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Harvest is only a few weeks away and Ryan, our winemaker extraordinaire, is gearing up. Today we walked off the winery property to Coast Grade Vineyard next door. Coast Grade is our newest estate vineyard planted in 2008 with four clones of Pinot Noir. 2013 will be the second vintage of grapes we will have harvested from these vines. Ryan is on a harvest preparation mission to collect sample clusters from each of the 4 blocks in the vineyard.
As we reach the vineyard gate Ryan spots a small bobcat running across the field at Coast Grade. It is too fast to catch a photo and we continue on. We begin our sampling in the top eastern corner of the vineyard along the rows of Pinot Noir, Pommard clone. Ryan explains that we need to draw an imaginary graph and go through to select a fair sample of clusters throughout this grid. “I do whole cluster samples, this gives a more accurate reading of the sugar and pH levels.”
The clusters have gone through vérasion and are now covered in netting to keep the birds out, but lucky this doesn’t stop Ryan from collecting samples. Pinot Noir is a grape varietal that is known for its proclivity to mutate and has generated more clones, or genetically unique subtypes, than any other grape varietal. The Pommard clone received its name from the place it was originally sourced and identified, Chateau de Pommard in Burgundy, France. In our 2012 Pinot Noir from Coast Grade Vineyard the blend is Pommard driven to be a lush and earthy wine with dark fruit.
The next block we enter is the 828 clone as we head through the vineyard towards Smith Grade Road. These clusters are big and lavish. Ryan takes a moment to point out some key factors about how the vines were planted and are maintained.
“The vineyard is planted in North to South rows. This allows for even sun. On the eastern side of the vine the leaves are thinner and the fruit is more exposed to the early foggy sunlight and on the west side of the vines there is more leaf coverage to protect the grapes from the midday sun.”
The 828 clone is a Dijon clone, meaning it was identified by the University of Dijon in France. We finish collecting samples in the lower blocks of our 115 clones and the 667 clones, which are two of the most popular Pinot Noir clones according to Jim Beauregard. Both 115 and 667 are also Dijon clones which tend to have an earthiness, spices, red fruit and soft tannins.
As we begin our return from our sunny late morning walk we are greeted by Ryan’s wife, Rachel and their girls. The girls have been collecting quartz gemstones on the side of the vineyard and they are happy to show off their “crystals.”
Ryan continues to explain that he does not simply take a refratometer to measure the sugar/brix levels into the vineyard to sample from individual grapes.
He points out that even on a single cluster there are size variations and other factors for each grape that could result in inaccuracies. Therefore, we all set down in the shade with the sample bags and pop grapes from the four separate blocks making a juice to sample sugar and pH readings.
In Ryan’s lab we test each of the clones. The end result is: Pommard 18.2 brix, 828 19.8 brix, 115 18.0 brix, and 667 17.2 brix with the pH’s ranging from 3.15 to 3.20. We usually harvest at 23 to 25 brix - we are almost there.
Be sure to join us October 5th & 6th for our first release of the Pinot Noir clones from Coast Grade Vineyard!