The Occidental wines are produced from vineyards on a southwest-facing ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean, just outside the town of Bodega. This ridge and the surrounding headlands mark the western edge of the Freestone-Occidental area and are among the coldest and latest ripening sites where pinot noir is grown in western Sonoma.
The Occidental pinot noirs are crystalline wines with vivid aromatics and intense red fruit flavors. They have a wonderfully chiseled quality, layered with savory and mineral character. The beauty of these maritime sites and the challenging conditions these vineyards face – all of this is reflected in the Occidental wines.
Our picking decisions are based on flavor, physiological maturity, and on natural acidity and pH to preserve freshness and energy. All fruit is harvested at night and arrives cool at the winery the next morning at 50-55 “F. The fruit is carefully sorted as clusters before de-stemming and then as individual berries a second time with the goal of leaving the maximum number of uncrushed whole berries in each fermenter.
In recent years Occidental has increased the number the whole-cluster fermentations, especially in the vineyard blocks with more millerandage. Each vineyard block is fermented separately to capture as much individual site character as possible in fermenters that are two to four tons in size. The fruit is not intentionally cold soaked prior to fermentation. The ambient temperature in the fermentation rooms is around 60-65”F, which allows the fruit to warm gradually. This activates the native yeasts, and fermentation begins in 7-9 days and is complete in less than three weeks. Punch downs are used only as needed to distribute the heat of fermentation, ensuring a gentle extraction.
Each fermentation generates its own momentum and strength, peaks at its own maximum temperature, and then proceeds to dryness at its own pace with little or no refrigeration. This simple approach to fermentation allows the wine from each vineyard block to develop its own set of aromas and flavors.
After fermentation is complete, the tanks are drained and only the free-run wine is transferred by gravity to Francois Freres barrels (25% new) to age in a naturally cold underground cellar. Occidental does not own a press and sells its must for other wineries to press.
Native malolactic fermentations usually begin by the end of December and are complete by late spring of the following year. The wine remains unracked until November when it is moved directly to bottling tank and bottled unfined and unfiltered with a minimum level of SO2.
“While everyone knows of Steve Kistler’s remarkable chardonnays, I believe his pinot noir will ultimately prove even more historic.” ~Robert Parker, Jr.