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Kistler Founder Mark Bixler Dies

Business manager, chemist, salesman—Bixler provided the business foundation of his Sonoma winery’s success
Photo by: Kent Hansen
Mark Bixler in one of Kistler's prime vineyard sources.

Tim Fish
Posted: November 21, 2017

Mark Bixler, one of the founders of leading Sonoma winery Kistler Vineyards, died Nov. 16, after a brief illness.

Bixler was an original partner with winemaker Steve Kistler when the winery was founded in 1978, and as Kistler said in a statement, “[He] was instrumental to [the winery’s] growth and success over the years.”

Kistler Vineyards has long set the standard for California Chardonnay, relying on a thoroughbred stable of top vineyards to produce stylish and polished wines. Lesser-known but nearly as successful are the winery’s Pinot Noirs.

Bixler played multiple roles at the winery, which is located outside Forestville in western Sonoma County. He served as business manager and oversaw sales and marketing. Bixler also ran Kistler’s lab, having studied chemistry at MIT and the University of California at Berkeley before teaching chemistry at Fresno State University for seven years.

“Mark held many essential roles, which he infused with his love for the world of wine and those in it,” Kistler said. “From the very beginning, our talents complemented one another well. While Mark managed many of the business affairs of Kistler, I was able to concentrate on the vineyards and winemaking.”

Bill Price became a minority partner in 2008. Price owns Durell Vineyards and Three Sticks winery, among other projects. But Bixler and Kistler remained hands-on at the winery.

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