Domestic Selection: Zinfandel, 1990. Cline Cellars

Cline Cellars is owned by a fami­ly whose name is a household word. About a century ago, six brothers pooled their resources to put the eldest one through college, a cultural tradition in Italy. The brothers immigrated to California. They took odd jobs, in the mines, for the railroads, even as farm la­borers picking fruit and produce in the Central Valley. Then, the col­lege educated brother came up with an invention, the injector pump. This invention eventually evolved into the whirlpool bath, which in turn became the spa. The inventor was our winemakers’ (Fred and Matt Cline) grandfather, Valeriano Jacuzzi.

Along with one of his siblings Valeriano went on to buy farms in Contra Costa County, 50 miles east of San Francisco. They plant­ed grape vines there and, with their Old World viticultural know-how, made wine “the old-fashioned way”. Young Fred Cline spent his summers at their ranch in Oakley, accumulating farming and viticul­tural knowledge at his grandfa­ther’s side. Then, when Fred was 17, his grandfather passed away. Fred moved to the ranch to keep his grandmother company and to tend the crops.

To fine tune the apprentice-style training he had received, he attended UC Davis. Fred took all the fermentation science and viticulture classes he could, graduat­ing with a major in Agri. Science.

Around this time, he stumbled upon the old Firpo Winery in Oak­ley. The vines there had been planted in the early 1900s. Fred took it over in 1982 and created Cline Cellars. By invitation, his younger brother, Matt, who also studied Oenology at Davis, became the winemaker at Cline Cellars in 1986.

When vineyards get very old, they yield a short crop, with the fruit often exhibiting extraordinary depth of flavor and complexity. The ancient vines from which this selection comes yield less than two, tons per acre. The Clines add two other grapes to a base of 80% Zin­fandel: Carignane (11%) for strength and Mourvedre (9%) for complexity.

This wine has a quite dark pur­ple/red color. The nose penetrates with raspberry and blackberry aro­mas accented with a hint of white pepper. With full-bodied, complex chocolate, coffee, spice and fruit flavors, and appropriate tannins, it finishes dry.

Serve at room tem­perature with barbequed brisket.

Cellaring Notes: Drinking well now, it can mellow and complex for 5 years. Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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