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Cabernet Clones in Paso Robles

Cab Clones

Know Your Cab Clones

One of the intriguing panel discussions at the CABs of Distinction event last week was “Know Your Cab Clones.”

The moderator was Matt Kettmann with Wine Enthusiast and The Santa Barbara Independent. He also writes for several other media outlets. Matt knows more than many wine writers as he, like us, also makes small lots of wine. Matt easily asked pertinent questions and moved the discussion along between the four participating winemakers. It was noted that there are numerous Cabernet Sauvignon clones available and not all clones make good wine.

Panel at CABs of Distinction

Panel Discussion at CABs of Distinction

The panel of winemakers included:

Sterling Kragten from Cass Vineyard & Winery
Steve Peck at J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines
Anthony Riboli from San Antonio Winery
Kevin Willenborg from Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery

The wine tasting with different clones began with the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 8 from the Paso Robles Geneseo District. Cass has 70 acres planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was an opaque dark ruby with dark fruit notes including blackberries. It also include spice notes. The wine had medium tannins and was full-bodied.

The second wine was from San Antonio Winery. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 337 was from the El Pomar District. This wine was an opaque dark ruby to black color. The wine offered dark fruit notes including cassis. This wine was full-bodied with medium to bold tannins.

Vina Robels Vineyards & Winery offered the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 169 from the Creston District. Vina Robles has five vineyards with 12 Cabernet Sauvignon clones. This particular wine was an opaque dark purple to black color that offered blackberry notes. The wine was full-bodied with bold, kissing tannins.

J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines was the final wine for the tasting and featured Clone 7. The wine was an opaque dark purple to black color. The wine offered light, dark fruits with bold tannins and a full body.

As we tasted the wines and the winemakers talked about the wines they also emphasized what they saw as the importance of clones. It became very obvious that clones do make a difference to the winemaker and to the grower. Certain clones are better for resisting grape viruses. Other clones may produce more fruit and even the clusters of fruit may differ. By the time the grapes reach the winemaker, he will use different winemaking protocols depending on the type of grape clones. Some may be slightly higher in sugar or acidity.

However, many of the differences we noticed in the wines could be attributable to different rootstocks, different soils and different weather conditions. The panel discussions would have been improved by comparing Cabernet Sauvignons from the same vintage and the same sub AVA.

Later in the week I asked a Paso Robles winemaker, does the general wine consumer care about what clones their wine is made with? He echoed my belief that consumers are looking for good wines and wines that work well with food. Seldom do consumers ask about clones.

My advice to wine drinkers is: if you are visiting a winery and see a wine labeled with a specific clone, try it and ask questions about it. If possible taste the same varietal wine produced with a different clone from the same region and the same vintage.


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