“What’s Mourvèdre?” a friend asked as I opened a bottle of Cline’s 2008 Ancient Vines. We were hanging out by the grill at a neighbor’s house on a sunny Northern California afternoon. With my wine-savvy friends, I like to experiment, but the group at this party prefers the familiar. Whenever I’ve taken a dry rosé or even a nice Côtes du Rhône, they would taste it but then generally reach for a California red.
This time I tried a Rhône variety made by Cline, as I’ve been following the winery’s Mourvèdres for years. The 2008 is boldly Californian in style—ripe and fleshy—but retains enough of the grape’s classic smoky gaminess that Rhône lovers expect. It was a hit. No, it wasn’t particularly complex or ageworthy, but it’s immensely sippable at a barbecue and only $16. I rated it 87 points, non-blind, that night. While I don’t think I made any great converts to experimentation, I’m a big believer in small steps. Next time, maybe a Grenache!