Back in the 1980s, the glory days for Zinfandel, three winemakers made most of the noise; Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards, Matt Cline of Cline Cellars and Joel Peterson of Ravenswood. There were really three things that distinguished the men and their wines. First they had a bloodhound’s knack for discovering small, old vine vineyards. Second, they understood the importance of filling their cellars with excellent examples of other varieties. Last, they were brilliant assemblers, blending splashes of Mourvedre, Carignan and Petite Sirah into their Zins to magnify aromatics, provide punch and color.
The old vine Mourvedre (or “mataro”) added aromatic complexity and breadth. The Carignan imparted color and punch. But, it was frequently the Petite Sirah that served as the secret brush stroke, coloring the mid-palate of the Zinfandels with gorgeous, succulent blackberry fruit.
Matt Cline is back on his feet, having just launched his new brand called “Three.” He’s brought with him all of his old bag of tricks, the ancient vine Zinfandel, Mourvedre and Carignan. But when he called us a couple of weeks ago, he told us that he had something new, “a Petite Sirah that will blow your socks off.” We tasted the wine last Tuesday and even the Francophiles in the room were singing praises. Here’s why.
Matt is the king of Contra Costa, the warm, sandy soil appellation that sits east of the San Francisco Bay. Cline was the first to lock up grape contracts for low yielding, ancient vine parcels that became the basis for his monumental Zinfandels at Cline Cellars. But a couple of years ago, Matt discovered a gently sloping, mature 10 acre parcel of Petite Sirah. But it was the precious Delhi sand that the vineyard was planted on that quickly convinced Cline to pull the trigger, not only contracting the grapes but agreeing to farm the land as well.
Even Cline is startled at the results. “This vineyard is only 20 years old, but Petite Sirah just needs mature vines, not always ancient vines. It’s the Delhi soil that calls attention to itself in the wine. It’s not only packed with sweet blackberry fruit, but it is the vibrancy on the palate that is distinct to Delhi.”
The wildly concentrated, yet wonderfully vibrant Petite Sirah is full of blackberry compote flavors and aromas, but it’s the finish that really charmed the tasting panel. Drink this beauty now for its primary fruit exuberance or age up to 5 years. At only $16.50/bottle for case purchases, this wine is a steal. Free shipping on 6 bottles or more. Weather permitting, wine will begin shipping the last week of September 2008.
2007 Three Petite Sirah
“Deep black/purple color. Powerfully concentrated blackberry aromas. Pure fruit. Rich, saturated blackberry and purple fruit flavors, at the same time remarkably bright and vibrant on the palate (the Delhi sand at play). Fine, firm, perfectly balanced finish with plenty of backbone to freshen up the intense concentration. Drink now for the primary fruit hedonism or age for up to 5 years.”
–WineAccess, August 2008