Oregon Chardonnay is certainly on the rise. Years ago a Chardonnay clone called 108 was brought from California to Oregon and planted widely. It would stand to reason that if Burgundy was the home of the most sought after Chardonnay in the world then Oregon could follow suit. Unfortunately the 108 clone was perfect for the warm areas of California because of its propensity to ripen slowly, but was hard to get fully ripe in the cooler Willamette Valley. Fortunately new clones appeared in the 90’s, the so called “Dijon” clones giving new breath to Oregon Chardonnay.
Three years ago we planted some Chardonnay up on the most difficult part of the vineyard called Kill Hill. Its called Kill Hill for a reason as the shallow, poor sedimentary soil has very little to sustain a young vine. While the young Chardonnay plants up on Kill Hill struggled, we decided to supplement that and graft some of our 777 clone of Pinot Noir to the 76 clone of Chardonnay.
Grafting starts with cutting the existing Pinot Noir plant below the cordon or shoot. Then the bark is stripped and the crew comes in and cuts a notch in the plant. They take a bud from budwood brought in and cut out the Chardonnay bud placing the cut wood in the notch of the original plant. The bud is wrapped with Teflon tape and covered with tree paint. Whala, Pinot to Chardonnay!
Well not quite so fast. The plant must be scored at near the base for the rising sap to weep and not rise and push the graft out. But with any luck we should have enough crop to produce our first Chardonnay from the 2016 vintage. We can’t wait to add another to the growing list of beautiful Oregon Chardonnays.