May 17, 2006

Cline 2003 Contra Costa County Ancient Vines Mourvedre, $18

Some grapes taste like they sound.

Think about it. Merlot: simple, straightforward; chardonnay - smooth, rich.

Zinfandel: zany, zingy, with Zorro-like flair; refosco: angular, hard.

And mourvedre? Brooding, mysterious, dark. Mourvedre doesn't often come packaged on its own; its dark flavors typically provide the base notes to many red blends from Southern France. The grape has also been planted in California for more than 100 years, thanks to the Spanish settlers, who called it mataro. It used to fill jug wines and fell out of favor among producers of fancier wines.

But some of the remaining century-old vines still produce excellent juice - which is why Cline can bottle a dark, brooding, meaty mourvedre for just $18. It's not a polite, refined wine, but deliciously animale - a little meaty and a little earthy with a wild minty edge - just the thing for grilled lamb cooked over rosemary, or anything meaty, rare and savored slowly into a dark, warm night.

Cline Vineyards, Sonoma, Calif., clinecellars.com

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