These vines have the same DNA
An organism or cell, or group of organisms or cells, produced asexually from one ancestor or stock, to which they are genetically identical. In viticulture, clones are cut from a “mother vine” to grow new vines. These cuttings are genetically identical to the original vine and one another.
Spontaneous mutation! The genome for Pinot Noir was mapped in 2007. In the process, it was discovered that Pinot Noir has many "jumping genes." This refers to parts of the DNA code that move, creating gaps that cause mutation. If you've ever seen an ear of corn with a rainbow of kernels, it's the same mechanism at work. Pinot Noir is thousands of years old, with hundreds of mutations that have successfully been identified and reproduced. These mutations are what we’re referring to when we discuss clones. Most of these clones are from France, but unique clones have been identified in Switzerland, California, and Oregon.
Jumping genes are present in almost all living cells. 50% of the human genome are jumping genes; up to 90% of the maize genome are jumping genes!
Not really. Consider this: Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are clones of Pinot Noir! They are mutations of Pinot Noir where the part of the DNA that determines skin color jumped, creating clones that are so distinctive, we think of them as different grape varieties altogether. If you can tell the difference between white and red wine, your palate is expert enough to explore clones further. (For more on this topic, see Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir Blanc: What's the Difference?)
Quite a lot! We grow nine clones of Pinot Noir at our estate vineyard. We observe many differences between the clones in the field, from cluster shape, to skin thickness, ripening time, and flavor profile. There are many more clones of Pinot available, although not all are suited to our cool climate. In addition, not all clones are ideal for red wines! The clones grown in Champagne for sparkling production are rarely the same clones planted in Burgundy for red wines.
Here are the three main clones in our vineyard, and the subjects of our single clone Pinot Noir series:
Keep in mind--grapevines are extremely sensitive to vineyard site, and the same clone will express itself uniquely when planted in different locations. We see this in our own 22-acre vineyard. The vine's response to its environment is essential to understanding the concept of terroir. While clonal selection is significant, it's one of many variables that influence a wine's personality.
If you wish to explore this subject further, check out our single clone Pinot Noir in the online store >>
Our first sparkling wines were launched in 2001 under the Celebrate label. Those early releases were made from Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Gris. The collection has since expanded to include Pinot Noir, Grüner Veltliner, Carmine, and rosé. As the program grows, we highlight how this series of sparkling wines differs from the vast majority of bubbly available on the market today:
The Kramer estate vineyard.
Celebrate Rosé of Pinot Noir
Yes. Our tasting room is open for bottle sales and wine club pick ups 11 am to 5 pm, Thursdays – Mondays. There’s no need to make an appointment. The way our tasting room is situated, we can see incoming traffic. We’ll greet you on the patio in our ‘outdoor store’ and get you what you need.
Yes. Call us before you come up to make arrangements, or call us from the parking lot, and we’ll bring the wine to your vehicle. The tasting room number is (503) 662-4545.
Yes. Shipping is included on orders of $100 or more to OR, WA, and CA; and $150 or more to orders to the rest of the contiguous US where wine shipments are allowed.
Not yet. We want the tasting experience to be safe and relaxing for everyone. Between the tasting room remodel and the new rules, we still have some details to work out.
We’re tentatively planning to resume tasting service on June 4. When we reopen, the tasting experience will be a little different. Tastings will be seated and by appointment only. Groups are welcome, but please limit your party to 10 people.
Not yet. We're at least two weeks out from having adequate guest seating for consumption onsite.
Sadly, our summer events are cancelled, including the winemaker dinners. With all the uncertainty about the next phase, anticipated crowd size restrictions, social distancing, and sanitation protocols, event planning is impractical.
Not right now. Non-essential travel is not allowed in Phase 1; overnight and non-essential trips, including recreational day trips should be avoided. Further, the state has stipulated that residents of a county that has not reopened are advised to refrain from making trips to counties that are open.
We’re just fine, all things considered! It’s very strange not getting to visit with our regular guests. But otherwise, there’s plenty of space and things to do on the farm! We are more concerned about your wellbeing and our community than we are for ourselves right now. Drink small, eat small, buy small, and we thank you for your support.
Have a question we haven't addressed here? Contact us.
Noble varieties make up the majority of the vineyard acreage in the Willamette Valley, but new and emerging grapes are also part of our story.
