Meet Some of the Sons and Daughters: Jasmine & David Hirsch - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Meet Some of the Sons and Daughters: Jasmine & David Hirsch

Jasmine Hirsch never believed she’d end up working with her father, David, at Hirsch Vineyards on Sonoma’s remote far coast. Olivier Berrouet didn’t have a second thought when he was offered the job his father, Jean-Claude, had held for more than forty years—making the wine at Château Pétrus in Bordeaux. Working with—or separately from—a famous father may not be the simplest career path—but the sons and daughters in the pages that follow have worked it out brilliantly.

Jasmine & David Hirsch Jasmine & David Hirsch
Recently, the West Sonoma Coast Vintners presented West of West, an event in San Francisco featuring some of the legendary names of Sonoma County wine. The first I’d heard of it was through Jasmine Hirsch, who, in 2008, set out to start selling the wines her father was growing at Hirsch Vineyards, on Sonoma’s far coast.

Her father, who planted the first vines on his 1,100-acre property in 1980, had been selling grapes to the likes of Williams Selyem, Kistler and Littorai. In 2002, he hired Vanessa Wong (of Peay Vineyards) to start producing his own wine. Today, David manages 72 acres of vines while Ross Cobb (formerly of Flowers) oversees winemaking. And Jasmine, when she’s not helping in the vineyard or cellar, is on the road handling sales and marketing.

Jasmine grew up in Marin County at her mother’s home, but spent her fifth-grade year at the ranch, happy not to have to go to school on the days when the road was washed out. “The more I spend time up there,” she says, “the more I can get in touch with what it was like to be there as a kid. The ranch was a magical place. To be a kid in a place like that, when it’s been raining and there’s dew on the ground…”

David remembers how the ten-year-old Jasmine battled with her fear of the dark. “She’d come home from school, wrap herself in this cloak she had—it was something between a Sherlock Holmes-style coat and a Peruvian wrap—and run outside.” If Jasmine seems fearless now, she’s trained herself well. Right out of college, she headed to Prague, where Marie, her Czech stepmother, helped her get a job with a restoration company. Five years helping with the tax work of restoring the city’s great buildings led her to New York and a job as an analyst at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.

“I remember making wine when my sister and I were growing up. We used to use these big white paint buckets, and Jessica and I would stomp on the grapes. There’d be earwigs in with the grapes and Dad would say, ‘It’s just protein. This is unfiltered wine.” —Jasmine Hirsch
“That’s when she fell into my trap,” David says. And sure enough, Jasmine was miserable working in finance in New York; plus, it was early 2007—not long before the economy started to head south. One day, while helping her father with a tasting at Bar Boulud, she ran into Bernie Sun, the beverage director for Jean-Georges Management. “It was Bernie who pushed me,” Jasmine says. “I told him I love food and wine but that I can’t go work for my father. I wanted to do something on my own. He told me he’d look around. Then he looked at me and said, ‘What are you waiting for?’ I realized I could go work in the wine business from the bottom, or I could go work for my father and do a lot more.”

Jasmine started at Hirsch with the 2008 vintage, a difficult vintage made more challenging by an economic recession. She dove in, recalling a mentor’s advice: “You learn more in a down market than you will ever learn when it’s up.”

Now Jasmine manages the company in the market while David works on converting the property to biodynamics. “This is our first year of the conversion for the entire 1,000 acres,” he says. We’re reforesting, bringing in sheep and cows, a creamery. With the vineyard, we’re starting in field six, which had been organic. We’re budgeting scores of years.”

Jasmine and Marie have also been involved in the process, taking classes organized by Andrew Lorand, who is consulting on their conversion to biodynamics. “Dad has been insistent that I take time to think big picture, time to plan,” Jasmine says. “One thing I love about going to school for biodynamics is that there are no electronic devices. We’re there for eight or nine hours at a time, and the teaching is all done through drawing.”

It’s made her all the more excited about the direction Ross Cobb and her father have taken with the 2009 vintage. “We’re not making critic-pleasing ’09s, but wines we believe in,” she says. “In tasting the wines, Dad sensed that the future of the site is in lower-alcohol wines—when the site is able to shine.”

94 ‘06 Hirsch Sonoma Coast Chardonnay $50 (04/08)
91 ‘06 Hirsch Sonoma Coast The Bohan-Dillon Pinot Noir $30 (04/08)

This story was featured in W&S Fall 2011.

Joshua Greene is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.

This story appears in the print issue of fal 2011.
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