Tuesday, January 21, 2014

1/20-Michael Horn & Nicole Nielsen talk with Wes Hagen

Wes Hagen  -  Winemaker, Clos Pepe Vineyards
Clos Pepe Vineyard was purchased by Steve and Cathy Pepe in 1994 as a horse ranch, and established the 9th vineyard in what would become the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Specializing in cool-climate, small production, craft-based Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Clos Pepe is now recognized as a leader in local and national wine culture, wine education and providing fruit to some of the best winemakers in California.
The Italians say, ‘Il vino e' la Poesia della Terra.’  Wine is the poetry of the earth.  There is nothing that can obfuscate Pinot Noir’s ability to speak of a time and place.  Of every plant on earth, Pinot Noir is unique in its ability to show every angle of a vintage, every silt particle in the soil, and every drop of morning dew that wet its leaves. Tea, coffee, white truffles—these can tell a story and confound us with their deliciousness, but the uncontested Queen of Natural Complexity must be Pinot Noir. We anticipate each vintage with a proper mix of anxiety and hope, knowing Mother Nature and the Sta. Rita Hills have a plan that will allow time and effort to fill a glass.
The Santa Rita Hills produce many styles of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay — wines that will excite every palate and match with almost any food.
The Chardonnays are naturally lean, mineral-laden and racy, but with more winemaking influence can exhibit richness and roundness: new oak, malolactic treatment, extended barrel aging. When young, the wines have austere structure and bright apple fruit with hints of tropical fruit and peach. Clos Pepe Chardonnay is crafted for both early enjoyment as well as cellaring for a decade or more. As the wines age they gain a hazelnut and mineral complexity, quite similar to Premier Cru Chablis and White Burgundy from great vintages. Try young Clos Pepe Chardonnays with oysters, fried chicken or barbecue. Older vintages can be enjoyed with sand dabs in a lemon cream sauce, firm cheeses, cream-based soups, or any kind of delicate seafood preparation. Clos Pepe Chardonnay seems to like 3-5 years from vintage date to fully integrate, and can last up to 10-12 years for those that appreciate full maturity and a bit of oxidative aromas and flavor.
Pinot Noirs from Clos Pepe can range from delicate and earthy to dense, purple, full-bodied Pinots that are among the darkest and richest on the planet. The Pinot Noirs from Clos Pepe also age wonderfully, but can also be drunk early in their life. Rich, dark vintages like 2002, 2003 and 2010 hold their baby-fat (primary fruit and richness) for 5-7 years and then begin mellowing slowly. Restrained, balanced wines like 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011 age very similarly to Premier or even Grand Cru red Burgundy — being primary and juicy from release to 5-7 years old, and then slowly unfoldingwith minerality and aromas of dried flowers and earthy forest floor for another 5 years. Young Clos Pepe Pinot Noirs match beautifully with strong cheeses, duck confit, pork loin, lean steaks, venison with reduction, or almost anything that you can put on a plate. As the wine matures and loses some baby fat, try more delicate dishes and add Morel or Chanterelle mushrooms. A fully mature Clos Pepe Pinot Noir matches very well with simple presentations of salmon, game (especially quail and pheasant), and other light dishes that will not dominate the wine's delicate complexity.

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