The Willamette Valley is world famous for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, but this region is more rich, diverse, and complex than any one variety. Pinot Noir is righfully our signature grape, but there's much left to explore.
When we started our vineyard in 1984, we planted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling. As we matured as winegrowers, we wondered about the potential of other cool climate varieties. Our curiosity is what led us to plant the relatively unknown Müller-Thurgau. That endeavor has been wildly successful, inspiring us to grow our collection of esoteric grapes to include Carmine, Grüner Veltliner, Marquette, and Pinot Meunier.
In the early 1980s, owner Keith Kramer took a vineyard management class with a fellow who was especially excited about Müller-Thurgau for Oregon. "He wouldn't shut up about it, so we bought some when we had the opportunity in the mid-80s," he says. The wine was a hit, so vines at our estate soon followed. We've found it to be very productive at our site, yielding flavorful fruit even in the most challenging vintages. We’ve made wines in a range of styles from dry to off-dry, semi-sweet to dessert, even sparkling. Both the sparkling and still wines have become quite popular and are usually the top sellers in the tasting room. In 2018, Wine Enthusiast recognized us as a Notable Müller-Thurgau Producer in the US.
Flavor profile: Peach, starfruit, lychee, passionfruit, mango, lime, gooseberry, and sweet basil.
Current releases: 2018 Celebrate Sparkling Müller-Thurgau, 2018 Müller-Thurgau Estate.
We planted Grüner Veltliner with the intention of making a crisp, dry, and expressive white wine. The signature white grape of Austria, Grüner is famous for its peach and white pepper notes, and great versatility for pairing with food. Early harvests yielded fruit with high acidity that made more sense for our sparkling program. Starting in 2017, we began to divide the harvests between the cooler east side for sparkling, and the warmer west side for a still wine. Fun fact: Grüner Veltliner produces clusters that are ten times the size of Pinot Noir!
Flavor profile: Lemon, lime, cucumber, peach, white flowers, freshly cut grass, green apple, and pear.
Current releases: 2018 Celebrate Sparkling Grüner Veltliner, 2018 Grüner Veltliner Estate
Carmine was created in 1946 at UC Davis by Dr. Harold Olmo. This cross of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Merlot was developed to grow in the cooler, coastal regions of California. Olmo's vision never caught on as intended, and in the 1970s, these vines traveled north to Courting Hill Vineyard in Banks, Oregon. The vineyard owner, and Oregon wine legend Jim Leyden, introduced Keith Kramer to this grape variety, gifting him our first Carmine vines in 1989. We've learned much about this late ripening, thick-skinned grape, both in the vineyard and the winery. Our Carmine wines are dark red in color, and typically have herbaceous aromas and peppery notes. It has inherited a lot of flavors from its Cabernet Sauvignon grandparent, principally dark fruit, dark chocolate and the occasional hint of mint.
Flavor profile: Dried cranberries, maraschino cherries, cinnamon, anise, bell pepper, and cracked peppercorns.
Current release: 2015 Carmine 'Big Red'
Developed by the University of Minnesota in 2006 for extremely cold climates, Marquette is a complex hybrid. What caught our attention is that Pinot Noir is on the family tree. It took seven years for any wine to come from this effort, as the cool Willamette Valley is too warm for Marquette. The plants are several weeks ahead of everything else in our vineyard, resulting in some unique challenges, from inclement weather during critical growth periods, to early ripening (for more on this subject, see 27 Blocks: Harvest in a Bottle). To balance out Marquette's big personality, we coferment it with grapes sourced throughout our estate vineyard.
Flavor profile: Cherries, blackcurrants and blackberries, tobacco, leather
Current release: 27 Blocks
Barrel tasting the Marquette & More
The label is a patchwork quilt, representing the blocks of grapevines in our vineyard.
Piquette is a refreshing vinous drink with lower alcohol; fizzy, tart, and refreshing, with pure effervescence and natural fruit flavors, it’s the perfect low calorie, low sugar alternative for a balanced lifestyle.
This spring, Kramer Vineyards launches Piquette, a nearly forgotten old-world beverage made from grape pressings and water. Known for its innovative sparkling wine program with offerings including sparkling Grüner Veltliner, Kramer saw an opportunity to offer something different.
