Wanna see something cool, something almost none ever sees? Think you know grapes do you? Ever see The Matrix (sorry for pedestrian and banal reference)? This is the Dionysian real world, from whence it all really came. This is the Nova Vine growing ground in Yolo County. This is where your rootstocks are grown, and this is where your budwood is grown. Then it is shipped to Sonoma county where it is grafted together per order. Sounds, eh, moderately o.k. But wait, if you like grapes, this is an ampelographical crash course, a chance to see clonal variation up close and personal, and to taste the sweet result. I only took a few pictures, but look:
This is one of two rootstock fields, this is what they actually look like in their true ungrafted form. Like Ivy they are opportunistic climbers, spreading in all directions until a tree gives them a trellis to climb. These could be St. George (though they usually have a touch of red at the edges), 110R, 101, 5C imagine all the possibilities! But the cool part is the two hundred rows of clones from which the budwood is taken to be grafted onto the rootstock.
Almost each of these rows has something different growing. Right now I think they have six different clones of Sangiovese. That means you could personally observe (and taste!) the differences between Brunello, Lamole, Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, two clones of Romagnolo, and another one I can't remember. Of course the terroir here affects the grapes, sandy soil, hot climate, lots of irrigation (these are for wood remember, not necessarily wine) leads to intense aromatics, but little body or color. Nova has a good hold on the Italian market (we have most of our vines through them), and they are producing whatever disease free clones Foundation Plant Services approves, so I will be keeping my eye on their Ribolla Gialla, Negro Amaro, etc... All those cool new things.
This is a row of Nebbiolo, clone FPS 11. (Dropped fruit allows for more shoot growth and budwood). FPS 11 is the new shizzle, supposedly the real Lampia clone that 01 pretended to be. It is about a month from ripeness, the tannins where enamel stripping, but notice the growing habit, its spindly canefulness must be cane pruned, not cordon because of its low basal bud fertility (Wikipedia that one). Nebbiolo is a bizarre world unto itself, and even a month from ripeness, there where clear differences between the three clones in flavor.
This is the Negro Amaro row. We have 500 on order for next year, and they will come from this row, so I thought a picture would be informative. It is similar to the Nebbiolo in its cane growth, but a very different cropper. Notice how different the foliage is. Worlds apart flavor wise, and geographically in Italy. I could have taken 100 more pictures and bored you with the new Cab Franc clone I found and tasted, or how heat resistant the Fiano was, or how they have Teroldego now, or how, I'll just say it, "charming" the Grignolino was. Imagine a world-wide wine tasting - this was a grape tasting. Carmenere, different Grenache clones, the saline Rousanne and the bassy Montepulciano. I think it is just awesome. While we were there we scavenged our meager barrel and a half of Refosco with a touch of Lagrein while our vines grow. Our first red crush of the year, so finally some action is beginning.