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Pinot Noir Clones with Gloria Ferrer

Tasting 5 Pinot Noir wines made from different clones

Tasting 5 Pinot Noir wines made from different clones

I have learned about a few of the different clones of Pinot Noir while traveling to wineries in the Willamette Valley in Oregon and Santa Barbara County in California. Both areas have wineries that produce pinots specifically from a single clone of Pinot Noir. Last week, Kathy and I were invited to a Pinot Noir clone presentation, tasting and dinner sponsored by Gloria Ferrer. Our last visit to Gloria Ferrer was in February 2007 and at that time the emphasis of the visit was on sparkling wine.

The Pinot Noir clone event took place in Washington DC at the Riggsby restaurant on New Hampshire Avenue NW. This is a popular restaurant that becomes a bit noisy with enthusiastic patrons. Eight of us were ushered off to a private dining room that was quiet and tailor made for discussion. Gloria Ferrer winemaker, Steven Urberg talked about the history of Gloria Ferrer and the research the Ferrer family did when scoping out land to build a winery in California.

Steven Urberg with a Gloria Ferrer 2007 Royal Cuvée just before the start of dinner

Steven Urberg with a Gloria Ferrer 2007 Royal Cuvée just before the start of dinner

The Ferrer family were accustomed to making cava in Spain; however, they knew they did not want to use the Spanish varieties Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo in California. Instead, they searched for an area where they could grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The location of the Gloria Ferrer vineyards are in Sonoma in the Carneros area just a few miles from San Pablo Bay. The influence of the bay helps cool the evenings during the summer with temperatures often falling into the 50s. This provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Steven explained that the research took them to other wineries to examine different clones. On a trip to France, the team was given twelve clones by French researchers. Four acres of the nearly 335 acres are used for researching clones. For our tasting, Steven brought samples from barrels of five different clones of Pinot Noir that are used in the blends of the still wine program.  The still wine program accounts for about 20 percent of the wine production; sparkling wine accounts for the rest of the production.

During the presentation, we tasted wines made from five pinot clones: Wadenswil UCD 2A, Wente, Colmar 538, Pommard UCD 4 and Dijon 115. These were all Pinot Noirs and they were all different. For example, I enjoy bold tannins and the Pommard and Dijon clones delivered those tannins. Colmar had a wonderful mouthfeel. Wente had an outstanding aroma and the Wadenswil offered plenty of fruit. As we were tasting wines produced from different Pinot Noir clones my mind wandered to blending. Kathy and I had a blending experience in Oregon where we learned that just a small one percent can make a difference in the blend.

After tasting and discussing the five clones, I experimented making a rude blend of two of my favorites. Since the Pommard had the bold tannins that I like, I used that as my base. I was also enjoying the mouthfeel of the Colmar so I added a splash of the Colmar to the Pommard, then another splash. I enjoyed what I created in seconds from just this rudimentary blending of two clonal wines.

After the clonal experience, we had appetizers paired with the 2007 Royal Cuvée. The sparkling wine matched well and cleansed our palates. We then had a three course meal paired with a Chardonnay and three Pinot Noirs. The intimate evening was a perfect setting for learning about some of the Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir clones. Our group was impressed with the chef at the Riggsby. The chef altered the dishes to specifically match the wines offered for each course, The pairings were wonderful.


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