Kistler Pinot Noir reminds me (again) of how wrong I’ve been about California

In late 2019, at the outset of the short window of when you can ship wine to Texas without worrying about heat damage, a very generous soul sent me a bottle of 2016 Kistler Laguna Ridge Pinot Noir.

Said friend was inspired, I believe, by something I’ve written repeatedly about my relationship to California viticulture in recent years: my beloved California, I was wrong about you and your wines, please forgive me.

When the new wave of European wine began to hit American shores in the late 1990s (20+ years ago now), I was one of countless wine lovers who wrongly turned their backs to my native state of California. Our pivot was prompted by the erroneous belief — a prejudice, really — that all California wines were “too hot” (in alcohol), “overly extracted,” “too fruit forward” (the notorious “fruit bomb” trend), “lacking in acidity,” and adverse to food pairing (not “food friendly” in the newly established parlance of the time).

But over the last three years and numerous tasting trips to California wine country north and south, I’ve discovered just how wrong I was. Looking back now on those years prior — those decades, really — when I snubbed California wine, I see clearly how my nose and palate had been blinded (how’s that for a true synaesthesia?) by the entirely misguided bias that sheer peer pressure can produce.

The Kistler Pinot Noir was lithe and nimble in our glasses, with elegant balance between its acidity and alcohol, brilliant red and black fruit flavors with a touch of earth, and an ethereal texture that almost made it feel like its fruit was dissolving in your mouth.

Thank you, friend, and thank you, Kistler, for showing me the light and turning me on to what I should have known all along.

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