Vintages


The 2015 Vintage

Summary

Not since 2005 have we seen a vintage at Hirsch of such devastating yields coupled with such exceptional quality. The Pinot Noir vineyards gave us less than one ton of grapes per acre, but produced wines of heart-breaking expressiveness and depth.

Harvest in 2015 was both a joy and an exercise in despair. A joy because the picking went so slowly, those of us on the picking crew were able to talk, tell stories, and enjoy time together on the back of the tractor. The work was quiet and intimate. Despair, because as the grapes came in and we weighed them, we realized how little fruit there really was.

But as with most pain, with time we don’t feel it as acutely. And we have the wines to assuage the hurt. The 2015s are some of the most remarkable wines this site has ever produced. I asked our winemaker, half joking, if he could make us wines like this every year. He answered, “well, if you’re willing to give up half your fruit every year, then yes!”

This also points to the fact that these are very much wines of the vintage: dark in color; concentrated and intense but light on their feet; with an unusually sappy mouthfeel that is reminiscent of old vine Burgundy.

There is very little 2015 wine to be had, especially from the older vines. Due to what we believe is the phenomenal age-worthiness of the vintage, we have produced all the Pinot Noirs in magnums for the first time.

Detailed Report

The recent California drought reached its apogee at Hirsch, viticulturally speaking, in the 2015 vintage. The winter of 2014-15 was one of the driest and warmest on record, compounding the stress the vines had experienced in the preceding drought years.

The warm, dry winter was an indicator to the vines to wake up and start their growing cycle, resulting in an early bud break and bloom. This was followed by a period of very cold and windy weather in May. The already weakened vines were not able to withstand these harsh conditions, and there was widespread shatter (lack of pollination) across the vineyard.

Walking through the vineyards in the summer, we could see it was going to be a light year. The clusters were small, and in some blocks, there were only a few berries per cluster. In a normal growing season, the berries would grow in size, adding a bit of weight to the crop. However, there was almost no sizing, a phenomenon that was reported throughout California. This was likely a consequence of the drought stress, as well as vines tired out by three large-ish vintages in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The early bud break and light crop led to a very early harvest, with picking beginning on August 15. Note that while the vintage was “early” as measured by our human calendar, the length of the growing season was pretty much average. We’ve never seen an earlier harvest start date.

Berries were tiny with quite thick skins. The shatter was highly variable, with yields varying from 0.36 tons per acre to 1.66 tpa (for comparison, the long term average across Hirsch Vineyard is 2.4 tpa for Pinot Noir). The yields varied depending on the microclimate of the individual block, density of planting, and overall vigor of the vines, the latter primarily determined by age of the vines, health of the vines, and health of the soil. The Chardonnay came in at 1.3 tpa.

In many blocks, pollination occurred over a relatively long period of time, leading to uneven ripening. For the only the second time (the first being in 2000), we picked some blocks in two passes. This entailed the picking crew making a selective pass through a vineyard, choosing only the ripe clusters. Then returning some days later to pick the remaining fruit. Double the labor cost to pick half the normal fruit, but necessary to ensure the highest possible quality in the final wines.

THE 2015 WINES

In 2015, we produced the following wines at Hirsch Vineyards:

2015 Hirsch Vineyards Estate Chardonnay

There are a mere 3.9 acres of Chardonnay vines planted at Hirsch. From this tiny planting, we produce one wine per year, our Hirsch Vineyards Estate Chardonnay. Purity, restraint, acidity and moderate use of new oak define this wine. Extremely low yields in 2015 produced a wine of notable concentration with a compelling core of fruit. This could be one of our most age-worthy Chardonnay to date. 12.5% alc.

2015 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. 17 distinct farming blocks are included in this wine in 2015, more than any other wine made from the Hirsch Vineyard. 12.4% alc.
Produced in magnum and 750ml.

2015 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. 11.8% alc.
Produced in magnum and 750ml.

2015 HIRSCH VINEYARDS “EAST RIDGE” ESTATE PINOT NOIR

The East Ridge is a topographically distinct micro-site within the Hirsch Vineyard, sloping steeply into our eastern canyon and thereby relatively protected from the Pacific Ocean. Two thirds of the vines on the East Ridge have phylloxera, a disease that attacks the roots and inhibits the vine’s uptake of nutrients. This results in some of the lowest yields at Hirsch, and requires extremely intensive and careful farming. The East Ridge Pinot Noir is a masculine and powerful expression of the Hirsch Vineyard, with fantastic structure, concentration and fruit. 11.9% alc.
Produced in magnum and 750ml.

2015 HIRSCH VINEYARDS “RASCHEN RIDGE” ESTATE PINOT NOIR

This wine is sourced from our highest elevation vineyards, from vines planted in 2002 and 2003. Here our marine, riverine and continental climates meet, merging heat & coolness, moisture & dryness, uplift & erosion. The wine is itself an exercise in resolved opposites: sexy and serious, drinkable and age-worthy, for both the hedonist and the collector. Henry Raschen (1854–1937) was a painter of the American West who lived on the ranch that is now Hirsch Vineyards. Old-timers called our ranch the Raschen Place, and Henry’s house stood here until 1954. 12.6% alc.
Produced in magnum and 750ml.

2015 HIRSCH VINEYARDS “BLOCK 8” ESTATE PINOT NOIR

Located on the West Ridge of the Hirsch Vineyard, 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. 13.2% alc.
Produced in magnum and 750ml.

2015 HIRSCH VINEYARDS “THE OLD VINEYARD” ESTATE PINOT NOIR

This wine is made from the very first vines David Hirsch planted at Hirsch Vineyards, a field blend of the heritage Pinot Noir clones of Pommard and Wädenswil. Planted in 1980 on its own roots, the vineyard is a mere 1.1 acres. It represents the vision of David and our longtime vineyard manager Everardo Robledo to craft pinot noir of heart and honesty on the True Sonoma Coast. 12.0% alc.
Produced in magnum and 750ml.

2015 HIRSCH VINEYARDS “RESERVE” ESTATE PINOT NOIR

The Hirsch Vineyards Reserve Estate Pinot Noir is a selection of the best barrels from the oldest and finest vineyard blocks at Hirsch. Sourced from parcels all across the vineyard, it is the highest expression of this complex and deeply expressive site, and a true reserve of very limited production. 12.1% alc.
Produced in magnum and 750ml.

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