We’re approaching the final days before harvest, and the first hints of fall are already in the air, with fog rolling over the Carneros hills each morning before the sun bursts forth to ripen the grapes.
Those who’ve visited the winery in the last few months may have noticed something different while driving into the winery…
For a few weeks, several rows appeared empty, with stakes in place of the verdant vines.
But the vines were still there, trimmed down to their rootstocks in order to become the foundation for a different grape variety — several rows of Grenache Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc vines are being grafted into Pinot Noir and a small amount of Grenache.
How it Works: First, the vineyard team cuts each vine, removing everything above the top of the rootstock.
Next, a small piece is notched out of the rootstock and replaced with a tiny piece of the new Pinot Noir cutting:
This piece is then inserted into the rootstock and tied in place, creating what’s called a graft union; they then tie the full cutting to the rootstock, and voilà: the vine becomes Pinot Noir.
Why the change? “In the last several years, we’ve seen the way Pinot Noir is perfectly suited to our unique micro-climate,” explains Assistant Winemaker Luke Stanko, “and the Estate Pinot Noir is a consistent favorite for our members and guests. We’re excited to be able to have more to offer in the coming years.”
In addition to having more Pinot Noir vines on the estate, the Pinot Noir will be made up of three new and different clone selections to add even more complexity to the wine. While the cuttings are young, the rootstock is well-established, allowing the vines to reach fruitful maturation sooner than if we replaced the entire vine with Pinot Noir from the ground up.
Will there still be Sauvignon Blanc? Absolutely; many Sauvignon Blanc vines are remaining just that. “The Sauvignon Blanc has gotten more delicious each year,” Luke says, “and beginning with the 2016 vintage, the wine will be part of our White Label tier of single-vineyard wines.”
What’s next? We expect the first full crop from these vines in 2020, and in the meantime, we’ll be watching nature do its magic as the vines grow and mature.