Weekly Wine Talk: Clones

Written by
Amy Garofano
Amy Garofano, JM's Wine Educator
| Clone: (Greek klon = twig) A group of vines of a uniform, genetically identical type, derived by vegetative propagation from a single original mother vine.
-Markus, Keller, The Science of Grapevines, 2015.   (P.S. Dr. Keller was my professor and wicked smart! Go Cougs!)

In basic terms, there are varieties or “cultivars” of grapes- Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, etc.  Within these grape cultivars there are slight variations, called clonal variations-because DNA is complicated! For example, two Cabernet Sauvignon clones can be genetically almost identical, but result in vines and fruit with different characteristics- like berry and cluster size, color, flavor, aroma, yield, resistance to diseases or pests- just to name a few!  Some varieties of grapes have more clones than others. Pinot Noir has over 1000 clones!

A clone is propagated by taking cuttings from a mother vine that has been selected because of the specific desirable traits or characteristics just mentioned.  That propagated clone is then selected for planting in vineyards. Many of the clones we see commonly planted in WA vineyards are French clones- meaning they originally came from France. Wine grape growers purchase their vines for planting from certified nurseries that specialize in propagating healthy, disease-free (“clean”) nursery stock. Although clones may develop differently due to vineyard site variations (location, climate, soil, cultural differences) the grape grower is expecting predictable traits by using clones. Winemakers then use these clones to their advantage when making and blending their wine.

What are some of the clones used in JM wines? Our 2020 Chardonnay from Stillwater Creek Vineyard is a blend of two Dijon clones (clone 15 & clone 95), originally from nurseries in Dijon, France. Dijon is in the Burgundy region of France, so these clones have attributes that recall a “Burgundian style” Chardonnay- delicate pear and apple flavors.  John’s wine-making style then crafts a subtle and approachable Chardonnay with hints of butter and soft oak spices.

Another outstanding clone used in our portfolio is the Clone 174 Syrah sourced from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain AVA. This Syrah clone is featured in our 2019 Columbia Valley Syrah. Clone 174 was imported from France in 1995. It is tannic, but well-balanced, producing aromatic wines with deep fruit flavors.

The 2019 Founder’s Reserve is exclusively Clone 169 Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Quintessence Vineyard, Red Mountain AVA. Clone 169 is a French clone known for producing big, bold Cabernet wines with intense complexity and vibrant, deep red color.

Next time you see John, ask him about his favorite clones! 🙂