2015 Three Petite Sirah Contra Costa County

Winery

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. 

Wine

Like Zinfandel, Petite Sirah arrived in California with the pioneers, became a significant player in California viticulture but diminished to the point of obscurity elsewhere in the world. Its inky black color, bright acids and hefty tannins made it a natural blend partner with Zinfandel, Syrah and even Cabernet Sauvignon but also led most winemakers to shy away from producing Petite Sirah as a varietal wine. In recent years, however, consumer demand for new wine experiences as well as new approaches to working with the variety, has led to a renaissance in Petite Sirah offerings. Three sources its Petite Sirah from a mature vineyard in Contra Costa County with soil about as sandy as a beach. The winery says, “due to this soil type and moderate growing conditions, the vineyard produces low yields with intense fruit flavors. This wine showcases deep blackberry fruit with a big tannin framework. For those of us who love Petite Sirah, this one will not disappoint.” They also point out this wine is so dark, it could be used  fountain pen ink! But we prefer to drink every last drop!

Winemaking

Aged in (mostly neutral) French and American oak for 16 months. 

Tasting notes

92 points – Wine Enthusiast (2014 vintage)  Exploding dark fruit and black pepper aromas, layers of concentrated blackberry and cherry, and a firm tannic grip suggest a few years of aging – or drinking tonight for the not-faint-of-heart. 

Appellation

Contra Costa County

Varietal

Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mataro

Size

750ml

Closure

Cork

Alcohol

15.2%