THE 2020 VINTAGE
The 2020 growing season was notable for its challenging spring weather, mild summer, and drought conditions. The growing season on the coast was cooler than in 2019, and even slightly cooler than 2018.
Rainfall was about 50% below historic levels, but many years of biodynamic farming have imparted a deep resilience to the vines, and stress was minimal. There was no escaping the wet weather during bloom, however, which damaged the delicate grape flowers and prevented pollination. Yields were down significantly in 2020.
The 2020 Pinot Noirs reflect the positive consequences of gentle summer weather and low yields. Reminiscent of the stunning 2015 vintage, they are dark fruited, with formidable tannins and impressive concentration. These wines will benefit from a few years in the cellar and will gain complexity, elegance and depth over time.
Sadly, our delight in the high quality of the 2020s is tempered by the loss of about half of the wines due to smoke damage. The vintage was interrupted by wildfires in Sonoma County, and our high-elevation vineyards were touched by smoke. There will be no wines in 2020 from the East Ridge, Raschen Ridge, Maritime and Old Vineyard.
Mother Nature gives and she takes. While we certainly feel the loss of those wines, we are deeply grateful to have been able to make the wines that we did in 2020.
January 2020 was wonderfully cold and wet, with 8” of rain falling that month. February was completely dry, however, and we saw a few days of unusual 70-degree weather. The vines responded to the warm, dry soils by starting bud break on the earlier side: by March 10 the Pinot Noir vineyards were at 10% bud break.
Cold weather returned in March and April, but rain remained elusive, with just under 4” falling in those months. The cold temps were enough to hold off bloom, however, and we did not see flowers until early May.
Throughout the month of May, there were sporadic rain showers. This damaged the delicate grape flowers, preventing pollination and resulting in lower yields. Given the drought conditions, these naturally lower yields proved to be a boon, helping the vines maintain health and balance during a dry year.
The weather in June was highly variable, and the period from bloom to set (pollination) was very long. This was a classic Sonoma Coast “summer”. While inland parts of the county saw very warm temps in June, Hirsch remained cold and foggy.
July brought ideal conditions, with mild and clear weather during the day, and cold, foggy nights. There were only 2 days over 90 degrees, and the average high for the month was 75.
Veraison started at the end of July, and moved exceptionally quickly, likely due to the low yields and a bout of warmer weather at the start of August. It cooled off mid-month and we coasted into harvest.
The vintage was punctuated by wildfires that started in southeastern Sonoma County from a series of lightning strikes. Our position on the far coast protected us from the smoke for the first week. Winds out of the northwest kept the skies above us blue and the smoke away. Eventually our luck turned, however, and the smoke made its way to Hirsch. It was a heartbreaking but necessary decision to forgo making wines from the sections of the vineyard effected by the smoke: East Ridge, Raschen Ridge, Maritime and The Old Vineyard.
The 2020 Wines
The 2020 Chardonnay is notable for its core of ripe, concentrated fruit, balanced by classic Hirsch acidity and minerality. We produced our first ever Hirsch Rosé in 2020, a wine we have long dreamed of making. It captures the intensity and complexity of Hirsch Pinot Noir, in rosé form. It is a true Hirsch wine, and a new lens into our site.
The 2020 Pinot Noirs are dark fruited, with formidable tannins and impressive concentration. They remind us of the 2015 vintage, which also had very low yields and resulted in stunningly age-worthy wines.
The structure in these wines necessitates some patience on the part of the drinker. We recommend cellaring the Block 8 and Reserve Pinot Noirs for a few years before drinking. The Bohan-Dillon, San Andreas Fault and West Ridge Pinot Noirs are more immediately expressive, but they will benefit from an hour of air and a decant if you plan to drink them soon.
The West Ridge Pinot Noir is particularly notable in 2020 for its persistent and sappy core of red fruit. This delicate and ethereal wine always thrives in more concentrated vintages, and 2020 may prove to be the finest West Ridge we have ever produced.
In 2020, we produced the following wines at Hirsch Vineyards:
2020 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ESTATE CHARDONNAY
Just 3.9 acres of Chardonnay are planted at Hirsch, and from this we produce one white wine per year. Originally planted by David Hirsch for Williams Selyem, we now keep all the Chardonnay grapes for the Estate. The 2020 Hirsch Estate Chardonnay has complex aromatics with a generous mouthfeel and refreshing minerality.
2020 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ESTATE ROSE´
2020 marks the inaugural vintage for the Hirsch Rosé. This wine captures the intensity of Hirsch Pinot Noir in a textured, saline rosé. Savory and complex, this is a wine of weight and distinction.
2020 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ‘BOHAN DILLON’ PINOT NOIR
David Hirsch was inspired to create the Bohan-Dillon Pinot Noir as an homage to the great village wines of France: a wine full of place and personality, made with the same attention and integrity as the top wines, yet at an incredible price. In 2020, 73% of the grapes in the Bohan-Dillon Pinot Noir came from Hirsch; the balance from the Hellenthal Vineyard, the only vineyard contiguous to us. These are serious Pinot Noir vineyards, with 93% of the vines between 20 and 30 years of age.
2020 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ‘SAN ANDREAS FAULT’ ESTATE PINOT NOIR
The San Andreas Fault Estate Pinot Noir is the flagship wine from Hirsch, and the wine that represents the summation of our complex vineyard. David Hirsch says if you drink only one of our wines this should be it. 100% estate, 100% Hirsch. Produced in magnum, 750ml and 375ml.
2020 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ‘WEST RIDGE’ ESTATE PINOT NOIR
The West Ridge Estate Pinot Noir is a very limited production bottling from the cool Western Ridge of Hirsch. Heavy clay soils and leaf-roll virus act as dramatic stressors to the vines in part of the West Ridge, resulting in a wine of delicacy, ethereal fruit and soft tannins. It is a wine that seduces with perfume and mystery, rather than with power. Produced in magnum and 750ml.
2020 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ‘BLOCK 8’ ESTATE PINOT NOIR
Block 8 has long seduced us with its power, complexity and singular character. David Hirsch has always considered this his grand cru parcel. The soils here are comprised of a reddish rock, high in iron oxide and with superb drainage. The Block 8 Pinot Noir is produced 100% from this special block, planted in 1993 to a field blend of the heritage Pinot Noir clones of Pommard and Wädenswil. In this wine you will find a pure and focused expression of one of the most unique sections of the Hirsch Vineyard. Produced in magnum and 750ml.
2020 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ‘RESERVE’ ESTATE PINOT NOIR
The Hirsch Reserve Pinot Noir is a selection of our best barrels from the oldest and finest vineyard blocks at Hirsch. It is the highest expression of this complex and deeply expressive site, and a true reserve of very limited production. Produced in magnum, 750ml and 375ml.