliant. - A. Galloni, Jan. 2019

  • 2016 Bodega Headlands Vineyard Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 96

    The 2016 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth is a fascinating wine to taste for a number of reasons. One of them is that the Bodega Headlands Pinot was formerly in the Kistler range, which makes for an easy comparison of the wines Steve Kistler made at Kistler and those he makes now at Occidental. The stylistic shift between then and now is startling. Once a dark, inky Pinot, the 2016 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth is perfumed, intensely savory and nervous in feel. Crushed rose petal, mint and chalk add nuance to a core of bright, red-toned fruit. Intensely saline and vibrant, the 2016 is magnificent today. - A. Galloni

  • 2016 Running Fence Vineyard Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 96

    A new wine in this range, the 2016 Pinot Noir Running Fence Vineyard Cuvée Catherine is sourced from Steve Kistler's Bodega Ridge estate, where the Occidental winery is located. Blood orange, red raspberry, mint, dried flowers and star anise are all laced together in this very pretty, expressive Pinot Noir. The 2016 is translucent and wonderfully energetic at the outset, but then gains volume with time in the glass. It is another gorgeous and highly nuanced wine in the range. - A. Galloni

  • 2016 SWK Vineyard

    Score: 97

    The 2016 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard emerges from the highest point of Steve Kistler's Bodega Headlands property. Vibrant and exquisitely beautiful, the 2016 is a striking wine that is going to need a number of years to come together. There is a lot here, but the 2016 is painfully closed at this stage. Dark red cherry, plum, blood orange, mint and rose petal all develop in the glass, with bright saline notes that give the wine shape and energy. Today, the SWK is utterly exquisite, but my impression is it will be an even better wine in a few years' time. - A. Galloni

  • 2016 Occidental Station Vineyard

    Score: 94

    The 2016 Pinot Noir Occidental Station is another stand out in this range. High-toned, aromatically expressive and silky, the 2016 is incredibly harmonious. Today, the Occidental Station is the most open-knit and sensual of the wines, which makes it easier to drink on the earlier side. Silky tannins add to the wine's considerable appeal. The inclusion of 25% whole clusters adds nuance throughout. - A. Galloni

  • I have never seen Steve Kistler as relaxed as he appeared when I stopped by Occidental recently. I suspect much of that has to do with his formal stepping down from Kistler Vineyards, which he founded in 1978, and the beginning of a new chapter at Occidental, where he has been joined by daughters Elizabeth and Catherine. The 2015 Occidental Pinots are every bit as thrilling from bottle as they were when I tasted from tank prior to bottling. Stylistically, the wines are quite a bit more backward than the 2015 Kistler Pinots. In fact, even with all of the natural richness of the 2015 harvest, the Occidental Pinots are very tight and in need of at least a few years in the cellar. The 2015 Pinots were bottled in December, 2016. Ordinarily I would have also reported on the 2016s prior to bottling, but the October fires made that impossible. Needless to say, it is going to be fascinating to see what Steve Kistler comes up with in his second act. The first wines here have been positively dazzling. There is every reason to believe these wines are only going to get better now that Kistler and his daughters can focus 100% on Occidental. The range is set to expand next year with one more Pinot, but there will almost certainly be a few more selections that will be added over the near-term future.
    - Antonio Galloni, Vinous, January 2018

  • 2015 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 97+

    The 2015 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth is precise, nuanced and every bit as riveting from bottle as it was from barrel. Above all else, the Bodega Headlands deftly balances tension and fruit intensity. A burst of sweet red cherry, blood orange, mint and raspberry jam infuse this beautifully layered, nuanced Pinot Noir. Bright saline notes punctuate the super-expressive finish. Even in 2015 the Cuvée Elizabeth remains pointed and intensely mineral. What a gorgeous wine it is. - A. Galloni

  • 2015 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 94-97

    The 2015 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth comes across as a bit restrained today. A wine of tension, grip and total brilliance, the Cuvée Elizabeth is going to need a good bit of time to come together. Intensely mineral and savory-inflected notes give the dark red and purplish-toned fruits a sense of pungent lift and depth in a superb Pinot endowed with real pedigree and class.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • 2015 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 98

    The 2015 Pinot Noir Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine is just as seductive from bottle as it was from tank just prior to bottling. At times delicate, while in other moments much darker and more imposing, the Cuvée Catherine is a wine of myriad contrasts. The exquisite aromatics alone are compelling, but it is the wine's overall balance and completeness that stand out most. This riveting, multi-faceted Pinot will offer fabulous drinking for many years. I can't wait to see how it develops in bottle. - A. Galloni

  • 2015 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 95-98

    The 2015 Pinot Noir Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine opens with the most exquisite perfume imaginable. Exotic and soaring in the glass, the 2015 possesses plenty of mid-palate depth to play off the aromatics. Layers of rich, textured fruit build to the intense, breathtaking finish. This remarkably vivid, pedigreed Pinot Noir simply has it all. What a wine.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • 2015 SWK Vineyard

    Score: 98

    A wine that was ethereal and alluring from tank, the 2015 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard has come together beautifully since I last tasted it. Exotic, thrilling aromatics set the stage for a brilliant, utterly impeccable wine long on class and nuance. Racy and plush, with tremendous flavor intensity and tons of supporting minerality, the 2015 simply has it all. This another magnificent wine from Steve Kistler and Occidental. - A. Galloni

  • 2015 SWK Vineyard

    Score: 95-98

    The most elusive of these wines, the 2015 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard is ethereal, lilting and super-intriguing. The SWK is intensely mineral and explosive in its energy, with beams of tannin that give the wine its spine and overall shape. There is plenty of depth just waiting to blossom but today the SWK is embryonic.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • 2015 Freestone-Occidental

