Wine Review: Cline Old Vine Zinfandel Contra Costa County 2017

clineIn the dogged pursuit of science, I picked up this bottle to test Zinfandel’s long standing reputation as a wine ideal for serving with barbecue—in this case Kansas City style Burnt Ends. It’s reputation survives intact.

This is an ordinary, uninspiring wine but it has three characteristics that make it a match for barbecue sauce—a mouthful of peppery spice, scintillating acidity, and high alcohol which oddly enough the brain seems to interpret as sweet.

Abundant aromas of ripe strawberry, cinnamon, cardamom, and lots of pepper are appealing although marred by a bit of heat from the alcohol.

In the mouth it’s medium bodied, smooth, and polished with the slick sheen of sweet alcohol.  Ample acidity makes the wine feel buoyant but it isn’t dynamic and the fruit power fades too soon on the finish. The tannins are peppery but shy and the finish closes with an odd sour candy note.

But the wine comes alive with food. The sweet alcohol and sharp acidity gave it the intensity to stand up to the sweet, spicy, hot, vinegary barbecue sauce. It was thoroughly enjoyable with the meal which is all you can ask from a $13 wine.

It presents as slick, stylish, and detached but the top note intensity resonates with the falsetto voices in the slick, stylish but detached Electric Feel by MGMT.

Score: 87

Price: $13

Alc: 15%


  1. Dwight,

    Was the 87 rating in its role with the barbecue or as a stand alone Zinfandel?? On its own it reads like an 80.


    1. Hi Tom,
      The score is as stand alone Zin. The complexity of spice aromas and general polish of the mouthfeel put it in the good commercial wine category. The alcohol might turn some people off but it is Zin, so not really out of line.

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