Visiting Thomas Fogarty
In July, I was able to spend time at Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The first trip focused on a Chardonnay Vineyard walk and 2011 Pinot Noir tasting with the Sommelier Journal “Terroir Experience” trip. Two weeks later, Nathan and Tommie invited me to return for a longer stay. Here are some photos and quick notes from the visits. I’ll be writing a longer profile on the history of the site, the wines, and the team later.
Thomas Fogarty Vineyards and Winery are located on a ridgeline of the Santa Cruz Mountains along Skyline Boulevard, the first to plant in that portion of the AVA.
In the late 1970s, Thomas Fogarty (left) and Michael Martella began developing the Thomas Fogarty Vineyards, with Martella becoming the label’s winemaker and viticulturist. At the time, Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello and Mt Eden had pioneered the region showing that the Santa Cruz Mountains had potential for making quality wines, but established their plantings in different portions of what would become the appellation. Thomas Fogarty’s first vintage release came in 1982.
looking up at the Fogarty Winery Buildings from Damiana Chardonnay Block
Fogarty was inspired by the wines of Burgundy to plant Pinot Noir, while also understanding he needed the right winemaker. Martella saw the raw ground as the opportunity for building a lifetime’s project.
“My brother is a viticulturist so we came out here and looked at the property. This is at the end of the 1970s. I told him, ‘You know, this is my lifetime project.’ I don’t think I actually believed it at the time but it’s kind of turned out that way. My goal was to have a really complete project, and it does feel that way. Now I am here just to help out. To help out Tommie. Whatever he needs.” — Michael Martella
When I look down at Michael’s hand I see he is wearing a small wrist band that reads, “I choose happiness.”
looking through the Langley Hill Wente Clone Chardonnay, though irrigation is in place it hasn’t been watered in over 6 years
Fogarty’s Skyline Blvd Estate property includes 23 acres planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay focusing on California heritage clones such as Wente, Calera, Swan, Mt Eden, and Rochioli. Most of the site was planted in the late 70s and early 80s, with one Pinot Noir block recently having been replanted.
The site features fractured shale and sandstone at 2000 ft elevation, 10 miles from the ocean on the Eastern side of the Ridge, readily generating lower vigor and higher acids.
Julio Deras has served as Thomas Fogarty Vineyard Manager since 1986, working first with founding winemaker Michael Martella, and now also with winemaker Nathan Kandler to bring the wines’ focus from the vines to the bottle. As the team has gotten to know the site they’ve also shifted their understanding of how best to manage the plantings.
Seven years ago Tommie Fogarty (Jr) returned to work at Thomas Fogarty assisting his father in management of the business. In the last year, after 35 years of development, Thomas Fogarty (Sr) and Michael Martella officially handed leadership of the winery to the next generation.
Nine years ago Martella hired Nathan Kandler as assistant winemaker, recruiting Kandler straight from a harvest at Torbreck in South Australia. As Kandler explains, Martella helped Kandler learn the site while also giving Kandler room on the side to experiment with methods and approach in making the wines. The approach allowed Kandler the ability to investigate how the cellar work best suits the location without simply mimicking what Martella had developed. Today Kandler acts as head winemaker, with Martella continuing to offer support.
looking East over San Francisco Bay
One of the unique aspects of the Thomas Fogarty Vineyards is its apparent isolation. No other vineyards are visible from the grounds, giving a feeling of self-determination to the Fogarty team — without the subtle pressure of seeing what the neighbor is up to, it is easier to decide based simply on the vineyard itself.
“When I first started at Fogarty, I thought it was a great opportunity. I thought it was a challenge where there was room to grow, and affect some change too. The longer I’ve been here I’ve realized it is less about me. This is a really special spot, and it shouldn’t be about who makes the wine. When it comes to winemaking, you have to be comfortable with making less impactful decisions. The farming and the place, that’s what’s interesting. That’s what I hope people will talk about.” -Nathan Kandler
Michael Martella, Nathan Kandler, Thomas Fogarty, Tommie Fogarty, me
There is a palpable warmth and generosity throughout the Thomas Fogarty Winery famiy and team. The afternoon was spent with the various generations all together, talking about the history of the project, and tasting through several decades of wine.
Before my second visit, Nathan asked me if there was anything I’d like to focus on in our tasting. I said I’d love to taste some older vintages of Chardonnay, if possible. We tasted Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay all the way back to 1995, and three Sparkling Chardonnays from 1989 and 1998, in addition to barrel tasting all of the 2012s. With dinner we enjoyed more of the Pinot Noirs, and some older vintages of Thomas Fogarty Cabernet Sauvignon, and Nebbiolo.
More on Thomas Fogarty wine soon!
Thank you to Nathan Kandler, and Marta Kandler.
Thank you to Tommie Fogarty, and Michael Martella.
Thank you to Thomas Fogarty.
Thank you to Anne Krolczyk.
Just to show you how outrageously cute Nathan’s family is (he gave me permission to share these photos too).
Olive was 6 months old here (now 7)
I love their dog, Lewis.
Olive and I got along great.
If I was in any way related to either this dog or this baby I would use this as my Christmas photo.
Little Olive decided Momma should take her out. Sleep she wasn’t having it. Marta and Olive.
Thank you again!
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