There is a rural legend that low vineyard yields enhance wine quality. Well…sometimes. It depends on why the yield is diminished. Let's say a vineyard bears a normal amount of fruit and then half of the crop rots due to bad weather or sloppy viticultural practices. There is no reason to expect that the portion harvested would be higher in quality. It would be silly for a vintner to brag about a low yield due to diseased vines or inappropriate vine spacing. Our experience has shown that while a vine can obviously have too much crop it can also have too little crop. When the vine hasn't set sufficient fruit the vine remains in the vegetative state in order to produce more seeds. If we are unable to get the vine to shift into the ripening mode by water stress, the wines made from vines with too little crop will taste herbaceous. Highest quality is achieved when healthy vines have a moderate crop which ripens easily. In spring 2004 our Pinot vines had a moderate number of flower clusters and the crop looked normal. As the season progressed some of the berries were a normal size with two seeds each but many of the grapes were smaller and only had a single seed.
In the wild, grapes reproduce from seeds. If bloom is long and warm some vines will make four rather than the usual two seeds (top grape). If bloom is short with wide weather fluctuations, some seeds will fail to develop after fertilization meaning smaller seedless or 1- seeded grapes (bottom grape).
An individual grapevine's object in life is to reproduce by making seeds. Cultivated vineyards are, in fact, reproduced from cuttings made from winter prunings rather than seeds because cuttings display predictable clonal characteristics.
From a winemaker's perspective this is a dandy reason to have a diminished crop. These tiny berries add a lot of flavor since there is a higher ratio of skin to juice and a lower ratio of bitter seeds. This vintage is intense: lots of berry, cherry flavors with a patina of toasty oak. Gold Medal winner. Best of Show. One case limit.
The Middle Ridge is planted to three clones of Pinot: 114, 667 and 777. More than nine clones were blended for this wine: 20% clone 667; 19% Clone 15; 15% clone 4; 10% clone 114, 10% clone 777, 9% Chalone; 8% clone 115; 6% clone 113; 3% Wente. No wonder it is complex.