2010 Three Wine Company Old Vines Zinfandel Contra Costa County
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Three Old Vine Zinfandel 100-Year-Old Vine Zinfandel … and a pH of 3.52

The truth is, we didn't even have to taste the wines. The numbers already told the vintage story. But when Matt Cline then sent us his complete lineup of 2010s, each drawn from gnarly 100+ year-old vines still flourishing on Oakley Delhi sand, we knew our old friend wasn't whistling Dixie when he said this was the greatest vintage of his lifetime. Here's why.

In the early 1900s, Italian and Portuguese immigrant families looking to rekindle their memory of the Old World in America, were determined to plant vines in northern California. Henry Ford had yet to produce his "every man's" motorcar, so the search for budwood involved a two-day trip. The list of immigrants' family names included Evangelho, Lucchesi, Jacuzzi (Matt's grandfather) and Spinelli. They piled their boys into horse-drawn buggies, wrapping the kids in blankets to protect them from the November chill. The trek took them to Sonoma where they'd collect 6-inch budwood of southern European rootstock, varieties like French Carignan, Zinfandel (of unknown origin), and Spanish Mataro. Once loaded, they wouldn't even stop to sleep, turning right back around, but heading southeast, making a beeline for Contra Costa County.

Of the ancient vineyards of Contra Contra that have yet to fall victim to John Deere rippers and urban sprawl, the best spots are set right up next to the water, where the cool bay breezes help temper the east Bay sun. In 1982, fresh out of Berkeley and Cal Davis' enology school, Matt Cline returned to his family's run-down ranch, and then set about making handshake deals with every farmer with an 80-year-old plot planted next to the bay. Each vineyard was dry-farmed! Those agreements, thirty years later, would give birth to the most luscious, old-vine Zinfandel bargain WineAccess has ever seen.

Back to the numbers. When Matt sent us his tech sheets on each wine, he included some remarkable vintage notes. The summer of 2010 had been the coolest in decades. The Zinfandel reached miracle maturity without any sign of blister or shrivel in the second week of September (almost 10 days earlier than in 2009). So even as finished alcohol levels topped 15%, the pH of the "Old-Vine Contra Costa" Zin was an unimaginably vibrant 3.52. For those of you who aren't chemists, 3.52 is far more typical of Russian River Pinot Noir than Contra Costa Zin!

The 2010 Three Zinfandel "Old Vines" has three important components. The juicy, crushed black fruit core comes from the Evangelho and 115-year-old Live Oak Zinfandel plantings. The wine's ethereal, wild berry aromatics speak eloquently of one of the oldest plots in California -- the gnarly, head-trained rows of Spinelli. Spicy, old-vine Carignane and a healthy splash of Matt Cline's darkly muscled Petite Sirah paint this mouthwatering blend a deep purple.

Tasting Notes

2010 Three Wine Company Old Vines Zinfandel Contra Costa County
"77% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah, 4% Carignane, 1% Mataro, and 2% Alicante Bouschet. Dark purple. Notes of crushed blackberries, violet, a splash of cherry liqueur, and peppery, sweet herb high tones on the nose. Phenomenally rich on the attack, yet surprisingly sleek, speaking to the deep roots of these 105+ year old plants. Packed with wild blackberries, cherry liqueur and notes of coffee, dense and chewy, all buttressed by old vine, supple tannin cut. Drink now or age for 5-7 years in a cool cellar. Serve in oversized Riedel, and remember to let it breathe; air is this wine's best friend."
-- WineAccess Travel Log


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