Skip to content

I’m Thankful For … Thomas Fogarty Wines

2012 November 21

July-Aug 2012 029

At this holiday season, the kind of wines I am most thankful for are those made by dedicated, small producers in relatively tiny quantities based on particular, distinctive vineyard sites. One that I visited in recent months that not only fills this bill but also makes the kind of food friendly wines that are ideal for the holidays is Thomas Fogarty Winery.

Thomas Fogarty is one of the older wineries in my home wine region, the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, having been established as a commercial winery in 1981. The proprietor is Dr. Thomas J. Fogarty, who has long been a professor of surgery at Stanford University and who invented the first balloon catheter used in humans. His several dozen other patented medical inventions include a line of vascular clips and clamps.

Dr. Fogarty was introduced to winemaking shortly after coming to Stanford in 1969. He initially helped a Stanford colleague with his vineyard and cellar. He then purchased property in Woodside along Skyline Boulevard, at a 2000 foot elevation. He built a small cellar there and started making wine with grapes purchased from neighboring growers. He planted his first vineyard on the property in 1978, and this parcel now consists of 325 acres, 25 of which are planted.

July-Aug 2012 023
Tommy Fogarty

I got to tour the vineyards on this property with Dr. Fogarty’s son, Tommy Fogarty. Tommy is a former professional race car driver, and himself an inventor. The ridgetop setting of the property is spectacular—the steep vineyards are encircled by tall trees and one encounters many fabulous views of the Santa Clara Valley. There are a total of eight small vineyards planted along the hillsides there, on either southeast or east-facing slopes. Four of the vineyards—Albutom, Damiana, Langley Hill and Portola Springs—are planted to Chardonnay; three (Rapley Trail, Razorback and Windy Hill) to Pinot Noir; and one very small vineyard was planted to Nebbiolo in 1998.

The winery also owns another property about 17 miles south of these vineyards. This 100-acre parcel known as Gist Ranch sits on another ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains at a 2300 foot elevation. Gist Ranch is more inland than the estate vineyard in Woodside, and therefore warmer. About 14 acres there are currently planted to a variety of grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.

The winemaker at Thomas Fogarty since the winery’s inception is Michael Martella. He studied enology at California State University at Fresno before gaining experience at some of the largest wineries in the San Joaquin Valley. Since 2004, Michael has been joined in winemaking by another Fresno State enology grad who just happens to share Michael’s birthday (March 29), Nathan Kandler.

July-Aug 2012 068
Winemaker Michael Martella

During my visit, I got to taste barrel samples with Tommy and Nathan, and a wonderful series of older wines and representative newer wines with Tommy, Nathan and Michael. The quality overall is impressive and the older wines we tasted fully demonstrated their ageworthiness. I was particularly taken by the Chardonnays, with their distinctive characteristics deriving from the different vineyard sites, and by the Pinot Noirs, which in some vintages are bottled as vineyard, or even vineyard block, designates, and in other vintages are simply blended into an estate and an appellation bottling.

July-Aug 2012 036
Albutom Vineyard

The oldest Chardonnay we tried was a reserve bottling from 1992. It was one of my two top wines of the day, and wonderfully complex and rich, with saffron, clarified butter and hazelnut flavors. It had been fermented with Epernay yeast and aged mainly in American oak. Also quite wonderful were 2009 bottlings from each of the Woodside estate’s separate Chardonnay vineyards. My favorite of these, for its complexity and long finish, was from the Albutom vineyard, a tiny one-quarter acre parcel. Also very appealing was the Langley Hill Vineyard bottling, a 5.25 acre vineyard that often has to be picked three or four times due to uneven ripening. I also very much enjoyed both the 2009 and 2008 bottlings from the two acre Portola Springs Vineyard.

The Pinot Noirs we tasted dated back to 1991. A four-year vertical of the estate bottlings from 1991 to 1994 included the wonderfully complex 1994, with its firm tannins and a long finish—my other top wine of the day. All of these older Pinots showed well, however, like many of the mature Pinot Noirs from the Santa Cruz Mountains I’ve had the privilege to taste over the years. The cool climate and high altitudes here tend to give these wines high acidities and firm tannins that make for very ageworthy wines.


