One of the most notable features of Wayfarer Vineyard is its great diversity of clones. We have 16 clones planted among 30 one-acre blocks – each block dedicated to a single clone. Each of these 16 clones possesses distinct characteristics that we farm by block and by clone which allows us to microtune our fruit, taking full advantage of this extraordinary coastal terroir.
It is important to note that, while a clone possesses typical telltale traits, it will always adapt to the conditions of the site where it is grown. The site, in the long term, greatly influences clone character and determines the ultimate expression of the fruit.
It is believed that there are between 200 and 1,000 genetic variations of the Vitis vinifera Pinot Noir. It is a grape variety that mutates easily, each variation offering notable characteristics. In the 1950s, in Burgundy, France, an enologist identified optimal genetic examples of Pinot Noir – strains that resisted mold, withstood cold weather and possessed complex aromatics. These strains were cataloged and propagated to create identical offspring or “clones.”
Massal selection is a process that entails removing a bud from a parent vine to naturally generate the clone. It is performed in a highly controlled, carefully monitored environment to ensure the purity of the offspring. Burgundian clones, such as the Dijon and Pommard strains, have been widely planted in California and Oregon for more than 30 years, while a number of clones, such as Old Wente and Hyde, have been isolated and propagated from established California and Oregon vines. Each of these strains possesses a unique set of qualities, from berry size to flavor profile.
Once the benefits of clone propagation were fully understood, growers began seeking out vine clippings from the most esteemed vineyards in Burgundy. Many of these legendary clippings were secretly smuggled from Burgundy and planted directly to California vineyards without undergoing official selection and propagation by viticulture authorities. These highly coveted bootlegged selections became known as “suitcase clones."
One of these prize massal clippings is planted at our vineyard. We are unsure how this suitcase clone successfully journeyed from a Grand Cru vineyard in Burgundy to California, but there is no question that this strain behaves quite differently than the other traditional clones on our site. Its cluster morphology, leaf size, shoot tenure and acids-to-sugars balance are truly distinct, making it a pinnacle example of Pinot Noir. We affectionately call this mysterious strain the “Wayfarer Clone.” Our single-clone cuvee “The Traveler” captures the glorious soul of this beautiful fruit – the wine’s name a nod to the round-the-world journey the original clipping had to make before finding its place in our vineyard.
Pinot Noir Clones
Clone 37 hails from a Mount Eden Vineyard field cutting that was sent to UC Davis for heat treatment to make it virus resistant. We planted this clone in the most stressed, steep blocks of our vineyard where it produces small clusters with small intensely-flavored berries. The fruit’s complex aromatics, depth of color and velvety tannins yield a gorgeous wine and, when blended with Dijon Clone 777, define the Mother Rock cuvée.
Bacigalupi Old Wente
The Bacigalupi Old Wente Clone yields large, dense clusters with wonderful aromatics of black cherry, dark fruit, blond tobacco and licorice root. The tannin structure is softer and more subtle than our other clones. Its delicious spiciness lends an intriguing dimension to our Wayfarer Vineyard cuvée.
Dijon Clone 115 is known to have quite small, tight clusters. While not deep in color, it exudes rich, supple tannins. On our site, Dijon 115 displays aromas of black cherry, rose petals and leather with harmonious flavors of cherry, boysenberry and a touch of anise.
Dijon Clone 667 tends to produce dense clusters with vivid color and soft, ample tannins. The telltale aromas of Dijon 667 include a signature "Christmas Spice" reminiscent of nutmeg, allspice and clove with flavors leaning toward dark cherry and raspberry. Its flavors are pure and persistent – a truly brilliant expression of fruit, captured as a single-clone bottling in our Paige’s Ridge cuvée.
Dijon Clone 777 typically produces mid-size clusters with pronounced dark fruit aromatics and broad, supple tannins. Within the context of our vineyard site, this fruit is exceptionally rich, displaying flavors of cassis and black cherry with earthy undertones and well-defined tannins.
Dijon Clone 828 clusters tend to be long and skinny. Its small, densely-colored berries are intensely flavorful, exhibiting sweet-berry fruit character with ideal acidity.
The Hirsch Clone, a strain of the Pommard Clone, generally displays very pronounced tannins with nuanced spice-driven aromatics. It reaches phenological maturity early, allowing us to experiment with stem inclusion during fermentation.
Hyde Old Wente
While the Hyde Clone is not typically known to contribute strong color, we achieve a beautiful deep-ruby hue by keeping our vine yields very low. On our site, the fruit receives ideal sun exposure and ripens slowly, displaying concentrated yet refined red fruit flavors with spice and floral notes.
In our Sonoma Coast vineyard, we see a very honest expression of this classic French clone. Clusters are small and compact, and the expressive aromatics are redolent of wild strawberry with an underscoring woodsy perfume of sandalwood, pine and cedar. The Pommard 4 clone’s plush texture and flavor concentration make it an ideal inclusion in our Golden Mean cuvée.
The Pommard 5 Clone yields small berries in small, tight clusters. Its firm tannins, deep color and dark plummy flavors add a serious, weighty dimension to our Golden Mean cuvée.
This heirloom clone, named for pioneering California vineyardist Joseph Swan, yields small clusters with berries of various sizes. While the berries do not lend much color, they offer intense aromatics – from raspberries, strawberries and cranberries to violets – with a distinctive spiciness. The Swan clone’s elegance and complexity are stunningly showcased in our Golden Mean cuvée.
This "suitcase clone" from Burgundy yields large clusters with very small berries – the smallest among our vineyard’s spectrum of clones – with naturally high acidity. Its signature aromatics lean toward the boysenberry and raspberry family with floral hints of violet. It is, perhaps, the most unique and exciting clone on our site, revealing its intricate, soulful character in The Traveler cuvée.
Berlenbach Old Wente
The Berlenbach Old Wente Clone is moderate-yielding with large, dense clusters. It offers a wonderfully rich texture with layered flavors of honeysuckle, acacia flowers, fresh-picked apples, spiced pear and citrus. This clone thrives in the stressed growing conditions of our Sonoma Coast vineyard.
The Dijon 95 Clone possesses deep, multifaceted aromas and flavors of orange peel, Meyer lemon, melon and pear. It has a balanced, polished texture – never too heavy or too broad.
Hyde Old Wente
The Hyde Old Wente Clone is a standout on our site. As it is very sensitive to weather conditions and highly susceptible to millerandage in its early stages of growth, it tends to yield very loose clusters. The clone offers a vivid flavor spectrum of stone fruit, lemon zest, acacia and minerality with an intense, viscous texture and lingering finish.
The low-yielding Mount Eden Clone is known for its minerality and power. Planted on a steep east-facing slope in our site, this clone achieves a particular phenolic aspect in its skin that contributes a wonderful complexity to the finished wine. Its aromatic profile is very floral and complex, and, during the winemaking process, we achieve a hint of reduction from the pulp and skin through the lees extract.