In The Land of Durell 3 min read

One day on a sunlit afternoon a girl was having a glass of California Chardonnay in a lovely California restaurant. Only it was just any Chardonnay, you guessed it… it was a Durell Vineyards designate, Kistler Durell to be exact. The location/food/circumstances memories have long faded but one remained… an understated pale gold label on a bottle of the kind of wine that effortlessly facilitate a turning point in one’s palate. There were many before and many, many after but that one stayed mysteriously close…

Fast forward many years later. Here I was standing in a mega-noisy room at Fort Mason, with a label of my own dangling around my neck, glass in one hand and a notebook in the other, successfully impersonating a tradeswoman. I took a sip from my glass of 2007 Durell fashioned under Sand Hill label and the world momentarily stopped. There it was again, the powerful pure experienced, bathed in mesmerizing minerality, pretty fruit aromas and the lingering finish that seemed to not want to end.

It is then that I wondered, what is really behind the many labels I enjoyed so much, the Lioco, Patz and Hall, Kistler and many more…

I’ve always been fascinated by vineyards, many had captivated me with their mystery and individuality. Much like no two people are alike neither are the vineyards, of course. They may share multiple similarities such as soil, clonal selections, are subject to drainage patterns, etc. yet it is the differences that are so remarkably striking, each carves its own special place in a most unique way.

If you don’t believe me, just ask any vineyard manager… they will speak of it the same way one may speak of a beloved child… often without even realizing it. These seasoned individuals who often appear rugged and unfazed are really softies in a permanent state of infatuation combined with deep-rooted love. Love for their special piece of land, for what it truly represents.

We the outsiders often see the wine world in numbers (scores) and vintages (as they relate to scores). All too often we measure the wine’s performance in status, accessibility, price, and other relevant but far less significant criteria.

They see it in terms of transitions, many of them are not measuring the performance in dollars per ton or yields… they look at every single aspect of vines growth and development, how the grapes look and taste, what each day brings.  It is not about pursuing a formula or a trip to the lab or the cellar, rather it is an ongoing pilgrimage, a journey woven into the very core of a soul, and the daily fabric of life… it is a partnership of Man and Nature in one of its finest forms.

I invite you to come on a journey with me. Even though this vineyard have garnered much fame and notoriety there is relatively little known about it and only the insiders, the owner(s), growers, vintner, all of the folks who tend to this remarkable site know the real story. I am hopeful they will share their labor of love with you and me.

Ilona Thompson

Ilona Thompson is Editor-in-Chief at PalateXposure, a destination site for oenophiles, gourmands and luxury travelers. She also recently launched #Wine, a site dedicated to wines and spirits reviews, and #Photography, a site devoted to high-quality wine, food, and travel related photography.

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