2015 Cline Sonoma County Syrah


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.


With its dark purple color, multi-faceted fruit profile, and the ability to grace both picnic blankets and restaurant tables, Syrah has soared in popularity, recently becoming California’s fifth-most-planted grape. With a dry,  Mediterranean climate like that of Southern France, Sonoma County can produce excellent Syrah. The grapes for this wine come mainly from Cline’s vineyards on the Sonoma Coast, where cooler conditions add refreshing acidity and spicy aromas. With a compelling mix of ripe fruit and savory characters, this wine is a surefire match for grilled fare – even grilled salmon or mixed grilled vegetables drizzled with olive oil. 


Production of this wine began with handpicking, destemming and gentle crushing in order to limit the harsher tannins. Fermentation proceeded at moderate temperatures in stainless steel, followed by 12 months’ aging in French oak (40% new).

Tasting notes

The dark purple color and aromas of blackberries, violets, and a touch of leather entice sipping. The palate opens up with juicy black cherry and cracked black pepper flavors that last long into the finish. Pure enjoyment at a great price. 


Sonoma County