Piquette might be as old as wine itself. The earliest stories are of Iora, an ancient Greek or Roman drink made from wine grape pressings that were rehydrated, pressed, fermented, and diluted further. Another story is that French vineyard workers were served a version of Piquette at lunch, so as not to interfere with their afternoon productivity.
“I saw a creative challenge in capturing so many trends with Piquette. It is the intersection of rosé, sparkling, low sugar, lower alcohol, single serving packaging—and it’s adjacent to the cider, craft beer, and hard seltzer categories.” said second generation winemaker, Kim Kramer.
Kramer was inspired to revive this beverage of the farm hand during the harvest of 2019. To make the Piquette, Kramer upcycled the pressings of their Müller-Thurgau grapes. The skins and pulp were reserved and rehydrated with well water, allowing the release of sugars and flavors. After steeping for four days, the grapes were pressed again, along with marc from a red ferment, giving the liquid a rosy glow. The must fermented in stainless, and was bottled November 2019, finishing fermentation under a crown cap to create the gentle sparkle. Fermented dry with just 7.5% alcohol, this crisp, easy-to-drink refresher pairs well with just about every sunny occasion.
Kramer Vineyards Piquette will be released on March 19, 2020.
Kramer Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery, now in its second generation. For 36 years, they have been growing grapes at their sustainably farmed vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Kramer specializes in producing cool climate white, red, and sparkling wines at their property in Gaston, 30 miles west of Portland.
We’ve been growing the German-Swiss cross Müller-Thurgau since 1986. Over the years, we’ve made wines in a range of styles from dry to off-dry, semi-sweet to dessert, even sparkling. Both the sparkling and still wines have become quite popular and are usually the top sellers in the tasting room.
While Müller-Thurgau is widely planted in Germany, it also does quite well in the Alto Adige of northern Italy. These vineyards are planted at high elevations, with close spacing. In reading the online winemaking notes, we noticed a couple of key production differences. First, the wines are fermented and aged in concrete or old oak casks. Concrete is an area of interest, but not an investment we're ready to make quite yet. Second, the grapes are crushed before pressing.
Foot crushing the Müller-Thurgau
We found the idea of crushing Müller-Thurgau very intriguing. As a rule, we whole cluster press our white wine grapes. Whole cluster pressing reduces the extraction of harsh tannins. These compounds may impart bitterness or astringency on the palate. However, Müller-Thurgau is a grape that is naturally low in tannins. Further, we wondered if crushing the grapes might result in a wine with more varietal expression. However, we don't own a machine that crushes grapes, so how would we experiment with crushing the fruit? Taking another cue from the old world, we decided to adopt a low-tech solution: feet.
During the harvest of 2018, we invited folks up to the vineyard on the day of the Müller-Thurgau pick to help us with this very important task! The harvest started at dawn, finishing around noon. We lined up the bins of grapes on the crush pad, and after a foot sanitizing dip and rinse, people climbed into the boxes one by one and went to work. It only took about 15 minutes, but squashing grapes with your feet is a quite a workout!
We noticed a difference between whole cluster pressing and crushing immediately; the press yield was 14% higher in the crushed fruit. During primary fermentation, the tanks produced a cornucopia of tropical aromas. After fermentation, we noticed the wine was quite flavorful, which is unusual for Müller-Thurgau at that stage. We continued to observe amplified flavor through the spring, finding the variety’s trademark peach and starfruit profile, but also lychee, passionfruit, mango, lime, gooseberry, and sweet basil.
Based on the flavor profile of the 2018 Müller-Thurgau, we decided to crush in 2019 as well. Now that we have another vintage for comparison, we're convinced that crushing is the best protocol for this variety. The 2018 Müller-Thurgau Estate will be released February 6.
Made from rehydrated grape pressings, Piquette is a lower-alcohol beverage full of fizz and fruit. We read about this nearly forgotten beverage of the ancient farm worker during harvest and decided to give it a try with Müller-Thurgau. Grape solids usually go to the compost pile after pressing, but there’s still sugar and flavor in those skins and pulp that can be extracted after a few days of steeping in water and pressed again. We were delighted to find this humble drink to be tart and citrusy, with a gentle sparkle on the palate. The finished alcohol is 7.5%, perfect for a sunny midday refresher.
Bottled in single-serving 12-ounce longnecks and sharable 750 mL sparkling formats, the Piquette will be released on the first day of spring, March 19.
