Hawk Wakawaka: Spending Time with Thomas Fogarty Vineyards
PinotFile: Thomas Fogarty Winery
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In 1976 Dr. Thomas Fogarty, a practicing heart surgeon and noted inventor of medical devices, decided that he would dedicate his approximately 350 acres in the north end of the Santa Cruz Mountains to open space. For inclusion in the Williamson Act, the property would need an active agricultural purpose. The idea appealed to Dr. Fogarty, but he was undecided as to what types of crops he would cultivate. Initially, Dr Fogarty considered planting the entire property to Kiwi fruit, but thankfully he reconsidered after a few fellow Stanford physicians introduced him to the wines of Burgundy and local producers David Bruce, Mount Eden and Ridge.
Once he had made the decision to plant the land to the cool-weather varieties Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, a mutual acquaintance introduced Dr. Fogarty to Michael Martella, a fourth generation grape grower in California. Michael became the first employee of Thomas Fogarty Winery and directed the winery for almost thirty years, developing the vineyards and the wine.
In 1977 Martella and Fogarty began removing brush to plant the first two vineyards on the property. Over the next four years, with the occasional advice and guidance of Santa Cruz Mountain pioneers Jeffrey Patterson, Jim and Bob Varner and Jim Beauregard, the six “core” vineyards of the Fogarty Estate were planted. The first vintage from the estate vineyards was in 1986.
The almost thirty acres under vine are today farmed organically with minimal (if any) irrigation, and the property remains in the Williamson Act, which means that the entire estate of 350 acres is preserved as heritage oak and fir forest. Viticulture and viniculture practices are those that ensure maximum site expression: low intervention in the vineyard as well as the winery. There are three estate Pinot Noir vineyards at about 2,000 feet elevation totaling 10 acres: Windy Hill (2 acres), Razorback (2 acres) and Rapley Trail (6 acres). The Langley Hill Vineyard is all Chardonnay. Damiana, Portola Springs and Albutom are also Chardonnay vineyards. The winery also owns the 100-acre Gist Ranch located 17 miles south of the estate vineyards. It is on another ridge at 2,300 feet elevation and, being more inland than the estate vineyard, is warmer. 14 acres are planted to several varieties but not Pinot Noir. Most of the original vines remain, deeply rooted in the soils composed of marine shale and sandstone.
Tom Fogarty Jr.
Dr. Fogarty’s son Tom Jr. was ten years old when the first vines were planted at Thomas Fogarty. He has seen the winery grow from its inception. He is currently the winery’s Managing Principal. After completing the Wine Marketing program at Sonoma State University he earned a degree in Business Management. Besides his experience in the Wine Industry, Tom Jr. has worked in the automotive sector doing brand development for manufacturers including Ferrari, Bentley, Maserati and Lamborghini.
Voted Top 100 Wineries of 2014 by Wine & Spirits Magazine
Wine Advocate 10/2015
"Recent vintages from winemaker Nathan Kandler emphasize nuances of geology and climate: more restrained ripeness and more moderate oak influence set these bottlings apart from the Fogarty wines of yesteryear. Indeed, sometimes today's wines verge on the minimalist."
Wine Advocate 10/2015
"An estate that deserves more attention in the market, Thomas Fogarty has been making single vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay (and some Bordeaux blends), from the Santa Cruz Mountains since 1981. Today, Tom Fogarty Jr. is in charge of the estate and Nathan Kandler makes the wines. The focus here is on their estate vineyards located mostly around the winery. These tiny plots (the smallest is just a quarter of an acre) lie between 1,600-2,300 feet in elevation and 10 miles from the Pacific. The farming is organic, most vineyards are dry farmed and yields come in at a tiny 1-3 tons per acre. While the wines lean towards the fresher, more vibrant end of the spectrum, they don’t come across as lean, and I think they have solid texture and depth of fruit. In addition to these Pinot Noir and Chardonnays, readers should check out the Bordeaux blends from this estate, which are released under the Lexington Wine Company label and reviewed in this report. The Bordeaux varieties come from a warmer, distinctly different terroir than the Pinots and Chardonnays."
Vinous Media 7/2015
"Thomas Fogarty remains the single most exciting estate in the Santa Cruz Mountain people have likely never heard about. Then again, production levels are tiny. The wines have gone from strength to strength since I started following the estate a few years back. The Chardonnays are intense and phenolic in feel, while the Pinots present an intriguing combination of aromatics, fruit and mountain structure…Readers should do whatever they can to taste these fine, handcrafted wines from proprietor Tommy Fogarty."
Vinous Media 7/2014
"Over the last few years Thomas Fogarty has come on strong with a set of stellar Chardonnays and Pinots. The winery itself is a sort of nucleus for the surrounding hillside vineyards that inform the wines. Fogarty gives the single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinots about 18 months in barrel, which is on the long side by California standards. The Pinots are vinified with a good dose of whole clusters, which gives them considerable aromatic lift to match the inherent salinity of these sites. In 2012, the growing season was quite favorable for both the Chardonnays and the Pinots, which are expressive and highly nuanced throughout the range. Readers who haven’t checked out the Fogarty wines owe it to themselves to do so. Tommy Fogarty and his team lead by winemaker Nathan Kandler are making some of the most exciting wines in the Santa Cruz Mountains and California."
Vinous Media 7/2013
"If I had to choose one winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains that is moving fast into the upper echelon, it would be Fogarty. Many of the region’s other top properties are already pretty established, but Fogarty is less well known than some of their neighbors. Based on these wines, I can’t imagine that is going to last too much longer."