(Another) Year in the Vineyard, Week #28 with Wes Hagen, Clos Pepe

(Another) Year in the Vineyard

With Wes Hagen, Clos Pepe Vineyard

Week #28:  September 17-23, 2010

The Heat Arrives, Harvest Begins with

Old Friends, New Friends

2.28 vineyard

Well it was bound to happen.  September is traditionally the warmest month in the Santa Rita Hills, so by virtue of the averages we had to get a few days of Indian Summer to heat up the vineyard, get sugars moving, and get winemakers talking about harvest.  Tomorrow morning, very early, we will have a full crew here to start picking pinot noir for Joe Davis of Arcadian wines.  My plan is to write as much of this blog as I can today, but then hold it for publication until tomorrow, Friday, so I can take some HD video of the pick, ask Joe Davis some questions, and teach the blog faithful the rules of picking pinot noir at Clos Pepe.


The weather is expected to be warm today, and then hot from Friday through Tuesday.  I expect to do some more field tests on Saturday to see how much the fruit has ripened via sugar and pH, and if you are interested in seeing those tests I will post a link on Twitter and FaceBook.  I suspect we may pick our first Estate fruit on Sunday morning, very early.  I also expect to see a 1.5 – 2.0 brix rise in the pinot noir and chardonnay, bringing the Brix to or just over 24 in most fields by Wednesday.  Then we may see the Brix dip a bit as the weather cools, which is usually what I like to wait for—an equilibrium of ripeness, so to speak.  The fruit dehydrates and evolves flavor, and then after the heat wave the sugars normalize a little, and that’s usually a great time to pick pinot noir here at Clos Pepe.

Chard 9.23.10

Walking the vineyard and tasting some fruit today, I see that the clusters are still quite plump and should be able to soak up this little heat wave without too much dimpling and raisining.  We want to keep juice in the berries and not let them turn into raisins.  A touch of wrinkling on the surface is just fine, but juice = weight, and weight is how we get paid for fruit, so delivering raisins doesn’t make good sense (or wine) for anyone.  The seeds are coloring up beautifully, starting to separate from the pulp, and I suspect we’ll be busy-busy with both winemaking and harvest by this time next week.  But how many weeks in a row have I been saying that?  But this time I’m serious.  I sure would like to start making wine by October 1st, considering I have to be in Chicago on November 11th!

On the social front, we’ve not wasted the slow time here on the vineyard, watching the pinot ripen.  I got in a round of golf with my friend Jeremy last week on a beautiful day at the Santa Rita Hills’ own La Purisima Golf Course.  Over the weekend we took the French intern, Adrien, to Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, Broadway Deli for lunch, to Venice Beach to gawk at the ‘interesting people’, and then up the coast to check out Malibu, Zuma, Trancas, etc.  We stopped in Santa Barbara and had an early dinner at Super Rica, where Adrien was especially impressed with the Chile Relleno. Yum!


Yesterday, last night and this morning (Thursday, 9/23), we welcomed our 2008 intern, Charlie Lane, who has been on an epic bike ride from Seattle to Tijuana with his friends Ponch and Brian since the first of September.  They rode from Morro bay to Clos Pepe yesterday and are on their way over the Cachuma Pass (hot!) and into Santa Barbara for today/tonight’s leg of the journey.  They are all showing the conditioning that comes with 50 miles biking 7 days a week for three weeks, and a bit of sunburn as they have emerged into the sun (from the fog) as they left Santa Cruz and San Francisco earlier in the week.  We had a few pounds of carnitas tacos yesterday when they arrives and killed an insane amount of BBQ tritip for dinner at the Big House last night, tasting a half dozen wines, loads of beer and enjoying a Jacuzzi to relax their tight legs.  We retired to our house for late night drinks (which means we partied until the witching hour of 10:00 pm, late for my farmer sentiments), where we sampled four tequilas, a 12 year blended scotch, some 12 year old Nicaraguan rum, and a bit more beer.  They slept in comfort in the Big House here at the Clos and returned to our abode for a breakfast of egg, bacon, ham and refried beans from the leftovers from lunch, and a dozen eggs from our free-range chickens.  Yum!  They should be well fed for their trip over the Pass, and I doubt any of the toxins (or lard) that we loaded into them yesterday will remain when they descend into Santa Barbara from Lake Cachuma.

Besides some side-trips and some hospitality here at Clos Pepe, Adrien and I have made a few trips to the winery in order to clean some fermenters and get the winery absolutely ready to bring in some fruit at a moment’s notice.  The status of the winery at this point is ‘just add grapes’, and the status of the vineyard is:  ‘just add a few days of 90 degree heat’.  We’re poised, rested and ready.  I’m thinking next week’s blog may include some cold-soaking fruit, some video of crushing/destemming, and a big smile on my face as the 2010 vintage starts in earnest.

leaves, Wente 2.28

Cheers, and thanks again for reading and sharing the Year in the Vineyard wine blog!