Good Fruit Grower

December 2015

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42 DECEMBER 2015 Good Fruit Grower W hen choosing a wine grape clone, Washington growers have little Washington-based field research to help guide their decisions. But useful information is available, if you know where to look and how to interpret the data. Jeff Sample, owner of Terroir Nouveaux Nurseries, has around 75 clones and 35 varieties in the mother block of his certified grapevine nursery in Sunnyside, Washington. When he started his nursery in 2002, he had two main goals: offer varieties and clones that weren't already in the foundation block managed by Washington State University; and, provide clones associated with high quality wines, such as the Wente and Dijon clones of Chardonnay. Just as tree fruit nurseries improve apple varieties with new strains that are earlier maturing or more col- ored, clones of wine grape varieties give growers and winemakers the chance to fine-tune grape production by choosing specific attributes within a variety. Technically, a clone comes from a single individual—the mother vine—by asexual propagation (cuttings, grafting, and such) and is chosen for characteristics that set it apart from the standard variety. Clones can be earlier or later maturing, be more or less vigorous, or have smaller berries or looser clusters, among other attributes. Some perform so well that they become known and distributed internationally, like the Dijon clones for Chardonnay or the German Geisenheim clones for Riesling. "Fifteen years ago, clonal information was scattered around in many different places," Sample said during a meeting of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers. "It was challenging back then to match num- bers of French clones with those at the Foundation Plant Services at the University of California, Davis." But today, with YouTube videos and seemingly end- less information on the Internet, he says it's much easier to evaluate clones and their potential in Washington's climate and soils. Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis is part of the National Clean Plant Network for Grapes and, along with the Clean Plant Center Northwest at Washington State University's Prosser research station and other centers, the network makes new clones and varieties available to the U.S. grape industry after new selections are imported, quarantined, and virus-treated. Foundation Plant Services assigns its own unique number to different selections of the same clone that have undergone various virus elimination treatments. Clones available often have multiple numbers to help identify if it is a "clean" clone and help track its origin. The FPS number is the first number, followed by the French number or other original identification. Where does Sample go to learn about new clones or clones that have potential for his nursery clients? His four favorite sources are: —National Grape Registry, a comprehensive website for clone and variety information ( —Newsletter back issues of the Foundation Plant Services (found on the FPS website at grapes). —ENTAV-INRA wine grape variety and clone catalogues. —Internet searches. "Google works great to find information about par- ticular clones and can reveal research data, nursery sites, and all kinds of information," he said, adding that Riversun Nursery has excellent educational videos about clones on YouTube. Research trials also offer valuable information. Most clonal research in the United States is done in California, he said. Trials to evaluate clones require years of collecting vine data and analyzing wines. In Washington State, field trials and wine evaluations of clones have been primarily conducted by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. (See "The best clone for Washington," Good Fruit Grower, December 2012.) ENTAV-INRA Some clones come from California, but the most well known proprietary clones are from the trademarked collection of ENTAV-INRA, a brand name for two insti- tutions that are authorized to create and certify grape clonal selections for commercial use. Four nurseries in the United States are licensed with ENTAV-INRA. Detailed vine and wine information are collected by ENTAV-INRA and published in the ENTAV-INRA catalog. To decipher the catalog, Sample says you must first understand the meaning of a few key words. The catalog divides clones into three groups (A, B, and C) based on yield or production. Clones in group A are lower-yielding, higher in sugar, and are more preferred for winemaking. "Once you learn how to read the data, you can find the clones that are most highly rated," he said. "For example, if the catalog states 'makes typical wines,' it means the wines are good. And if the clone is rated above typical, it means the wines are really good," he said. In Sample's own clonal trial in his nursery, he's found that ENTAV-INRA clones performed as their catalog descriptions. "My experience with their performance as it relates to the literature is that that they perform as they should." Learning about NEW CLONES Grapes National Grape Registry website contains useful information about wine grape clones. by Melissa Hansen MELISSA HANSEN/GOOD FRUIT GROWER Jeff Sample grows cuttings in a small greenhouse as a way to increase the number of vines he can plant in his certified grape nursery in Sunnyside, Washington. "If the catalog states 'makes typical wines,' it means the wines are good. And if the clone is rated above typical, it means the wines are really good." —Jeff Sample

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