(Another) Year in the Vineyard Wine Blog, Week 22 by Wes Hagen, Clos Pepe

(Another) Year in the Vineyard, Week #22

August 6-12, 2010

With Wes Hagen, VM/WM Clos Pepe

Welcome back to a Year in the Vineyard, Week #22.  Even though the weather has continued to be unseasonably cool, the fruit is ripening slowly, perfectly, like it only could in the Santa Rita Hills.  Temperatures over the last week have been in the high 60’s and low 70’s—fog in the mornings and warm sunshine and cool winds in the afternoon.  The vines are soaking up all the afternoon sunshine and progressing the vintage admirably.  Color in some sections has reached close to 80% veraison, and we will likely finish netting early next week and go through the vineyard to drop a bit of crop that is lagging behind.

This process of dropping crop, sometimes called ‘green thinning’ is meant to increase consistency of ripening from cluster to cluster.  Usually the entire vineyard colors up, section by section, fairly uniformly, but there’s always 2%-8% of the clusters that lag behind.  By cutting them off while they are still obviously greener and harder, we make sure the rest of the crop that’s left behind will ripen at a consistent rate, and there won’t be any harsh, green, acidic, underripe character in the Clos Pepe wines of the 2010 vintage.

So in the vineyard we are focusing on getting the nets finish and tied, dropping a little bit of crop on the ground, fine tuning a few sections of the vineyard for perfect canopy management and an open fruiting zone, and slowly looking forward to the start of cluster samples to test for ripeness. 

The first harvest will be three bins (roughly 3000 lb. of pinot noir) for Norm Yost at Flying Goat to make Blanc de Noir sparkling wine.  Because the wine needs bracing acidity and should have lower alcohol (around 11-12%), we plan on picking his pinot noir right at or about 20 degrees Brix and 10 grams/liter of acidity.  That’s some bracing juice.  As in the 2007 and 2009 vintages, Norm will make a vineyard designated Clos Pepe Blanc de Noir/Brut Rose’, and we will share the wine between our two brands.

At the winery things are beginning to get more busy than normal.  I received all of the glass, corks, capsules, screwcaps (for Axis Mundi Wines), labels over the last few weeks and now I am organizing all the packaging materials for our bottling date:  August 27th.  The week of August 23-27 we will be busy racking barrels (pulling the clean wine off of the sediment, blending the wine in tanks, doing a light filtration, and getting the wines ready for the bottling truck which arrives 6 am on Friday, August 27th.


The video above is me at the winery going through the 2009 Clos Pepe Estate Chardonnays in barrel.  Just in case you would like to purchase some CLICK HERE.

The interns are working out quite well, putting in 4-8 hours a day in the field helping with viticulture and netting.  We also had our annual All-Star Allocation List Barrel Tasting on Saturday:  250 of our best customers (who had purchased more than $500 of our wine last year) received a special invite to join us for this glimpse into current releases, Futures of the 2009 wines, and a retrospective of wines from every vintage stretching back to 2000.  It was our 10th Annual Allocation event, and we think it went off splendidly.  Futures Sales (available at shop.clospepe.com) have been brisk—an indication that our customers believe in what we’re doing, and maybe a sign that the economy is improving.

Again, I’m trying to tighten the written portion of these blogs: teach what needs to be taught in under 1000 words per week, and provide a lot more content via High Def video embedded from YouTube.  The times they are a changin’, and we’re rolling with the punches.  Thanks again for following our 2010 vintage here at Clos Pepe.  With such tiny berries and potentially long hang time, I imagine we’ll be celebrating this Year in the Vineyard for a long, long time to come.


The Video Above is by Jeremy Ball and shows our sheep getting shorn last week!

Fascinating Wine Fact:

The first written wine review in history was penned by Pliny the Elder in 70 AD.  He described the Vintage of 121 B.C.E. as being “of the highest excellence”.  It must have been!  The vintage was almost 200 years old when he was writing about it!