There aren’t many who will argue against the assertion that the most important ingredient in making great pinot is the location of the vineyard. I’ll have a lot to say about this wonderful valley of ours in a future post, but tonight I’m focusing on probably the second most important factor: clone selection (the actual winemaking figures in here somewhere too).
Our vineyard consists of 17 acres planted to three types of pinot clones. The satellite picture to the right (courtesy of Google) shows the clone blocks color-coded by type; Orange is Pommard 4, Red is Dijon 115, and Green denotes UCD 32, a Roederer Clone. The rootstock for both the Pommard and Dijon is 110R. For the UCD 32 clone blocks 5-C was chosen for grafting.
Different clones seem to deliver different sensory characteristics. In my opinion it’s hard to separate what’s inherent to a specific vine selection and what’s simply a reflection of the location in which the vines are grown, but some clones seem to share some general characteristics. Below are helpful descriptions of our three clones, excerpted from John Haeger’s excellent book North American Pinot Noir. Enjoy!
“…Pommard is the only selection in the UC Davis repertoire whose origin is cuttings taken directly from a producing vineyard (Chateau de Pommard)…It is respected for good color, intense fruit, and considerable spice, and has made stunning wines both on its own and as a component in blends. It also appears to produce wines with good midpalate complexity and luxurious mouthfeel, contributing some of the velvety character that many producers prize in pinot noir…The original clone, UCD/Pommard 4, probably accounts for all or most of Rochioli’s West Block as well as for the Allen Ranch, which has produced flagship wines for Rochioli, Williams Selyem, and Gary Farrell…”
“…the original budwood for most of the Dijon clones was taken from Domaine Ponsot in Morey-St.-Denis…the Dijon clones have been the hottest budwood in North American pinot culture since they were introduced here in 1987 and 1988. Almost all newly planted vineyards in California, Oregon, British Columbia, New York, and elsewhere include some blocks of these selections. Dijon 115 is said to have been selected in Burgundy primarily for its consistency of production. In North America, it is the most widely planted of the Dijon family, and is found desirable for its brilliance and perfume. Many winemakers argue that, of any single clone currently available, Dijon 115 has the best chance of making a complete wine, and clonal tastings in which I have participated seem to confirm this claim.”
UCD 32 was sourced originally from a vineyard in Ay, across the Marne River from Epernay…It is sometimes said that the original vineyard sources of these clones were Roederer’s own Champagne vineyards, but viticulturalists at Champagne Louis Roederer cannot confirm this claim. In general, the Roederer clones have not been much appreciated for still pinot, but UCD 32 may be an exception. At both Gloria Ferrer and Greenwood Ridge, UCD 32 has been planted for still wine programs. There, allowed to ripen fully, it gives complex wine, saturated with dark fruit nuanced with jam, tar, and leather.”