Secrets of the 2014 Vintage Revealed!

Wes Hagen finishes up the 2014 harvest at Clos Pepe and gives you the inside information on how this vintage will be remembered.  What's the 'miracle' that saved the vintage?

Click play and know within three minutes!

And as always, drink an extra glass of wine every day at table with the people you love!

--Wes Hagen, 9/29/2014

Winemaking Update on 2014 Vintage at Clos Pepe and the Sta Rita Hills

Howdy wine warriors! Quick update from a moment of repose in an otherwise very deliberate and unusual vintage.

Unusual because of the warm, if not hot, winter we had (early budbreak and canopy development), a very warm spring, and a warm July. Then we had what I'm calling the Miracle August and beginning of September. August didn't go over low 80's, and we are just now getting our first high 70's to low 80's spell here in the Sta Rita Hills. This means that the hangtime extended beyond the point where we could have been picking in mid August. The cool weather allowed the fruit to hang and become phenolically mature, develop impressive color and depth.

The vintage is deliberate because winemakers have been able to make picking decisions without extremes of heat waves that could have forced our hand. Some winemakers were picking in mid-August and actually illegally adding sugar to their ferments. Others took a more balanced approach and have waited until the last 10 days to bring their pinot in at around 24 Brix and 3.5 pH. And many winemakers haven't even started picking, waiting for flavors to go over the top to impress ripeness-sluts and the critics that support that culture.

So in short the 2014 vintage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Santa Barbara County and SRH in particular, will be defined by the winemakers and their decision on when to pull the trigger. There will be wines that are a bit underripe and dilute, some lovely wines that will be balanced and with deep color and flavor, and some over the top wines that will thrill the Parker/Dannuck creed with dripping glycerine and 15%+ alcohol. To each their own, I believe all styles of wine attract an audience and thrill them. John Malkovich can do an artsy piece like Dangerous Liasons, or a popcorn munching vapid action film like Con Air. Both attract an audience, and I warn any wine lover to take a stance on style.

Can't we see a symphony one night and Metallica the next? I would argue those with a broad perspective can enjoy the greatest wines in human history right now.

Personally, at Clos Pepe, we have 44 barrels of pinot noir finished and barreled and 5 barrels of Chardonnay dry and barreled in stainless steel casks and French oak. We are 80% in. Within 10 days we will have completed harvest for the Estate wines, and then will focus on Rhone varietals for Axis Mundi wines: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache Blanc.

If you have any questions about vintage or winemaking (or growing), hit me up. I love to spread my passion and understanding.


Wes Hagen, Slave to the Vine, Herder of the Yeast

There's some more updates on my Instagram:  wes_hagen  and on my Facebook Page!  Visit often!

Posted on September 11, 2014 .

Why is Wine the Most Important Booze in the World?

Wes takes you on a trip through history to explain, in 4 minutes or less, why wine has always been the most important fermented beverage on the planet.

Don't forget to read Dr. Patrick McGovern's masterworks:  "Uncorking the Past" and "Ancient Wine", or for an easier read, Tom Standage's "History of the World in 6 Glasses".

And leave me questions, messages or suggestions for subject matter for subsequent vlogs!

Can Natural Cork change 25%-40% of the wine it touches?

2-5% of wines under natural cork are returned at competition as being TCA-infected. Most judges hit a TCA infection between 3-10 parts per trillion. Most corked wine (3-5%) would have 5 ppt TCA infection.

" In a 2005 study of 2800 bottles tasted at the Wine Spectator blind-tasting facilities in Napa, California, 7% of the bottles were found to be tainted.[1]" Let's assume the TCA taint rate of those 7% were 3-4 ppt.

.5 ppt TCA can change a wine, mute its nose and change the mouth feel. Now if you read the literature, especially that funded by cork companies, they will stress that most consumers can't tell a wine is corked under 3-4 ppt.

What they don't say is that even slight TCA infections (>.5 ppt in my 20 year pro wine and judging experience) DO CHANGE a wine's aroma, bouquet, mouthfeel and finish.

So if 7% of wines are corked to where almost anyone can tell, (5ppt), we can assume a ten times higher incidence of .5 ppt taint, which could be as high as (gulp!) 70%. I believe the 25%-40% rate I mention is a very low and conservative number.

I might even go so far as to say that MOST wines under natural cork are somehow influenced negatively by TCA. But I'll wait to get some more data from ETS to go on the record on that one.

Regardless, I think we can agree that there is no reason in the world for any cautious, sane winemaker to close a bottle of wine with natural cork.