Associate Winemaker Nathan Kandler tasting 1990s Pinots

We also tasted individual block bottlings of Pinot Noir from the five and half acre Rapley Trail Vineyard from the few vintages (2002, 2007 and 2008) when they felt this vineyard’s individual blocks merited featuring separately the middle section (Block M) from its lower one (Block B). The 2007 bottlings for both blocks were the most impressive of this flight for me, with their distinctive spiciness. I had tasted that same sandalwood, sweetly spicy character in the 2011 barrel samples we tried from the same vineyard blocks.

They currently use 25 to 50% whole cluster in the Pinots, and ferment solely with yeasts indigenous to the winery. They age the Pinot Noir in three-year air dried French oak, ranging from 25 to 85% new, depending on the vintage and lot.

Other notable reds from this winery include a meritage called Lexington, made from the Bordeaux varieties grown on their Gist Ranch property, as well as some purchased fruit; and a very tiny quantity of Nebbiolo from the Woodside property—one of the best domestic Nebbiolos I’ve ever sampled.

A final treat at our tasting were two vintages of the Gewürztraminer they have made for years from purchased fruit. A 1996 bottling was delightful–full of geraniums, old roses and spice–and the current, 2009 bottling was likewise full of floral notes and minerality. Either would make for a wonderful pairing alongside a holiday turkey.

The tasting room at the Fogarty vineyards in Woodside has wonderful views and rustic charm. It is open from 11 am to 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday, and from noon to four on Mondays. I highly recommend a visit.

For my tasting notes on all the wines I tasted there, see below:

TOUR AND TASTING AT THOMAS FOGARTY – Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards, Woodside, CA (7/28/2012)

Barrel tasting

  • 2011 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Barrel sample – medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; very pretty, cherry, raspberry, floral nose; tasty, tart cherry, forest floor palate with medium acidity; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 91-92+ points (20-30% whole cluster; to be bottled in early Sept.) (91 pts.)
  • 2011 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Estate Razorback Vineyards – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Barrel sample – medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; earthy, reduction, cranberry, tart cherry nose; tart cranberry, mineral, forest floor palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91-93 points (about 25% whole cluster) (91 pts.)
  • 2011 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Barrel samples (wine expected to be bottled in March 2013)
    • Top of the vineyard – dark cherry red color; appealing, ripe cherry, tart strawberry, light cinnamon nose; good density, tight, tart cherry, raspberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91-92+ points (about 25% new oak)
    • Middle vineyard (new barrel) – dark cherry red color; aromatic, floral, ripe raspberry, sandalwood incense nose; tight, tart cherry, sandalwood palate; needs time; medium-plus finish 91-93 points
    • Middle vineyard (used barrel) – medium dark ruby color; reduction, spice, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart cherry, sandalwood, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91-92+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2011 Thomas Fogarty Syrah Fat Buck Ridge Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Barrel sample – dark ruby color; tart berry, forest floor nose; tart red fruit, mineral, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 89-91 points (30-40% whole cluster; Phelps and 470 clones) (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Thomas Fogarty Lexington Meritage – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Barrel sample (to be bottled at end of August 2012) – very dark purple red violet color; tart plum, mocha nose; tasty, ripe plum, black currant, mocha palate; medium-plus finish 91-92+ points (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot) (91 pts.)

Early 1990s Pinot Vertical

  • 1991 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Bricked medium red violet color; very appealing, mature, earthy, bay leaf, forest floor, dried cherry, tart cherry nose; mature, tasty, dried cherry, tart cherry, mushroom, bay leaf, forest floor palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points (100% destemmed; medium-plus to heavy toast Francois Freres barrels) (92 pts.)
  • 1992 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Bricked medium dark red color with lots of sediment; redolent, tart black fruit, grilled onions, pain grille, grilled cheese nose; mature, tart black cherry, roasted cherry, tart black raspberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 1993 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Bricked medium red color with light floating sediment; oak, toast, dried cherry, burnt marshmallow nose that changes, over 30 minutes or so, to a watermelon and light green herb nose; velvety textured, mature, dried mushroom, dried cherry palate with sweet, firm tannins yet; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 1994 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Bricking dark cherry red color; forest floor, cigar box, dried roses, light pepper nose; cigar box, dried cherry, forest floor, dried mushroom palate with good acidity and firm tannins; long finish 93+ points (18 mos in barrel) (93 pts.)

