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GROWER STORIES

HIRSCH VINEYARDS

Kevin Hart

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California Dreamin' with Hirsch Vineyards

After dropping out of Colombia, David Hirsch took off on a California dreamin’ journey in the free-spirited 1970s. A perhaps unlikely career choice—women’s fashion—led him often to Paris, where he fell in love with Burgundy wine. Still a hippy tree-hugger, in 1978, Hirsch headed north to the Sonoma Coast and bought a 1,000-acre sheep ranch that was once a redwood forest. He planned to restore the land to its pre-logged healthy state and plant a few vines (Pinot Noir and Riesling) as a side project. The property was pretty cheap at the time. After all, no one wanted to be in this remote area. It was seemingly uninhabitable, perched on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the capricious tectonic plates of the San Andreas Fault.

I will always remember my first trip up to the vineyards. I traveled out west with a group of wine collectors to show them what I consider to be some of the most stunning vineyards, not just in the New World, but anywhere. At 1500 feet in elevation and only 3 miles from the coast, you truly feel isolated in a world so different from what you would imagine to be California Wine Country. The Hirsch mailbox is 6 miles from the property on a dusty road. More than once I have waited patiently for 15 minutes for cattle to pass in front of my car, only to continue on my way through the backcountry of the Sonoma Coast.

In his years working the land, Hirsch came to understand the power of the soil, parcel by parcel. So did the winemakers who purchased his grapes. The soil spun its own tale: deep layers of volcanic, sandstone and clay soils, all topped with a surface layer of forest soil left behind by the now-defunct logging companies. In his own words, “What you’re tasting is a support vehicle to heal the place” (Wine & Spirits, 2018). Hirsch turned California on its head with his revolutionary talk of terroirUnlike many vineyards around the world with only a few soil types, Hirsch's land spans over 44 different soils due to the colliding plates of the San Andreas Fault. This variety of soils, paired with the climate and intense influence of the coast, creates wines in a world of their own.

After about a decade, Hirsch quit his day job to develop 72 vineyard acres. For years, the limited fruit was sold to some of the most sought-after wineries in Sonoma to make Pinot Noir. William Seylem, Kistler and Littorai to name a few. In 2002, Hirsch decided to make his own wines. The family felt this was the next step in truly understanding the terroir. They would not only grow the grapes with passionate farming but also translate their unique qualities all the way through bottling. The rest is history. David Hirsch has become the undisputed Pinot pioneer of the Sonoma Coast, and founder of the original winery in what is now the Fort Ross American Viticultural Area (AVA).

Daughter Jasmine is now the general manager of Hirsch Vineyards. She definitely inherited her father’s pioneering spirit and has turned into a dear friend and mentor to Hart & Cru. She cares about loyalty and integrity in all things in her life. I am fortunate to have stood beside her at the old vine parcel, watching the fog roll in from Pacific before it stops just at the bottom of the vines and hovers at the base of the hills. There are few experiences that have shown me what true terroir is as powerfully as what I have experienced walking the vines at Hirsch Vineyards and now, personally collecting these wines for the last 7 years.

 
“Seduction along fault lines and whale paths…
purity of fruit, firmness of purpose, a sense of place.”
— Hugh Johnson World of Fine Wine (2015)
 

SAN ANDREAS FAULT 2014

. . . . . . . . . . . . . $70 ( 375ml $40)

100% Pinot Noir

The San Andreas Fault Estate Pinot Noir is the flagship wine from Hirsch, and the wine that represents the summation of the complex vineyard. David Hirsch says if you drink only one of his wines this should be it. 100% estate, 100% Hirsch. 

East Ridge 2014

. . . . . . . . . . . . . $100

100% Pinot Noir

David Hirsch began planting the East Ridge in 1990. It is a topographically distinct microsite within the Hirsch Vineyard, sloping steeply into an eastern canyon. Fog gathers in the canyon at night; and during the day, the cool ocean breezes circulate amongst the vines. However, it is often the first place the fog burns off in the morning, making it a relatively warmer site compared with the rest of Hirsch.  

RESERVE 2013

. . . . . . . . . . . . . $100

100% Pinot Noir

David Hirsch dreamed for many years of making a reserve pinot noir from his vines. Since our first Reserve in 2009, the family has endeavored to capture the most complete and powerful expression of the Hirsch Vineyard through selecting its very best and oldest vineyard blocks for this wine.

 
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