Have you spent any time at a vineyard in the winter? When all the vines are laid bare and the geometry is clearly visible? When all the work for next year’s harvest is being done on the inside, and our role is merely to observe? It’s a stark, different beauty from the height of August or September, when rows are heavy with fruit and abundant foliage. But it’s also a reminder of the details that go into a vineyard – the trellises, the cover crops, the spacing between the vines. You can’t see those things when the rows are lush and full and green.
The story of how we wound up climbing around and through the vineyards at Thomas Fogarty is a post-modern one. One of the Fogartys found Tala on Delectable (Do you use Delectable? Find us! Follow us!), and invited us for a private visit and tasting. How could we say no to such an opportunity? Perched 2000′ in elevation up on Skyline Drive in the Santa Cruz Mountain foothills, Thomas Fogarty Winery is a boutique producer of primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Since 1981, they have been making rich, elegant wines from these varietals, and producing small, successful “experiments” with others. They have two properties – the one we visited, and a smaller site further south – totaling around 60 acres planted to grapevines. Together, these properties produce Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay – and there are several vineyard-select or block-select bottlings within the Pinots and Chards especially. Truly, a little for everyone – including the dry and sweet Gewurztraminers that they produce with fruit they buy from elsewhere.
Tommy Fogarty (Jr., of course) and his wife Lily shepherded us around the property in this here Jeep. If you squint, you can see him just over the steering wheel in this photo! We meandered, climbed, and blazed through vineyards, oaks, and poison oak meadows as we learned about the unique geography of this area. Fogarty is located above the fog in a lot of places, which allows additional ripening, but being so high and close to the ocean, the vines also stay cool in the evenings. It’s exactly what a winemaker wants for his vines. The property is stunningly beautiful; a maze of oak and madrone, with small vineyards planted here and there to catch the sun exposure on the various ridges. Tommy knew the land like the back of his hand – the way you would if you, too, had been raised on that acreage. What a great way to experience the property and get to the know the fruit.
The wines are produced with as little intervention as possible. They don’t use laboratory yeast, and have learned to be patient if a fermentation is slow or gets stuck – as most of the winemakers we know and love, they simply wait it out and let the wine do what it will. They use organic farming methods in the vineyard, and as Tommy said, try to do as much work in the vineyard as possible so they can do as little as possible in the winery. This includes compost tea, a specifically selected cover crop for each vineyard – which helps to add or adjust nutrients in the soil each year, and careful monitoring of irrigation. They irrigate only rarely – and only to make sure the grapes don’t turn into raisins if the end of a season is particularly hot.
If you’re looking for a stunningly beautiful, easy afternoon trip to a winery in the bay area, we highly recommend checking out Thomas Fogarty. And if you see Tommy or Lily, tell them we said hello! And, check them out on Delectable too – it’s always fun to see what industry folk are tasting and drinking.
Thomas Fogarty Winery
19501 Skyline Blvd, Woodside, CA
Use the directions on their website to guide you – DO NOT trust your phone!
Hours: Monday 12-4pm, Wednesday-Sunday 11am-5pm. Closed Tuesdays
Tastings from $10-$20/person, with free tasting on Wednesdays!