There are two ways that cuttings are selected for planting a new vineyard: by clone or sélection massal. A clone is a vine propagated from one single "mother" vine where each plant is identical in DNA and uniform in personality. Massal selection involves choosing a number of vines from an existing vineyard with mixed clones, and then propagating new vines from that budwood. There are almost 100 recognized clones of Pinot Noir. Over forty are from France where clones are carefully classified by several factors; three clones are in the top quality tier, three in the second tier, seven in the third tier and about thirty in the lower tiers. What typically is lacking in a wine produced from a single clone is complexity. Sélection massal is gaining favor in recent years because of the added complexity but, having made a massal selection ourselves, many years ago, we discovered that this particular field had good clones and some, well, not-so-good clones.
Harvesting at night. Fermentation proceeds slowly when the must is cool; an extended fermentation produces a more intense wine. Floodlights illuminate the area we are picking and each picker wears a headlamp to light up the individual clusters. Two sorters, stationed at each bin , remove any leaves or unsound fruit that are accidentally picked.
Bins of night-harvested Pinot Noir waiting at the winery for de- stemming.
Fields, or sections of fields, that we've planted with DNA-matched clones have produced wines with prettier flavor profiles. Since rootstocks offer as much flavor variances as clones, perhaps because they are getting nutrients from different soil strata, the complexity issue gets even cloudier. We hope that someday nurseries will offer a sélection massal of the top thirteen clones to remedy the problem. In the meantime, Navarro's complexity comes at blending; this bottling is a cuvée produced from sixteen well-regarded clone-rootstock combinations grown in nine vineyard blocks in Philo. It is a "required wine" with Thanksgiving turkey at our house. Gold Medal winner.