Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre 2017, Contra Costa County
Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre Rosé 2018, Contra Costa County
O ver the years many people have asked me why some winemakers make such a big deal about old vines. You see that designation often with California zinfandel and with French varietals grown in California, such as mourvedre and carignane.
Old vines really can make a big difference in the quality of wines. As vines get older, they produce fewer grapes, but they pour more flavor and body into those grapes, almost as if they want to make their last gasp a powerful one.
Because of the lower yield, it is a bit of a gamble and an investment to make such wines. But the payoff is tremendous when you get wines such as these.
The Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre ($21-23) and the rosé ($17-19) are both packed with depth and flavor. The rosé comes from younger vines and the grapes are picked earlier to produce a bright, delicate and fruit-forward wine.
The mourvedre is a gorgeous deep garnet in the glass, with rich, warm plum aromas. It’s the kind of wine you want to sip and savor as the plum, cherry and chocolate flavors fill your mouth. It has a silky, lingering finish.
Soft, integrated tannins give this wine a lush, smooth mouthfeel. It will be difficult to let this wine age because it tastes so good you’ll want to drink it right away. But if you have patience, it should continue to improve for several years.
It is aged in 38 percent new, dark toast American oak for 12 months. It is 100 percent mourvedre.
The rosé is a pretty pale salmon in the glass with delicate plum aromas. It is a light, crisp and refreshing wine with raspberry and watermelon flavors. It has a clean finish, perfect for all kinds of summer grilling. It should be served chilled.
The rosé is made as a blanc de noir, or “white from red grapes,” in the style of a white wine. The skins are gently crushed and pressed to extract a small amount of color and tannin. After the skins are removed the juice is fermented at low temperatures to preserve the bright fruit flavors. Fermentation was stopped just before the wine became dry.
The wine is made of 76 percent mourvedre, 19 percent primitivo and five percent zinfandel.
The vineyards are planted in deep, sandy soil between the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers, where cool breezes help the grapes retain a refreshing acidity. The combination of low average rainfall and and fast-draining soil further limit the production of the vines.
Winery: Fred and Nancy Cline started a small winery in Oakley in 1982 with Fred’s inheritance. Part of the property had 100-year-old vines of Rhone-style varietals such as mourvedre, roussanne, carignane, viognier and marsanne. The winery is now one of the largest holders of 100-year-old vineyards in California.
They produce a wide variety of wines at a range of prices. In 2004, Cline Cellars was named one of Wine Spectator’s 50 great producers every wine lover should know.
The Clines come from longtime California families. Fred had become fascinated with wine when his immigrant grandfather Valeriano Jacuzzi showed him how to turn grapes into wine. (Yes, he was one of the brothers from the famed spa family.)
They moved the winery to a 350-acre ranch in the Carneros Valley in Sonoma County in 1993 and opened a tasting room in an 1853 farmhouse. Today the Clines own property throughout Sonoma County, in Oakley/Contra Costa and Tehama County.
There is no precise definition, but old vines generally are considered to be at least 50 years old. Cline uses ancient vines because many of the vines are more than 100 years old.
The deep-rooted, head-trained vines have survived threats from drought, Prohibition and phylloxera, they now face their biggest threat yet: development. Some home builders are offering up to $500,000 an acre for the land, but the Clines have refused to sell, opting to protect the ancient vines.
Goes with: We had the Mourvedre with take-out food because it was too hot to cook. I had my favorite pizza from Guiseppe’s and Teri had an eggplant parmigana sandwich. Both pairings were terrific. My son Michael and his girlfriend Micheala stopped by and they loved the wine with the pizza.
The warm, rich flavors were a great match for the tomato flavors in both dishes and brought out the herbs in them.
We had the rosé with grilled bratwurst sandwiches. I put sauerkraut on my brats, so you might not think a wine like this would be a good pairing, but it was wonderful.
The lighter body of the wine and the flavors of raspberry and watermelon make it a good summertime wine.
Author Dennis Sodomka