How much do you know about clonal selections and blending in winemaking? Though some of you may know quite a bit, most of us know very little. However, not only do I love to drink wine, I also love to learn about all areas of wine making and pass my learnings on to you. In early December I received an invitation from Lou Hammond and Associates, on behalf of Sonoma County Tourism, to attend a Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Clone Tasting. I jumped at the opportunity to attend this awesome educational event. First, some information about Sonoma County, California.
Sonoma County is part of the San Francisco Bay area, less than 50 kilometers north of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is 1500 square miles of beauty, contains three rivers (Russian, Petaluma and Gualala), has a population estimated at 485,120 people and receives approximately 7.5 million visitors annually. Sonoma County has a mild Mediterranean climate year round. In addition to wonderful restaurant, spas, golf courses and numerous activities to meet your every desire, Sonoma County has more than 400 wineries, most open for tours and tastings without an appointment. Sonoma County is famous for their excellent wines as well as relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. Furthermore, many of the Sonoma County tasting rooms are free or apply nominal tasting fees to wine purchases.
Sonoma County has many reasons to be proud: great people, great culture, a vast varieties of activities and one of the world’s premier wine regions. Sonoma County wines are renowned throughout the world for their award-winning quality and superb taste. And in the near future, consumers will be able to purchase any Sonoma County wine with confidence knowing that all of the region’s wines are grown and made in the nation’s first 100 percent sustainable county. The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, also known as Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), announced that Sonoma County is committed to becoming the nation’s first 100 percent sustainable wine region through a three-phased program to be completed within the next five years. This is great news for all lovers of Sonoma County wines (like me)! So what are you waiting for; book your 2015 trip to Sonoma County today! And while you are planning your trip head to your favorite wine retailer to purchase some Sonoma County wines for planning inspiration! For help with all your planning needs be sure to utilize the Sonoma County Tourism web site, it really is very helpful!
Now on to the Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Clone Tasting and Seminar:
Davis Bynum is now owned by Rodney Strong Wine Estates so our teacher for the clone tasting was Robert Larsen, RS Director of Communications. Robert shared with us the beauty of the Sonoma County climate in the production of wine, “Maritime weather is perfect for creating acidity in wine – like the crisp bite in an apple.” The Sonoma County terroir is ideal for winemaking because “you don’t want grapes to grow in too fertile soil; you want grapes to struggle because they put their best into the grape.” Not only does the struggle produce high quality wines but it results in the grapes ability to battle free radicals; thus allowing us consumers the health benefits of drinking wine moderately.
What is a clone? Davis Bynum explained:
Clones are one of a winemaker’s many secrets to help provide flavor diversity when make wine. A “clone” is a grapevine that has been propagated and grown from the cutting so a single “mother” vine with interesting or superior characteristics that the winemaker chooses to reproduce (for all you cooks out there it is similar to a “starter” for bread). All new vines, or clones, are genetically identical to the original vine. Mother vines and their clone derivatives are documented and classified with Pinot Noir boasting more than any other grape variety.
I believe winemaking marries science and art like no other process; this is evident in the grape cloning and wine blending process.
After some very interesting back ground on Davis Bynum, which I will share briefly below, we tasted six clones.
Dijon clone 777: This wine was deep ruby in the glass; offered aromas of black fruit and spice; and flavors of black cherry, blackberries, and licorice; it was a big wine with a full body, good acidity and balanced tannins.
Dijon clone 114: This wine was offered slight differences from 777; the color was more of a deep reddish blue; aromas and flavors were more earthy with mushrooms mixed with the black fruit with the addition of pomegranate and cranberries along with a touch of cola; heavier tannins with round acidity.
Heritage clone Pommard 4: This wine was light ruby in the glass; offered flavors of leather, earth, and mushrooms with a touch of licorice; lighter tannins yet still well balanced with round acidity; light and lively Pinot that was like velvet on the palate.
Dijon clone 115: This wine was medium ruby; aromas and flavors were very ripe and round with rose petals, cherries and raspberries; fuller in body and acidity; bright and round on the palate; very well balanced; this was my favorite of the clones.
Swiss clone 2A: This wine was ruby in color; offered flavors of warm cherries and raspberries with a touch of spice on the back of the palate; another light and lively pinot; the sweetest of the clones with high acidity.
Dijon clone 667: This wine was medium ruby in color and offered well balanced flavors of cherries, strawberries, with a pleasing earthiness, black tea and licorice; it was round and balanced with medium body and lingering, smooth finish.
Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012: This 100% Pinot Noir was crafted from each of the above six clones: 115 (22%), 777 (18%), 667 (16%), 114 (14%), 113 (11%), 2A (8%), 23 (6%) & Pommard 4 (5%) and it was DELICIOUS! It poured a deep ruby into the glass and opened with an array of inviting aromas including red berries, cola, mocha and black tea. On the palate these aromas delivered on the palate with dazzling flavors of cherries, pomegranates, and cranberries along with dark chocolate, black tea, espresso and a perfect touch of earthiness. It finished with a touch of toasted oak wrapped in balanced acidity with lingering tannins that leave the palate desiring another sip. This was a beautifully crafted Pinot Noir and one I highly recommend. This wine was aged for 10 months in French oak barrels, 30% new, and contained 14.5% alcohol. This Pinot Noir would pair beautifully with pork, poultry, seafood and lighter beef dishes. Additionally, this Pinot Noir is crafted to be enjoyed as a meditational wine. SRP $35; a GREAT value for this high quality Pinot Noir. You can purchase this wine directly from Davis Bynum’s web site and I highly recommend you buy a few!
Davis Bynum is distinguished as the first winery to produce a single vineyard Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley. The vintage was 1973 and the grapes were from Joe Rochioli’s now prized vineyard. Today, more than thirty years later, the heritage of Davis Bynum lives on through hand crafted single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown in Russian River Valley.
The guiding principle behind the wines of Davis Bynum has always been and will forever be, to let the land speak, specifically the terroir of Russian River Valley. The cool maritime conditions of the region are ideally suited for early ripening Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and finding excellent vineyards within this world-class region continues to drive the style of Bynum wines. We determined long ago that our wines should be shaped by the land from which they come.
Davis Bynum believes there is an art to simplicity. Our philosophy of minimalist viticulture is the product of deep respect and understanding of the Russian River Valley’s unique terroir, as well as an acknowledgement that the best wines – like the best meals – happen when the ingredients are in their prime, and handled with utmost care.
I hope you find cloning and blending as cool as I do. AND I hope by the end of this article you are already researching your 2015 Sonoma County vacation, with a stop at Davis Bynum and Rodney Strong for delicious wine!
My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with this awesome afternoon learning about Sonoma County and Pinot Noir cloning is Evening Samba by former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. Mickey grew up in the Sonoma County area. This song is great musical example of blending rhythms and beats to create music; much like blending clones to create a wine. Listen to this awesome percussion expression and envision a wine maker/mad scientist at work.
Get your own bottle of Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012 from the winery on your Sonoma County vacation and let me know what song you would pair with it. Cheers!