Kistler: California Bellweather Changes Gears

There is great debate and much challenge in producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California these days.  Should you make a more classic wine, or a big rich wine?  If your price point is going to be over $30, it better be good and probably needs to have press to back it up.  If you are looking for press, how can you possibly produce a more classic (read: restrained) wine?  You can't.  Not if you want Parker or Wine Spectator to appreciate it.

This dilemma plagues Pinot producers, especially those without large following.  Now to complicate matters further, Kistler, who is a benchmark producer of big and rich (but balanced and delicious) wines has changed gears and is now producing more restrained wines.  Is this the first shot over the bow?  Could California producers move to make more restrained wines?  I  hope so, but don't expect the critics to follow in lock step.  In this particular instance reviews and scores may not matter because Kistler is largely sold direct to their mailing list. That is why this is so interesting; they have the opportunity to shift the market towards classic style wines.

Much remains to be seen.  Specifically; how will the critic's review the more restrained wines and how will the mailing list sales hold up if there isn't crazy press?

I hope that they are able to successfully make the change while maintaining their reputation and  customer base.  If they are, we are likely to see other producers following suit, which would be a wonderful thing.

In an article published by the New York Times, 'A Cult Winemaker Tinkers With Success' they cover some of the changes that Kistler has made.

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January 2011
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