Every once in a while an opportunity is handed to you on a silver platter. Such was the feeling as I walked with David Hirsch through his rolling hilltop vineyard on an uncommonly warm afternoon in January of 2009. Months earlier David had asked if I might be interested in creating a custom wine for Beltramo’s using juice from Hirsch’s own cellar. As a long-time fan of wines from the Hirsch Vineyard, I was immediately on board. Often referred to as one of California’s Grand Crus, the Hirsch vineyard is a sought after source of fruit by the “Who’s Who” of California Pinot Noir producers. Voluminous information is available on the Web about the qualities that make this vineyard special and the pioneering spirit possessed by David Hirsch to develop this site in the first place. As such, I’ll skip the detailed background information and focus on the process of developing our cuvee.
I was fortunate to recruit a couple other members of the Beltramo’s team to join me on this endeavor. Not only for their expert palates but also for some company on the almost four hour drive to Hirsch. The vineyard and winery are perched at 1500 feet in the Sonoma Coast appellation near the tiny town of Cazadero and a mere three miles from the Pacific Ocean. The roads leading there are narrow, twisty and unkempt. The final mile is dirt.
Upon arrival David led us on a tour of the vineyard where he spoke about the history of the site, the geology of the land and the challenges of farming in such marginal conditions. Next we adjourned to the cellar where we analyzed young wines from twenty or so different barrels. These would be the ingredients for our final blend. As we would learn, all vineyard blocks on the property (there are over 60) are vinified separately and aged in oak casks of varying age. This allowed us to consider differences in clonal material, vine age, soil type, and oak influence in our blending decisions. After reviewing our tasting notes we assembled a blend that we felt would represent our goal of producing a wine with balance, depth, complex aromatics, and near term accessibility as well as sufficient structure for at least ten years of cellaring. The result of that first pilgrimage to the Hirsch Estate was 25 cases of our inaugural 2007 Beltramo’s ‘Hirsch Vineyard’ Pinot Noir. The wine turned out exactly as we had hoped and was popular with customers. I tasted one of those bottles recently and I’m happy to report that it is still in fabulous balance with some of the secondary aromas and flavors beginning to emerge and plenty of life remaining.
Today we are proud to offer our third custom blend Pinot Noir from Hirsch Vineyard. The 2009 Hirsch Beltramo’s B Cuvee Pinot Noir is a wonderfully feminine wine with great tension on the palate, fully developed flavors and an alcohol level at a very moderate 13.2%. Defined by high toned aromas of cherry, cranberry and raspberry on the nose, the wine also reveals a distinct note of green tea with a more subtle nuance of morel mushroom lingering in the background. On the palate, a mélange of red fruit flavors are lifted by bright acidity and framed by silky tannin. We feel that this elegant wine offers excellent food pairing versatility in the near term and at least a decade of cellaring potential for those with patience. At $34.99 this wine is a serious bargain, and with only 50 cases produced, I’m hoping that it will last until our 2010 is ready to go.
–Mike Janeway , Domestic Wine Buyer