Dirt, Microclimate and Sustainable Wine-growing

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. 





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Wines from this Winery

THREE Sparkling Wine Mendocino County

Three Wine Company’s Mendocino Brut is a classic Methode Traditionnelle sparkling wine. It consists of 68% Chardonnay and 32% Pinot Noir from the 2015 vintage. The fruit was sourced from several vineyards in Mendocino County, fermented separately in stainless steel tanks before being assembled into the blend, which included 4.5% from the 2014 vintage for added complexity. As with all classic method sparkling wines, secondary fermentation inside the bottle produces the bubbles while sur lie aging yields the creamy texture and complex flavors. The winery notes, “vivid crisp Gala apple with hints of pear and lemon lead to fresh toasted bread for an elegant dry finish.” An excellent value! Highly recommended for the holidays!

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¥4,400 (incl. tax)
THREE Field Blend

Dark purple in the glass, the Old Vines Field Blend teases the nose with high-toned boysenberry, violets and earth and follows with luscious red berries and black fruit, wild herbs, and exotic spices. What is this wild wine? The answer: mostly Carignane and Mataro (aka Mourvédre) with some Zinfandel and Petite Sirah added for good measure. This is winemaking as practiced by immigrants in the 19th century who wanted to make wine that reminded them of home. Their legacy, the old, head-pruned vines in Contra Costa County continue to thrive in the well-drained, sandy soil known as Delhi Sandy Loam. And because the sand prevented infestation by the Phylloxera louse, the vines remained healthy despite being planted on their own vinifera roots – a practice virtually impossible anywhere else. Drink now or lay down for up to a decade. Decanting is recommended – or drinking some and leaving some for the next day. Enjoy with rich meat stews or roasts. 

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¥3,630 (incl. tax)
THREE Petite Sirah Contra Costa County

This dense and spicy wine exudes blueberry, fig, prune, and blackcurrant, with alluring notes of leather, cocoa nibs, baking spice, and licorice. It will taste great before, during, or after barbecue! Like Zinfandel, Petite Sirah arrived early in California, where it gained a strong foothold as it simultaneously disappeared in Europe. For most of the 20th century, the grape was used to improve blends of Zinfandel, Syrah and even Cabernet Sauvignon with its characteristic inky black color, bright acids and hefty tannins. More recently, it’s become a popular varietal wine. Three’s Petite Sirah comes from the Mazzoni Vineyard in Contra Costa County, a mature vineyard planted in soils so sandy that the vines yield but small amounts of intensely-flavored fruit. Vines have been growing here since the 1880s, and a small portion of the grapes in the blend are from Carignane and Mataro vines planted by Signor Mazzoni himself.

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¥4,400 (incl. tax)
THREE Zinfandel

Three Wine Company takes pride in not only preserving old vineyards but also traditional methods. As in the pre-prohibition era, the wine is a “field blend” of 75.1% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah, 9.3% Carignane, 3.6% Alicante Bouschet from vineyard blocks planted in the sandy soils of Contra Costa County over 100 years ago. What the early immigrant winegrowers knew well was that blending builds complexity. Here, Petite Sirah buttresses the Zin with tannin structure as well as boysenberry and pepper, while Carignane helps create a fleshy mouthfeel while adding notes of dark cherries and coffee. This is a Zin that combines zesty red fruit notes along with darker notes of violet, pepper, and mineral. It’s light on its feet with soft tannins and balanced acidity. The mouthfeel is rich, round, and balanced and the finish is long and peppery. It more than follows Matt Cline’s dictum of “The dirt, the micro-climate and don’t screw it up,” Three Old Vine Zin is medium-bodied with moderate acidity and a smooth mouthfeel. 

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¥4,400 (incl. tax)
2016 Three Zinfandel Live Oak Contra Costa County

The Live Oak Zinfandel is sourced from two small vineyard blocks planted in1885 by Italian family members, Spike and Guido Mazzoni. While the Live Oak block consists of 100% Zinfandel, the Mazzoni block has some Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mataro, and Alicante Bouschet planted among the Zinfandel vines. Why are such old vines special? Beyond preserving a corner of California agricultural history, old, gnarled vines produce fruit with a unique concentration of flavors, because clusters are few and because their roots run so deep. Even in dry years, old vines don’t need irrigation or special care. in 2016, the blend consists of 77% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignane, and 2% Alicante Bouschet. According to the winery, “the wine is dark black and blue color to the edge, with raspberry, boysenberry, violets, supple tannins and perfect acidity. The wine shows staggering ancient vine concentration with a briary density and silken chewiness with a velour-like texture which is classic Live Oak.”

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¥5,610 (incl. tax)