Hailing from one of California’s true heritage vineyards, this is easily one of the greatest Zinfandels on the coast, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with giants like Paul Draper’s Ridge “Geyserville” and “Lytton Springs.” If you love velour-like texture, staggering ancient-vine concentration, and a dark-fruit core loaded with spice, this has your name on it. And at $24.99—31% off the release price—it’s an incredible bargain to boot.
Winning 93 points from Wine Enthusiast, the 2015 Three Wine Company Bigelow Vineyard Zinfandel is Matt Cline’s love letter to an endangered and priceless plot of Contra Costa County. An ancient-vines preservationist, Cline helped save the Bigelow Vineyard and its 130-year-old vines from development. As his reward, he reaped this “big, ripe and fruity wine” whose “firm tannins and full body give it a good sense of weight and structure.”
Thanks to Matt Cline, founder Marcus James Bigelow’s historic vines are in no danger of succumbing to the bulldozer’s blade—at least for now. These gnarled, century-old vines were in danger of being torn asunder for Contra Costa’s Bay Area real estate development magnets. Many other ancient vineyards in the area have been uprooted in the name of progress, often erasing a century’s worth of viticulture. “But not this one,” Cline told us. “I’ve got a stake in the game and no developer is going to uproot a hundred years of history on my watch.”
If you stop by Bigelow Vineyard, sitting off Neroly Road, southeast of Antioch, you’ll see his handiwork: thick-trunks of bush-trained vines planted on Contra Costa County’s loamy Delhi sands. “Bigelow takes its name from a gentleman farmer and fiddle player named Marcus James Bigelow,” said Cline. “Marcus planted the first vines on the property in the mid 1880s. Today, these 130-year-old vines eke out miniscule quantities of tiny, thick-skinned berries.” Resembling beach sand, the soil stresses the vines, driving high concentration, while yields top out at 2.5 to 3.5 tons of fruit per acre.
In 2015, Cline navigated a fast, intense vintage, one of the earliest on record and the fourth straight year of drought, making for exceptional quality in the grapes. This is a profoundly pleasurable red blend of 86% rich Zinfandel with a smattering of Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Carignane, and Mataro—all from vines that offer a window into distant California history, hand-planted in days long before Prohibition.
This was huge and delicious, as is every Matt Cline wine from Contra Costa grapes I've tasted. But I like Zins that are really spicy, and this wasn't (maybe just overpowered by the fruit]. I reserve my five stars for the blends he produces from vineyards in the same region, but this was certainly a beautifully made wine.
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