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Clos de la Tech

Semiconductor pioneer and winemaker T.J. Rodgers (CEO of Cypress Semiconductor) and assistant winemaker, vineyard and winery manager Valeta Massey founded Clos de la Tech in 1994. Using the traditional winemaking process at Domaine de la Romanée Conti (DRC) as the baseline for making their wines and even packaging the wines in bottles that are remindful of those of DRC, the proprietors of Clos de la Tech have the stated goal “to make the New World’s best Pinot Noir and challenge the greatest Burgundies that have dominated Pinot Noir production since the 13th century.” Given that Rodgers has a reputation as a perfectionist and has the economic wherewithal to succeed, he may just accomplish his quest. The name, Clos de la Tech (Kl! deh la T"k), was inspired by the Burgundian word “Clos,” meaning “enclosed area.” All three of Clos de la Tech’s vineyards are enclosed by natural barriers such as cliffs and forests or by walls made of stone recovered from the vineyard. Since the vineyards lie in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the heart of Silicon Valley, a silicon chip adorns each bottle representing “Tech.”

The 12 tiny chips that are placed in sealing wax on the shoulder crest of each bottle of 2009 reserve wine are fourth-generation PSoC 4 chips. PSoC chips were chosen to power the “click wheel” on the Apple iPad nano in 2005 and have powered the touch-screen interfaces of over one billion cell phones. The PSoC 4 chip is just one-tenth of the size of a finger nail, yet contains a 32-bit computer, 36 touch buttons, 2 amplifiers, an analogto- digital converter, 4 programmable logic blocks, 4 counter/timers, and 2 communcations interfaces. Each chip is priced at $1.00. PSoC 4 chips are the brains behind everything from espresso machines to toy helicopters to wearable body fitness monitors.



Rodgers has three close-planted vineyards all within 20 miles of each other: Domaine Docteur Rodgers (DDR), Domaine Valeta (DV) and Domaine Lois Louise (DLL). Domaine Docteur Rodgers is a one-acre, close-planted vineyard at 400 feet elevation adjacent Rodgers’ home in Woodside planted in 1994 to Dijon clones 113, 115 and 777 on Riparia Gloire, 420A and 101-14 rootstocks. Soil is loamy clay. The Pinot Noir from DDR is more fragrant and lighter in body than the winery’s mountain vineyards. The first Clos de la Tech Pinot Noir, 125 cases of Domaine du Docteur Rodgers Pinot Noir, was released from the 1996 vintage and priced at $101 per bottle, an unprecedented lofty amount for the time.

The Domaine Valeta Vineyard (“Snow Vineyard”) is 4 acres planted on a 30-acre site perched on a peak at 2,350 feet looking down on Silicon Valley below. It is located on the first peak west of the famed Ridge Vineyard. This is a very cold site, even receiving snow in the winter, resulting in wines that have more body, tannin and color of any Clos de la Tech wine. The clones are 777, 115, 114 and 113 planted on Riperia Gloire, 3309 and 101-14 rootstocks. Soils are low fertility, well drained sandy loam. The first wine made from this vineyard was the 2002 vintage.

Domaine Lois Louise, named after Rodgers’ mother, is an 80-acre ridge top vineyard at 1,700 feet, directly facing the Pacific Ocean within a 163-acre parcel in the hills above La Honda. This exposed site is vulnerable to a significant marine influence and is mostly above the fog line. This is probably the steepest vineyard in California, with a side slope of about 25º and an elevation climb of 966 feet. Rodgers had to design a special over-the-row tractor outfitted with cables to keep it from tipping over in this vineyard. Clones are 114, 115, 667, 777, and “828,” planted on Riperia Gloire, 3309 and 420 A rootstocks. The soils are clay loam on top of fractured rock. The yields here are the lowest of all Domaine de la Tech vineyards.

The Domaine Lois Louise Vineyard (top photo) has three distinct terroirs: the Main Vineyard (DLL), Twisty Ridge (at the top of DLL pointing directly to the Pacific Ocean; so narrow it must be farmed by hand; seen in the bottom photo), and Cote Sud (south-facing slope). The wines produced from each part of the vineyard are distinct: the Twisty Ridge Pinot Noir is the biggest and darkest fruited with notable tannins, the DLL Cote Sud is lighter in body and is the most aromatic with a signature citrus aroma, and the DLL wine is similar to Cote Sud but without the citrus nuance on the nose. The first wine produced from this vineyard was from the 2004 vintage.



