Year in the Vineyard, Week #12
With Wes Hagen, Vineyard Manager and Winemaker for Clos Pepe Vineyards and Estate Wines.
It's going to be a short blog this week. I've barely finished the winery move (about 10 minutes ago), and I'm quite wiped. Nothing like moving 50 tons of equipment, barrels and wine over a few days! But there's some exciting stuff going on, and I want to make sure my devoted readers are right up to date on all the fun goings on!
Wes/Clos Pepe on Twitter: Yes, that's right. But know that I was tweeting before the Iranian Revolution began. I decided I wouldn't start twittering away until I found a fun niche that I could exploit, and it came to me just a few weeks ago. Because Twitter is supposed to be all about ‘The Now', I wanted to choose a format that reflected that dynamic. With my precious (but semi-useless) degree in Creative Writing, I considered writing all my tweets in a strict poetry form-like couplets, trochaic quatrameter-you know, something heady. But that didn't seem exactly ‘Now-ish'. There is one form of poetry that is purely about that zen moment-and that is the Haiku. So, I am tweeting haikus throughout the day, and would love for you to join me at https://twitter.com/weshagen . I only ‘twaiku' when I have something interesting to say, and never more than a few per day. Hop on board and enjoy!
Next week: For you local crazies, I will be playing Guest Sommelier at Root 246 in Solvang next Wednesday, 6/24/09 for dinner. What that means is that I will be roaming the dining rooms with Clos Pepe wines and pouring them free of charge to those that are dining. I plan to bring quite an interesting array to match with Bradley Ogden's plates-a huge honor for me. If you're around, come on by and enjoy some real SBC hospitality.
Vineyard: With slightly warmer weather in the forecast (and perking up the last few days), the vineyard is still growing quickly and the shoots are charging towards the sun. Berries are plumping visibly on the clusters, and the clusters should close up a bit in the next few weeks. The crew is busy shoot positioning (tucking each shoot on 40,000 vines into wires to direct the growth up so the vine works like a solar panel and the sun can penetrate the fruit zone), as well as leaf plucking for better air and sun exposure on the developing clusters. Why it matters: Haven't you been paying attention? Sun flecking improves the composition of the grapes for winemaking-making reds fruitier and more complex, whites more floral, and all wines less vegetal. The crew also knocks off suckers as they make their passes, which makes sure all the vine's energy goes into fruitful shoots in the correct position.
Winery move: We've moved into a much larger facility in Lompoc Proper, and although moving is exciting stuff-the actual process of moving an entire winery was a three day beast of a project. Our winery on Santa Rosa Road will always be in our hearts-our first completely autonomous winery where we flew solo for the first crush. But the quarters were tight and we had a hard time moving things around and storing everything that we needed to store. Steve Pepe found a new facility on Laurel Street in Lompoc (West Siiiiide!), 5000 square feet and management that was very motivated to get some businesses moving in. We are a few bays down from Norm Yost and Flying Goat Cellars, who we also team up with from time to time to do a sparkling wine (we grow it, he makes and bottles it).
The move was made more difficult by a left-side back strain that occurred on Monday-actually the first thing I picked up at the winery to move caused the strain-not a good omen for a long week of schlepping. But the injury enabled me to use wise lifting methods for the untold hours of lifting and loading and unloading. The older I get, the more I use the forklift. I call it the chiropractor factor.
Monday through Wednesday we moved everything that would fit in my full-sized Dodge truck-bins, the laboratory, hoses, the filter, all hardware and clamps, punch down tools, shovels, rakes, brooms, floor squeegees, small trash cans with various chemicals, the fridge (and the cheese, beer and red bull that keep the winery humming). Anyways, there was a lot of shit to move. Yesterday was 9 pallets of wine in my Dodge. I did four to six trips a day for the first three days, and then today we brought in the big guns. A big rig with a long flatbed trailer arrived at 7:15 am this morning at the old winery. We loaded all the barrels in the cool gloom of morning and got them stashed away in the new winery before the fog broke. The drivers, the brothers Will and Willy Hames helped tons. They are both heavy equipment specialists-and 5th generation Central Coast grading contractors. Their father, Billy Hames, is perhaps the nicest man I've ever met in his life. And his sons have that perfect-manners, Midwest attitude that I find so charming. We bought them lunch and they both took off their trucker's caps before sitting at table. Classic. I gave them lots of wine. After the barrels we loaded up the crusher-destemmer and the 4 portable wine tanks we have (2 550 gallons and 2 2000 gallons). Forklifting such large tanks and pieces of equipment is a little worrisome-so much so that I had tea instead of coffee this morning to make sure I wasn't hurried or twitchy. The last trip was the grape dumping hopper (that fits over both the press and the destemmer), the press and the forklift. I got to drive the forklift up a big ramp onto the flatbed. That was pretty fun-but it took a little coaching and encouragement from Team Polite. It was a boys' moment, kind of loud with a bit of smoking rubber-Chanda was in the bathroom at that point-and it was probably a good thing. At about 4:00 pm we finished organizing and putting things away, and we left the new winery in such shape that we could easily bring fruit in tomorrow for processing. Thank goodness we're not though.
Vineyard lesson for the week: There are two important compounds in raw grapes that affect wine flavor, and they are both ultimately tied to how the vineyard is managed. Understanding a little about these wine components are vital to you understanding how wines are farmed, and will also give you a little ‘geek ammo' for the next wines you want to discuss. All wine grapes contain a compound called ‘methoxy-pyrazine'. The aroma of pyrazines are very similar to green bell peppers-and is a strong component in wines grown in an overgrown, shaded canopy. So next time you smell a green bell pepper character in a wine you can comment: "Lovey, don't you think the vineyard's lack of proper canopy management is transparent in this Cabernet?" The answer will be yes. Getting some sun on the fruit (either direct in cool areas or flecking in hot areas), removes most are all pyrazines from the grapes, and promotes the development of terpenes, or more accurately, mono-terpene. Mono-terpene is produced in winegrapes that have been properly subjected to sun exposure during the growing season. So not only do we reduce vegetal character in wine by leaf plucking and shoot positioning, but we also encourage terpene character: floral elements like jasmine and white flowers in white wine and high toned fruit and bright floral (from roses to lavender) in red wines. Proper sun exposure (just enough without burning the fruit) improves color, aromatics and flavor.
Tonight is Patrick's Side Street Café' with my Dad, who's visiting from Palm Desert. Because we finished the winery move, I get to play a round of golf at La Purisima tomorrow with a clear conscience and a slightly sore back. I plan to dominate the field, but if I don't I can fall back on a solid excuse.
Thanks again for supporting the blog-as always, share liberally. And check out the haiku Twitter thing: go to twitter.com and look up ‘weshagen'.