2011 Clos Pepe "Barrel Fermented" Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
The 2011 Chardonnay Barrel Fermented boasts gorgeous textural depth and volume. Varietal notes flesh out in a wine that shows tons of Clos Pepe character in its brightness, but with an additional layer of complexity from the fermentation in barrel. This is the first Clos Pepe Chardonnay to see a touch of new oak, 5% in this vintage. The flavors are a little broader than in the Hommage, but the style is quintessentially Clos Pepe and 2011. Drinking window: 2013 - 2018 These 2011s from Clos Pepe and Wes Hagen are brilliant. Unlike most California Chardonnays and Pinots, the Clos Pepe wines are usually very tight when they are young, and that is especially true in 2011, a very cold growing season. The wines need considerable air to show well if opened today. A generous decant will do wonders for both the Pinots and Chards. I hope to taste the 2011s again in another 6-12 months, as I am pretty sure there is a lot more to all four of these wines.
The 2011 is a little different than previous releases--well, five percent different, to put a figure on it. Clos Pepe added five percent new French oak (two barrels) to their usual regimen of neutral oak barrel fermentation. "We wanted to elevate the aromatics and richness slightly to make the wine a little more distinct from the Homage," the vintners explain. "Even the two new barrels significantly impacted the character of this wine. While a far cry from becoming 'cougar juice,' the structured, minerally, wonderfully perky young Chardonnay does show a blush of French oak, but stays very beautifully in balance, and will integrate within 3-5 years. The wine shows rich vanilla, oak toast, grapefruit, apple, dusty minerals and lime zest in the nose. Aromatic complexity is matched by a dry, rich attack, a persistent finish and plenty of acidity to frame this slightly stylistic impression of Clos Pepe in 2011. Savor with fried chicken or lobster with drawn butter."