Occidental Reviews

Occidental Spring January 2017 Release:



Spring 2017 Release:    2014 Vintage

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.

2014 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth Pinot Noir

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 SWK Vineyard Pinot Noir

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 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine Pinot Noir

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

Robert Parker Wine Advocate

Of course, the Kistler story doesn’t end with Kistler Vineyards. Steve Kistler’s pioneering spirit and pursuit of world class Pinot Noir took him to Occidental/Freestone and beyond, with vineyards extending right out to the Bodega Headlands, practically within spitting distance of the Pacific Ocean. The vineyards for his Occidental Wines label were planted in the early 2000s, when few were even considering this now sought-after “extreme” coastal area. When I asked Steve about the clones he planted, he replied with a secretive grin, “It’s mostly Calera and some suitcase stuff that is very proprietary.” Contributing to the beguiling character of the Cuvee Catherine Pinot Noir, whatever that “suitcase stuff” is, it certainly seems to be delivering the goods. With the vines really starting to come of age at the time of the magical 2014 vintage in Sonoma, Occidental hits pay dirt with an incredibly strong foursome of new releases.

2014 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine Pinot Noir

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.

2014 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth Pinot Noir

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.

2014 SWK Vineyard Pinot Noir

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.



Upcoming Spring 2018 Release:

Antonio Galloni’s Reviews

2015 SWK Vineyard Pinot Noir

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 Pinot Noir

Score: 94-97
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 total model of finesse. — Antonio Galloni

2015 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine Pinot Noir

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



Past Reviews: 2013 Vintage

Antonio Galloni

2013 SWK Vineyard Pinot Noir

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 Pinot Noir

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 Pinot Noir

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

Robert Parker Jr.

2013 Bodega Headlands Cuvée Elizabeth Pinot Noir

Score: 96
The 2013 Pinot Noir Bodega Headlands Cuvée 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.

2013 Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine Pinot Noir

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.