The 2021 vintage started off with drought and challenging spring weather, but evolved into a perfect summer and ideal harvest conditions. The vintage resulted in some of the most compelling wines ever produced from our vineyard.
The resulting wines are notable for their fruit concentration and textural density; the terroir is strong in these wines but will need time to emerge from behind the curtain of delicious fruit. The tannins are perfectly balanced with the fruit density, ensuring a very long life in the cellar. The texture is particularly noteworthy: the 2021 Pinot Noirs are glossy, sapid and show fabulous continuity and length. These wines promise to be highly age-worthy with a long drinking window.
After a wet December 2020, the rest of winter was dry and relatively mild. The vines were late to hibernate after the 2020 harvest, and we delayed the 2021 pruning as long as possible.
A dry winter was followed by a cold, difficult spring. Icy winds off the Pacific Ocean buffeted the vines early in their growing season, stunting shoot growth. However, due to our many years of focused work on soil health, most of the vines would recover their vigor by the time summer rolled around.
By the first weekend in April it began to warm up. Bud break started all over the ranch at the same time, and the push was very even. In late April we received a small amount of rain, but it was not enough to change the trajectory of the season, which would clearly be defined by drought. Overall, rainfall was only 30% of normal at Hirsch.
Bloom started in the middle of May. A cold wind blew off the Pacific Ocean for two weeks, slowing bloom and overall vine growth. The canopies were shorter than usual, due to the lack of water and cold spring weather. A warming trend in late May and early June was a blessing, moving bloom and set along quickly.
In early June, with set not yet finished, it cooled off again, accompanied by strong winds, especially on the higher elevation Raschen Ridge and the ocean-facing Maritime Fields.
We had our first heat wave of the season in mid-June. This was a warm and very early heat wave by historical standards. Many of our fields were just finishing set, and the berries had not yet developed the waxy outer coating that protects them from the sun. Some grapes were sunburned and had to be removed.
Despite this variable spring weather, once it warmed up and the wind died down, most of the vineyards regained their vigor and health, a testament to the benefits of biodynamics and good soil health.
The exceptions were some of our older, virused vines on the East and West Ridges, which required even more intense farming than usual. The diminished canopies in these fields never recovered from the difficult spring, and an aggressive green drop was carried out to ensure ripening could be achieved without stressing the vines even further.
July and August saw ideal weather, with most days in the 70s and 80s. Despite inland heat, we saw only six days over 90 degrees out on the coast. Overall it was a mild and sunny summer, which traditionally has resulted in concentrated, elegant wines.
The last weekend of August it warmed up and we started the harvest on August 30. It cooled off again almost immediately, gifting us with a long and ideal picking window. We picked all week, not stopping to rest, and brought in the entire vineyard in less than 14 days. Overall an intense but rewarding harvest.
The 2021 Wines
The 2021 wines are notable for their elegant density, balanced tannins, exuberant aromatics and fabulous texture. The finishes are very long. In their youth, the wines are expressive on the nose, and a bit tight through the midpalate. They will need time to settle down, and expect them to start opening up two to five years after release. The 2021 Pinot Noirs promise to be highly age-worthy wines with a long drinking window.
In 2021, we produced the following wines at Hirsch Vineyards:
2021 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. 2021 was a cool vintage, resulting in a mineral, fresh and energetic expression of our Chardonnay. On the nose, the wine showcases notes of green apple, Asian pear, stone fruit flowers and lemon curd. The acidity is present but balanced, and the mouthfeel is sappy but energetic. At this young age, the fruit is a bit shy. Drinkable and mouthwatering now, it will gain in weight and complexity with age. This wine is reminiscent of the spectacular 2011 and 2018 vintages.
2021 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ESTATE ROSÉ
Serious rosés are made from serious fruit, and this wine is no exception. Made with 100% Hirsch Pinot Noir grapes, the grapes were harvested at close to the same time we pick for red Pinot Noir, ensuring a complete ripeness profile in the final wine. The grapes were destemmed and macerated overnight, before being pressed. The juice was barreled down into oak barrels for fermentation, with no added yeast or stirring. Approximately 20% new oak was used. After ten months in oak, the wine was bottled. It was then aged in bottle for another ten months before release. This winemaking process is very similar to how we make our Estate Chardonnay, and quite unusual for rosé. The long, natural fermentation in barrel, combined with extended lees aging, has resulted in a wine with great depth and personality.
2021 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ‘BOHAN DILLON’ PINOT NOIR
The Bohan Dillon is an affordable world-class Pinot Noir that brings to your glass the full spectrum of the True Sonoma Coast. Precociously charming and utterly quaffable, this wine is produced using the exact same winemaking methods and with the same attention to detail as our other pinots. The 2021 Bohan-Dillon Pinot Noir is made from three West Sonoma Coast sites: the Hirsch and Hellenthal vineyards, situated contiguous to each other, and the Heintz vineyard, located 20 miles south of us This is the first vintage of Bohan-Dillon to include fruit from the Heintz vineyard. Each vineyard comprises one third of the blend this year. The 2021 Bohan-Dillon is one of the most delicious, drinkable and engaging vintages of this wine to date.
The Hirsch Family Blend Estate Pinot Noir is our winemaker’s selection of the most delicious and happiness-inducing barrels from the vintage. This wine has the drinkability and lustiness of our Bohan Dillon Pinot, but with heightened concentration and complexity. The result is a Pinot Noir that combines hedonism with gravitas. While this wine can certainly age, there is tremendous pleasure to be found in the youthful fruit of the Family Blend. The 2021 Family Blend is grounded in Block 8, which makes up 30% of the blend and imparts black cherry fruit and notes of plum skin. The East Ridge is also well-represented this year, making up 20% of the blend. Another important component is Block 17, a high elevation vineyard on the Raschen Ridge that produces concentrated but silky wines, with incredible aromatics.
2021 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ‘BLOCK 8’ ESTATE PINOT NOIR
2021 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ‘RESERVE’ ESTATE PINOT NOIR
2021 HIRSCH VINEYARDS ‘BLOCK 5’ ESTATE PINOT NOIR