    Score: 94

    The 2015 Pinot Noir (Freestone Occidental) is superb. Rich, dense and inviting, this Occidental's appellation wine captures the essence of the vintage in its radiant, enveloping personality. Dark red cherry, plum, lavender, licorice and spice notes abound in this exuberant, alluring Pinot. The 2015 shuts down very quickly with air, so I would not open it in advance. Ideally, though, readers should be prepared to hang onto these wines for at least a few years. The Occidental appellation wine now carries the Freestone Occidental designation. It is the same wine I previously reviewed as the estate's Sonoma Coast Pinot. Most importantly, though, it is fabulous. - A. Galloni

  • 2015 Freestone-Occidental

    Score: 92-95

    The 2015 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) from Steve Kistler's Occidental winery is a real stunner. Deep, unctuous and super-concentrated, the 2015 possesses marvelous depth and intensity in its flavors. This pliant, beautifully layered Pinot will be nearly impossible to resist, even young.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • For the second act in his brilliant and distinguished career, Kistler is choosing to work with coastal Pinot sites that achieve full ripeness at lower sugars than those in the Russian River Valley and other parts of Sonoma. For now, there are four wines in the range, although Kistler told me he expects to add at least two more vineyard designates in the coming years. Kistler’s Occidental Pinot Noirs are off the charts in 2015. The low yields of the vintage produced deep, penetrating Pinots buffered by high acidity and bright, saline notes that keep the flavors fresh and vibrant. Kistler started experimenting with whole clusters in 2015 and subsequently increased the percentage of stems in 2016. Equally impressive, the bottled Occidental 2014s capture every bit of potential I saw when I tasted them from tank prior to bottling. Readers who have not tasted these wines yet owe it to themselves to do so. These are some of the most riveting, profound Pinot being made in California, or anywhere, for that matter.
    -Vinous, March 9, 2017

  • 2014 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 97

    The highlight in this range from Occidental, the 2014 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth is brisk, perfumed and aromatic. It is also nowhere near as alluring for the near term as the Sonoma Coast or Occidental Station. Here the expression of fruit is intensely linear, with biting acidity and plenty of tannic underpinning. Blue and purplish-toned fruit, licorice, lavender and violet give the Bodega Headlands its distinct darker shades of expression. The flavors are both vivid and transparent. In my view, the Cuvée Elizabeth is the most complete of these wines. Don’t miss it.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • 2014 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 96

    The 2014 Pinot Noir Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine is a drop-dead gorgeous beauty. A wine of depth, texture and pure pedigree, the 2014 will leave readers weak at the knees. It is every bit that striking. Succulent red cherry, blood orange, pomegranate, mint, spice and dried flowers are some of the notes that give the 2014 its exotic, haunting personality. Dramatic in its fruit intensity and yet also marvelously translucent, the 2014 simply has it all. Time in the glass just brings out more and more of the wine’s deep, inherent character.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • 2014 SWK Vineyard

    Score: 96+

    The 2014 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard is the most reticent of these Pinots, as it was last year. Intense fruit and structure come together, but the wine is not at all ready to give everything it has. Dark red and purplish fruit overtones are lifted by the wine’s bright acidity and tannic underpinnings. This nervous, taut Pinot needs a few years to settle down, but it has tremendous promise.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • 2014 Sonoma Coast

    Score: 93

    The 2014 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) is a tremendous appellation level Pinot. Deep, textured and resonant, the 2014 possesses striking depth and elegance not to mention impeccable overall balance. Succulent red cherry, smoke, licorice and blood orange infuse this deeply expressive Pinot Noir from Steve Kistler's Occidental winery. Readers who can find the 2014 should not hesitate. It is every bit as impressive from bottle as it was from barrel. Quite frankly, the Sonoma Coast Pinot is not that far off the level of the vineyard designates.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • 2013 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 96

    The Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth is dark and pliant, with terrific underlying energy that gives the wine its dynamic, vibrant personality. Dark cherry, plum, violet and spice all flesh out in the glass. A wine of pedigree and nuance, the Cuvée Elizabeth is super-expressive today, not to mention a real joy to taste.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • 2013 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 95

    The 2013 Pinot Noir Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine is gracious, inviting and deeply expressive. Sweet red cherry, blood orange, white flowers and mint are seamlessly melded together. The Cuvée Catherine is the most succulent and overt of the single vineyard Pinots from Occidental.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • 2013 SWK Vineyard

    Score: 96+

    The 2013 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard is the most tannic and structured of these Pinots from Occidental. As such, it is going to need at least a few years in bottle to unwind. Beams of chalky tannin underpin a deeply expressive Pinot endowed with intensely mineral and savory overtones. Vivid and beautifully sculpted throughout, the 2013 is impressive, even in the early going.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • 2013 Sonoma Coast

    Score: 93

    Occidental’s 2013 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) is a superb appellation-level wine that approaches the quality found in the vineyard designate bottlings. Sweet, perfumed aromatics and bright, chiseled fruit are two of the signatures in a Pinot endowed with a striking interplay of energy and finesse. The Sonoma Coast Pinot is the hidden gem in the Occidental range.
    -Antonio Galloni

  • 2012 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 97

    Darker tonalities of red and purplished hued fruits emerge from the 2012 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth. Lavender, violets, cloves, new leather and spices blossom in the glass as this sensual, layered Pinot shows off its compelling personality. As is often the case, the Cuvée Elizabeth is all about texture and resonance. The 2012 is a model of total finesse.
    -Antonio Galloni