Today I picked up a bottle of 337 Cabernet Sauvignon based on something a casual wine drinker may have picked it up for, a cool bottle. The bottle is a 2005 Cabernet and the second of only two released wines from 337 so I felt special buying a newer vineyard.
The Clay Station vineyard is in Lodi, Californa, or as their website describes it, “337 Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in the rich and rocky soil of the Clay Station Vineyard in the Lodi foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.” Their description sounds much more inviting, but that’s marketing speak for ya!
Seriously, the wine is smooth and tasty and doesn’t linger long in the mouth. It cost USD $15.00 in New Hampshire, USA which isn’t a bad price for a nice Cabernet Sauvignon. My wife, a non-wine drinker, took a sip and did something she doesn’t normally do… she held a straight face and said “hmm, not bad.” Normally she gives a sour puss and jumps for her glass of water.
337 probably was tolerable by my wife because their website says they don’t crush the grapes when making their recipe and this may help keep strong tannins out of the mix and the silly face off my wife. Those strong bitter tannins you may experience in some wines may give it an initial bite that turns off a non-wine drinker almost immediately.
What is 337? It’s not just Clay Station Vineyards bottle of Cabernet but a clone of a Cabernet Sauvignon grape. The 337 clone usually is referred to as Cabernet Sauvignon #337 to give wine drinkers (and vineyards) and exact description of the wines they’re using. The #337 clone is used in many wine mixes along with other clones to give a specific tone, smoothness and feeling to the wine.
Each grape clone has its own attributes, all closely related to the original Cabernet grape with small variants that make it special.
“A clone is defined (Hartmann, et al., 1990) as a genetically uniform group of individuals derived originally from a single individual by asexual propagation (cuttings, grafting, etc.). All grape varieties are propagated by asexual means to preserve the unique characteristics of the variety. But slight genetic variations commonly occur among the many billions of cells that make up a grapevine. If a new vine is propagated from a cane that grew out of such variant tissue, it may exhibit somewhat different characteristics than the original vine.” (bellwine.com)
Think of a grape vine like certain “weeds” that some countries allow you to legally smoke without penalty of arrest. There are different “buds” which have slightly different properties and different “highs” and smoothness that make them desirable. Consider these slightly unique properties of a plant in terms of grape vines, they’ll all taste like Cabernet Sauvignon to a taste tester but will have subtle differences.
What is the 337 clone properties that made it a grapevine worth cloning and growing on its own? First, it produces smaller deep colored berries with lower yield but have desirable juice and skin. Some have said this clone type is prone to viruses so their may be a risk associated with growing a #337 variety of Cabernet Sauvignon.
I did notice the Clay Station 337 was very dark, hold it to the light and you’ll see no illumination in your glass. It’s a pretty looking color as well, very dark and purple.
One more thing about cloning the specific grapes, if a vineyard finds one of their grape vines has become resilient to diseases it may stand out as a genetic reason to isolate and clone the vine and give it a new clone number all it’s own! Then you could have a highly resistant grape which, hopefully, tastes good and could help your vineyard make money by selling the strong grape to other vineyards so they can have a stable grape without worry of wiping out a crop with a bad virus.
So, here I was enjoying a bottle of Cabernet and found the number on the bottle wasn’t just a neat label and name but an entire history lesson waiting for me to unfold.