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Kramer Vineyards

Kramer Vineyards
May 28, 2020 | Kramer Vineyards

Game of Clones Q & A

These vines have the same DNA

What is a clone?

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.

If new grapevines are from a “mother vine” and are genetically identical, then how are there different clones?

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!

All clones of Pinot Noir

You probably have to be an expert to notice clonal variations, right?

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?)

Neat, but what does this mean for my wine?

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:

The nine clones of Pinot Noir from our estate vineyard.


  • From Pommard, Burgundy
  • Medium-sized clusters, often with shoulders
  • Produces balanced, elegant wines suitable for aging
  • One of the first clones of Pinot Noir brought into the US
  • The first clone of Pinot Noir planted at Kramer Vineyards in 1984
  • Major component in our Estate, Cardiac Hill, Rebecca’s Reserve, and Heritage Pinot Noir wines

Dijon 115

  • One of the numbered clones from the University in Dijon, Burgundy
  • Early ripening, small berries with intense flavors. Produces wines with finesse.
  • One of the earliest Dijon clones available to us.
  • First planted in 1992 along with Pommard in the Rebecca’s Reserve block. Also a component in Cardiac Hill and Estate Pinot Noirs, depending on vintage.
  • Our selection of this clone was based on the advice given to us by a winemaker from Burgundy who claimed it was rising in popularity there.

Dijon 777

  • Also one of the numbered clones from the University in Dijon, Burgundy
  • Early ripening. Produces small clusters and berries. Wines have rich color and more tannins, with a very spicy profile.
  • First planted in 2001. Usually blended into the Estate Pinot Noir.
  • In 2019, we field grafted 0.6 acres of Muller-Thurgau over to 777, tripling our acreage.

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 >> 




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