Thomas Fogarty: Elegant Wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains

View from the Winery, Looking Northeast

In 1977, Dr. Thomas Fogarty, a noted heart surgeon, inventor of medical devices, and home winemaker, began planting his vineyard at the north end of the Santa Cruz Mountains with the aid of grape grower Michael Martella.  The vineyard was the first to be planted on Skyline Ridge.  Over the next four years, the six vineyards of the property were planted.  Today, these 30 acres of vineyards provide the fruit for the world famous Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines reviewed here.  We recently met winemaker Nathan Kindler at the winery and tasted through the portfolios of Thomas Fogarty and Lexington wines.  The Thomas Fogarty wines are reviewed in this article.

Located near the San Andreas Fault, the vineyard has highly varied soils (mostly sandstone and shale with some volcanics) and bedrock resulting from the collision of the Pacific and North American plates.  Since the soils, slopes, aspects and altitudes of these vineyards vary significantly within a relatively small area, we discuss the vineyard characteristics when reviewing the wines.  As shown in the map at the bottom of this article, there are seven vineyards:  Langley Hill, Windy Hill, Portola Springs, Albutom, Damiana, Razorback and Rapley Trail. Grapes are also purchased from three other vineyards in the appellation.

Winemaker Nathan Kindler

Nathan Kindler, a graduate of Fresno State’s wine program, has been at Thomas Fogarty since 2004 and was named winemaker in 2012. He previously made wine at Torbreck in the Barrosa Valley and Testarossa in Los Gatos.  As we tasted, Nathan described the   winemaking practices that contribute to the qualities of the wines.  The estate fruit is all grown organically, and yields are low, 1-2 tons/acre. Nathan uses a basket press, ferments using native yeasts, and replaces about 20 percent of the barrels each year sourced from Sirugue. He typically does stem inclusion with the Pinot Noirs, but the percentage varies depending on site and vintage.  The Chardonnays are aged on the lees for 10-12 months without stirring and then racked to stainless steel for another 4-6 months before bottling.

The Wines

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains ($48) 92 Made with both estate and purchased fruit, this Chardonnay is a good example of high altitude Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay. It’s fresh and bright with fruit forward aromas and flavors that evoke lemon citrus and minerals. There’s a silkiness to the texture, a slight hint of oak and good acidity that enlivens the palate.  Aged 10-12 months in barrel followed by a few months in stainless steel.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Albutom Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains ($95) 96   Redolent of lemon zest and wet river stones, the Albutom Chardonnay is one of the most elegant and refined Chardonnays of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Revealing perfect balance, it has a firm backbone, bright acidity and incisive flavors of lemon and orchard fruit. Planted in 1981 to clone 4 at 1930?, the 0.3-acre Albutom Vineyard has thin, rocky soils and an eastern exposure.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Damiana Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains ($85) 95  The Damiana Vineyard reveals the ripest fruit and highest acidity of all the Thomas Fogarty Chardonnays, resulting in a tension filled, ying-yang of brightness and sweetness. The 2021 vintage reveals a lovely yellow-gold color and aromas and flavors of ripe stone fruit with citrusy acidity on a rich, lush, and mouth filling palate. Outstanding. The 6-acre Damiana Vineyard was planted in 1983 on shale soils at 1650? elevation.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 La Vida Bella Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains ($75) 93 Located in Corralitos in the southwestern corner of the appellation, La Vida Bella is Thomas Fogarty’s lowest elevation vineyard with sandy soils. It offers saline-inflected scents of lemon-lime citrus with herbal notes and a dense, oyster shell like palate with juicy acidity and an amazing focus.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Langley Hill Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains ($85) 95  Nervy, precise, and Chablis-like, the Langley Hill Chardonnay shows stone-like minerality and stunning purity. It’s nuanced yet has excellent depth of mineral-accented citrus with lemony acidity on a satiny palate. At just under 6 acres, Langley Hill is the winery’s largest parcel of Chardonnay.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Portola Springs Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains ($85) 95  The steeply sloped, cold Portola Springs vineyard is the most extreme of the Thomas Fogarty vineyards and the last to be picked with very low yields. Medium yellow with gold flecks, the wine has a rich, honeyed lemon character with superb focus and balance. Planted in 1980 to Old Wente [Clone 4] on AxR1 rootstock on shale and basalt soils.  A gorgeous wine!

