96 Points Vinous: 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.
90 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: The 2013 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard, is 100% destemmed, ripe but more restrained, spicy and well-made, with good upside, but needs another 1-2 years of bottle age. Steve Kistler’s personal project on the Sonoma Coast appears under the name Occidental Wines. He makes about 1,000 cases of these wines. These are all impressive and suggest a brilliant future for his three Pinot Noir vineyards. Not surprisingly, Steve Kistler’s Occidental project is a brilliant one and gives consumers another fabulous alternative when it comes to world-class Pinot Noir.
Occidental is the highly-lauded side project of famed winemaker, Steve Kistler and his business partner, Mark Bixler. Steve is most well-known for his eponymous label, Kistler Vineyards, which has been dedicated to making world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from California’s north coast for over 30 years
While Steve remains CEO of Kistler Vineyards and is very much in charge of day to day operations, his desire to focus solely on Pinot Noir was the impetus behind creating Occidental. Situated just 4 miles from the Ocean in western Sonoma’s Bodega Headlands, Occidental currently has 20 acres of primarily Calera clone Pinot Noir planted, with another 60 acres in development. The vineyards benefit from an ideal south-facing aspect (not shared by neighboring sites), as well as the Petaluma Gap’s cold, windy climate. In fact, the area rarely sees temperatures over 80 degrees. In short, it is a wonderland for Pinot Noir.
Similar to his philosophy at Kistler Vineyards, Steve embraces a “less is more” approach to viticulture and winemaking at Occidental. Steve’s ultimate goal was to reduce the size of the operation and increase the level of attention in order to make Pinot Noir that is rich with flavor, but not overly extracted or tannic.