After dropping out of Colombia, David Hirsch took off on a California dreamin’ journey in the midst of the free-spirited ’70s. An unlikely career choice—women’s fashion—led him often to Paris, where he fell in love with Burgundy wine. Still a hippy tree-hugger, Hirsch headed north in 1978 to the Sonoma Coast, purchasing a 1,000 acre sheep ranch that was once a redwood forest. He planned to restore the land to its former healthy state and planted a few vines—Pinot Noir and Riesling—as a side project. The property was fairly cheap at the time as no one wanted land in this remote area. Seemingly uninhabitable, the property was 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 west with a group of wine collectors to showcase what I consider some of the most stunning vineyards—though not just from the New World, anywhere. At 1500 feet in elevation and just three miles from the coast, you feel truly isolated. It is a world infinitely different from what you would imagine California Wine Country to be. The Hirsch mailbox is six miles from the property on a dusty road. More than once, I have waited patiently while cattle passed in front of my car, and then continued my way through the backcountry of the Sonoma Coast.
In the years working his land, Hirsch came to understand the power of soil, parcel by parcel—and so did the winemakers who purchased his grapes. The soil spun its own tale: deep layers of volcanic, sandstone and clay are topped with residual forest soil deposited by the 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 terroir. Unlike most vineyards around the world with just a few soil types, Hirsch's land spans over 44 different soils due to the colliding plates of the San Andreas Fault. The wines are in a world all their own due to this special soil variation, climate and intense coastal influence.
After roughly a decade, Hirsch quit his day job to develop 72 vineyard acres. For years, the limited Pinot Noir was sold to some of the most sought-after wineries in Sonoma. William Seylem, Kistler and Littorai were a few of the known names. In 2002, Hirsch began making his own wines. The family felt this was the next step in truly understanding the terroir. They would not only passionately farm the grapes, they would in turn translate their unique qualities via the bottling process. 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. Without a doubt, she has inherited her father’s pioneering spirit and 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. We watched the fog roll in from the Pacific before it stopped just at the bottom of the vines and hovered at the base of the hills. There are few experiences that have shown me how powerful true terroir can be as when I walked the vines of Hirsch Vineyards. I have now personally collected these wines for the last seven 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)
THE WINES OF HIRSCH VINEYARDS
SAN ANDREAS FAULT :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 : 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 : 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.