In the 1980s when Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay dominated the field of California wine, a rebel band of vintners formed an informal group to promote the use of grape varieties from the Rhône Valley, France, and dubbed themselves the Rhône Rangers. The fruits of their marketing labor have resulted in Syrah and other Rhône varietals becoming more prevalent in today’s California wine scene. Fred Cline, one of the original Rhône Rangers varietal insurgents, is the owner of Cline Family Cellars, located in Sonoma, California.
Cline, grandson of Valeriano Jacuzzi (the man whose name is synonymous with spa tubs), and his wife Nancy founded Cline Family Cellars in Oakley, California in 1982. They began their wine business by restoring 100-year-old vines of Rhône -style varietals. Mourvèdre and Carignane, along with Zinfandel, make up Cline’s Ancient Vines Series of varietal wines.
Today the winery is located at a 350-acre ranch in Carneros Valley in Sonoma County, and produces many different varietal wines and blends from vineyards owned by the Cline family throughout Sonoma County. The vineyards are sustainably farmed using the Green String farming method developed by Fred Cline and Bobby Cannard.
Oakley, where Cline’s Mourvèdre grapes are grown, is in the Contra Costa County appellation, 40 miles east of Sonoma County. It’s a sub-region of the very large Central Coast AVA which stretches from San Francisco in the north to Santa Barbara in the south. The area’s terroir provides favorable conditions for this grape variety that likes to have its face in hot sun and feet in cool water. Vines are planted in sandy soil along the delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers where summer days are warm and sunny.
The pour is inky purple with lots of leg action consistent with a high alcohol content of 15.5%. There’s not much fruitiness on the nose. Subtle aromas lean more towards hay, leather, and cedar. Over time, scents of grassy herbs are added to the bouquet. On the palate are flavors of ripe plum, tobacco and spicy black pepper with very bright acidity. A short clean finish closes with smooth tannins.
Cline Mourvèdre is reminiscent of visiting the horse stables; hay and saddles without the manure. The grape’s characteristic bright acidity that works to its advantage as a blending grape threw this single varietal a bit off balance. Overall, the wine was a nice change of pace from the typical fruit bomb and interesting enough to warrant a blog post. The Cline Ancient Vines Series varietals cost between $17 and $23 as per their website.