The 2012 Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir is the first Pinot Noir I have “overvintaged” (bottled after the subsequent harvest, thus giving it more than a year in barrel) in many years. I almost always bottle Pinot Noir before the next harvest comes around, in order to keep the wines fresh and energetic. But in 2012, the Hirsch was tight, brooding and awkward at bottling time, demanding to be left alone a bit longer. With the extra time in barrel, the aromas opened up and the tannins integrated, and by the time I bottled in February, the wine showing beautifully.
There is plenty of stuffing in the 2012 Hirsch. As I chose the barrels to use in this bottling, I discovered that the best ones were not the new barrels but the second and third use barrels. More fruit delineation and purity, but because the barrels were not completely neutral, still some oak impact to add a little seasoning and fill out the midpalate. Like always, there are dark fruits, a little spice that always reminds me of the bay laurel and pine trees that are common out on the ridgetops near the vineyard. In this wine there is also a hint of something more racy, more like freshly cut fruit. I think it will happily age for several years, but if you open it soon, be sure to give it a little bit of air.
|I’ve been making wine for 30 years. I have always been hands-on-walking the vineyards, working the vines, sorting grapes when they arrive at the winery, pumping over and punching down, driving the forklift, dragging hoses, even fixing bottling machines myself. This is the way I like it (well, maybe not the bottling machine part). I am constantly studying the grapevines and the ground in which they’re planted. Understanding where your fruit comes from doesn’t just happen. When I go snooping around in the vineyards, I like to joke that I’m off to “become one with the vines.” But there’s always a little truth in jest, no?
For many years, I have wondered how we’ll be making wine in California many years from now. What will the ”California Tradition” look like? Will we still be using French Oak barrels? Will we even be growing grapes in the same locations? After much deliberation, I decided that I should pursue the answers myself. I have met many interesting and inspiring winemakers over the years, and have tasted wines grown and made in many different ways. Instead of relying on the tried and true, the rest of my career is going to be spent pushing forward. Mind you, there are some goofy things I’ve seen that my wines will never endure; however, exploring the use of alternate vessels--concrete, oak, steel-for aging and fermenting, larger oak barrels, and stripping away additives and modern conveniences is how I think I will find my way forward. This, I believe, will yield more compelling wines, more pure, more honest. Not that I have been impure or dishonest in the past, of course, and the wines still need to taste good and be fun to drink.
I invite you to come along for the ride. This should be interesting.