2007 Three Wine Company Old Vines California
Between the cost of grapes -- a short crop in 2008 has left fruit prices uniformly high despite the economy -- and the general cost of selling wine today, almost all of the reasonably priced California reds are nothing but overcropped plonk.
Here's another phenomenal counterexample from "Three," a wine Matt Cline simply calls "Old Vines." When Matt says "Old Vines," he's not messing around. The average age of the vines (many of which are planted to original rootstock), whose grapes comprise this luscious blend, is over 90 years! But the secret to Matt's wines isn't just the opulence of the fruit drawn from these ancient vines, it's the wonderful vibrancy imparted by Delhi sand.
Delhi sand was deposited around the bay area town of Oakley in Contra Costa County by the historic meandering of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Over time, the sand was blown into dunes by the winds coming off the San Francisco Bay. When Italian immigrants began pouring into the Bay Area 150 years ago, they planted vineyards on the dunes around Oakley. They could never have imagined how the pest-resistant sand would protect their vines from the phyloxerra epidemic that eventually destroyed most of the vines of northern California. Today these vines are some of the rare Californian examples of original rootstock plantings.
This rich, fleshy blend doesn't just have old vine power but is a ripe berry cornucopia of ancient vine Zinfandel (ripe raspberries), Carignane (dark cherries), Mataro (violets) and Petite Sirah (blueberries and white pepper). It has the low pH (3.6) that comes directly from the sand imparting fresh fruit vibrancy and length. So, ok, the wine is delicious. But where's the catch? How can Cline make a wine like this from grapes harvested to two tons per acre?
The Cline Elves
The short answer is resourcefulness. Matt made wine at mammoth Cline Cellars for years, and when he and his wife Erin went out on their own, they had a novel idea. Instead of spending money on what the market might see, they decided to limit expenditures to what people can taste (old-vine grapes). They would rent winemaking space, keeping costs variable. They would have a friend design their label, then they put their kids to work.
Tasting Notes from the WineAccess Travel Log
"(40% Zinfandel, 33% Carignane, 12% Mataro [Mourvedre], 11% Petite Sirah, 2% each Alicante Bouschet and Black Malvoisie) Deep purple color. Bright aromas of violets, raspberries and white pepper with hints of herbes de Provence. Rich red and purple fruit flavors. Concentrated without being 'over the top.' Excellent balance imparted by the sand soil with fine acid structure. Supple tannins. Drink now-2012."