VOLUME 10, ISSUE 25
February 5, 2016
Clos de la Tech
Semiconductor pioneer T.J. Rodgers (CEO of Cypress Semiconductor) and his longtime domestic partner Valeta Massey have begun a project in the Santa Cruz Mountains to produce the best Pinot Noir in the world. Clos de la Tech was founded in 1994, and currently produces about small lots of estate Pinot Noir from a few vineyard sites. Rodgers plans to gradually increase production as his vineyards develop, eventually reaching 13,000 cases.
Rodgers has three vineyards planted in the Santa Cruz Mountains region - Domaine Docteur Rodgers, Domaine Valeta, and Domaine Lois Louise. Domaine Docteur Rodgers is a one-acre vineyard adjacent to Rodgers’ home in Woodside planted to Dijon clones 113, 115 and 777. Close-spacing of vines and small yields are the norm here. When T,J. and Valeta Massey built a home in Woodside, California, they planted this vineyard and when the first grapes appeared, they tried their hand at making wine. The first Clos de la Tech wines were sourced from this vineyard beginning in 1996. Vintage 2000 was the first commercial release in 2005.
With their initial success, they bought two pieces of property in the Santa Cruz Mountains to develop vineyards. The Domaine Valeta vineyard is 3 1/2 planted acres on a 30-acre site perched on a peak at 2,300 feet looking down on Silicon Valley. This is a colder site, producing wines that are more tannic and aromatic than those from Rodgers. The first wine made from this vineyard is the 2002 vintage, to be released in 2007. Domaine Lois Louise, named after Rodger’s mother, is a 35-acre ridge-top vineyard (on its way to 62 total planted acres) facing the Pacific Ocean within a 160-acre parcel in the hills above La Honda. This is probably the steepest vineyard in California. The first wine produced from this vineyard was the 2004 vintage. Eventually, 80 acres will be planted here and the wine will be made inside three 300 ft. caves blasted out from the hillside.
It is hoped that a number of distinguished microclimates will be identified within this ridge-top vineyard, allowing the bottling of unique “grand cru” quality wines from separate blocks. There is no intention of blending grapes from the vineyard to produce a communal wine. Because of the challenges of farming this vineyard with its variable and double slope topography, Rodgers has designed a special tractor that runs on cables and can be controlled with a joy stick. The vertical slope in places is a jaw dropping 66% and the horizontal slope is simultaneously 25%. It is the only tractor in the world that will accommodate large vertical and side slopes at the same time.
Vineyard manager Rex Geitner, who has managed vineyards at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Domaine Carneros, and Robert Keenan Winery, oversees the vineyards. The rows are very tightly spaced at Domaine Lois Louise, and vine spacing is minimal, with about 4,000 vines per acre. Because of the cooling effects and exposure to the Pacific Ocean, disease pressure is high and the project will not be totally organic.
The new winery facility at Domaine Lois Louise will utilize gravity flow and plans are to install 56 fermenters to allow simultaneous fermentation of multiple eight-barrel lots of wine. A special press was designed by Rodgers that can be moved to the tank and must without separating the press and free run juice. The result is that he can use both in making the final wine.
Several pieces of equipment were designed by T.J. who is an engineer. These include the CDLT Press (very much like the French Mellor coffee pot, very gently presses the cap through the wine, with the resulting press and free-run wine equal in quality), CDLT Slope Management Systems (SMS) (a tractor capable of dealing with the hills at Domaine Lois Louise, pulled up hill by cables and control achieved by a joystick, just like a video game), and TJ Fermenters (a system donated by T.J. to UC Davis that allows monitoring and control of temperature, cap temperature, measure brix, perform pumpovers as well as introduce oxygen in the just the right amount).
The limited production wines are sold through a mailing list.
Articles About Clos de la Tech
2010 Clos De La Tech Domaine Lois Louise Cote Sud Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 190 cases, $62. Sourced from the Cote Sud block at Domaine Lois Louise Vineyard. The site is fully exposed and buffeted by strong maritime winds off the Pacific Ocean 8 miles to the West. Whole cluster fermentation, native yeast, foot crushed, unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Savory aromas of earth, tobacco leaf, bramble, and wine cave with a hint of black cherry. Full-bodied flavors of black raspberry, blackberry and black current with a touch of spice. Very ripe, but gorgeous fruit that is dense and somewhat brooding at this stage, backed by firm, well-proportioned tannins. The wine finishes with plenty of fruit goodness and slight astringency. Like Burgundy wines after it is fashioned, this wine should benefit from more time in the cellar. Score: 90-92. Reviewed April 5, 2015 ARTICLE »
2010 Clos De La Tech Domaine Valeta Sunny Slope Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 190 cases, $62. Vineyard site is cold and windy situated at 2,350 feet above Silicon Valley. 30 acres with 3 acres planted to vines. Whole cluster fermentation, native yeast, foot crushed, unfiltered. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Somewhat vegetal on the nose reflecting the 100% whole cluster, with added notes of toasty oak and mulch. Mid weight dark red cherry and strawberry fruits with a touch of spice and sandalwood. More approachable than the Cote Sud with less fruit intensity and sap, more vibrant acidity, and showing somewhat aggressive tannins and generous sweet oak in the background. Again, this wine will benefit from further bottle aging. Score: 89-91. Reviewed April 5, 2015 ARTICLE »
2010 Clos De La Tech Domaine Du Docteur Rodgers San Francisco Bay Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 102 cases, $102. Sourced from a 1-acre hilltop vineyard in the town of Woodside at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very savory nose with aromas of bramble, conifer herbal oak, spearmint, and vanilla. Oak and tannins dominate this wine at present, which offers mid weight flavors of blackberry, black cherry and pomegranate fruits. The intense, long finish is the most striking feature of this wine. Hopefully, the wine will outgrow the green thread in the background resulting from the 100% whole cluster inclusion. When tasting the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the tannins had ameliorated, but the oak still overwhelmed the fruit. Check back in five years. Score: 88-90. Reviewed April 5, 2015 ARTICLE »
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. Reviewed April 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
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. Reviewed April 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
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. Reviewed April 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
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. Reviewed April 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
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. Reviewed April 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
2002 Clos de la Tech Domaine Docteur Rodgers San Francisco Bay Pinot Noir
13% alc., 101 cases, $101.50. · The exotic nose features cherries and rare woods with a touch of heat. The mouth feel is fuller than the 2000 vintage and there is more fruit with spiced cherry, plum and chocolate flavors. The finish is tart, but has more acceptable acidity. Reviewed April 1, 2007 ARTICLE »
2002 Clos de La Tech San Francisco Bay Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 1,360 btls, $101. From a 1-acre closeplanted hilltop vineyard planted to Dijon clones on French rootstocks. This Domaine du Docteur Rodgers Vineyard is not strictly in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, thus the San Francisco Bay designation on the label. Whole cluster, foot crushed, natural yeast, unfiltered, aged in Francois Freres oak barrels. · The nose combines medicinal notes with spearmint and mint. Also minty on the palate and a touch green. The tannins overwhelm the light fruit. Reviewed March 15, 2009 ARTICLE »
2000 Clos de la Tech Domaine Docteur Rodgers San Francisco Bay Pinot Noir
13% alc., $101.50 · Light in body, this delicate Pinot Noir has aromas of super ripe fruit tending toward prune with a touch of herbs. The flavors of tart cherry end in a finish with searing acidity. Reviewed April 1, 2007 ARTICLE »
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