Wes Hagen Explains Dormancy

On our first day out together, the crew went to Clos Pepe Vineyard to meet with Wes Hagen, vineyard manager and winemaker. He gave us a good overview of the necessity of dormancy, his concerns about frost, and expectations for the upcoming weeks.

Wes Hagen, Clos Pepe.

Hey Wes, it’s Wil. We’re at the front gate.

Awesome dude, I’m glad you’re here. Just come on in and I’ll meet you at the Y.

Alright, see you in a bit.

Hey, Wes!

Wil, welcome to Clos Pepe. I think we’ve got at least another week and a week or two weeks of protection.

About a month ago, we had a really cold night. It was about 19 degrees and really brought home, what is dormancy? Why do these vines go dormant? Why don’t they just have leaves all the time and be evergreen? Why are they deciduous?

The dormancy is really important to keep this vine alive. Where the grapevine is originally from, kind of Armenia, Transcaucasia. It gets so damn cold and even though the vines are up in the trees, the vines would die in the winter.

So in the winter the vines go woody, so they’re protected. It’s like armor. It’s keeping everything protected, so we have a Pride of Madeira that we’ve had for seven years and it never goes dormant and during the frost it looked like someone took a blowtorch to it.

That beautiful eight year old, seven year old Pride of Madeira is dead. Nothing we can do, its dead. And then I walk out here and I see this vine just starting to wake back up and I realize, what a wonderful survival mechanism the grapevine has developed. It really does amazing things to protect itself.

So, we’re looking forward to a great year, but because these vines are waking up early, we do have a capacity to have serious frost issues, so there’s going to be a lot of drama. There’s going to be a lot of conflict, there’s going to be a lot of like, sleepless nights, there’s going to be a lot of scotch involved. So, I think what we have to do is take a deep breath, slow down, realize that we’re living in California, one of the greatest places to grow grapes in the world.

Vintage is almost a fait accompli – it’s almost automatic. It’s going to be delicious wine. I’ve never had a year here in 20 years that didn’t produce delicious wine. So here we go. It’s another ride, it’s another roller coaster. We’re clicking up the hill right now kind of waiting for that first drop and I guarantee that first drop will probably be within here a few weeks when we get the first notice that it’s going to be real cold one night and everyone starts struggling to make sure their frost equipment is working.