Archives for 

Central Coast Wine

Behind The Wine: Tasting Clos Pepe With Winemaker Wes Hagen

Uncorking Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009 | agoodtimewithwine.com

Uncorking Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009

Nestled in the northeastern corner of the Central Coast’s Sta Rita Hills AVA sits Clos Pepe Estate. Purchased in 1994 as a horse ranch by Steve and Cathy Pepe, Clos Pepe winemaker Wes Hagen began at the Estate full-time in 1994 as well. The estate was planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from 1996 to 1998, and made the first commercially available vintage of Clos Pepe in 2000. I had the chance to “talk” to Wes Hagen during a Twitter Tasting, where a group of bloggers received samples of the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009, tasted, and tweeted about it with Wes. A cerebral straight shooter, Wes had a lot to say about a lot of things!

“Sta Rita Hills has poor soil, wind, fog, cool temps, long hang time and passionate explorers of flavor” was one of Wes’ first tweets during the tasting. That was soon followed by “And not to be topical or anything. Dirt Does NOT Lie, and this AVA is a testament to that.” Of note is the Hashtag used during our tasting, #DirtDontLie. A hashtag, for the uninitiated, is a way to aggregate tweets (or status updates) by a subject. With all of us adding the same hashtag to each tweet about the 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot, you should able to pull together the entire virtual conversation, and follow along. The hashtag speaks volumes about Wes, and his thoughts on where the wine is made, the vineyard!

Speaking of the vineyard, The Concise World Atlas of Wine describes the poor soil of the Sta Rita Hills AVA as “a patchwork of sand, silt, and clay.” The diurnal winds and fog keep the grapes cool at night, prolonging the growing season to help the grapes reach peak maturity, and ripeness. However, Sta Rita Hills is one of the coolest wine grape growing regions, lending itself to that bracing acidity.

I noticed Wes tweeting about decanting his Pinot Noir about an hour before the tasting began. When I asked about it, he said

I decant everything I drink 5 years and younger, whites pink and red. Decanting whites and then laying the decanter on ice is a new thing for me…and it’s revelatory.

Oh, revelatory in a sentence. I feared I would need to break out my dictionary, as I do when tweet with Randall Grahm. I digress. Few Americans I know are patient enough to decant a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, no less a normally approachable and easy to drink Pinot Noir. I tried the Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir right after I pulled the cork, and was punched in the face with ripping acidity. I grabbed a decanter and gave it an hour of air.

Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009 | agoodtimewithwine.com

Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009

My first taste of the Clos Pepe 09 Pinot was strawberry, smoked bacon and the ripping acid I mentioned previously. Masculine on the palate, there is firm, assertive fruit and acidity. Think of it as a dapper, but manly James Bond. 007, in your glass. As the wine opened, flavors evolved into dark red berries, smoked bacon, great baking spices, with sea smoke on a long-lasting finish. This wine, which was four years from vintage when sampled, has the potential to age and develop nicely, in part because of the acidity. Experts like Parker/Galloni and Laube give this delicious red wine a drink window through 2020, though Wes himself feels you should enjoy your Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir by 2016!

Speaking of drink windows, I recently came across a tasting note from March 2013 discussing Wes’ 1999 vintage. The wine was a his first at Clos Pepe, a year before their commercial launch, and was unlabeled. Nearly 14 years after harvest, the reviewer said the wine was “holding up remarkable well, with primary fruit still in evidence.” This speaks not only to Wes’ wine making prowess, but also the quality of the grapes grown at the estate.

The Clos Pepe vineyard practices are sustainable, and quite straight forward: Take care of the vineyard, and the people working in it. They try to “Encourage a healthy, diverse vineyard environment by using sheep, chickens, owl boxes, raptor perches and policies that guarantee a healthy farm. Promote soil health by composting and organic fertilization, but only enough to make the vines able to support a small crop”

Likely written by Wes, Clos Pepe does “believe that organic practices that help improve our wine are worth implementing, but we do not believe in organic for organic’s sake, nor do we practice Biodynamics, which we consider (mostly) the ravings of a charlatan, and voodoo fluff/marketing fodder.”

I read somewhere that many of the grapes grown on the estate are sold to other wine makers, keeping only a fraction of what Clos Pepe grow. Only 900 cases of the 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir were made. With a suggested retail price of $54, the 2009 vintage is likely sold out. The wine is mostly available online.  The current Pinot Noir release, 2010, was given 93 points by Robert Parker/Antonio Galloni.

Joe Roberts of 1winedude asked Wes for the geeky productions details on the wine. Wes replied

Geeky production details: I didn’t fuck up a perfect vintage. That’s it. I’m a farmer.

Other BRIEF geeky production details include the Clos Pepe 2009 used all 4 Pinot Noir clones grown on the estate, 667, 115, Pommard 4, and 777. The wine aged 11 months in oak, very loose filtration, no racking or fining, picked at 23.2-24.7 brix at 3.26 to 3.38 pH final TA is 6.8 g/l, 14.1% ABV

We went on about where and when terroir exists and other cerebral, wine geekery. And just plain geekery, as I believe Wes mentioned if he wasn’t making wine, he’d still be an English teacher. It was an awesome evening with a great wine lover, who happens to make great wine. You can see what Pamela, Melanie, and Dezel thought about the Clos Pepe #DirtDontLie Twitter tasting. Wes also has his own blog, definitely worth checking out!

