Hirsch Vineyards: Redemption after a Nightmarish Vintage
I last wrote about the seismic Pinots from Hirsch Vineyards in February 2012 when I reviewed the marvelous
2009 vintage wines. The 2010 vintage was an unprecedented challenge. David Hirsch notes on his
website,”2010 was a creature unto itself, not comparable to other years in our experience.”
The winter was rainy with moderate temperatures, beginning with heavy rains and winds from January 17 to
23. Total rainfall for the year was over 100 inches. This sounds like a lot, but heavy rainfall is customary for
this outpost in Cazadero in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA on the far west Sonoma Coast. What distinguished
2010 were the long periods of cool weather during the spring and summer, with overcast skies, fog and biting
winds. The result was an uneven crop set and extensive millerandage (“hens and chicks”) making farming for
balance a challenge.
Two inches of rain preceded harvest. The pick began September 21, with sugars at 21.5º Brix and lower. After
the first five days of harvest, the weather shot up into the 90 degree range and the remaining fruit became ripe
all at once requiring a rush to pick the remaining 82 tons of fruit. The heat spike was followed by cooling and
the balance of the harvest dragged on until October 12 when the last of the Chardonnay was picked. Hirsch
described the final pick: “Tiny to large berries, green to plum colored skins, bunches with four berries to fruits
with 400, tiny and tight packed bunches and large, gangly open bunches. You name it, 2010 produced it.”
Surprisingly, the wines turned out to have balance, depth and expression of site with plenty of credit going to
winemaker Ross Cobb and his crew. Most likely the maturity, soils, and topography were able to handle
mother nature. I believe you will find plenty to like in the 2010 vintage wines reviewed below. 2011 turned out
to be a much more welcome vintage with moderate weather throughout the growing season and verasion and
Hirsch believes it produced some of the finest wines from this site to date.
Hirsch Vineyards wines are sold primarily through a mailing list and direct purchase on the website at
www.hirschvineyards.com. Because of limited production in 2010, the special bottlings are allocated to mailing
list members. The entry-level wine, “The Bohan-Dillon,” and occasionally other releases, are available through
retail distribution. East Ridge section of Hirsch Vineyards is shown in the photos below.
Visitors (up to six) are welcome by advance appointment for private tours with priority given to active members
of the Hirsch mailing list. The vineyards are quite remote, about two to three hours from San Francisco and
ninety minutes from Santa Rosa and Healdsburg. Private tastings are occasionally held in the Healdsburg
2011 Hirsch Vineyards The Bohan-Dillon Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., pH 3.48, 1,012, cases, $34. About one-third Hirsch
fruit, with the balance from neighbors including Hellenthal, McDougall
and Nobles vineyards.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass.
Highly scented with aromas of black cherries, Hoison sauce, spicy
oak and rosebud. A lighter but tasty wine with straight forward flavors
of black cherries and blue and black berries complimented by cedary
oak. The tannins are nicely balanced, the wine is silky on the palate, and the
cherry really sings on the finish. Good.
2011 Hirsch Vineyards Estate Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.5% alc., pH 3.35, 506 cases, $55.
straw color and clear in the glass. Very appealing aromas of crème brûlée, white peach, lemon drop and
brioche. Very clean and polished, with flavors of white stone fruits, apple and citrus, sporting a pleasing touch
of oak, and showing some aromatic intensity on the somewhat lengthy finish. Very good.
2010 Hirsch Vineyards San Andreas Fault Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $60. Release fall
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Oak-dominated nose of coffee and dark caramel
scents. Elegant, with light weight cherry and cranberry flavors backed by toasty oak and noticeable tannins.
The delicate fruit is buried in oak at present but this should resolve to some degree with more time in bottle.
2010 Hirsch Vineyards West Ridge Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., 165 cases, $N/A.
Release fall 2013. From a series of hilltop blocks covering 28 acres. A selection of the most exceptional
barrels from three of the very best blocks on West Ridge planted to Mt. Eden, Swan and Pommard clones.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is shy, offering scents of red cherries and berries with a
hint of toasty oak. This wine has a spring in its step due to vibrant acidity. While the East Ridge shows off
darker fruits, the West Ridge features redder fruits and less tannin. It is a more giving and vibrant wine now
than the East Ridge. Very good.
2010 Hirsch Vineyards East Ridge Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 240 cases, $N/A. Release
fall 2013. From an 18-acre unique microclimate planted to Mt. Eden, Swan and Pommard clones. A selection
of the best barrels from the three oldest blocks on the East Ridge.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass.
Exotic aromas of wild berries, wooded forest and a hint of oak. Delicious core of sappy, dark red berry and
black cherry fruit. Elegant, polished and smoothly textured, sporting some prominent tannins and oak that will
integrate over time. Definitely lighter and less concentrated in this vintage, but a thoroughly pleasing wine.
2010 Hirsch Vineyards Reserve Estate Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 295
cases, $N/A. Release spring 2014. A selection of the best barrels from
eleven of the oldest and finest vineyard blocks at Hirsch.
reddish-purple color in the glass. A great expression of Pinot Noir with
marvelous aromas of black cherries, molasses, spice and oak. Mid
weight flavors of black cherries, black raspberries and Dr. Pepper that
are the most generous and concentrated of all the Hirsch wines in this
vintage. Silky on entry, with striking Pinot sweetness on the mid palate, showing
a firm, balanced tannic backbone, and finishing with a flourish of spicy black
cherry fruit. Will benefit from more bottle age. A wine truly deserving of the