Where the Old World Meets the New
Great wine is born, not made. The great wines of the world wear their provenance proudly and show a regional character and quality that is impossible to imitate. The world’s most vaunted bottles all have one thing in common: they are grown on the edge of where ripeness is achieved. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Barolo — these are all areas where getting the fruit ripe is not assured.
In most of California ripeness is easy to achieve. The goal becomes ‘hang time’, allowing the fruit to hang on the vine as long as possible to develop flavor, color and character. Clos Pepe, and the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, are stuck between these two archetypes: we are one of the coolest areas on earth where winegrapes can be ripened, but we have tons of California sunshine and a relatively dry September and October for extended hang time and later harvest.
We love the complexity and age-worthiness of the Old World, but claim our purely New World heritage. Making wines that have the fruit and impact of the New World, with the mineral structure and acidity of the greatest Old World bottles, gives us enviable base ingredients for making some of the most profound cool-climate wine in the world.
These wines can be drunk at release when they're young and fruity (0-3 years), as the primary fruit begins to sublimate (4-7 years), or when fully mature like the greatest Grand Cru Burgundies (7-20 years). The Santa Rita Hills and Clos Pepe make a wine for every table, every plate and every palate.
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.