Seleccion Massale

Our vineyards are multigenerational – and not just because Elk Cove is in the second generation of the Campbell family. We’ve also grown several generations of our original 10 acres of Pinot Noir.

Charles Coury in his greenhouse

In 1974, Pat and Joe Campbell planted our first 10 acres of Pinot Noir vines sourced from the “suitcase clones” Charles Coury brought to Oregon from France. Many of our favorite vineyard Pinot Noir blocks since then have been planted using Massal Selection – Selection Masssale if you’re speaking French. We propagate new grapevines from cuttings of our very best vines: plants that show exceptional characteristics like small berry size and early ripening, all of them sourced from those original vines.

In much of the winegrowing world, this “old way” of growing grapevines has been largely replaced by clonal selections. And while we love our clonal selections for what they add to our Pinots – Dijon 115 for its intense small berries and 777 for its dark-fruited complexity – we still favor that original lineage of Pommard Pinot Noir for our very best blocks.

Pat and Grandpa Lew Planting La Boheme Vineayard
Elk Cove co-founder Pat Campbell with her father, orchardist Lewis Merz, planting La Bohème Vineyard in 1985

Our first success with Selection Massale was back in 1985, when Pat and Joe Campbell took cuttings from their favorite vines to plant La Bohème Vineyard. These vines in turn provided the plant material for our Roosevelt Vineyard block in 1993. Then, in the early 2000s, we took cuttings from our best vines at Roosevelt to plant several blocks of our Mount Richmond Vineyard. 

Old Vine Pinot Noir
45+ year old Pommard vines in winter

In 2020 it all came full circle as we planted our 5th generation of Pommard vines back at La Bohème, this time on resistant rootstock. Massal Selection has allowed us to improve our vineyard stock while retaining our favorite characteristics of those original 10 acres of Pinot Noir.

So perhaps instead of calling those first 10 acres “old vines” we should call them great, great, grandmother vines.

Want to learn more about Selection Massale? Check out these articles:

Preserving Wine Diversity: Selection Massale

Overturning the Monoclonal Status Quo