Selection 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 using a traditional viticultural technique called Selecion Massale.

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. These were propagated from cuttings smuggled out of France in a suitcase. 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, small cluster size, intense flavors 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 often favor that original lineage of Pommard Pinot Noir for our single vineyard Pinot Noirs.

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

Massal Selection continues to help us improve our vineyard stock while retaining our favorite characteristics of those original 10 acres of Pinot Noir. 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. In 2022, we’ll plant another 5-10 acres of La Bohème the very same way. 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