August 11, 2020 by Alyssa Taylor
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Fort Ross, Hirsch Vineyards is the birth ground of pinot noir on the Sonoma Coast. David Hirsch founded the vineyard in 1980 to grow fruit and make site-specific wine. From the start, all efforts have been on the growing of fruit that makes wines profoundly characteristic of the site vintage after vintage.
The wines from Hirsch Vineyards give the passionate drinker an experience of the clash of opposites meeting in Nature and Life: the edge of the continent washed by the sea; the eviternal grinding of the North American and Pacific plates along the San Andreas Fault; the wet winters and dry summers caused by the ocean and desert climates; the dripping rainforest and parched pastures; the contact and intermingling of cultures: Native American, Mexican, Russian, European; the change in rural economy from logging and ranching to winegrowing. In the wines of Hirsch Vineyards you find a natural balance and consistency in the harmonious resolution of these opposites. This complex, unique site produces fruit and wines of unusual acidity and balance with a vintage specific concentration of pinot noir or chardonnay fruit. These are wines to be enjoyed now or laid down for future consumption. From the first planting in 1980, a philosophy of viticulture has been slowly evolving that is specific to Hirsch Vineyards. Just as our pinot noir and chardonnay vines, influenced by the local environmental conditions, have grown and adapted to the site, we have learned to work out an appropriate cultural approach by trial and error in the field. The mixed geology fostered by the San Andreas Fault and our dramatic climate makes for growing conditions far different than other sites, even those quite nearby.
Each year brings a different juggling act whereby we seek to enter into the dynamic of the annual cycle of the vine to learn where we can be effective in specific situations to help bring the vineyard to balance at harvest time. In 2011 we began the process of converting the vineyards to biodynamic viticulture. By 2014, all 72 acres of vines as well as our gardens and orchards were fully under biodynamic practice. In 2011 we began the process of converting the vineyards to biodynamic viticulture. By 2014, all 72 acres of vines as well as our gardens and orchards were fully under biodynamic practice. David Hirsch purchased the land that would be come Hirsch Vineyards in 1978. For millions of years, this land was a temperate zone rain forest, but the redwoods had long since been cut down, and by 1978, it was a sheep ranch.
David planted his first vines in 1980, making it the oldest premium Pinot Noir vineyard on the True Sonoma Coast. Through 2001, all of the grapes were sold to other wineries, and Hirsch did not produce any of its own wine. In the early 1990s, the vineyard became one of the most sought-after sources for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes in California, and wineries such Littorai, Williams Selyem, Kistler and Failla all made Hirsch-designated wines.
In 2002, after twenty-two years focused on planting and farming, David Hirsch made the decision to build a winery and start making his own wines. The primary motivation was to provide feedback to our farming decisions: with more than 60 farming parcels, spread out over 72 acres, David wanted to taste each individually, to better understand the nature of each parcel’s unique soil and climate, the conditions of the vintage, and the consequences of his farming decisions. In other words, we built a winery to become better farmers.