Date: 28 January 2013
Wine: Richard Grant 2005 Pinot Noir Reserve Wrotham Clone
Origin: Napa Valley, California, USA

Revelation: Pinot Noir, its clones and selections fascinate me. Bien sûr! It’s a quixotic variety. For as much as I read about them, I’d never heard of the Wrotham Clone (pronounced Rootham) until now.

I found this delightful bubbly at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega in Yountville. The Wrotham Clone was originally discovered, one vine standing alone and growing wild along a wall, in a town of the same name in Kent, England, in the 1950s. English winemakers tamed then propagated the vine, and Dr. Richard Grant Peterson eventually found its Blanc de Noir bubblies. His appreciation for the wines led him to introduce these vines in his Napa vineyard legally in the 1980s. (That means he brought them through a certified nursery instead of planting them directly in his vineyard.)

Apparently, its white, powder-covered leaves mark the clone. The grape leaves look a bit furry, and English locals tagged them “the dusty miller”, referencing their resemblance to local mill workers who returned home covered in flour.

But, enough with history! What is this sparkler like? It rivals some of California’s best, some of the US’s best. It is more fruit-driven and less refined than good Champagne, but its fair price forgives this. It is ample on the palate, fairly complex in fruit, moderate in length and delicious through and through. I’ll be on the lookout for more.