Vineyard practices include cluster thinning to reduce the number of seeds per grape and lower yields, concentrated plantings, and tipping (the tendril and top two small leaves on each cane are manually pinched off after 10% of grape flowers have bloomed, causing the vine to send a spurt of carbohydrate energy into the flowering grape clusters). Biodynamic viticulture is being instituted as well.

The gravity-flow winery, tucked into a hillside on the Domaine Lois Louise property, is a technological marvel, and includes a cave for crush and fermentation, another for barrel aging, and a third for bottling and case storage. The winery is designed for 10,000 case production, although currently about 2,000 cases of Pinot Noir are vinified annually. Photos of the entrance to the winery and the interior of the winery below.





The winemaking regimen is very traditional with rigorous sorting, whole cluster fermentations, native fermentations, and foot crushing. Temperature-controlled fermentation tanks are supported by utility stations and are uniquely designed to allow pressing in the fermentation tank. There are no pumps in the winery and the wines are never filtered. Wines are barrel aged for 18 months in 70% new three-year air-dried Francois Frères barrels and aged in bottle for at least two years.

Clos de la Tech wines are sold almost entirely through a mailing list. A tasting room is located in the Half Moon Bay Cheese Co. where the tasting bar offers many other wines as well. Visit the website at www.closdelatech.com for more information. The winery is not open to the public.

The five 2009 Clos de la Tech Pinot Noirs are reviewed below (current releases). All the wines have significant depth of color and extraction. The alcohols say 14.1% on the labels but from the size of the legs in the glass, the alcohols are most probably higher. The tannins are daunting on several of the wines due to the whole cluster ferments, so the wines need decanting or preferably several years in bottle for most enjoyment.







2009 Clos de la Tech Domaine Lois Louise Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 588 cases, $42. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Typical whole cluster perfume of rose petals, exotic spice and black cherry. Richly endowed with generous flavors of black cherry, cassis, seasoned oak and spice. Sappy and sweet, with a noticeable mid palate attack, firm tannins and big fruit-driven finish. The least refined but the most hedonistic of the 2009 wines. Very approachable now but will improve in the cellar. Score: 89

2009 Clos de la Tech Domaine Lois Louise Cote Sud Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 170 cases, $62. · Dark reddish purple hue in the glass. The nose unfolds slowly to reveal aromas of red and black berries, tea leaves, oak, stem and salinity. Full-bodied with plenty of brutish tannins yet smooth and polished on the palate, filled with layers of black cherry, blackberry, dark chocolate and earthy flavors. Very subtle green note in the background. The tannins arrive with a rush on the long finish. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the aromas of black currant, spice, wood pile and salty ocean air were more apparent. This wine needs cellaring for at least five years to soften and integrate the tannins and flavors. Score: 90

2009 Clos de la Tech Domaine Lois Louise Twisty Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 132 cases, $82. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. Appealing aromas of cherry jubilee, briar, stem, oak and slate. Similar flavor profile as the Cote Sud but the fruit is more out front and vibrant with amazing persistence on the finish. Flavors of black fruits, cassis, spice, dark chocolate are supported by healthy, polished tannins. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the tannins had softened and the mouthfeel was more velvety. Again, this wine should be cellared for at least five years for full enjoyment. Score: 93

2009 Clos de la Tech Domaine Du Docteur Rodgers Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 89 cases, $102. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose blossoms over time in the glass to reveal bright aromas of black cherry, cassis and spice with complimentary notes of oakdriven vanillin and nuts. Very ingratiating. Delicious core of dark red cherries, strawberry, blackberry, vanillin, sassafras and earth. More charm at this early stage with notable but more modest tannins and slightly more acidity. Very juicy on the palate with a satisfying finish. Still great from a previously opened and re-corked bottle the following day with a vast compliment of aromas including black cherry, rose petal, marzipan and vanillin. Surely will benefit from further aging, but hard to resist now. Score: 94

2009 Clos de la Tech Domaine Valeta Sunny Slope Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 126 cases, $62. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass with the reddest hue in the lineup. Enticing aromas of dark cherries, baking spices, mushrooms and toasty oak. This wine is not as imposing as other wines in the lineup currently and exhibits impeccable balance. It is the most enjoyable wine now. Delicious mid weight flavors of cherry, strawberry, raspberry and mocha with moderate backing tannins and a wonderful peacock tail finish. The oak is nicely integrated and the mouth feel is very suave. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was still seductive. Score: 94

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