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Randall Grahm developing hybrid vineyard

on 01/06/11 at 8:44 am


Randall Grahm, of Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz, is working on a revolutionary project to make a vin de terroir from hybrid grapes.

Grahm (pictured) is looking to create a diverse population of varieties, each genetically distinctive from the other, by planting an eight-hectare “mother block” vineyard at his San Juan Bautista Central Coast estate with Ribolla, Petite Arvine, Petit Manseng, Grüner Veltliner, Furmint and other as yet undetermined grape varieties.

Eschewing the normal practice of planting clonal selections of vines reproduced by grafting, he will grow his grapes from seedlings rather than cuttings.

“The basic idea is an exercise to find out if it’s possible to produce something like a vin de terroir in a relatively short period of time by employing techniques to accentuate the signature of the site itself,” said Grahm.

“I’m looking into dry farming, the use of a specialised material called Biochar, which activates the soil’s microflora considerably, and lastly the idea of hybridising grapes – as we often say at Bonny Doon, what could possibly go wrong?”

The initial vineyard will be actively cross-pollinated, either by hand, or by growing the vines in close proximity.

He will then plant seeds from grapes spawned in the mother block vineyard into a new, larger vineyard. These will be grown into new own-rooted vines and dry-farmed.

“I’ve had some ideas for the hybrids but it’s still a little indeterminate,” he said. They have to be appropriate for the site. I know what I like in white wine – proper white wines should have acidity, a suggestion of citrus, and a strong mineral aspect.”

Grahm admits the project will take generations, “but I’m hoping there will be intermittent positive reinforcement,” he added.

“We’re not going to dead stop our other wines because we need an income stream to keep us going, but this is a big stylistic shift. Instead of making stylised wines of effort that are highly controlled, it’s letting nature take its course within certain circumscribed limits.”


Boozenews.com videos of Randall Grahm talking about the vineyard

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