2015 Three Old Vines Field Blend Contra Costa County


Matt and Erin Cline, the owners and proprietors of the Three Wine Company maintain a philosophy about wine, namely, that it can be reduced to just three vital elements: dirt, microclimate and sustainable wine-growing. By sourcing fruit from old vineyards in Contra Costa, Napa and Sonoma counties and by working closely with the growers who own them, they not only supply quality wine to customers but help preserve a unique aspect of California’s agricultural heritage.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   If Matt Cline is a name that rings familiar to Hotei customers, it should! The younger brother of Fred Cline, Matt studied entomology at UC Berkeley and then enology at UC Davis and went on to become Cline Cellars’ winemaker from 1985 to 2001. But from the start, Matt was involved in much more than just making Cline wines. In fact, he played a large role in discovering and helping to preserve the old vineyards that produced the fruit for some of Cline’s top wines. When Fred Cline established the winery in Oakley (in Contra Costa, along the San Joaquin River delta), it was Matt who made handshake deals with the Spinelli, Evangelho and Lucchesi families who owned such plots known as Bridgehead and Big Break. Planted by Italian and Portuguese immigrant farmers as long ago as the 1890s, the Zinfandel, Mataro (Mourvedre) and Carignan vines had managed to survive such crises as phylloxera and prohibition. Rooted in well-drained, sandy soils and farmed without irrigation, these ancient vines yielded little quantity but offered character that isn’t found in the fruit of younger vines. By recognizing the potential for these low-yielding vineyards in an unrecognized region to produce fine wine, Matt Cline managed to save them from succumbing to the next real crisis: the sprawling East Bay suburbs that were reaching northern Contra Costa County.                                                                                                                                                                                                   In the 2000s, Matt Cline moved on from the Cline family business to found other ventures, such as Trinitas, which he sold in 2006, a brand of late harvest Riesling called S3x (small, sweet sips), and eventually the Three Wine Company. In all his ventures, he has sought out old vineyards and encouraged their owners to adopt sustainable farming and nourish these historic plots to good health.    Three Wine Company is located in Clarksdale, California and makes wine from not only the same Contra Costa vineyards that Matt has worked with for over three decades, but heritage vineyards in the Russian River and Napa valleys as well. While some of Three’s wines are single varietals, Matt prefers the magic that occurs by blending Zin, Mourvedre, Carignan, and Cinsault, which he believes is both more historically accurate and sustainable. 


A deep purple/black concoction wafting aromas of boysenberry, violets and dark plum. Intriguing… Delicious … But what is it? Blending Carignane, Mataro, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, and Black Malvoisie may obfuscate varietal character, but it’s winemaking as practiced by the pioneers, who knew that each grape variety added it’s own bit of charm to the wine they wanted on their dinner tables. The old, head-pruned vines in Contra Costa County grow in a sandy soil known as Delhi Sandy Loam, which is so sandy that the vine roots must reach deep into the earth to find moisture. Because the sand also kept the nasty Phylloxera louse at bay, the vines were also planted on their own vinifera roots - one of the few modern-day vineyards in the world where this is possible. Blending the fruit of these low-yielding vines results in a wine that’s deep purple/black in color and offers high-toned aromas of boysenberry violets and dark plum. On entry, the wine is massive and packed with crushed black fruits and black cherry liqueur, while the finish remains firm and vibrant. Drink now or lay down for up to a decade. Decanting is recommended. Enjoy with rich meat stews or roasts. 


Fermented in stainless steel and aged in French and American oak for 14-15 months. 

Tasting notes

89 Points (2014) – Wine Enthusiast. Aromas of blackberries, boysenberry and plums and smoky notes precede a concentrated and rich palate of dark fruit and violets leading to a firm finish.


Contra Costa County


39% Carignane, 26% Mataro, 17% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 5% Alicante Bouschet, 2% Black Malvoisie