This past weekend we released a number of new wines, including a Pinot Noir clonal blend labeled “Blend 667 & 115” which is sourced from the Santa Cruz Mountains. What these numbers represent was a hot topic of discussion, leaning towards wine geek territory as we pondered blending preferences, planting decisions, yields, and climate worries. At the basis of this numbers question, however, is another question- what IS a clone of Pinot Noir?
While many plants are grown via seed, wine vines are propagated via a cutting- that is taking a healthy “mother” vine and cutting a piece off. This cutting is then planted and grows into a new vine with identical genetic material, therefore a clone of the mother vine. While the French have identified over 1000 different clones of Pinot Noir, most of which are spontaneous mutations, certain clones have been selected and propagated via cuttings for their flavor profile, heartiness, resistance to diseases, or ripening time.
With Pinot Noir, you most often hear two names associated with clones in California: Pommard and Dijon, both originating in the Burgundy region of France. A subset of Dijon, clones 667 and 115 were some of the first registered Burgundy clones in the United States along with Pinot Noir 113, 114, and 777. These arrived only in the late 1980s through Oregon State University from Dr. Raymond Bernard who was researching clonal selection at the University of Dijon in France. The technicians at Oregon State nicknamed the cuttings “Dijon Clones” after the return address on the shipment, and clearly the nickname stuck!
Almost all Pinot Noirs are a blend of multiple clones, frequently 3 or more. What makes our Blend 667 & 115 so interesting is that it is a blend of just two clones, which allows for more of the characteristics of these two beauties to shine through. Dijon 115 is the most widely planted and prized clone with a balanced full bouquet, supple tannins, and well-rounded fruit and aromatic characteristics of red cherry, dusty rose petals, leather, and anise. Dijon 667 came into the United States with the second wave of clones from Bernard, and quickly became used for the structure and persistence it added to clonal blends with angular, hearty tannins, and aromas of dark red fruit, black tea, and warming Christmas spice. Our Blend 667 & 115 has a solid backbone with layers of dark Bing cherry, a hint of earthy tobacco and a smooth long finish. While light in style, there is no lack of fruit nor tannins in this wine which has even affectionately earned the moniker “sneaky” around the winery because of how quickly it seems to disappear from the glass.
Sneaky makes for a good opportunity to debate clonal selection, and is quickly becoming the new staff favorite. If you haven’t been to the winery to try it yet, you should… before it all disappears in our glasses!