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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.

Pommard

  • 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 >> 

 

 

Time Posted: May 28, 2020 at 5:22 PM
Kramer Vineyards
 
May 23, 2020 | Kramer Vineyards

Five Fizzy Facts About our Celebrate Bubbly

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.

They are 100% varietal wines.

Most sparkling wines are blends. Such cuvées may include base wines from multiple vineyard sites, grape varieties, and/or vintages. By contrast, our Celebrate wines are made from the grapes that we grow in our estate vineyard, from single grape varieties, and all are vintage dated.


The Celebrate sparkling wines are often made from under-the-radar grapes.

Although 96% of the Willamette Valley consists of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, or Chardonnay, our cool climate has the potential to grow dozens of other undiscovered varieties. We’ve found Müller-Thurgau, Grüner Veltliner, and Carmine all make wonderful sparkling wines, and are among our bestsellers in the tasting room.

They ferment once.

For traditional or Charmat method sparkling wines, the wine is fermented once in bulk, then again in the bottle or in a tank. This second fermentation creates the bubble, and raises the alcohol level 1 to 1.5%.  That amount sounds small, but it's a monumental shift in balance, and effects every winemaking decision from the early harvest through bottling. The fruit for force carbonated wines can be harvested a little later, for wines with increased ripeness and flavor development. These wines actually taste like the grapes they're made from! 

The Celebrate Pinot Gris has true varietal character

Keith Kramer is a hands-on vineyard owner

We get the bubbles in the bottle through a force-carbonation technique developed by owner Keith Kramer.

Most force-carbonated sparking wines are injected with carbon dioxide on the bottling line, resulting in coarse, soda pop like bubbles. We believed a smaller bubble was possible with force carbonation, and starting in 2004, owner Keith Kramer developed the system we use today. A week before bottling, the wine is transferred into a custom tank that chills the wine down, while gradually raising the pressure. This slow infusion of sparkle into the cold wine results in fine, plentiful bubbles.

They aren't trying to be Champagne, and that's a good thing.

There’s nowhere else in the world that has our rare combination of geography, geology, climate, ability, and enthusiasm to innovate. While we are inspired by other regions and wines, there's a limit to how much we can learn from them. Our site, winery, and culture inevitably produces fruit with a signature that's unique. Our best wines capture these qualities, and sometimes that means we have to blaze our own trail.

Celebrate Rosé of Pinot Noir

Click here to shop our Sparkling Wines >> 

Time Posted: May 23, 2020 at 3:31 PM
Kramer Vineyards
 
May 14, 2020 | Kramer Vineyards

The Other 4%: Beyond Pinot Noir

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. 

Müller-Thurgau, planted in 1986; 2.25 acres

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 releases2018 Celebrate Sparkling Müller-Thurgau2018 Müller-Thurgau Estate.

 


 

 

 

 

Grüner Veltliner, planted in 2010; 0.5 acres

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 releases2018 Celebrate Sparkling Grüner Veltliner2018 Grüner Veltliner Estate

 

Carmine, planted in 1989; 1 acre

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 release2015 Carmine 'Big Red'

 

 

 

 

Marquette, planted in 2010; 0.5 acres

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 release27 Blocks

 

Time Posted: May 14, 2020 at 3:12 PM
Kimberley Kramer
 
May 7, 2020 | Kimberley Kramer

27 Blocks: Harvest in a Bottle

About 10 years ago, my dad started talking about planting a grape called Marquette. He was excited about this variety because it’s related to Pinot Noir and rumored to be darker in color; I was skeptical. We already had obscure grape varieties in our vineyard, like Carmine and Müller-Thurgau. Did we really need another grape that nobody knows? By the time we had the debate, my Dad had already put the order in for the vines. It takes 3-4 years for young grape vines to start producing, so I had time to mull over what to do with this new fruit.
 
