by Fred McMillin
for August 25, 1997

Winery of the Week

Mourvedre's Doomsday


Mourvedre Plantings in California
Year Acres
1935 5000
1976 800
1987 250

The Rest of the Story: Clearly, Mourvedre was doomed in California as acreage fell to 250 in 1987. Then, a 1988 red drew this review in the highly-respected Wine Spectator. "What a discovery. A California red that's full of sophisticated, rich currant, plum and sweet cherry flavors, with the roundness and vanilla scent of oak aging. Intense, well balanced and long on the finish.!" Grape guru Robert Parker, Jr. also praised the wine: "Rich, full-bodied, deep, chewy flavors...low yields and impeccable winemaking are evident in this impressive effort which should age nicely."

What was the discovery? Cline Mourvedre. Sales took off, with orders for this and other Rhone varietals coming in from 36 states and as far away as Japan. By 1992 Rhone specialist Giles MacDonogh would write that Mourvedre "has become one of the most fashionable grapes in California." By 1995 Mourvedre grape prices had risen to 95% of Cabernet Sauvignon.

To check all of this, I slipped a wrapped bottle of the Cline 1994 into my last blind tasting. Against 19 competitors, some costing $8 to $18 more, the Cline Mourvedre got 13% more votes than the second-place wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon.

1994 Mourvedre, Contra Costa County
Cline Cellars
Tasting Notes—Black cherry, tobacco, berries, herbs
Food Affinities—Robust entrees and chocolate desserts
Contact—Nancy Cline, (707)935-4310
Production—852 cases (hurry)

Postscript: Fred Cline started his winery two decades ago with a small inheritance from grandfather Valeriano Jacuzzi.

Note—For more about the Cline Winery, see the April 25, 1997 WineDay, "The Line on Cline."

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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