Failla Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
If California’s vineyard sources were classified similar to the French AOC system, several of the blocks at the Hirsch Vineyard would be categorized as Grand Cru.
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Failla is the project of winemaker and farmer Ehren Jordan, focusing on cool climate sites on the Sonoma Coast and world class vineyards in Oregon. Eschewing traditional routes to a winemaking education, Ehren instead worked his way up the vertical integration ladder. After graduating from college in 1989, he left for Denver, Colorado where he worked briefly as a sales rep for a large wine distributor. But the siren song of ski season in the Rockies grew louder as winter approached and Ehren headed for the restaurant scene in Aspen. Skiing by day and bussing by night, the 21-year-old would-be winemaker went from wine steward to sommelier/manager by the end of the season.
As the snows and drinking crowds melted, Ehren headed to the Napa Valley with a posse of associates from the restaurant on the first leg of what was to be an extended journey during the Aspen off-season. However, finding the funds low, he presented himself on the doorstep of Joseph Phelps Vineyards looking for a temporary job as a tour guide. Three years later, after stints giving tours, working in the cellar, making sales calls with then VP, Bruce Neyers, and managing retail sales, Ehren finally left Phelps to try his hand at winemaking in the venerable vineyards of the Rhône Valley. Celebrated oenologist Jean-Luc Columbo took a chance on the erstwhile Ehren, whom he had met the prior year. A Francophile since adolescence, Ehren threw himself into all aspects of what seemed like turn-of-the-century winemaking in age-old caves and endurance-sport viticulture on the terraced hillsides of Cornas. During the sodden 1992 and 1993 vintages Ehren helped make Les Ruchets, Columbo’s own label, and visited many of Columbo’s clients, among some of France’s most esteemed wine brains.
With 34 harvest under his belt, Ehren has now paved an influential path in the California winemaking world with his long resume of notable winemaking and viticulture jobs, leading to the honor of Winemaker of the Year in 2008 and continual high scores from critics. Marcassin, Neyers Vineyards, Turley Wine Cellars (winemaker for 18 years), and of course his own labels, Failla (established in 1998) and Day (established in 2011), all make up his versatile journey.
A vast appellation covering Sonoma County’s Pacific coastline, the Sonoma Coast AVA runs all the way from the Mendocino County border, south to the San Pablo Bay. The region can actually be divided into two sections—the actual coastal vineyards, marked by marine soils, cool temperatures and saline ocean breezes—and the warmer, drier vineyards further inland, which are still heavily influenced by the Pacific but not quite with same intensity.
Contained within the appellation are the much smaller Fort Ross-Seaview and Petaluma Gap AVAs.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”