You Like It “Lean & Mean”? Ode to Old-School Pinot Noir.

One day a wine merchant said that it sounded like I preferred that “lean” style of Pinot Noir. Hmmm, I did not know that it came in a “fat” version at that time. Since then, I have learned about the modern clones that produce that cola-cherry flavor, which, quite frankly, does not taste like Pinot to me. I tried one recently and on the nose was stung by the strong scent of over-ripe fruit; to no surprise, my palate was not pleased when it met this Pinot – someone later extolled its virtues to me because they love how “big” it is.

I guess I prefer old school as in a Pommard clone, one that strives for a more traditional Burgundian style. Granted, California isn’t Burgundy and some parts of it should probably forgo Pinot for grapes that do better in warm climates. Oh, but isn’t that all changes with the horrors of climate change? I do digress.

But back to wine and to clones. What are clones?   Here’s the definition that Melville Winery provides:

A clone is fundamentally a subdivision of a varietal, or a further level of distinction within the species. Clonal diversity plays a very important role in wine growing, and there fortunately exist a growing number of isolated and propagated clones, which are becoming available to us in California. We feel that clonal research is paramount to furthering the prominence of the entire wine growing community, and make every effort possible to share our findings and results with other producers around the globe.

Clones matter in winemaking -they provide specific elements that contribute to complexity in the wine that the skilled winemaker must help bring to live. Apparently, use of the Pommard clone, which often imparts a meaty quality to the wine, is on the decline.

But I say, give me dried leaves, damp earth, mushrooms, my Pinot – that will warm my heart. Word is that 2012 was a near perfect growing year and so I should not be surprised that my bottle of what Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard calls its “frivolous” Pinot of the two it produces was so darn pleasing to my palate. Can’t wait to get more. If you want this Pinot, you need to join their wine club or be lucky enough to find it on a restaurant menu – no retail outlets for this baby, which grows in complexity as you savor it over time and over good food.

Here’s to enjoying the wonderful 2012 Pinots that abound. Have a few “frivolous” ones now and save the “serious” ones for later.


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