Kistler Vineyards‘ stately old farmhouse, aka the Trenton Roadhouse, sits high above the winding Trenton-Healdsburg Road in sleepy Forestville, just north of Sebastopol in Russian River Valley. Unless you’re intently looking for the sign, it’s easy to miss the hidden gated entrance, thinking it is just another beautiful historic home nestled in the vineyards. With enough planning and a little good fortune, you may be able to reserve a seated wine tasting invitation and slip back in time as you gaze over the vineyards from a rocking chair on the old covered porch.
Founded in 1978 by Steve Kistler, winemaker and vineyard manager, the small family owned winery is now producing upwards of 35,000 cases of handcrafted Burgundian-style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. As is traditional in Burgundy, France, Kistler Vineyards produces all of the wines using native yeasts. There are 10 single vineyard Chardonnays, derived from the Wente clone. The Chardonnay is unfined and unfiltered and gracefully aged sur lie in French oak barrels for 11-18 months before bottling. The Pinot Noir, too, is a single vineyard designate and is also unfined and unfiltered. The unctuous free run juice is barrel aged in French oak from 14 to 18 months before bottling.
Kistler‘s Trenton Roadhouse property is absolutely stunning from any vantage point. Hosted tastings are either held in the glass-walled sun porch room overlooking the vineyards in the off-season or held down below in the vintage barn and surrounding patios in the warmer months. As luck would have it, in the middle of the fall harvest, right before a huge rain storm, I had the entire wine tasting experience all to myself, thanks to my wine friend and hostess, Ashley Bender.
From the moment I walked into the antique parlor of the quaint farmhouse, I knew that this was going to be an “over the top tasting experience”. And, I was right! I was greeted by Ashley with a lovely glass of the silky and creamy 2014 Trenton Roadhouse Chardonnay and was given a special tour of the reportedly haunted upstairs attic tasting room. No worry though, the spirits were nowhere to be found, as they were probably floating above the vineyards admiring the lofty view.
The seated wine tasting was complimented with a beautiful array of organic cheese, honey, dried fruit and nuts and abundant history of the vineyards and soils. Being a huge RRV Chardonnay aficionada, I was lost in the moment as the wines were being poured and poetically described. The super-expressive 2015 McCrea Vineyard Chardonnay, from Sonoma Mountain was crisp and lightweight with a citrus peel nose, followed by the 2015 Stone Flat Chardonnay sourced from vineyards along the Sonoma Coast, displaying a definite volcanic minerality and richness in the glass. The essence of the Wente clone was very prominent in the 2015 Durell Vineyard Chardonnay, adding steely notes of flint, wildflowers and mint. As if it couldn’t get any better, the tasting peaked with the ultra-aromatic 2015 Laguna Ridge Pinot Noir sourced from the Russian River Valley, which was deep and dark with wafts of violets, lavender and licorice. What more can I say about such an amazing wine tasting experience, other than, ” Kistler Vineyards is really way over the top!”