Clones are only a relatively important part of the flavor makeup of Pinot Noir. I would say they rank roughly somewhere between 4th and 6th in terms of their influence on the wine’s flavor and quality. For whatever reason, it is something people focus on. Far more important from a flavor point-of-view, are soils, which I would rank 1st, and farming and root-stock which I would rank 2nd and 3rd. But people are interested in the subject, that here is some detail about how clones or selections play into our quality and style here at Tolosa.
We have more than 20 different blocks of Pinot scattered over our ranches. By trial and error we have found the top 12 or so, that reliably make the best wine every year. Here are the selections that are found in these blocks. There are of course others that are planted here and elsewhere that work perfectly well, but these are what work for us. I’ve listed them in order of their relative abundance.
Pommard is not a clone per se, but rather a selection. I’m pretty sure that we have Pommard 4, but not certain. This is the dominant selection in Oregon and is the majority planted in California as well. It tends to make small clusters, and where we have it planted it is low yielding. It is considered a “structural” selection in the sense that it makes a good base for blends bringing color extract and tannins. In some cases on the correct soil, it can also express great aromatic finesse, but this is the exception rather than the rule. We have extensive plantings of this on the Mountainside portion of our Edna Ranch and some on a sandy slope of the Oceanside portion. Our “Lily Gil” Pinot Noir has traditionally been selected from this, but is not “typical” of this selection. In most years this is the dominant selection for the Estate bottling.
Dijon 667 this is a clone selected in Burgundy, France. We have extensive plantings of this here at the Winery Ranch, both right in front of the winery and also on the northern boundary. This tends to make a complete wine with good color, tannin and fruit flavors. It is in most years, it has small berries and a low to moderate yield. Our “Marley Anne” Pinot Noir is typically dominated by this selection. This clone is a significant player in the Estate and “1772″ bottlings.
Dijon 115 this is a Burgundy clone. All of these are named for the experiment station in Dijon where they were selected in cooperation with Burgundy wine producers. We have a large block of this in front of the Winery and another block on the Mountainside area. This clone is one of the earliest selected in Dijon. It tends to make a very aromatic or what the French would call a feminine wine. It can be productive depending on soil and in some areas it need thinning. This clone is playing an increasing role in the Estate bottling, and has been used in the “1772″ and Marley Anne bottlings as well.
2A this is a bit confusing around here. Clone 2A is a Swiss selection, but what is called 2A in this area bears no resemblance to the 2A I’ve worked with in Carneros, and does not fit the clone’s description at all. I believe that what is called 2A around here is actually a field selection out of Tally’s vineyard that got misidentified when it was propagated. It tends to be very small berried, low yielding and is late to ripen. The stems can be quite tasty. It reacts strongly to the vintage and only makes grade A wine in the best years. We have bottled it separately as “Beyond” and it has been used in some “1772″ and most Estate bottlings. We have a large block of this on the Mountainside vineyards and some here at Winery.
Dijon 113 & 114 we have only tiny 1-acre blocks of each of these, 2013 was the first year we used them. They both made really nice wines! I think they are best suited for clonal bottlings and perhaps our newest Pinot Noir, “Aethereal.” They produced wine with abundant color and flavor last year, but only time will tell if they do that year in and year out. Dijon 114 has the distinction of being the most planted clone of Pinot worldwide.
Clone 23 this is another Swiss selection. We have not used this yet, but I am planning on trying some next year. Stay tuned!