THE lost clone
prince hill
block | 3
clone | 95
WINEMAKER | Laurent Montalieu
BOTTLING | september 26, 2017
ALCOHOL | 13.8%


the Wine

A few years ago, Laurent Montalieu was over at “The Poker Palace”—Dick Erath’s house atop Prince Hill. The two were playing Texas Hold ‘Em, popping corks from their libraries and talking about wines of years past. Dick told Laurent he had something special for him, and pulled out the first single-vineyard Pinot noir made by Erath—a wine that earned the winemaker 96 points nearly 30 years before. “The wine was made from the grapes right outside the house,” Dick explained—one of the highest-elevation spots in the now iconic Dundee Hills. The wine was nearing 30 years old and drinking phenomenally, a tribute to the age-worthiness of Willamette Valley Pinot and the venerable pioneer himself. That glass of wine gave Laurent an idea: why not leverage their combined 80 years of Oregon winemaking to make something epic, ageworthy and exclusive? 

Luckily, Dick had an ace up his sleeve. In 1978, a friend of Dick’s was in Burgundy at Clos Vougeot during pruning season and noticed appealing vine cuttings lying on the ground. Figuring he knew someone who would love the gift, he was granted permission to bring the cuttings back to the States, and gave them to his friend. Dick sent them to Professor Goheen at UC Davis to be studied and identified. Years passed, and Dick, who was busy establishing new vineyards and growing his brand, forgot about the vines. Goheen was retiring and cleaning out his desk when he found at the very bottom a certificate for the vines, which had been designated Clone 95.

Nearly three decades after he originally sent the clippings, Dick received a letter back from UC Davis: “Mr. Erath, You left your vines here. We cleaned them up and are returning them to you. We’ve designated the clone FPS 95.” Dick knew exactly where to plant the clone: in the rich Dundee Hills soil on Prince Hill. He was astonished by the result a few years later, and realized he had stumbled upon the next exciting clone that Oregon had yet to see. The wines were beautiful, with racy aromas and grippy tannins that surpassed a typical Pommard clone. Dick wanted to craft a wine with this special clone that was unlike anything he had done before. Not until his bimonthly poker game did he realize how he was going to use the wine.

Prince Hill Clone 95 Pinot noir is unlike any Pinot noir in the Valley. It could be because of the “lost clone,” the winemaking expertise, or the unmistakable hills of Dundee that make this wine such a gem. Or, it could be that of the 190 barrels crafted on Prince Hill’s 26 planted acres, just four barrels were used to make the wine. With quantities that small, this isn’t about making money for Montalieu or Erath. It’s about legacy and the culmination of decades spent chasing perfection. The 2016 Prince Hill Lost Clone Pinot Noir is the ultimate homage to the elegance and ageworthiness of a great red Burgundy. It’s regal with complexity and depth. It’s delicate and refined with chewy and bright fruits on the attack and smooth, soft tannins rounding out the finish. It is the kind of wine that will be just as graceful in a decade and pick up character along the way. As Dick Erath said, “Guys in Burgundy don’t plant Dijon clones because they have stuff like this.” 80 years of winemaking in a bottle: the “lost” Clone 95.

the winery

Dick Erath and Laurent Montalieu share a combined 80 years of grape growing and winemaking in the state of Oregon. Dick is the revered trailblazer whose early vision and relentless pursuit helped position Oregon winemaking on the world stage. Laurent Montalieu is the meticulous enologist from Bordeaux who focuses on each wine's sense of place. They each have accomplished everything one could hope to achieve in the wine industry. Though there is more than enough for the two to fall back on their successes, one thing continues to drive them year in and year out: making extraordinary wine.

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