Also known as méthode ancestrale, this is the oldest method of sparkling production, in which the wine is bottled before primary fermentation is complete, finishing in the bottle. The active yeast consumes the residual sugar from the grapes, generating pressure, resulting in a gentle fizz with loads of yellow fruit flavors. Typically, the wine is not disgorged, and will have a cloudy appearance from the spent yeast in the bottle.
We released a small 20-case lot of Pinot Gris made in this style over the summer, and it sold out quickly. Between the strong response in the tasting room and our desire to grow in our knowledge of sparkling wines, we have increased production this year. Look for the 2019 Pétillant-Naturel Pinot Gris this spring.
We’ve been bottling standalone clones of Pinot Noir since the 2014 vintage (click here for more explanation). In 2017, we expanded the collection to include five clones: Pommard, Wädenswil, 115, 667, and 777. These are wines we make for ourselves, to learn more about clonal selection and expression, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised that these wines have gained a following over the last few years. We’ll be releasing the elegant 2017s throughout the spring and summer and will host a comparative tasting on April 25 & 26 (reservations recommended).
The short answer is that the grapes are doing just fine. We’re still about 15 inches behind in rainfall for the calendar year, so the vineyard has absorbed the recent rain quickly. It’s been 104 days since bloom, and the Pinot Noir looks full, healthy, and on track to harvest in a couple of weeks.
The only crop damage we're seeing so far is due to sunburn, and that happened long before September.
--Keith Kramer, owner
The concern with excess rainfall just before harvest is twofold: first, water has the potential to puff up the fruit, diluting sugars, acids, and flavors. In extreme cases, the skins can split, leading to rot. While crop losses due to rain-fueled disease is always a consideration in this region, our farming team keeps this in mind throughout the growing season, taking steps to promote good air flow and an open canopy.
The most challenging harvest in this regard was in 2013. Typhoon Pabuk dumped inches of rain on us over a single weekend when there was Pinot Noir still ripening on the vine. Good farming practices, meticulous sorting, and thoughtful winemaking produced some truly stunning wines that year. Plus, the drama of a once-in-a-hundred years storm made for some great conversation. This year hardly compares to that vintage, as the rain has been much lighter, spread over several weeks.
It’s not unusual for the Willamette Valley to receive an inch or two of rainfall in September. Looking at the monthly totals since our first harvest in 1989, preharvest precipitation is something of an annual event. It’s clear that 2019 is above average, but not record-breaking. The amount of rain this year is closest to 2010, and it’s tempting to draw a comparison to one of our favorite vintages. While the weeks leading up to the harvest are defining ones, it’s only part of the story.
If we layer Growing Degree Days into the discussion, a different picture of vintage 2019 begins to emerge. Growing Degree Days (GDDs) are a measure of heat accumulation throughout the growing season.
It’s interesting to note that classic “warm” vintages like 2004, 2006, and 2009, are on par with our current “mild” summer in terms of GDDs. Of the three, the most apt vintage comparison might be 2004. ’04 is remembered for a warm and dry summer, followed by September rain. What comes up less in this conversation, is that the weeks during harvest in October were beautiful that year.
We've been farming this property for 35 years. In that time, we've experienced a vast range of harvest conditions--wet, dry, humid, cool, early, and late. The vintages we find compelling often have rainy Septembers: 2004, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2017.
The short answer is that Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir Blanc are both white wines. However, one is a white wine made from white grapes, whereas the other is a white wine made from red grapes.
A clone of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc is the result of a mutation where the DNA sequence that dictates skin color jumped, creating a gap in the code. This is how all mutations in grapevines occur--some are more easily observed than others for future propogation. Like other clones of Pinot Noir, Blanc has its own personality, both in the vineyard and in the glass. Although Pinot Blanc favors cool climates, it's late ripening.
Flavor Profile: lemon, pear, apple, apricot, almond, stony minerality
Pinot Gris is also a clone of Pinot Noir where the DNA color sequence jumped partially, resulting in the mauve hues we observe at harvest.
Flavor Profile: apple, pear, honey, flint, spearmint, citrus, peach
A white wine made from a dark-skinnned grape, the Pinot Noir clusters are pressed immediately after harvest, limiting the color extraction and flavor influence from the skins. For red wines, the skins are usually present for the duration of the fermentation; for rosé, the skin contact is limited to a few hours or days.
Flavor Profile: apple, peach, clover, honeydew melon, jasmine