Matt Cline's grandfather, Valeriano Jacuzzi, was one of the first Italian settlers to plant grapes around the turn of the century in Contra Costa County, east of the San Francisco Bay. The Italian and Portuguese immigrants planted Zinfandel, Mataro (aka Mourvedre), Carignan and other hearty grapes in the sandy soil near Oakley so as to make wines that were reminiscent of those in Southern Europe. When phyloxera hit northern California at the turn of the century and again in the mid-80s, ravaging most of the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma, the sandy soil of Oakley turned out to be unusually resistant to the spread of the disease, thereby sparing most of the ancient head-trained vines of Contra Costa.
When we first met Matt in the late 1980s, he had just begun making wine at Cline Cellars. Always fascinated by his family history, Matt looked first in his 'back yard' when sourcing grapes. He discovered that his grandfather's 30 acres as well as hundreds of acres of other immigrant families were virtually in tact, and largely undiscovered by the North Coast wineries. Matt, along with Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, was a pioneer of the appellation, producing incredibly powerful and concentrated Zinfandel, Mataro and Carignan from vineyards that produced less than two tons to the acre. Along with Joel Petersen's single vineyard offerings from Ravenswood and Paul Draper's wines at Ridge, Matt Cline's wines set the standard for Zinfandel and Southern Rhone varieties in California.
As commercial acclaim allowed Cline Cellars to grow from ten thousand cases in the early 1990s to over 300,000 cases in 2001, Matt found himself spending less time in the vineyards he loved and more time making master blends of large production commercial cuvees. He decided to start over, going back to Oakley and to a few other small, old vine vineyards he'd discovered over the years, forming Trinitas Cellars with his wife Erin, in 2001.
Located in the town of Oakley in Contra Costa County, the Bigalow Vineyard is a 120 year-old planting. Dry-farmed and grown in Delhi Sand series loam soil, which is similar to beach sand, these vines produce a mere 1.5 to 2.5 tons of fruit per acre. The 2002 growing season was near perfect. A mild spring followed by a moderately warm summer provided for slow, but steady ripening. This a powerful zinfandel, with wonderful red fruit flavors and overtones of white pepper, chocolate and vanilla (from some new oak aging). Drink this wine now for its primary flavors or age for up to 6 years.