The first modest crop was harvested a few years later, producing just a few gallons of dark red wine that was very high in alcohol, with disjointed acidity. I wasn’t excited for future harvests. This isn’t to disparage Marquette, but this variety was developed to grow in Minnesota, and even our cool climate in the Willamette Valley is much too warm for it. This mismatch presents multiple challenges. First, when the Marquette blooms in the late spring, we’re still in the rainy season. This leads to poor fruit set. The other issue is with ripening. In too warm a climate, Marquette achieves very high sugars weeks ahead of everything else, and acidity that’s out of balance. Further, this early ripening fruit draws birds.
 
So when my Dad delivered several totes of Marquette grapes before harvest was underway in 2017, I didn’t know what I was going to do at first. It was such a low volume of grapes with wonky chemistry. I was concerned the fermentation would be prone to spoilage, and the wine would be out of whack. Then I remembered that in 2013, when our harvest was small, we combined parcels of Pinot Noir we might not have otherwise for practical reasons. Honestly, I wasn’t invested in the quality of this fruit, so I added grapes wherever I could find them—young vine Pinot Noir, field samples of the Müller-Thurgau, a few buckets of Chardonnay that wouldn’t fit in the press. I figured the chemistry of the other grapes would mellow out the Marquette, and at least I could get enough grapes to punch the mass down properly. By the end of the harvest, I had a bin full of fermenting fruit, with all 9 grape varieties from the 27 Blocks in our estate vineyard.
 
Harvest ended, we pressed the wines and barreled them down for the winter, and I kind of forgot that this mish-mosh even existed.

Sorting Marquette in 2019

 

 


Barrel tasting the Marquette & More

The following spring, when we were racking and blending the Pinots, I came across these three barrels marked “Marquette and More.” I wondered how this Frankenstein wine would taste. I grabbed a wine thief to take a sample and gave it to my dad Keith. He swirled the glass, rolled it around his mouth, and said, “What Pinot is this?” Incredulous, I grabbed a second sample, and presented it to my mom Trudy ‘ruthless palate’ Kramer, who said, “What Pinot is this?” I realized at that point I might need to reconsider my opinion regarding the place of Marquette in our vineyard.  
 
We sat down and tasted the wine again as a family, trying to figure out what is was. Mom and Dad were excited to have a Marquette based blend that tasted so balanced and fruity, and I was frustrated that I was wrong. To make things worse, I didn’t really know what the composition of the wine even was, because I just kept adding grapes to the vat during a chaotic harvest and didn’t keep records. What is this wine?? My sister Becky, queen of pointing out the obvious stated, “Well Kim, it’s a single vineyard red wine.” She was right, and that’s when I started to understand what we had created.
The making of 27 Blocks starts with our early-ripening fruit—Marquette and young vine Pinot Noir. As the harvest continues, we'll continue to add other grapes as they ripen. This may include clusters we pick to evaluate maturity, fruit from a plant that was passed over by the crew, or the last buckets of the day. If there are grapes that don’t have a place otherwise, 27 Blocks is that place. This is a wine that is cumulative, fermenting a little bit more with the addition of new grapes over the weeks that harvest unfolds. In this way, 27 Blocks is harvest itself. 
 
The distinction between a wine that’s co-fermented and a blend is important here—27 Blocks is a wine where different grapes are fermented together. A cofermented wine is like a stew, where the chef builds layers of flavors that integrate, and deepen with time. This is quite different than a blend, where finished wines are combined. In my cooking analogy, a blend would be more like a salad by comparison.  
 
So, what is 27 Blocks? It’s a wine that taught me to be open to new ideas. It’s the story of our harvest in a bottle. It’s a red wine made from all the grapes that we grow throughout our vineyard. It’s delicious, easy to drink, and great with food. It’s a lot of things, and it’s only something that we can make. And I think that’s pretty great. I hope you do too.
 
For details on the 2018 release, click here >>

 


The label is a patchwork quilt, representing the blocks of grapevines in our vineyard.

 

Time Posted: May 7, 2020 at 5:01 PM