Wes Hagen: Vineyard Manager, Winemaker. Wes has run the show here at Clos Pepe since 1998. He manages the vineyard and the crew, communicates with our producers and fine-tunes viticulture to suit the stylistic needs of their winemaking. Involving himself in every aspect of the planting, growing, harvest, crush, fermentation, aging, bottling, shipping and marketing (jncluding the photography and text in the website), Wes is passionate about his life's goal -- producing and celebrating world-class Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. From 1997-98, Wes researched and wrote the petition that established the Santa Rita Hills American Viticultural Area with help from Bryan Babcock, Richard Sanford and other local wine personalities. The 'Santa Rita Hills AVA' was approved in 2001, and the name was changed a few years later to 'Sta Rita Hills AVA'. In his quest to promote the wines of Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Rita Hills in particular, Wes created and served as Director of the Santa Barbara County Fair Wine Competition from 2002 until 2004. As a result of his hard work promoting the region and penning the AVA Petition, Wes was awarded the Central Coast Winegrower's Association 'Grower of the Year Award' for the 2001-2002 growing seasons. Wes writes a bi-monthly column for WineMaker Magazine called 'Backyard Vines', and has written content for the L.A. Times Magazine, guest blogged for the Wine Spectator and ZesterDaily.com, articles for the Sommelier Journal,'Burgundy-Report', WestCoastWine.Net, VineSwinger.com and other small publications. In his free time Wes consults on establihsing small vineyards (hillside Pinot Noir only), and has judged the L.A County Fair Wine Competition for eleven years, Riverside International for twelve, and the Long Beach Grand Cru for thirteen years. Wes also lectures on subjects such as the history of wine, backyard winegrowing, and general topics of viticulture and wine education.
Chanda Hagen: Assistant Winemaker, Olive Tree Pruner, Animal Trainer, Shepherdess. Chanda and Wes met in April 1999 over a bottle of Beaujolais at a college-style party in Isla Vista (UCSB). Their first date was the Vintner's Festival the next weekend, and they have been inseparable ever since. The marriage proposal was accepted on New Years 1999-2000, and the couple was married at Clos Pepe on September 9th, 2000. Their Honeymoon was spent picking and crushing the grapes from the 2000 Vintage, which resulted in a Pinot Noir that Robert Parker called 'brilliant', 'complex' and 'promising'; just like their marriage! Chanda's influence as assistant winemaker runs deep. She makes sure Wes' energies are tempered by common sense and an obsessive degree of winery sanitation and organization. Besides Pinot Noir, Chanda's passion is horses: Hunter/Jumpers and Dressage. Chanda is training her horse, Charlemagne (Chase for short), for Dressage. Chanda also takes care of our miniature sheep here at the Clos, which have been bred into a flock for eating winter weeds and fertilizing the vineyard organically and sustainably.
Mark McWilliams, born and raised in Texarkana, Texas, is the son of Al and Janis McWilliams. He has been involved in Arista winery and vineyard operations of Sonoma County for the past 10 years.
After graduating from the University of Texas - Austin with a degree in Corporate Communications, Mark took his first job out of college working for Kendall Jackson Wine Estates. What started as a temporary summer job developed into a passion as Mark enrolled in UC Davis Wine and Viticulture courses, tasting groups, and annoyed his winemaker friends with endless questions. During his time with Kendall Jackson, Mark held various positions encompassing vineyard operations, harvest logistics, and cellar work. Following his time at Kendall-Jackson, Mark continued his passion for wine and pursuit of industry knowledge by working as a wine consultant for a wine and spirits distributor based in Dallas, Texas.
In the fall of 2003 Mark married Jennifer Habecker, a native of Dallas. Shortly thereafter, Mark and Jennifer returned to Healdsburg, California to be fully involved with Arista. Mark manages the day to day operations at the winery as well as assists with winemaking duties. Mark and Jennifer live in Healdsburg, California with their sons Jake and Pierce and their Maltese "Lucy".