At its most basic, a clone is a separate organism genetically identical to its predecessor. Viticulturally, a clone is a plant that has been reproduced directly from a bud or a shoot without a seed. This asexual method guarantees the offspring will be biologically identical to the parent with the same characteristics.
Why do clones matter at WillaKenzie Estate? Aside from terroir—the indisputably unique sense of place expressed in well-made wines (see Dirt Matters)—clonal selection can be one of the most expressive elements in Oregon Pinot Noir. Experts in the Oregon wine industry have always believed and have since demonstrated that Pinot Noir clonal diversity is the right approach for winegrowers, as each Pinot Noir clone contributes a different element to wine complexity. Creating wines that explore and reflect the specific qualities of the clones from which they are made also lies at the heart of WillaKenzie Estate’s philosophy.
When Oregonians planted Pinot Noir in the mid 1960s, their selection was limited to two traditional clones: Pinot Noir Wädenswil and Pinot Noir Pommard. Over the years, new Pinot Noir clones were developed in France and at UC Davis to address disease problems and later to isolate vineyard characteristics such as early ripening, open clusters, and small berries. The major efforts were lead by Dr. Raymond Bernard at the University of Dijon in France. His first selections were simply known by their numbers, i.e. “115” or “777,” and eventually became known as “New” or “Dijon” clones. These Pinot Noir clones tend to ripen earlier and have smaller berries with a higher skin-to-juice ratio, which results in more intense flavors in their wines.
WillaKenzie Estate was one of the first Oregon wineries to embark on a systematic program to plant not only the traditional, but also all the new Dijon clones of Pinot Noir. There are more than 11 different clones of Pinot Noir in the WillaKenzie vineyards. As a result, we have achieved an unprecedented level of diversity and complexity in our wines. In addition, we have planted more than 9 clones for the other varietals planted across our estate. These include true clones of Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc from the Alsace region of France, Gamay Noir clones from Beaujolais, and Chardonnay Dijon Clones 76 and 96.
Each clone has something different to contribute and is affected differently by the vineyard site. Together, clonal diversity combined with our variety of terroir allows us to create Willamette Valley wines that are unique in flavor and character.
Pinot Noir Dijon Clone 113: Naturally high yielding, very fruitful, not much shattering, early ripening. Classic blend of plum, cherry, and raspberry fruits with a cedar and pepper finish. Known for elegant aromatics.
Pinot Noir Dijon Clone 114: Lower yielding, vigor and vegetative growth can vary greatly from year to year, early ripening. Floral notes and berry, cherry, and dark plum, fruit-driven spicy pinot.
Pinot Noir Dijon Clone 115: Naturally high yielding, significantly more shattering, early ripening. Dusty nose with primarily red and dried fruits, earthy notes, and a butterscotch and black pepper finish.
Pinot Noir Pommard UCD 4: Consistent from year to year, balanced vigor, would produce high yields if not managed, very fruitful, later ripening. Capable of being used alone (see Aliette Pinot Noir) or as a component of a blend. Known for spice and velvety texture.
Pinot Noir Pommard Coury/Erath: More vigor variation from year to year, smaller clusters, ripens earlier.
Pinot Noir Wädenswil UCD 2A: High yielding if not managed, slow and later ripening, almost always the last picked, resistant to botrytis and powdery mildew, best grapes in wet years. High-toned fruit and aromatics make it a good component for adding elegance to blends.
Pinot Noir Wädenswil Lett: Lower yields than UDC 2A, much earlier ripening.
Pinot Noir Dijon Clone 667: Lower yielding, smaller clusters, harder to position the shoots, later ripening. In Oregon takes many years (7+) to produce very high quality fruit.
Pinot Noir Dijon Clone 777: Most site dependent. The vegetative growth, yields, cluster size are deeply influenced by the location, early ripening. Noted for fleshy, black-fruited wines with tropical notes.
Pinot Noir Dijon Clone 828: Straight, upright shoots, larger clusters. Although the clusters are larger they are loose and weigh less. Tends to ripen later.
Pinot Noir Swan Clone: The origin of this clone is clouded in mystery; some think it came from the Romanée-Conti vineyards. It was brought to the United States by Joseph Swan and originally planted in the Russian River Valley. It produces bright and rich Pinot Noir.