Making Incredible Pinot Noir - Tips for the Micro-Winery

This is the first of a two-part series on making Pinot Noir.

view counter

One of the greatest and most difficult wines to grow in the vineyard and make in the cellar is Pinot Noir. For all its troubles, Pinot Noir can also be one of the most rewarding wines to make. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a converted beer or spirits drinker say the wine that changed the game for them was Pinot Noir. It is for various reasons that Pinot is the great wine that it is. Now, let’s discuss how we can make a memorable Pinot of our own.

Pinot Noir Grapes

First. Let’s focus on the fruit. I say fruit, because although you can make Pinot Noir from a concentrate, you will never make a great Pinot from a can. You need access to a vineyard. My suggestion is to begin thinking about this relatively early in the season, around March. Make some calls to a local agricultural or viticultural organization. They should be able to give you some contact information for a reputable Pinot Noir vineyard.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Okay, so you have the contact information, but what are you looking for? Different clones of Pinot Noir have distinctive profiles and any varying number of fans and detractors. Even a ‘bad’ clone of Pinot Noir, if it is grown with limited yields (i.e. ~1-3 tons / acre) should suffice. The idea is to find low yielding vines and a quality-conscious grower.

Typically the best clones are those that have been smuggled into the country from Europe. Some great clones of Pinot Noir are: 777; 667; Pommard; 113; 115; and 2A. There are scores of other clones, but these typically rise to the top of most winemakers lists. Depending on how selective you are and how much space you have, the wider your clonal medley is, the better the resulting wine will likely be. Ask the grower if they could put together a field blend of a three-to-four different clones. In doing so, you get a wider possibility of flavors in the resulting wine.

All wishes aside, the grower might not be able to do this, or they may not have the clone you are looking for. You are the only one who can assess the importance of clonal selection to your wine program.