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

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Posted on September 11, 2014 .