In the latter part of the 19th century, Europe's vineyards were overwhelmed by a pest called Phylloxera, only to be saved by a Phylloxera-resistant American graft. Then, in the 1960s, American vintners started planting a highly productive rootstock called AxR1 (trying to reduce cost so as to convert beer drinkers into wine drinkers!) despite warnings from the French as to the rootstock's susceptibility to Phylloxera. By the beginning of the 1980s, Napa and Sonoma's vineyards were ravaged just as the European vineyards had been a century before.
But, Phyllloxera likes heavy soil, and doesn't take well to the light sand of Contra Costa, east of the San Francisco Bay. As a result, a handful of vineyards, all planted by Italian immigrants before the turn of the 19th century, survived. These gnarly, head-trained plants, continue to produce tiny quantities of some of the most concentrated, nuanced fruit in California.
For years, contracts for these amazing vineyards were fought over. The two men who most capitalized were Matt Cline of Cline Cellars, and Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon. While Bonny Doon eventually outgrew the utility of the vineyards' small production, Cline stuck with it, producing startling, terrifically concentrated reds.
One of these wines is the 2005 Old Vine Cuvee, which is made with a blend of grapes, including 20-30% each of Zinfandel, Mourvedre and Carignane drawn from vineyards with an average age of 90 years. A small amount of Petite Sirah adds color, sweetness and structure. The wine is deep red in color, full of rasberry/blueberry aromas with delicious spicy red fruit flavors. It drinks like a New World interpretation of a fine southern Rhone wine.
This wine is perfect with all sorts of grilled meats for summer- try it with barbecued poultry or lamb. Hard cheeses are also an excellent match- pair it with an aged gouda.