Clos Pepe Vineyard was purchased in 1994 as a horse farm. Today the focus is on cool-climate, small-production Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay. There’s no horsing around with the quality of its wine.
The winery is located in the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County. The area features wind, fog and low summer temperatures. The East-West valleys pull cold air off the Pacific Ocean.
For winemaker Wes Hagen, though, it really starts with the dirt. The vineyard features sea-bed soil, which limits the vigor of the plants. The smaller yield of the vines means smaller clusters and smaller berries with concentrated flavors.
The 2009 Estate Pinot Noir is a delight. The wine is a strawberry gem color and we let it decant for almost an hour. I’ve had a couple of Pinots recently that had a fruity, slightly sweet finish – they are certainly worlds apart from the Clos Pepe Pinot.
True to its cool-climate terroir, the full merit of this wine doesn’t emerge with first sip, but sneaks in on tip toes. It displays wonderful balance with dried cherry flavors and the promised earthiness and dirt. It’s a premium Pinot experience with the wine evolving as it is swirled and decanted.
Needless to say, this is an exceptional wine to enjoy now, but should be hitting its pinnacle in about three years. It retails for $62.
Wes’ winemaking philosophy favors wines that are like flowing jazz instead of ponderous heavy metal. He’s just laid down one crazy good riff with the 2009 Estate Pinot.