Ancient Vines Mourvedre
Mourvedre (Contra Costa County)
Sonoma, California, USA
$15 -- Southern Season, Chapel Hill, NC
Color: Medium red
Nose: Spicy strawberry; cherry
Body: Sturdy, but not too heavy
Front: Washington cherries
Middle: Vanilla, sharp spice like pepper or something more aromatic
Back: Caramel, smoke
Burns clean?: Yes
Cline does some hard "cultural capital" selling of this wine on the back of the label, naming Mourvedre's French and Spanish associations (Monastrell), Chateauneuf, etc. It's completely unnecessary. This is, for me and at this price, one of the best wines made in America. Partly this is because it's got serious California terroir: distinctive fruit up front, nice structure, full body. But partly it's because of its more haunting character, which comes second. It starts by tasting like wine and ends in metonymy: a Texas barbecue right before it's lit; driving a road in the boonies of Kentucky during tobacco smoking season; an Indian kitchen on Devon right after the oven's been cleaned.
Update: Little did I know, when I used that Texas barbecue metaphor, that the next time I drank this wine (the 2006 vintage; 15%; similar price) I'd in fact be in Texas. The back label is even more unnecessarily elaborate, with a vegetarian recipe attached: DIY California. But inside, it's got much the same stuff going on, and is still a stunning wine and a ridiculous bargain to my taste.