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Fleur de California

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Clonal Research 

 

In 1974, shortly after constructing Carneros Creek Winery, Francis Mahoney began the first phase of Pinot Noir clonal trials that continue to the present day. A “clone” in this context, is a genetic variant of a plant (like a Pinot Noir vine, a Granny Smith apple tree, or an heirloom tomato) that contains all of the genetic markers to qualify as the original plant, but with genetic differences that set it apart from the original plant. Working with University of California, Davis viticulture specialist Curtis Alley, Francis planted 1.5 acres to 20 different Pinot clones – 11 from FPMS (Foundation Plant Materials Service) and nine non-certified industry selections – all on AxR1 rootstock.

The project was funded with a $125,000 grant from a non-profit organization, Dextra Baldwin McGanagle of New York, whose board of directors included Burgundy lovers.  The funds financed UC Davis’ participation in the research (Francis Mahoney paid  for Carneros Creek Wineries’ participation).  About 55 single-vine replications of each clone were scattered throughout the block, and both UC Davis and Carneros Creek made wine concurrently from the trial. “The big surprise for me was that we agreed with the UC Davis tasting results almost yearly,” Francis recalls.

The clones that scored highest in the tastings were A, P, L, N and E, in that order. Clone A ( Pinot Noir 97) came from Paul Masson/Martin Ray sources via Joe Swan. “It was the most carefree clone, easy to keep in balance,” Mahoney says, “It had a dark red brick color, strawberry jam flavor with a hint of pepper spice compound.”

Clone P (Pinot Noir 96) came from a vineyard near Chambertin, France via the Chalone Vineyard. “It was one of our favorites,” Francis reports, “always rich with tremendous strawberry jammy flavors and mouth-filling texture. The downside was it produced almost nothing, from 2-1/2 to 8 pounds per vine, depending on the vintage.”

Clone L ( Pinot Noir 13) was FPMS 13, a heat treatment of Martini 58 (V), one of three Martini selections – along with 44 (H) and 54 (M) – collected by Louis Martini and Dr. Harold Olmo, professor of viticulture at UC Davis. Many of the selections came from the Niebaum estate in Rutherford. “L did better than V, but those were close,” Francis notes. “The wine had varietally clean cherry and fresh strawberry flavors, but not complex undertones.”

Clone N (Pinot Noir 18) was FPMS 18, a Gamay Beaujolais type.

Clone E ( Pinot Noir 108) reportedly came from the Gustav Neibaum/John Daniel/Inglenook estate originally, then to the Oakville Viticultural Field Station, next to the Stelling Vineyard across the street, and finally to the Hanzell Vineyard in Sonoma, Francis’ source.

Francis and the team at UC Davis both independently concluded that there was no single “best” clone of Pinot Noir. Both groups understood that a more cohesive Pinot Noir could be crafted by carefully blending different clones together so that the resulting wine was better than its individual parts. In phase two of Francis’ clonal trials, he picked the five best clones from phase one plus clone R (FPMS 12, Pommard selection 804 heat-treated for 89 days) and planted them on AxR1 and St. George rootstocks in 1989.

 

 

The site for this second clonal trail phase was the Mahoney Ranch vineyard, a 40-acre hillside vineyard located 3,000 feet from the original study. A few years ago, Francis donated the best five industry clones (A, E, M, P and V) from the trial to FPMS for the public collection. The new FPMS virus-negative selections qualifying for registration and certification (R & C) are A (FPMS 97), M (FPMS 75), P (FPMS 90, 96) and V (FPMS 66). Phase three began in 2002. Francis planted some original clones along with new FPMS selections on several different rootstocks to explore the relationship between virus disease and wine quality. Now a decade later, the vineyard experimentation continues in Mahoney’s three estate vineyards.

In addition to the ongoing virus/disease experimentation, Francis is studying a large number of cover crops. These valuable plantings can benefit a vineyard’s soil nutrition and erosion prevention, but as in all of his research, wine quality is still the number one driving force behind Francis’ decades-long devotion to his family vineyards.

