Clos Pegase is located in the northern part of the Napa Valley just off the Silverado Trail near Calistoga. The owner, Jan Shrem built a successful publishing business in Japan and during this time married a Japanese woman named Mitsuko. She introduced Jan to wine and after 25 years in the publishing business he entered the enology program at the University of Bordeaux. Eventually he moved to Napa and enlisted the help of Andre Tchelistcheff, a winemaker of international renown and a seminal figure in the modern California wine industry, who guided Clos Pegase through its early years. Shaun Richardson has been the primary winemaker since 2002. His approach embraces simplicity – using natural yeasts, gentle handling and minimal filtration to produce wines of understated elegance. Clos Pegase owns more than 450 acres in the Napa Valley, with 286 planted to grapes. The vineyards are entirely estate owned and operated and one third of the grapes produced are sold to other wineries, including Duckhorn, Acacia, and Schramsberg.
Wine maker notes
With "feet of clay" our meticulously tended vines issue forth, each year, from restrained yields, this perfumed and intensely concentrated Chardonnay. The vines shiver through foggy mornings waiting for the afternoon sun to warm them sufficiently to ripen their bounty. When autumn arrives, each bunch is hand-picked at night to preserve its freshness and delivered cool and healthy to the winery. Here we eschew destemming and crushing in favor of whole cluster pressing, a laborious but extremely gentle process of separating the juice from its skins, avoiding the bitter tannins that might otherwise be extracted. The freshly squeezed juice is then drained to French oak barrels where it will remain until assemblage and bottling some 10 months later.
No yeasts are added to the new juice as we prefer the complexity and individuality provided by the indigenous, or "wild" yeasts that convert the sugar to alcohol. The secondary fermentation, converting the hard malic acid to the softer lactic, is completed by a cultured bacteria imported from Burgundy. Although native malo-lactic fermentation is an option, we find it lends too much bitterness to the wine, and we prefer our Chardonnay to retain its unique purity of fruit, and long, cleansing finish.
To broaden the palate and mouth-feel of the wine we employ battonage, a technique that involves stirring the yeast lees in each barrel on a regular basis. By keeping the lees in suspension the wine's pure fruit character is guarded against oxidation and the wine seems to put on some weight, or "fatness," as well as being less astringent and sharp. But finally, it is the vineyard's inherent aromatic and taste persona, such as nectarine, white peach and acacia blossom that infuses the wine with its distinctive flavors. To fully capture these traits we decant the wine off its lees and, after a gentle clay fining, we bottle the wine unfiltered.
These simple, traditional and time-honored techniques are our way of delivering the purest expression of Mitsuko's Vineyard Chardonnay, capturing in bottle the dramatic nuances intrinsic to each vintage.
What defines the "Clos Pegase" style? We like to talk about balance, harmony and symmetry. About true varietal intensity with balanced tannins and acids. And, most of all, about the balance of sophisticated elegance and inviting food-friendliness.
Our whites -- Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc -- display the fresh fruit qualities of these varieties. Our reds -- Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon among others -- offer fruitiness and accessibility at an early age by using the old technique of extended maceration, which creates softer tannins through polymerization.
In all instances, the wine ages gracefully in our natural caves hewn out of the stone, as in antiquity, free of air conditioner vibration and enjoying ideal year-round temperature and humidity.