Cline's Ancient Vines Mourvèdre embodies the notion that affordable wines need not be ordinary. In fact, this wine is so good - and has such a great story - that you can take it to dinner parties and impress your friends. An important component in Spanish and Southern French blends, Mourvèdre's heyday in California was in the early decades of the 20th century. Cline's Mourvèdre vineyards in Contra Costa County are relics of that bygone age. Sandy soils allowed the vines to be planted on their own European roots without succumbing to the Phylloxera louse. The warm but windy climate around the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers allows these grapes to get fully ripe while retaining acidity and freshness. Soft tannins and lush, concentrated plum flavors make this wine a wonderful accompaniment to grilled lamb, wild mushroom ragout or peppercorn crusted beef tenderloin.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay may seem ubiquitous in Northern California’s wine industry, but it wasn’t always that way. Seeing the old vineyards near his grandfather’s ranch in Oakley, California, Fred Cline learned that wine growers 100 years ago preferred Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mataro (Mourvedre) and Carignan – often planted together in one vineyard as a “field blend.” Because this pattern is found in old vineyards throughout the state, it must have been a conscious choice among winegrowers back then. They must have understood that Zin and the Rhone varieties perform better under California’s dry but variable conditions than the finicky, slow-ripening Cabernet. These vines can thrive without irrigation (a.k.a. “dry-farming”) and the blending of grapes with different qualities would have ensured that the finished wine attained a proper balance of sugar, acid, ripeness and tannin.
In order to pursue his interest in Zinfandel, Rhone grape varieties and old vineyards, Fred Cline founded Cline Cellars near Oakley in 1981. The Ancient Vines bottlings are made from grapes grown in these low-yielding, Contra Costa County vineyards. In 1991, Cline moved his winemaking facility to a large ranch in Carneros, the cool, wind-swept district just north of San Pablo Bay between Napa and Sonoma counties. Even though Chardonnay and Pinot Noir dominate the vineyards here, Cline decided to plant Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussane and has proven that even in a cool climate these varietals can develop intense but elegant fruit and perfume. A more recent acquisition lies near Petaluma, in Sonoma County, and Cline Cellars has now added Pinot Noir to its roster of Zinfandel and Rhone reds and whites.
A focus on Zinfandel and Rhone varietal wines has not always been easy, but Cline Cellars has repeatedly earned accolades and critical acclaim. Over the years, many of the Zinfandels and others have earned 90 points and up in the Wine Spectator, and Wine & Spirits has called the Ancient Vines Mourvèdre “one of the top 100 values.” It doesn’t get much better than this: hand-crafted wines from sustainably-farmed vineyards that are intimately connected to California’s winemaking history. The wines of Cline Cellars are deep and rich with elegance, complexity and flavor AND available at reasonable prices.
|Appellation(s)||Contra Costa County|
|Bottle Size||8.0 x 30.0|
|Case Size||33.5 x 25.5 x 31.0|
90 points – Wine Enthusiast (2017 vintage). The nose enchants with a melange of dark plum, black cherry, dark chocolate and hints of eucalyptus. Luscious plum flavors envelop the palate and continue through a long finish. The wine is soft and well-balanced with a silky texture.
Grapes were completely destemmed and crushed gently to encourage softer tannins (and earlier drinkability). Fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine aged for 12 months in dark toasted American oak barrels (38% new).