Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hirsch Vineyards, now and then

David Hirsch was one of the first to plant vineyards in the region known as True Sonoma Coast. Already in 1980 he planted a 1.20 hectare block with Riesling and Pinot Noir, at that time more for fun rather than thinking about becoming av full time winegrower and winemaker. The first years, all grapes were sold to Williams Selyem, and later on also Kistler Vineyard (not anymore), Littorai and Siduri. Over the years, David worked hard to understand his land, to see the details and the anatomy of his vineyard. Working close with several great winemakers who bought his grapes, he learned more and more about each single block in his vineyard, which had expanded into 29.15 hectares.
Still he wanted to go even deeper, and the only way he could truly see the microdetails and improve the quality of his vineyard management, was to start to make his own wines. The first true vintage was 2002, however, David told me he made some wines for fun earlier. He told med that the 2001 actually tastes pretty good!
Typically, wines are red at Hirsch Vineyard. There’s only 1.60 hectares of Chardonnay planted, so production of the white wine is small. There are now quite a few pinots made, with Bohan-Dillon from the youngest vines as the lightest and most deliscious of them all. The San Andreas Pinot Noir (until 2006, this was sold just as Pinot Noir) is a blend of different clones, mostly Dijons clones, but also Pommard and Swan, and approximately 75 percent of the grapes comes from blocks planted between 1980 and 1990.

There’s also a Pinot Noir “M”, named after Davids wife Maria, a barrel selection with the most elegant and perfumed lots of Pinot Noir. Since 2009, the wine is sold as Pinot Noir Reserve, and that vintage and wine tasted from barrels is one of the most profound pinots I’ve ever tasted from Sonoma Coast.
Since 2007, there are also small lots of single block wines that are very interesting. These wines are the result of understanding the vineyard and its different blocks through their own winemaking.
Since 2010 the young and talented Ross Cobb of Cobb Vineyard (they make a great series of pinots from the Freestone in the southern part of Sonoma Coast) is the winemaker. He finished the blend of the 2009s, and did that with honor.

Production reaches around 5 500 cases per year.

2009 Chardonnay / 92 p
This great wine is made from whole cluster pressed Chardonnay grapes, and fermented in a smart combination of 50 percent small French oak barrels, very little new oak, 35 percent small stainless steel tanks 15 percent in small glass damejeannes (from the 2010 vintage, all juice is fermented in oak, but only 20 percent new). Alcohol level is 14 percent, which is just perfect to add that backbone that the rich but still very elegant and freshly acidic body needs. On the nose, it’s almost burgundian like, the oak treatment is perfect, and there are small traces of minerality that may fool most tasters in a blind tasting. Although the wine has gone through full malolactic fermentation, there’s no buttery or creamy texture or flavor in the wine. It’s really a great Californian chardonnay in a style that would make any Franchofile thrilled. Only 600 cases were made.
Drink it 2011-2016.

2004 Pinot Noir / 92 p
The first vintage was made in 2002, but I wasn’t that impressed with that vintage (I actually preffered the Hirsch Vineyard selection from Failla and from Siduri). Since then the quality has improved significant, with the 2009 vintage as a great stand out for the new, ultrahigh quality. However, there have been some fine vintages and the 204 is for sure one of them. I just decanted it 15 minutes prior to pouring it at 17 degrees, and it showed just great in the big Riedelglass. The nose offered loads of dark and very aromatic cherries, some floral notes, just a dash of oak and overall a very intense and elegant wine with a good portion of complexity. (I actually poured it next to the 2002 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru Vieilles Vignes from Domaine Ponsot, and everyone around the table both preferred the Hirsch Pinot Noir, and thought for a while that is was the wine from Burgundy!) Well, to be honest, it didn’t have the typical chalky minerality found in burgundies, but the flavor profile was for sure very French. In the lingering aftertaste, there‘s some sweetness, but the alcohol is perfectly well balanced.
Drink it 2011-2018.

No comments:

Post a Comment