Did you know that in the late 1800s, Oakley had thousands of acres of orchards and healthy vineyards? Fred Cline’s maternal grandfather, Valeriano Jacuzzi – of pump and spa fame – had long called this place home. On summer visits to his grandparents, Fred learned to love the agricultural life and the mysteries of vinifying grapes into wine.
These lessons led him to earn a degree in agriculture management from UC Davis. In 1982, Fred founded Cline Cellars near Oakley. Here he preserved and restored many ancient vine sites to their rightful reign as premier California wine lands.
Fred Cline was one of the original “Rhone Rangers,” a group of winemakers dedicated to promoting American Rhone-varietal wines. American Rhone-style wines are made from the same grapes that have flourished for centuries in France’s Rhone River Valley, and their growing popularity in the United States speaks to their versatility with food, wide range of rich flavors, and the skills of American winemakers.
Rhone-style grapes that thrive in the Contra Costa climate include Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignane. In fact, Charlie Tsegeletos refers to Contra Costa County as a “treasure trove” for these grape varietals – as well as other non-Rhone varietals such as Zinfandel. It turns out that Cline Cellars and Charlie hold Mourvèdre – with its rustic flavor, palate length and modest tannic structure – in such high regard that they make four Mourvèdre wines from our local ancient vine grapes.
Charlie finds our local terroir imparts luscious chocolate and cherry undertones to Contra Costa ancient vine Mourvèdre. Terroir – which means “soil” in French – refers to the flavors and aromas that soil and geography impart to a wine. The fact is, although Contra Costa has yet to acquire its own AVA – American Viticultural Area – recognized by the federal government, this is clearly a region on the rise.
The Contra Costa Winegrowers Association and many residents believe an established AVA would benefit our greater community and local economy, and the puzzle may well fall into place for this promising region before long. Meanwhile, local wines continue to gain greater recognition and acclaim. So, wine lovers who prefer to eat and drink local: stay tuned for more good things – from your own backyard.