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Cline’s Rhône Varietals The Rhône River emanates from the Alps of central Switzerland and meanders for hundreds of miles before it flows through Lake Geneva, entering Eastern France seeking its final refuge in the Mediterranean Sea. Before traditional transportation, the Rhône River Valley was a vital trade and transportation route, now it’s notorious as a large grape growing appellation in France. Grapes that are grown in the Rhône Valley (one of the larger appellations in France) are referred to as Rhône varietals. There are 22 Rhône varietals identified by the French Government; Cline Cellars produces seven, three white (Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier) and four red (Carignane, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah).
Viognier This varietal is a relatively scarce grape (approximately 2500 planted acres in France and 2,000 in California) due to its low productivity and proclivity to powdery mildew. The vines need a warm climate and are able to withstand periods of drought. The grapes are a deep yellow hue and the wines they produce are high in color with floral and stone fruit aromas. Because of its fragrant properties and low acidity, it is often used as an aromatic and softening agent with red wines. It also makes a delicious standalone. Cline’s Viognier is composed of grapes from vineyards that offer flavors indicative of the appellations from which they came. The vines basked in the sun during the day and were cooled at night which contributes to this Viognier’s full-body weight.
Marsanne This hardy grape, originating in the northern Rhone region, produces a full-bodied, deeply colored, rich and nutty wine. Optimal climates will produce a wine fruity and high in acid, making it an ideal blending wine. In climates that are too hot, the grape can over ripen and produce wine that is very flabby. In places that are too cool, the grape will not ripen fully enough to develop more than just a bland neutral flavor. As Marsanne ages, it becomes even darker in color and the flavors can become more complex and concentrated with an oily, honeyed texture. The four acres of Marsanne, which contribute to Cline’s Marsanne Roussanne blend, are planted on our estate in the Sonoma –Carneros appellation. The area is known for its cool and moderate temperatures which allow for long ripening time and full flavor development.
Roussanne This temperamental varietal tends to ripen unevenly, is prone to powdery mildew, and has little resistance to wind and drought. Roussanne is usually chosen for its bright acidity and unique floral aroma. While most Rhone whites do not age well, the opposite is true of this varietal, which may explain why vintners grow this finicky vine. Cline’s Roussanne is grown in our Sonoma Coast vineyard. On some summer days, fog intrudes and lingers until noon, providing an ideal growing environment. Marsanne and Roussanne are the Northern Rhone Valley’s two most important white wine grape varieties and are regularly blended together. There are less than 250 combined acres of these grapes in California, making them a bit of a rarity. Roussanne adds a zesty orange character mixed with grapefruit and a wonderful mineral character.
Carignane This varietal holds the distinction of being one of the most widely planted red grapes in France, and was once the most planted varietal in the new world. It has traditionally been used as a blending grape because of its favorable yields, excellent acidity, and big tannins. Cline Cellars is one of a few wineries to vinify this varietal. Our Ancient Vines Carignane draws from a wide selection of our oldest, most historic and shyest-bearing vineyards, many of which are over 100 years old. These special vineyards consistently produce fruit of stunning concentration. The hand selected lots produce a mere two to three tons of grapes per acre. The old vine elicits a taste of typical Oakley terroir, a dusty, dark cherry fruit and a nice bright acidity.
Grenache The second most widely planted red wine grape in the world, Grenache buds early, flourishes in dry, hot climates, and requires an extended ripening time. Grenache has a tendency toward high sugar and alcohol levels if planted in less desirable soils. It also tends to lack acid, tannin and color, and for these reasons is usually blended with other varieties. Our ancient vines in Oakley’s Big Break vineyard, which are planted in sandy phylloxera-resistant soil, produce the Grenache that is blended with Syrah and Mourvedre, forming our luscious Cashmere wine.
Mourvèdre The origin of this grape, also called mataro, is thought to be Spain (named monastrell), where warmer climates allow this late burgeoning fruit a lengthened hang time, allowing the small, sweet, thick skinned grape to ripen fully. The tightly bundled fruit needs ample ventilation to circumvent its susceptibility to mildew. Vintners use Mourvèdre in blends to boost color and tannins. Unblended Mourvèdre wines are intensely colored, somewhat alcoholic, profoundly tannic and capable of aging well. Cline’s Ancient Vines Mourvèdre draws from some of our oldest, most historic and shyest-bearing vineyard blocks. These blocks perpetually produce fruit that is of stunning concentration. By naturally restricting yields to only 2 to 3 tons per acre, we are able to achieve a sublime expression of the Mourvèdre fruit. These grapes hold characteristics of dark, dusty berry fruit.
Syrah Long associated with the northern Rhône Valley of France, Syrah has been used for centuries to produce some of the world’s finest and exotically aromatic wines. An illustrious leader of longevity, it is now widely planted in other regions of France as well as Italy, Australia (known there as Shiraz) and California. Syrah has the ability to form intense wines that are deep violet - almost black in color, with chewy texture and richness. The aromas tend to be more spicy than fruity. Cline Syrahs’ are known for their deep color, distinctive aromas, smooth tannins and robust flavors. Our vineyards are located in the cool climate growing regions of the Sonoma Coast and Sonoma Carneros appellations. This region produces wines of surprising complexity. The deep purple color explodes with fresh blueberry and black cherry fruit, spiced with cracked black pepper aromas.