 

 

The Primary Pinot Noir Clones In Our Estate Vineyards

Pinot noir 97

Clone A

Registration Status Registered
Source Swan via California vineyard
Treatments Microshoot tip tissue culture
Comments In 1974, Francis Mahoney, owner of Carneros Creek Winery, began a Pinot noir clonal trial at Carneros Creek Winery in cooperation with Curtis Alley, UC Davis viticulture specialist. In 1996, Mr. Mahoney donated what he thought were the five best California heritage Pinot noir clones to FPS. The source of FPS 97 was clone “A” from the trial, which originally came from Paul Masson/Martin Ray sources via Joe Swan. After successful completion of testing for the California Grapevine Registration & Certification Program, Pinot noir 97 was planted in the FPS Classic Foundation Vineyard in 2001.

 

 

Pinot noir 96

Clone P

Registration Status Registered
Source Chambertin, France via California vineyard
Treatments Microshoot tip tissue culture
Comments In 1974, Francis Mahoney, owner of Carneros Creek Winery, began a Pinot noir clonal trial at Carneros Creek Winery in cooperation with Curtis Alley, UC Davis viticulture specialist. In 1996, Mr. Mahoney donated what he thought were the five best California heritage Pinot noir clones to FPS. The source of FPS 96 was clone “P” from the trial, which originally came from a vineyard near Chambertin, France, via the Chalone vineyard in California. The original plant material for this selection underwent microshoot tip tissue culture therapy at FPS. After successful completion of testing for the California Grapevine Registration & Certification Program, Pinot noir 96 was planted in the FPS Classic Foundation Vineyard in 2001. Pinot noir 90 and the Calera clone of Pinot noir were taken from the same source material as was Pinot noir 96.

 

Pinot noir 13 Clone L
Source Clone 58, Martini vineyard, Carnernos
Treatments Heat treatment 105 days
Comments Sometime prior to 1966, two Pinot noir selections were collected by Dr. Harold Olmo (UC Davis) from a vineyard housing the Martini clonal trial established by Dr. Olmo and Louis Martini in a vineyard located on Stanly Lane in the Carneros appellation of Napa, California. One of the two selections became Pinot noir FPS 13. That selection was collected from the Martini 58 clone at location “row 7 vine 13” at the Stanly Lane Vineyard. Pinot noir FPS 13 underwent heat treatment and first became registered in 1974 (it was also known at that time as FPMS 104). Pinot noir FPS 66 was also derived from the Martini clone 58.

 

Pinot noir 18      Clone N
Registration Status Registered
Source Gamay Beaujolais type, Vineyard of Department of Viticulture & Enology, UC Davis
Treatments None
Comments Pinot noir FPS 18 is one of a group of FPS Pinot noir selections that have been known as the Gamay Beaujolais type, which are characterized by high vigor and an upright growth habit. All five selections in this group were derived from the same single vine source at UC Davis (I 60 v 15). FPS 18 has been registered since 1974. The other four similar selections are FPS 19, 20 (dropped), 21 (see FPS 104) and 22.

 

Pinot noir 108

Clone E

Registration Status Registered
Source Hanzel clone from Carneros Creek
Treatments Microshoot tip tissue culture
Comments In 1974, Francis Mahoney, owner of Carneros Creek Winery, began a Pinot noir clonal trial at Carneros Creek Winery in cooperation with Curtis Alley, UC Davis viticulture specialist. In 1996, Mr. Mahoney donated what he thought were the five best California heritage Pinot noir clones to Foundation Plant Services. The source of Pinot noir 108 was clone ‘E’ from the trial, which originally came from the Gustav Niebaum/John Daniel/Inglenook estate in Napa Valley, California. From there it went to the Oakville Viticulture Field Station and then to the Stelling vineyard across the street from the field station. Zellerbach got wood from Stelling for his Hanzel vineyard. This Hanzel wood was the source for clone ‘E’. The original plant material for this selection underwent microshoot tip tissue culture therapy at FPS in 1997. After successful completion of testing for the California Grapevine Registration & Certification Program, Pinot noir 108 was planted in the FPS Classic Foundation Vineyard in 2004.

 

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