As I explore more about what’s in my glass, I wanted to experience the hype of Hirsch wines. The name “Hirsch” inevitably pops up whenever you read about Pinot Noir in California. In fact, Jancis Robinson said*
“Hirsch produce some of the finest Pinot Noir in California from exceptional vineyards. These wonderful wines are worthy New World rivals to top Burgundy.”
That is quite a statement from one of the most respected voices in the wine world. Hirsch vineyards represents a balanced approach to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California. The vineyards are nestled three miles above the Pacific Ocean in one of the most inhospitable sites, as high winds, sweeping temperatures, and 1500 feet of elevation make it difficult to predict what the day’s climate might entail. Variegated soil add to the charm of this unlikely wine growing region of Fort Ross-Seaview AVA on the West Sonoma Coast. The romantic drama of Hirsch’s location, coupled with the “old” vines David Hirsch planted in 1980, brings complexity to their wine. And lastly, you can’t discount the allure of Jasmine Hirsch, whose insta account is an intoxicating catalog of haute Pinots in even hauter restaurants of San Francisco and New York. This wine geek hopes to be as cool as she is one day (happy to host you in DC anytime, Jasmine!).
In addition to producing their own wines, Hirsch sells grapes to highly-respected winemakers. Luckily for me, I came across two versions to try: the three strings Williams Selyem 2013 and the three strings Littorai 2012. I love the idea of comparing two different expressions of the same site and forcing my friends to humor me in a tasting (a caution to anyone who invites me over for dinner).
First pour: Littorai. A lush and aromatic wine, I was hypnotized by the layers of violet, restrained plum and black cherry balanced by earthy minerality. Delicately delicious, the wine continued to reveal more complexity and tannins as it opens up over a glass. Technique: 16 months in French oak, 25% new, 13% alcohol. 508 cases. $80
Second pour: Williams Selyem. To me, the Williams Selyem was quite a different expression— more confident fruit notes of bing cherry and strawberry, a hint of spice and notable tannins. Technique: 16 months in French oak, 65% new, 35% one year, 14.1% alcohol. $78
The verdict? Of the six tasters, it was an even split on preference (My pick is Littorai). Both are beautiful expressions of the terroir of the West Sonoma Coast, displaying the very best of balanced Pinots in California. ahhh….
*”The World of Hirsch and Lioco,” May 12, 2015, London, UK. http://www.jancisrobinson.com