Jeff Sample has a small greenhouse that he uses to grow cuttings and increase the number of vines that he can plant from Foundation Plant Services. Sixty sticks of dormant wood yields about 100 plants.
Since the late fall freeze last November in Washington State, Jeff Sample of Terroir Nouveaux Nurseries has been seeing high interest in cold-hardy grape varieties and clones. Also, as grape planting in Washington State expands to new areas, including western Washington, interest in cool-climate varieties has grown.
“Malbec has been hotter than a pistol,” he said, noting that he’s trying several clones in his Sunnyside, Washington, nursery. Also popular are the red variety Tempranillo and the white varieties Grüner Veltliner and Alvarinho, the latter of which has been popular with growers throughout western United States.
“I would have never thought Alvarinho would have been so popular,” he said. “It took off like a racehorse. And, I didn’t guess nearly well enough on Grüner Veltliner. There’s been huge interest in Grüner here on the east side of the state.”
The recent press received by Grüner Veltliner in trade publications like Wine Spectator and Vineyard and Winery Management has likely spurred the high interest, he explained.
Some believe Muscat varietals will be the next drink of the Millennium generation, similar to the White Zinfandel craze. Moscato, a name given to Muscat-blended wines, sold by companies like Barefoot Cellars and Sutter Home, has been growing in popularity with young wine drinkers.
Sample said he has several Muscat varieties and clones in his nursery because some winemakers like to use a little Muscat for blending in their Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines. He recently brought in the Muscat Blanc clone 6 because it has a looser cluster structure and is less susceptible to bunch rot than Muscat Blanc 01. Muscat Ottonel has good Muscat wine character and is cold hardy, with earlier maturity and bunch rot resistance.
Popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon is steady. Washington growers have a good palette of Cabernet Sauvignon clones to pick from and good information from Cabernet clonal reviews to guide their choices, he said, adding that clone 2 has been in demand of late. Clone 22, which is high yielding but also early maturing, could be suitable for cool sites in the Yakima Valley or Chelan. Maturity may be even earlier with clone 22 if a grower reduces yield slightly.
Riesling is still in demand, he said, noting that five clones are available, with a sixth one to come in the state soon.
He also looks for clones within well-established varieties that can offer something of value to Northwest growers.
In addition, he’s trying a few off-beat Italian varietals like Montepulciano and “base” varietals, those that are used as the base for certain wines like the Italian Soave and Amarone, both blends of varieties. Garganega is a white varietal used in making Soave in the Veneto region of Italy.
“When choosing selections, I try to avoid ‘one-hit wonders’ that will flare and then burn,” he said, noting that time will tell if the Sangiovese clone 14 or Nebbiolo clone 12 (Michet subtype) are some of those one-hit wonders. “You can’t go wrong with good clones of old standby varieties like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.”