The Old Vineyard
The story of The Old Vineyard is the story of Hirsch.
In 1978, David Hirsch purchased a sheep ranch perched atop the remote ridges of the Sonoma Coast. Two years later, he planted his first three acres of vines on a gently sloping field overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
David was encouraged to plant by his friend and drinking buddy Jim Beauregard, an early viticultural pioneer in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Visiting the property shortly after David purchased it, Jim proclaimed it an ideal site for Pinot Noir, and gifted David with the cuttings for his first vineyard. Those cuttings likely originated from Oregon, and a later analysis revealed them to be a field blend of Pommard (a French clone of Pinot Noir) and Wädenswil (a Swiss clone of Pinot Noir). This planting would later become the source for cuttings to plant many of our other blocks, including Block 8 and much of the East Ridge.
This original 1980s planting is what we now call The Old Vineyard, and just one acre of it remains. We farm it with painstaking love and attention, coaxing tiny yields from these gnarly old vines buffeted by fog and wind from the Pacific Ocean.
Planted on its own roots, the vines are highly devigorated, and yields are extremely low. Eutypa, a fungal trunk disease, appeared in the vineyard around 2010. Instead of tearing out the vines, new trunks were grown, thereby renewing the above-ground wood, while preserving the old 1980s root structure. This process has taken upwards of 10 years.
|Old vine with a second trunk.||After the old trunk has been removed.|
In all the talk about terroir, the work of man is seldom appreciated. Not so at Hirsch. In 1989 a teenager arrived to T-bud the Riesling in the Old Vineyard over to the Mt Eden clone. He never left. Everardo Robledo, born in Zamora, Michoacan, son of Everardo Sr, a field budder (ingertador) in Napa since 1952. One of 13 children, his father and uncle taught the eight boys the art of field budding. It is a remarkable family, a living testament to the contributions made by Latinos to our culture; and without whom this story would not be told in this version. Most of the brothers are connected to grape farming. Reynaldo has the first Latino winery in Sonoma and helped layout some of our vineyards. Santiago, Cesar and Arturo have contributed to the development and farming here.
Everardo married Marta in 1988. Their first son Lalo was born only two weeks after my son in 1990. Lalo and Cristian, the 2ndborn, have made substantial contributions to the farming and ranch work. Every vine in all seventy-two acres has been planted, nurtured and brought to fruition by Everardo through his forty years as vineyard manager. Many years, Everardo will tend the Old Vineyard himself, taking care of each vine individually and with the devotion and accumulated experience of his 30+ years at Hirsch.
For many years we sold the fruit from the Old Vineyard to Siduri Winery. In 2012, the contract expired and we kept the grapes at the winery for the first time. The Old Vineyard produced an extraordinary wine that year, and we decided to bottle it on its own.
We did not feel that the vineyard produced a wine worthy of its own bottling in 2013 or 2014. In 2015, the Old Vineyard gifted us with just one, extraordinary barrel of wine. As is characteristic of that vintage, the 2015 Old Vineyard Pinot Noir is dark, concentrated and structured.
In 2016, The Old Vineyard yielded a whopping two barrels of wine. The 2016 Old Vineyard may be the finest wine from that vintage. The bright red fruit and complex aromatics are matched with an incredible depth of palate.
The Old Vineyard produces a wine of noble and austere character that is unlike anything else at Hirsch.