It is interesting to suggest that varying ones genetic material will help assuage some of the more potent flavors and expressions from clones that tend to trump site...but, to his own contradictory point, Pinot Noir is a mutable grape. While a mutation to Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc is something I wouldn't imagine would happen overnight, the small adaptations that happen to a vine when it experiences a myriad of local conditions do happen over the years (according to the data he cited it sounds like 10 years plus is a popular figure).
Part of California's maturation w/ Pinot must have come from trial and error; not only winemaking, viticulture and selection, but vineyard maturation. Isn't part of vineyard maturation having older, less productive vines? Isn't part of older Pinot Noir vines its mutations and adaptations in response to site? Would interspersing different clones into current locations expedite the reflection of these sites? I don’t know, but it sounds a bit like Allen likes the progress, but wants the next step to happen a bit quicker than the natural vineyard maturation progression will allow…and I am not sure exactly why this would expedite transparency.
Further, (for what it’s worth) a challenge I would put out to just about any ‘control freak’ New World winemaker would be to perform less inoculations w/ commercial yeasts. I can appreciate the unpredictability and sleepless nights that must be involved w/ using wild yeasts, but if one truly wants to reflect their individual space (vineyard, grapes, winery, etc.), aren’t natural fermentations a pretty good start? I’m not going to make the ‘designer yeast’ stand, nor do I have enough data sets to truly prove that commercial inoculations have less complexity than wild fermentations, but the fact of the matter is that yeasts are part of the skins of the grapes- not just any grapes, the grapes that grow and mature under a particular terroir, and are reflective of just that- introducing something ‘engineered’ from the outside is certainly a step back in terms of reflecting site and singularity. It’s all my empirical e
vidence (and not necessarily ‘Pinot’ evidence, as it pertains to tasting wine in general) that old vines from optimal areas that undergo wild, slow fermentations produce wines of greater distinction, complexity and depth. My favorite comparison originates from the Chateauneuf du Pape (most all top producers perfom wild fermentations) vs. other new world Grenache examples that have been inoculated vs. wildly fermented. Granted, this is Grenache and not Pinot, but the proof is in the pudding. Most commercially fermented Grenache is boring, and may be tasty or flashy, yet lacks a thumbprint of place & only attains modest complexity. Beckmen is a beautiful counterpoint, as Mikael Sigouin (the Grenache-possessed winemaker, someone I admire immensely) performs wild fermentations that (I believe) give the Grenache a depth and subtle intensity that very few Californian examples come close to....and on top of that, he's got a great site in the Purisma Mtn. vineyard, and thanks to the honesty and 'nakedness' of his winemaking, the wines express something that may truly be representative of what this special terroir is all about.
Yeasts are certainly controversial, just as much as old vines I suppose…but I’m surprised that Allen believes clonal selection (of a mutable grape to boot) should be put in front of natural vineyard maturation and native yeast fermentations to take things to the next level….but hey, Pinot may be a different animal that I’ve just yet to wrap my noggin’ around. After all, I'm just a Grenache guy.