Katy Rutland
March 20, 2014 | Wine Lingo | Katy Rutland

Wine Lingo: Clone Wars

Sorry to disappoint, “Star Wars” fans, no discussion of whether or not the original three movies are better than the latest three. But we are talking about another common question in wine and why there is a never-ending supply of Storm Troopers.



Straight out of the realm of science fiction, cloning is a common occurrence in vineyards all over the world. It is one of the many ways a vineyard can be populated. Believe it or not, few vines are grown straight from seeds because the genetic differences make the fruit a tad unpredictable when the vine matures.


For this reason, winemakers will often hand select a vine that has certain traits they are looking for to make a particular style of wine. Essentially, they take a cutting and encourage it to take root, often growing it in a nursery and sometimes continuing to clone the same cutting in order to populate a vineyard block. In fact, according to Webster’s Dictionary, the word “clone” comes from a Greek word meaning “twig” and has its roots in horticulture.


 What does this have to do with Terra Blanca?


In the Tasting Room for March, we have three different Syrahs available for tasting: the 2009 Signature Series Block 8 Syrah, the 2009 Arch Terrace Syrah, and the 2004 Reserve Winemaker’s Barrel Select Syrah.


At this point, you might be thinking that “Syrah is Syrah is Syrah.” In truth, yes. They are all Syrah. But the differences begin at the vine and the three clones of Syrah grown in our estate vineyards.


The Terra Blanca Signature Series Block 8 Syrah is made from a clone called the Côte-Rôtie, a clone from the northern Rhone region in France. This Syrah is called a “northern Rhone” or “old world” style Syrah because of the wine’s rich and smoky characteristics.


The Arch Terrace Syrah (previously known as the Estate Syrah prior to 2006) is a blend of all three Syrah clones, the Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage (also from the Rhone region), and the Phelps clone (developed in California). This is the peppery Syrah most commonly associated with Washington and the West Coast. It ages very well, as our current online Washington Wine Month special will prove. A full case of libraried Estate Syrah is $199 and includes 4 bottles each of the 2001, 2002, and 2003 vintages.


The final Syrah available for tasting as March’s magnum special is something entirely different. The Winemaker’s Barrel Select Syrah is not made every year. The 2004 vintage made for a few barrels of Syrah that did not fit the profiles used for the Block 8 or the Estate Syrahs. It was more aromatic with a lighter palate that most Syrahs, and cofermentation with Viogner, Marsanne, and Rousanne created more of a southern Rhone styling. For $75 for a 1.5 liter bottle, it’s a unique wine that shows just how versatile clones can be.


Three different Syrahs, three clones, three very different profiles. Drop by the Tasting Room to try all three and compare for yourself!



Veni, Vidi, Vinum!


Terra Blanca



P.S. Don’t forget that this weekend is another Washington Wine Month special: a case of 2009 Arch Terrace Syrah for $150. That’s half off!




Commenting has been turned off.