2009 Three Wine Company "1885" (125-Year-Old-Vine Cuvee)
 
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Winemaker Matt Cline "1885"

The first time we tasted the components of what would come to be called "1885" was in February 2011. For almost 30 years, Matt Cline had been working with some of the oldest and most historically significant vineyards in America. But on that chilly morning in Napa, the normally unflappable winemaker was openly disturbed. It seemed he could see the writing on the wall.

The impassioned stories of the Italian and Portuguese immigrants who carved Zinfandel, Carignane, Mataro, Black Malvoisie and Alicante Bouschet saplings into the white sands of Contra Costa have been well-documented on these pages. As many of the family patriarchs had been wine-grape farmers in the old country, on weekends they left the port of San Francisco and traveled by buggy and barge to Sonoma, hauling back bundles of 6-inch budwood to the East Bay. When they arrived, they did what they'd always done: They went to work.

The families — with names like Evangelho, Jacuzzi, Lucchesi and Spinelli — carved that budwood into white Delhi sand, choosing spots on the banks of the bay where cool breezes could temper the hot California sun. Believing that the sum of the varietal parts was greater than any individual element, each parcel featured five varieties, all of which were intended for final blends.

In 1985, fresh out of UC Berkeley, Cline would be the first winemaker to identify the ancient-vine opportunity. One by one, he entered into handshake agreements for the fruit off those original plantings. Over the course of the next three decades, Matt turned out a bevy of phenomenal old-vine reds, each infused with extravagant blackberry concentration, yet braced by low-pH, sandy-soil backbone.

On that winter day, 126 years after the immigrants first came to Oakley, Matt Cline wondered how long it would be before these ancient vineyards would be ripped outand discarded!

Over the last decade, as home prices skyrocketed from San Jose to San Francisco, real estate developers scoured the Bay Area for opportunities. It wouldn't be long before they set their sights on the white sands of Contra Costa. One morning, a few years back, after pleading a case he had no shot of winning, Cline skipped breakfast, bringing just a thermos of black coffee on the ride from Napa to Oakley. An hour later, nearly sick to his stomach, he watched as a couple Caterpillars ripped out 80 percent of the hundred-year-old Zinfandel at "Live Oak." Less than a year later, a middle-income apartment building stood where head-trained Zinfandel had flourished for a century.

Now, faced with an even greater challenge from the California Department of Water Resources, which seems determined to "scrub" the old Lucchesi Vineyard, Cline is fighting back. First, he's imploring the state to preserve the ancient vines from which wine has been made since well before the turn of the 20th century. Second, each year until the state complies, Cline is commemorating the work of those immigrant grape farmers by making 6-10 barrels of this jaw-dropping blendappropriately named "1885."

Drawn ONLY from vines planted in 1885 (or before), the spellbinding 2009 "1885" is comprised of all five grape varieties, in proportion to the makeup of the first vineyard plantings. Thirty-one percent 125+-year-old Zinfandel, Carignane and Mataro, spiked with a dash of jammy ancient-vine Black Malvoisie, and deeply colored, firm-tannin Alicante Bouschet. Brilliant jet-black to the rim with voluptuous aromas of blackberry preserves, violets, graphite and sweet herbs. The attack is massive, a richly textured gumbo of mountain blueberries and crushed black fruit jam. But it's in the finish that the ancient vines really sing. High-toned and vibrant with soft, sumptuous tannic structure, drink now for its youthful hedonism — or lay down the finest wine Matt Cline's ever made for a decade.



Tasting Notes

2009 Three Wine Company "1885" (125-Year-Old-Vine Cuvee)
"(31% 125+-year-old Zinfandel, Carignane and Mataro, spiked with a dash of jammy ancient-vine Black Malvoisie, and deeply colored, firm-tannin Alicante Bouschet.) Brilliant jet-black to the rim with voluptuous aromas of blackberry preserves, violets, graphite and sweet herbs. The attack is massive, a richly textured gumbo of mountain blueberries and crushed black fruit jam. But it's in the finish that the ancient vines really sing. High-toned and vibrant with soft, sumptuous tannic structure, drink now for its youthful hedonism — or lay down the finest wine Matt Cline's ever made for a decade."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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