Archived Reviews and Scores

  • 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
  • 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 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: 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 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
  • 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 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 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
  • 2014 SWK Vineyard

    Score: 94+

    Medium ruby-purple in color, the 2014 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard appears to playing it close to the chest at this early stage, offering subtle suggestions of red cherries, raspberry leaves, Provence herbs and fragrant earth with a hint of Sichuan pepper. Medium-bodied, elegant, fine and tightly-knit on the palate, it has a wonderfully lively backbone and persistent earth and herb layers on the finish. Not giving quite as much as the other two vineyard-designate wines, I’ve been cautious with my scoring and look forward to seeing what this wine can do over the next decade.
    -Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
  • 2014 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 97

    Medium ruby-purple colored, the 2014 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvee Elizabeth has a compelling black pepper, garrigue and bay leaves laced nose over a core of Bing cherries, fresh raspberries and crushed cranberries, plus a waft of fertile earth. The medium-bodied palate fills the mouth with a wonderful intensity of pure red berry and earth-inspired flavors, with tons of spices and a great frame of grainy tannins, finishing very long and with moreish vibrancy.
    -Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
  • 2014 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 98+

    Medium ruby-purple colored, the 2014 Pinot Noir Occidental Station Cuvee Catherine has a youthfully subdued yet staggeringly beautiful perfume of lavender, moss-covered bark, fallen leaves and rose hip tea over a core of pomegranate, kirsch and black raspberries with a waft of wild thyme. Medium-bodied with a taut, very well-structured palate, it has firm, ripe, exquisitely fine-grained tannins and a lively backbone of freshness supporting the intensely fragrant fruit and earth layers, finishing with some mineral hints. It really needs another year or two in bottle and should drink over the next 15+ years.
    -Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
  • 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 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 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
  • 2013 SWK Vineyard

    Score: 90+

    The 2013 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard, is 100% destemmed, ripe but more restrained, spicy and well-made, with good upside, but needs another 1-2 years of bottle age.
    -Robert Parker
  • 2013 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 96

    The 2013 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvee Elizabeth displays black raspberries, black and red currants, beautiful purity, a deep, almost DRC-like complexity because of the forest floor, and ethereal lightness in spite of rather intense fruit notes. This beauty should age gracefully for a decade.
    -Robert Parker
  • 2013 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 95

    The 2013 Pinot Noir Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine, which like its sibling sees about 33% new oak, is made mostly from Calera clonal material. The wine offers up loads of beautiful strawberry, kirsch liqueur notes, a medium ruby color, forest floor and floral notes. A beauty, this wine should drink nicely for at least a decade.
    -Robert Parker
  • 2012 SWK Vineyard

    Score: 97+

    The 2012 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard, from a parcel just above Bodega Headlands, is the wine where all of the concepts Kistler is developing at Occidental converge. Vertical, structured and explosive on the palate, the SWK is built on a serious core of minerality. Graphite, smoke, violets and a host of mineral-inflected notes hit the palate in an intense, saline Pinot that is going to need time to fully come together. Today, the SWK is totally crystalline and nuanced, but it is also very, very young and in need of time in bottle.
    -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
  • 2012 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 96

    The 2012 Pinot Noir Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine has closed down significantly since I last tasted it a few months back, which is probably good news for its long-term potential. Deep veins of underlying minerality give the Cuvée Catherine its structure, power and energy. At the same time, the 2012 is not a huge or obvious wine, at least not today. The flavor profile is distinctly red-toned, with hints of iron and mint that add nuance.
    -Antonio Galloni
  • 2012 SWK Vineyard

    Score: 98

    As good as the Cuvée Catherine is, there is another Occidental Pinot that is also profound. The 2012 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard also comes from his 65 acres planted in Occidental. This is a 1,000-case cuvée from a site that sits above the Bodega Headlands Vineyard. With a dark ruby color like its siblings, it is made from 100% Calera and sees only about 30% new French oak. This wine offers a copious mouthful of red, blue and black fruits, medium to full body, terrific acidity, and intense black raspberry and black cherry fruit along with spring flowers, forest floor and spice box. This is a stunning, super-complex, compelling Pinot Noir to drink over the next decade or more.
    -Robert Parker
  • 2012 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 98

    As good as the Cuvée Catherine is, there is another Occidental Pinot that is profound. There are 2,000 cases of the 2012 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth. This wine reminded me of my earlier days in Burgundy tasting the Grand Cru Musigny. Incredible floral notes, sweet raspberries and blueberries as well as wet rocks soar from the glass of this profound, medium to full-bodied, gorgeous Pinot Noir made from 100% Calera clone. Stunning ripeness, great acids, and terrific delineation are all present in this super-intense, fragrant, modern classic from Steve Kistler. It should drink well for at least a decade, possibly a lot longer.
    -Robert Parker
  • 2012 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 93

    2012 is the second vintage for Steve Kistler’s personal project. The 2012 Pinot Noir Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine represents 1,000 cases, aged in about 30% new oak. Beautiful strawberry, red cherry and blueberry notes jump from the glass of this dark ruby wine. Attractive aromatics are followed by a medium-bodied, luscious wine with elegance, minerality, and plenty of blue and red fruits, good acidity and a long, long finish. This beauty can be drunk over the next 5-10 years.
    -Robert Parker
  • 2011 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 97

    Whereas the Cuvée Catherine is built on fruit, the 2011 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth is a much more inward, structured wine. Here the flavors are bright, precise and endowed with considerable energy. Cranberry, pomegranate, crushed rocks, rose petals and savory herbs are all supported by veins of underlying acidity and minerality that should allow the 2011 to develop beautifully in bottle. All of the 2011 Pinots have really blossomed over the last year, but none to the extent of the Cuvée Elizabeth, which today is stunning.
    -Antonio Galloni
  • 2011 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 97

    The 2011 Pinot Noir Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine is a real stunner. Still incredibly primary, the 2011 is built on a serious core of fruit. Voluptuous yet medium in body, the 2011 impresses for its balance and sheer purity. The 2011 has developed quite a bit since I last tasted it, but the style remains one of fruit density. Readers should give the 2011 another year or two in bottle. What a fabulous wine this is.
    -Antonio Galloni
  • 2011 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth

    Score: 95

    The 2011 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvee Elizabeth was picked at under 23 brix. As Steve Kistler admitted, it would have been impossible to get this level of flavor in warmer sites without harvesting at much higher numbers. Beautiful raspberry, pomegranate, red and black currant, incense, camphor and spring flower aromas jump from the glass of this perfumed, refined, medium-bodied Pinot Noir. It has the intensity of flavor and length to possibly be a game-changer in terms of picking at low sugars and getting the boldness and drama of flavor that always accompanies the greatest wines. The 2012s were both gorgeous and, again, I wrote the word “game-changers” in my tasting notes for both of them.
    -Robert Parker
  • 2011 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine

    Score: 93

    The 2011 Pinot Noir Occidental Station Cuvee Catherine reminded me of a grand cru Musigny from Burgundy. Elegant floral, raspberry, red and black cherry, forest floor and crushed rock aromas soar from the glass of this medium-bodied, beautifully knit, surprisingly concentrated Pinot. Made from yields of no more than one ton of fruit per acre, the intensity and depth of flavor were easy to obtain. It should drink well for 8-12+ years.
    -Robert Parker