Lumen Crush is On!
The first fruit of the season came roiling into the winery on August 19, when we picked Chardonnay Wente Clone 15 from Sierra Madre Vineyard in Santa Maria. Following it this week were both Dijon clones of Pinot Noir, 667 and 777, also from Sierra Madre – marking one of our earliest harvests ever here in the valley. This morning was cool and foggy, and looked like normal harvest weather. But for most of the year, the weather was far from typical. What has been fun is how it has illustrated the variances between clones of viits vinifera.
Vines come in all shapes and sizes. Each varietal of wine, such as Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, has numerous different clones that behave uniquely according to soil type, climate, and rootstock. The origin of some of these clones is as muddled as the family tree of a mutt at the pound. There’s no telling who its parents were, or how it got here. Some clones came over in vintner’s suitcases – others came in through the front door (i.e. legally), or were brought over long before the USDA was even an agency. Differences in clones can range from subtle to drastic. We usually pick and ferment our clones of Pinot Noir separately, because they yield such different wines. They can be next to one another in the same exact vineyard, yet taste as different as two wines from across the world.
Last year we brought in both clones of Chardonnay – Wente 15 and Robert Young – at exactly the same time. Yet this year we left the Robert Young clone hanging for an additional two weeks. The clones ripened very differently from each other this time around. No one is exactly sure why this year’s harvest has been so different. One theory is that we have had unusually warm nights, which perhaps has caused acidity to drop in the fruit without a consequential lift in sugars. In a normal year, sugars will go up as acids drop. We try to pick when both are in good balance, and the fruit is super tasty. This year, the acid dropped out far too quickly, the sugars lagged behind, and we had to pick on flavor alone. Thankfully, our taste buds work pretty well!
Clone 15 Chardonnay had unusually small berries this year, which will certainly help, because the skin-to-juice ratio will be unusually high. This will mean super-concentrated flavors from Clone 15. Robert Young clone looked pretty much normal, however. Go figure. This is why we use a variety of clones every year; because in the end, we end up with a more consistently good bottle of wine.
We will send you more news as harvest progresses!
– Will Henry