Jasmine Hirsch: In Pursuit of Balance

Jasmine Hirsch says she discovered wine while living and working in New York. This may sound improbable considering she grew up at Hirsch Vineyards, the oldest premium pinot noir vineyard in the West Sonoma Coast, but she explains, “My dad was a grape grower. He started making wine after I went to college.”

She quickly developed a passion for wines with finesse and restraint, especially collectible Burgundy and the rieslings she tasted at Terroir. When she returned to Sonoma to work with her father, Jasmine wondered whether it was possible to make the kind of pinot noir she had grown to love in California. She put the question to Rajat Parr, wine director of the Mina Group and partner at Sandhi, who took out a pen and began writing the names of artisan pinot noir producers on a cocktail napkin. Thus, In Pursuit of Balance was born.

In 2011, Jasmine and Raj organized a group tasting of those wineries at RN74. Four hundred people showed up. The next year they added chardonnay to the roster and held an additional tasting at City Winery in New York. Within a couple of days, it sold out. Now in its fourth year, the annual In Pursuit of Balance tasting has become a reference point for talking about the breadth of styles and growing sophistication of California wine. Participating wineries are chosen in a blind tasting by committee. The only requirement is that they are made in California.

This spring, Jasmine and Raj will travel to London and Stockholm with Jon Bonné, author of The New California Wine, and several winemakers featured in the In Pursuit of Balance program. It is an international road show aimed at breaking the stereotype of California wines as being overly ripe and oaky.

After only a few years in the industry, Jasmine Hirsch has translated her ardor for pinot noir into a vital conversation about the evolving identity of the California wine scene.