One of the truly great sites for Pinot Noir in the new world is at Hirsch Vineyards. They know how to grow and vinify Pinot the way it should be. The way it was meant to be. I am not talking about some massive high alcohol Pinot Noir. I am talking about a Pinot that has just the right amount of acidity, fruit, earthy notes, backbone, and delicate texture. In other words, balanced. Hirsch brings a touch of Burgundy to the new world.
Hirsch Vineyards is located along the Sonoma Coast. It was a long and tiring ride from San Francisco when I first visited there back in November 2011. We drove right along the coast for some time. The views were breathtaking. As we were climbing in elevation through a winding rough road with no civilization in sight I asked myself why the hell would anybody want to grow grapes here. Shortly after arriving at Hirsch all the reasons why became clear. In order to make great wine the vines that which the grapes grown on have to struggle. Fertile soil and perfect conditions with a lot of grapes yielded will produce a wine less to be desired. The high slopes, extreme temperature changes, morning mist, and not so fertile soil all play a role in putting out some great grapes for winemaking. The yields are low at Hirsch and not a lot of wine is produced. What’s made is truly reflective of the site. They hand harvest (which seems difficult after looking down on some of these slopes) and produce their wine with minimal influence. No fining or filtering.
Hirsch produces several Pinot Noir bottlings every year from different vineyard sites and they also make a little bit of Chardonnay. One of my favorites is their San Andreas Pinot Noir. The name says it all. After millions of years of soils being collided and mixed together, the vineyard around the San Andreas Fault has provided a soil that is poor and perfect for wine grape growing. The 2009 San Andreas Pinot Noir is complex with layers of cherries, berries and jam. It has great acidity that balances the fruit favors but leaves a silky texture on the tongue. This wine is great young but also will age incredibly well. We’ve carried Hirsch San Andreas at Mike’s Wine Dive since day 1 and I’d have to say its one of my favorite wines on the list.
After visiting a site like Hirsch it’s hard not to feel closer to the wine. There is no tasting room but why would there be? The views are incredible! There is a table right in the middle of the vineyard which is where we tasted all their wines. Everything is right there for you to see. No big grand entrance with fountains and various other enhancements to attract tourists. Just the vineyards and the winery. That’s the way I like it.