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Pinot Noir Clones

Melville Clones

What is a clone?
In addition to regional differentiation between wines of the world, we also enjoy a multitude of wine grape varietals (species), each with their own styles and personalities. When we investigate further, we witness a tremendous diversity within each varietal, which we can attribute to clones.

A clone is fundamentally a subdivision of a varietal, or a further level of distinction within the species. Clonal diversity plays a very important role in wine growing, and there fortunately exist a growing number of isolated and propagated clones, which are becoming available to us in California. We feel that clonal research is paramount to furthering the prominence of the entire wine growing community, and make every effort possible to share our findings and results with other producers around the globe.

Pinot Noir Clones:
Studies have demonstrated that pinot noir is a very old grape varietal (significantly older than cabernet sauvignon) and as such has a greater inclination to produce mutations. As a result, the French have identified over 1,000 different clones of pinot noir with a myriad of other possibilities that have yet to be identified and classed.

We currently have fourteen separate pinot noir clones planted on our estate, each offering its own unique characteristics. Collectively, they work in harmony to make our wines dynamic and complete. Below is a listing of the clones, along with the acreage planted to each. When appropriate, we have also added some thoughts on how the clones perform on our estate and the roles that they play in our final wines.

Pinot Noir Old School Clones:
1.5 acres planted
The Pommard selection has been available in California for a number of years, and can often work great as a “stand-alone” clone. It is sometimes known for having a meaty/gamey edge, but for us, it typically expresses itself through very pure dark fruits. Historically, we have fermented these lots with about 1/3 whole clusters, which has proven successful.

Mount Eden
3.1 acres planted
One of the oldest clones in the state, the Mount Eden clone was reportedly brought to California in the 1890s by Paul Masson from one of Louis Latour’s Burgundian vineyards. Locally, it also has an interesting history as is was used to plant the Sanford & Benedict vineyard in the early 1970s and the subsequent cuttings started the pinot noir at Lafond in the early 1980s. We procured budwood from Lafond in 1998 to graft into our estate. This clone is very dark and rich and offers tremendous bass tones to the wine. We typically experiment with a variety of levels of stem inclusion, all of which work successfully. Similar to the Pommard clone, Mount Eden also displays completeness standing on its own.

1.2 acres planted
This clone is also of historic significance being propagated by Joseph Swan in the Russian River Valley. This block on our estate is part of our Terraces section, and is severely influenced by its wind exposure. Due to the battered condition of the clusters upon picking, we traditionally de-stem the entirety of this clone. It displays beautiful, bright fruit with moderate richness.

Clone 9
.9 acres planted
Also known as Jackson clone, receives its name from an experimental vineyard near the town of Jackson in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California, which was planted in 1889. This clone is rarely bottled on its own because of how few plantings there are, and because it lends itself well for blending with other clones of pinot noir. However, the small amount with which we work (typically in conjunction with clone 16 mentioned below), has produced light to moderate weight wines with beautiful aromatics.

Clone 16
.7 acres planted
Like the clone 9, the majority of this section is farmed for another client, with the small portion that we receive being mentioned above.

2.6 acres planted
Also known as the Wadenswil selection, clone 2A has been planted quite significantly in both California and Oregon. It has similar characteristics to clone 115, and seems quite complete on its own.

1.4 acres planted
We acquired this clone of Pinot Noir from Calera and planted it in 2004. The back story is; in 1973 Calera received cuttings from another California vineyard who said the original source was from a quality vineyard in Burgundy (Cote d’Or).

Pinot Noir Dijonaisse Clones:
Clone 113
4.2 acres planted
One of the “teen” series of Dijonnaise clones, clone 113 is perhaps the most elegant with perfume aromatics. It is typically seen as an aromatic component with very high-toned elements in the nose. When properly managed, the wine can possess nice weight and body as well. To amplify the prettiness of the wine, we generally de-stem the entirety of the fruit.

Clone 114
4.5 acres planted
The second in the series, clone 114 is unfortunately sometimes overlooked despite the fact that it is a very significant selection. Clone 114 is very dark, soft and rich which makes it a great cohesive element to the final wine. Due to that particular nature, it also responds well to stems with which we are quite liberal. This clone makes up approximately fifty percent of Carrie’s.

Clone 115
19.2 acres planted
By far the most widely planted of this clonal grouping, clone 115 is undeniably the most important clone in the past decade or so of California vineyard development. If we were forced to select only one clone, we would unanimously agree upon this one. Clone 115 works great on its own, and serves as the spine to our entire pinot noir program. We currently have this clone planted in seven separate sections on three different rootstocks. In addition to its contribution to the estate wine, it makes up fifty percent of Carrie’s, a generous portion of Terraces and the entirety of our Indigene bottling.

Clone 667
8.4 acres planted
This clone (along with clone 777 mentioned below) came into the U.S. about five years after the “teen” series, and is also of Dijonnaise origin. Clone 667 is typically perceived to be a structure clone as it can be quite angular. It has very pure high tone aromas and great persistence in the mouth. Due to its inherent firmness, we typically opt to de-stem the majority of the fruit.

Clone 777
11.5 acres planted
This clone is experiencing a significant surge in planting similar to clone 115. It is known for being very dark and rich, and potentially appropriate to be produced on its own. While quite dark, it has yet to produce the velvety richness professed by a number of colleagues on our estate thus far. It has, however, resulted in very intriguing and complex wines that merit careful attention.

Clone 459
.6 acres planted
Grafted into our estate in the spring of 2004, we procured this budwood from Seasmoke Cellars. As the clone is very new in California, we are all eager to learn more about the resultant wines.

Clone 828
6.4 acres planted
Grafted and planted in our estate in the Spring of 2004, we are thrilled with the potential of this clone which is also quite new to us and is being very favorably considered by many. While a portion of the vines was brought in from a nursery, the majority was procured from Merry Edwards’ estate vineyard in Sonoma.

5185 East Hwy 246, Lompoc, CA 93436
Tel: 805-735-7030, Fax: 805-735-5310


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