 

Mushroom Soup, Red Wine & A Giveaway

using Harry & David soup mix for a great meal

Harry & David soup mix gets doctored

I learned about Harry & David’s new wine collection during a media trip with 12 other food writers. One of them was Sandy Coughlin, of Reluctant Entertainer. While Sandy is anything but a reluctant entertainer, her site and book are focused on helping those who are. Sandy offers tips and tricks to make even the most novice entertainer look like Martha Stewart. Sandy made our first night in Oregon spectacular, since hosting 12 people who write about food or wine can’t be easy. Using products from Harry & David’s store, she threw an amazing dinner party. One of my favorite items of the night was her mushroom soup, and I was blown away to learn it came from a bag, with some added love. I could not wait to come home and make the soup myself, and pair some wines with it. Keep reading, and I’ll show you how Sandy kicked up this soup, talk about the wines that pair, and tell you how you can win a gift basket from Harry & David.

A hearty meal of Harry & David mushroom soup and pinot noir

A hearty meal of Harry & David mushroom soup and pinot noir

Mushrooms go well with many dishes, and many wines. People saute mushrooms for burgers or steaks, fold them into omelets, or grill them and eat them on their own. In terms of wines, mushrooms will go well with a host of them, including cabernet sauvignon, unoaked chardonnay, malbec, zinfandel, and of course pinot noir. In fact, there are some who think that the perfect mushroom pairing is pinot noir, whether from Oregon or Burgundy, or even California. I happen to be in that camp, and decided to buy two bottles of pinot noir at the grocery store while picking up the fixings for the soup.

Francis Coppola 2010 Directors Cut Pinot Noir

Francis Coppola 2010 Directors Cut Pinot Noir

The first grocery store pinot noir I picked to pair with the mushroom soup was the Francis Coppola 2010 Directors Cut, Sonoma Coast, California. The lighter of the two options for the pairing, the Coppola ’10 Director’s Cut pinot noir has a bouquet of field strawberries, with earthy notes surrounding the red fruit. The acidity was noticeable on the nose, along with some smoky scents. The palate was a bit more fruit forward, more red raspberries on the palate than the strawberries on the nose, with a nice mix of smoke and cooking spices. The soup tames the fruit a little, and works very nicely. For $18.99, this was a well made, fresh pinot noir with nice length and good acid for food without being noticeable.

Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir 2010

Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir 2010

The second grocery store pinot noir was the $21.99 Laetitia 2010 Estate Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley, California. Not a very expressive bouquet, dusty red raspberries mix with faint scents of cocoa. The palate shows round red raspberries, fresher than the notes on the nose. There is a good bit of sweet spice from the oak used to age the wine, but it’s well integrated. The finish is long lasting, with those sweet spices turning into a dusting of black pepper. There are medium tannins, noticeable but not gripping.  With the soup, the red fruit tastes a little darker, with some earthy notes more prominent.

win a Harry & David cheese and salami basket on agoodtimewithwine.com

win a Harry & David cheese and salami basket

I am a “put your money where your mouth is” kind of person. While my expenses for this trip were paid by Harry & David, I purchased quite a bit of their products before being invited on the trip. I only write about products, wine or businesses I believe in. I’ve long believed in the quality that Harry & David offers, and now Harry & David wants to make a believer out of you. I am excited to offer a giveaway of one of Harry & David’s gift baskets, one focused on pairing with wine. The rules of the giveaway are simple:

  • Giveaway Open to US Residents Only, employees of Harry & David and their relatives are not eligible
  • Giveaway runs from Monday October 22nd 7:00am EST through Wednesday October 24th 11:59:59 pm EST
  • Enter by leaving a comment below stating why you want to win this Harry & David cheese and salami basket
  • Bonus Entries are available for the following (each require a separate comment)
  • Tweet the following then comment below: Wine, Mushroom Soup & a @HarryandDavid gift basket giveaway by @mmwine http://budurl.com/hadsalm
  • Like then comment below: Like both A Good Time With Wine on Facebook and Harry and David on Facebook
  • From the A Good Time With Wine Facebook page, share this post then comment below
  • Limit 4 entries per person

The description of this Harry and David gift basket is fantastic. Two gourmet new world Beehive cheeses and two handcrafted old world Creminelli salamis make this gift a savory delight for any meat and cheese lover. Award winning cheese coupled with some of the finest gluten and dairy free salami out there make for a lovely anytime gift. I’ll post a few wines to pair with it in the near future.

leeks for Harry and David soup

Add most of one leek to the soup

Sandy inspired me to doctor up the soup, not that it needed it. For one bag of Harry & David Wild Mushroom & Leek soup mix, you need two tablespoons of butter (in addition to the package directions), one leek, and two medium portobello mushrooms. Slice and rinse the leek with water, and pat dry. Melt the butter in a large skillet on a medium heat, then add the leek. Saute for 4-5 minutes, until they are tender.

saute leeks until tender

Saute leeks until tender

Slice portobello mushrooms and saute with leeks

Slice portobello mushrooms and saute with leeks

Slice the portobello mushroom in half-inch pieces, and add to the tender leeks. Saute for another 5-8 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender. Then, add to the soup mix in your 5 quart pot or bigger, and cook according to the package instructions.

Enjoy Harry & David Mushroom Soup with pinot noir

Enjoy Harry & David Mushroom Soup with pinot noir

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway! Harry & David will ship the winner the basket directly, and you’ll have a good time with wine!