Review: 1997 Kistler Chardonnay, Cuvee Catherine

SNC00067Caramel and toasted nuts and more nuts.  And almost the color of an amber ale.  Not much fruit left, and none of the verve and subtle minerality she had in her youth.  Such was the 1997 Kistler Chardonnay (Cuvee Catherine) we opened last night.  At least, that’s my story, and I’m stikin’ to it.

The wine was still very much alive, thanks to its acidity.  But I did not care for it, making me the oddity among the four of us at the table (not including our daughter, who did not partake).    A 12 year-old Chardonnay, even an age-worthy one from a prestige producer such as Kistler, has lost most of the attractive fruit and freshness that make Chardonnay so attractive in its youth and even in its middle age.  But after 12 years in the bottle, this elegant lady is cashing her first Social Security checks.

Yet the other three at our table insisted the wine was fine, if not even beautiful.  And it WAS.  For THEM.

We must get over insisting our opinions are right or wrong when it comes to wine.  I know this, though the knowledge comes more easily than the practice of that knowledge.  But somehow, I managed to sit in silence, pleased that they were enjoying this valuable bottle (which still sells for ~$60, if you can find the rare cuvee) while they sat in barely concealed glee that there was more wine for them.  I’d have done the same, of course, had the shoe been on the other foot.

Prime Drinking Age for Kistler Chardonnay
Generally, I enjoy premium Chardonnay (those made in a style to that can stand up to some bottle age) after three to seven years of age.  But this may not help you determine whether you’d enjoy a 12 year-old bottle of Kistler “Cuvee Catherine”.  So I turned to the Kistler Website to see what they said about the longevity of their Chardonnay’s…

There is unquestionably a trade-off between early drinkability and longevity, with the longest distance runner often being the most austere and least expressive wine in its youth.  We are always striving to strike the right balance between these attributes, combining the early appeal one expects from a California chardonnay with the staying power of a white Burgundy.

For our newer members, a good rule of thumb to remember for drinking our chardonnays is that all are delicious as young wines in the year of their release; in most vintages all wines will reach a window of optimum enjoyment between the ages of 4 and 6; for some wines the window will extend to 8 years, and for a few to 10 years or longer.

Fish Restaurant, Sausalito


By the way, our bottle of Kistler was shared with some great friends who ferried us to dinner in their boat – a relaxing way to spend a summer evening.  The wine accompanied some great sustainable seafood, prepared and served by the folks at “Fish” restaurant in Sausalito (motto: “Sustainable is the new black”).  I can’t recommend this place.  Not because it’s not great (my detractors would be few if I rated it among the top casual seafood restaurants in the Bay Area), but because the lines are too long already and if you start eating there too they’ll grow intolerable.

If you choose to ignore my advice, just be sure to bring cash – they’re old fashioned that way, over at Fish.

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day
Wine appreciation, like love, cannot be done by proxy”  ~ With apologies to Robert Henri (American Artist, 1865 – 1929)