Going Clonal

Staff Writer
Paul Clifton of Hahn SLH Winery assembles his pinot noir a few drops at a time
Going Clonal | 2012 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir
Although pinot noir is one grape variety, it has many slightly different expressions called “clones,” which are often named after the vineyard from which the vines were propagated.

The 2012 Hahn “SLH” pinot noir is voluptuous, yet elegant with rounded cherry flavors, a few notes of rooty extract, good acidity, and a pleasing touch of bitters around the edges; a very enjoyable wine from the Santa Lucia Highlands on the western side of the Salinas River Valley.

It didn’t get that way by accident. Winemaker Paul Clifton painstakingly assembled it a few drops at a time.

Although pinot noir is one grape variety, it has many slightly different expressions called “clones,” which are often named after the vineyard from which the vines were propagated. And pinot noir is especially good for producing these clonal variations.

It’s not unusual for a California winemaker to plant three or four different clones of pinot in his or her vineyards, but Clifton has become a clone fanatic, growing more than 20 different clones of pinot noir in Hahn’s SLH vineyards.

And for the 2012 SLH pinot noir, he selected 16 different ones of them to make up the blend, each adding a little something different to the brew. That means only a small amount of wine from each clone made it into the final blend, from 1 percent for the Pommard 4 clone (classic Burgundy) to 14.4 percent calera clone (classic California). 

For the Pommard, the average bottle of 2012 Hahn SLH pinot noir has only a few drops. For the Calera, about two shots, if you were drinking your wine from shot glasses.

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