We built our winery on site for three reasons: first, to provide immediate feedback to the grape growing; second, to respond to a growing interest in wines made from Hirsch Vineyards fruit; and third, to provide resources for the ecological healing of the ranch.
The winery is located in the middle of the ranch, and like the hub of a wheel, all activity circulates around it. It serves as an “eye”, keeping our focus on the site, the vineyards, the plants, and the persons who live and work here.
We view the winemaking as one more step in growing the fruit. Because of the complexity of the site and the year to year variability of the climate, we have resisted techniques in favor of principles: look to the soils, the fruit, and the vintage for direction and have the strength to try to respond to them, not react; we are here to justify the existence of the fruit and site, not vice-versa; try to be as non-intrusive as possible, but don’t let it be a fetish; patience is not just a virtue, it’s a necessity; the real profit resides in the work and life lived, not in the bank and the media blurbs.
Operationally, the emphasis is on gentle, but thorough, fruit handling, and creating the proper environment for the native yeasts to thrive. The fruit is sorted twice: once in the field as it’s picked, and again in the winery. We employ both destemmed and whole cluster fermentation; the choice depends upon the individual block and the vintage. There is no recipe.
We have dozens of small open top fermentation tanks that match the size of the individual vineyards, so fruit from one field is not mixed with another. After fermentation, the wine is aged in French and Austrian oak barrels, with an average of around 30% new for the Pinot Noirs and 20% for the Chardonnay. We blend block by block and also barrel by barrel. Each step moves according to its own timetable.
Acidic complexity and the balance of tannins and fruit distinguish the wines from Hirsch Vineyard. In most vintages they are drinkable soon after release; yet, due to their structure and natural balance, there is the potential for extended cellaring. After enjoying a few bottles early in their life, do consider setting aside some for longer aging. You will be rewarded.