Young Pinots

  • 2010 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Estate Windy Hill Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; appealing, earthy, forest floor, sandalwood nose, that changes to padron chile nose over several minutes in the glass; tasty, red fruit, baked cherry, baked strawberry, light sandalwood, padron chile palate with sweet tannins; medium-plus finish (last vintage before vineyard, suffering from stunted roots, was pulled out; no new oak) (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Estate Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; oak spice, ras el hanout spice, coriander, char nose; tart cherry, char, ripe raspberry, ras el hanout spice palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Pinot Rapley Trail Verticals

  • 2002 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Block M Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark cherry red color; VA, baked cherry, salted plum nose; ripe cherry palate; medium-plus finish (w/3% Syrah; inoculated with Montrachet yeast) (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Block M Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium dark cherry red color; a little reduction, roasted cherry, French vanilla, baked raspberry nose; tasty, tart cherry, vanilla, rich black fruit, spice palate; long finish (should continue to develop with age and add further complexity) (93 pts.)
  • 2008 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Block M Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; chaparral, campfire, stems nose; smoky, chaparral, roasted red fruit, roast plum palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2002 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Block B Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Very dark cherry red color; light VA, dried plum, light char nose; roasted cherry, tart sour cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Block B Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark ruby color; spicy, tart cherry, black cherry nose; youthful, spicy cherry, baked cherry, mineral palate with integrating oak; could use 2 years and should go decades; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Block B Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, baked cherry, French vanilla, baked berry nose; tasty, baked cherry, raspberry, vanilla palate; could use 2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Other Reds

  • 2009 Thomas Fogarty Nebbiolo Estate Grown Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light medium red color with very pale meniscus; intriguing, watermelon, orange spice, dried cherry, clove nose; tasty, light-medium bodied, silky textured, ripe red fruit, spice palate; reminiscent of a Frappato; medium-plus finish 91+ points (destemmed, fermented in used oak, 12.5% alcohol) (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Thomas Fogarty Lexington Meritage – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Opaque ruby color; soapstone, tart berry, violets nose; tasty, ripe berry, violets, plum palate with medium acidity; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 17% Merlot; 3/4’s from Gist Ranch and 1/4 from Camel Hill) (92 pts.)

Chardonnays

  • 1992 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Estate Reserve – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium golden yellow color; ghee, butter, saffron, mineral nose; tasty, rich, oily textured, ghee, saffron, mineral, hazelnut palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (13% alcohol; aged mainly in American oak) (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Estate Langley Hill Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light golden yellow color; yellow beets, lemon oil nose; rich, lemon oil, ripe lemon, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points (16-18 mos in French oak) (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Estate Damiana – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium yellow color; reduction, green herb, light gunpowder nose; rich, oily textured, green herb, tart citrus, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (from 3.75 estate vineyard first planted in 1978) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Estate Grown Albutom Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light medium yellow color; ripe, pineapple, green herb nose; tasty, youthful, tart lemon, lemon oil, mineral, cumin palate with medium acidity; long finish (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Estate Grown Portola Springs Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light yellow color; pineapple, apple butter nose; tasty, tart lemon, mineral, lemon oil palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (3.04 pH) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Estate Grown Portola Springs Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light golden yellow color; rich, bees wax, honeyed nose; rich, oily textured, honeyed, cumin palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

Gewürzes

  • 1996 Thomas Fogarty Gewürztraminer – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County
    Light orange color; rich, baked apple, spice, elder flower, geranium nose; mature, baked apple, apple sauce, spice, old roses palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (.5 RS) (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Thomas Fogarty Gewürztraminer – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County
    Light yellow color; floral, tart apple, rose petal nose; geranium, mineral, tart apple, tart peach palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

m4s0n501
5 Responses leave one →
  1. December 20, 2012

    The rest? If Pinot Noir’s identity issues are revealing themselves nowadays, that’s especially true in Santa Cruz. We encountered a few too many off flavors in some wines, and – in what’s becoming a theme for 2010 – too many attempts to make a hefty wine in a year that wasn’t inclined to provide one.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: Thankful!
  2. Daily Wine News: Thankful! | Wine 2020
  3. Richard Jennings: I’m Thankful for… Thomas Fogarty Wines | WestPenn Journal
  4. Richard Jennings: I'm Thankful for... Thomas Fogarty Wines | USA Press

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: