Commentary by Elizabeth Morse
The Rhône wine region is a famous area in Southern France. Here in the U.S., California offers a very similar climate. In the early 1980s, a group of American winemakers created a nonprofit organization to promote U.S. wines containing at least 75 percent of the 22 Rhône grape varietals. They were known as the “Rhône Rangers,” and Fred Cline was one of the first members of this group. Cline Family Cellars still offers great wines in this approachable, French style.
I recently sampled several of Cline’s wines and here’s what I enjoyed the most:
Cline Family Cellars North Coast Viognier, $20, is a gorgeous, feminine-style white wine. Each glass offers a fragrant, perfumed nose with big tropical and stone-fruit flavors: pineapple, peaches and apricots. Often, Viognier can be flabby (unbalanced with heavy flavors and little structure), but not this one. She’s plenty balanced, making her lean enough to cut through the richness of cheese (Camembert would be a winning choice). If you’re sick of Chardonnay, give Viognier a swirl.
Cline Ancient Vines Mourvèdre comes from some of the wineries’ oldest vines. Very old vines produce little but extremely concentrated fruit, and that’s what this wine offers. Dark and velvety with almost a year of oak aging and pronounced flavors of plums and chocolate. I had this wine with Paneer Curry and it was an excellent match. Heavier roasted meats like lamb or pork (with a cherry chutney) would also be outstanding ($16).
2016 Cashmere Red Wine (by Cline), $23. Think dark chocolate and cherries and raspberries with a tannic backbone. Warm flavors of cloves and spicy cracked pepper. Cashmere Red is a blend of Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre (often referred to as a “GSM”). A very smooth wine, this would be a good choice when trying to satisfy the palates of several different folks (#crowdpleaser). Consider this bottle with a simple, dark chocolate dessert.