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Mindego Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains ($62) 94  Located near La Honda and the ocean, the Mindego Ridge vineyard has clay rich soils planted mostly to Dijon clones. This Chardonnay has a citrus and mineral-like nose. The clay soil gives the wine more breadth on the palate along with Chablis like, lemon citrus flavors that linger forever. Beautifully firm, bright and expansive.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($45) 92  Made from mostly purchased fruit, this Pinot Noir is perhaps the most reflective of the appellation as a whole. It offers pure cherry complemented by peppery spice on a suave, nicely concentrated palate. Drinking beautifully now. 13.8% alc.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Rapley Trail Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($85) 95 Medium red. The Rapley Trail Pinot Noir opens with a spicy, incisive, red fruited nose. The palate is bold but elegant with superb mid palate weight and flavors of red cherry/berry and plum and a wild, herbal almost sauvage edge. The vineyard is an east facing, rocky, steep, 1650? high, 6-acre site of shale and sandstone planted to the Martini clone in the early 1980s. Yields are very low, about one ton/acre.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Rapley Trail Vineyard James Thomas’ Block Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($125) 95 Sourced from the middle of this sloping vineyard, the James Thomas’ Block of the Rapley Trail Vineyard Pinot Noir is a rich and complex wine offering layers of dark fruit and spice enlivened by firm acidity. As with the regular Ripley Trail bottling, the mid-palate is especially viscous, and the finish is incredibly rich and long with good tannic grip.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Rapley Trail Henry Ayrton’s Block Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($125) 97  The Henry Ayrton’s Block, located at the bottom of the Rapley Trail Vineyard, is harvested first. In our opinion, it is the most elegant of the Thomas Fogarty Pinots, perfumed and floral with pomegranate and Asian spice notes on an optimally balancedand savory palate. Once again, the finish is perfect, long, rich and focused.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Razorback Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($85) 94 The 2-acre Razorback Vineyard, planted in 1986 to Swan and Dijon selections, is the estate’s lowest in elevation, but it’s still at 1400?! It’s the most firmly structured of the Fogarty Pinots and shows red and black fruit along with significant savory nuances. While relatively warm (compared to other estate parcels), it’s still a cool site with occasional morning fog. Elegant, soft and silky.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Windy Hill Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($85) 95 This is the only parcel on the estate that has been densely replanted (to a mix of Calera, Swan and Mt. Eden). It’s also an exposed sight and the highest elevation Pinot Noir parcel of the winery.  The wine is savory, rich and refined. Cherry, pomegranate, flowers, and herbs all put in an appearance on this firmly textured wine. Beautiful but needs 5+ years in bottle to show its best.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Deerheart Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($75) 95  Deerheart is Fogarty’s western most, youngest vineyard, planted in 2013 just 2 miles from the ocean at 450?. Wild herbs from whole clusters complement dark red fruit on the nose and are mirrored on the palate along with firm acidity and dry tannins. It will benefit from cellaring. Deerheart is planted to 8 different clones, and this is the winery’s first vintage from this vineyard.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 La Vida Bella Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($) 94 Medium red in color. Grown on sandy soils that contribute perfumed red fruit to the wine, the La Vida Bella Pinot Noir reveals pure, bright red berry fruit and a silky, perfumed palate. The vineyard is located just 4 miles from the ocean in a little banana belt just north of Watsonville. It’s just high enough that the vines rise above the fog by mid-morning.

Thomas Fogarty 2021 Mindego Ridge Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($75) 95  An especially cool site, so largely planted to Dijon clones. This is a rich, dark colored Pinot Noir revealing savory dark cherry and berry fruit with spice and wild herbal notes. One of Fogarty’s richest, biggest Pinot Noirs, finishing with rich, sweet and savory extract. Mindego Ridge was planted in 2009 to 8 different clones. Winemaker Ehren Jordan makes a Pinot Noir from this site for the Mindego Ridge label as well as for his Failla label.

Source : https://i-winereview.com/blog/index.php/2024/04/11/thomas-fogarty-elegant-wines-from-the-santa-cruz-mountains/