Hirsch Vineyards, 2014 West Ridge Pinot Noir
Variety: Pinot Noir
This wine….. A little closer to the coast than the East Ridge, it offers a slightly more powerful and fruit forward wine. All this with in the context of the restrained Hirsch style.
“I can’t remember when I last reacted to tasting a new wine by getting into my car and setting off to find the vineyard… Purity of fruit, firmness of purpose, a sense of place to set my satnav spinning: This was Pinot Noir of a kind I had never seen, and didn’t expect to see, in California. Nor in Burgundy, for that matter. I simply had to go and see where it came from. It’s a long haul… Vine rows, when they eventually appear on scattered slopes, pitched at random angles, seem too organised for this chaotic, almost uninhabited landscape. There must be a reason to come this far in search of the elusive perfection of Pinot. There is. My impression was of Pinot flavour at it’s most electrically alive…” - Hugh Johnson, The World of Fine WIne, Issue 48
If California were to implement a Grand Cru category along Burgundian lines, then Hirsch Vineyard would easily make the grade. When David Hirsch bought his remote ranch, perched high on the very cool Sonoma Coast, in 1978 there wasn't a vineyard for miles around, but his decision to plant Pinot Noir in 1980 established him as one of California's new viticultural pioneers. The vineyard's reputation grew steadily, but the big break came in 1994 when Williams-Selyem, Littorai and Kistler began buying Hirsch's fruit. The subsequent success of those wines (all of which trumpeted the Hirsch vineyard designation on the label) sparked widespread acclaim for the vineyard and prompted a number of high-profile wineries to establish themselves in the area.
In 2002, with a full understanding of his vineyard gained over nearly 20 vintages, Hirsch decided to build a winery and bottle the best parcels of fruit under his own label. There is huge complexity of soil and topography across the vineyard, with 40 individual parcels being picked and vinified separately each year. Beginning in 2011, Hirsch is gradually converting his whole vineyard to biodynamics - having been very impressed after seeing the effects on Ted Lemon’s vineyards at Littorai; slowed fruit maturity, increased vine health and reduced vigour. Winemaking has been decidedly hands-off from the outset, and the resulting Pinot Noir - more earthy, more savoury, and with a remarkable ability to age and develop in the cellar - are some of the most highly praised and sought after in the United States.