Pinot Noir: The Gypsy

Last week I met Davis Bynum. Davis was one of the modern pioneers of Russian River Valley. (The Russians who settled there in the early 1800s planted vines before the Gold Rush of 1849.) In fact, Davis was the first to produce a single vineyard Pinot Noir from the area AND indicate its origins on the label. And, as if to outshine all he’d already done, he sourced his fruit from Joe Rochioli. Clearly, Davis grasped Sonoma and its Pinot Noir potential from the start.

I’ve written before about Pinot Noir’s travels around the world and how they have resulted in different clones. I met Davis, and his bright winemaker, Greg Morthole, to further pursue this topic. Reflecting on our exchanges that day and since, I realize that Pinot Noir is not only a gypsy; Pinot Noir and all its clones constitute a caravan of gypsies.

We tasted six clones. I found the Pommard 4 and Wadenswil 2A to be the two most exciting. The others were Dijon clones I’ve tasted before, so this wasn’t surprising. The former is now considered a California heritage clone and the later is a Swiss clone. Being more a palate taster than a “noser” of wines, I found the texture of both engaging. The Pommard 4 was somewhat firm in tannin and lightly warm on the palate with generous juiciness accompanied by light glycerol. By far, this was the palest of the samples lined up. The Wadenswil 2A showed lifted acidity and elegance with lightly drying but fine-grained tannins. It was interesting to learn that this clone has thicker skins than the others, which release a lot of tartaric acid. I would actually enjoy drinking that sample as a finished wine. I’d also sip the solo Dijon 667, but I digress.

In sum, here are their deets, according to the Davis Bynum crew. From my experience, I agree with the first five lines, and I’ll take their word for the last two.

Pinot Noir Gypsy Clone Comparison.png

In an email exchange with Greg, he mentioned that Pommard 5 & 6, as listed in the chart from the Mornington Peninsula International Pinot Noir Celebration sound quite different from Pommard 4. Hmmm…what might be the cause? Heat treatments, shoot tip culturing? Fascinating…so much so that I’ve already sent out a few emails in hopes of gaining additional insight.

And on that note, I’m back on the road again…following that gypsy caravan seeking clones that I may have seen before or may never see again….