The Cline 2010 Cool Climate Syrah Sonoma Coast

I really wanted to like this wine. First, there’s a soft spot in my heart for Cline. It’s the sort of the old-school Sonoma winery that sets my home-town apart from Napa. It’s homey, and they always have that sign out on highway 121 that has some sort of cute saying as you drive by. It’s also a pretty fun place to taste wine and the pourers are always friendly and down to earth.

Second, the fact that Cline decided to market this wine as a “cool-climate” Syrah seems like kind of a great thing for consumers. It begs an interesting question: Should cool-climate Syrah producers start to label their wines as such? Will a day come where there will be sections in wine shops where sections are devoted to cool-climate Syrah? I, for one, think this is ultimately a good idea and good information for the consumer.

Third, it’s a wine that comes in under $20.

The wine: So this wine definitely has some of the savory aromas that I associate with cool-climate Syrah. It’s actually got some serious funkiness. It smells a little like old meat mixed with blackberries. This is a rustic little beast. There’s some sweet blackberry fruit encompassing it but that core of meatiness really carries over to the mid-palate. There’s a salty olive taste on the finish with an acidic punch. Sound yummy? Not really.

The truth is it seems like this wine doesn’t know what it wants to be. It seems disjointed and ultimately not delicious. The finish is just simply too acidic (and I usually like a fair amount of acidity). There’s just a weird combination of fruit, saltiness, and acidity that doesn’t quite work. And it just doesn’t have the elegance that the other Syrahs I’ve tasted for this blog.

This wine is an interesting departure for Cline considering most of their other wines. Most of their wines are super fruity with soft tannins, and most of them are not up my alley. In my opinion, Cline does well because of they make wines for the lowest common denominator. Their wines can be found across the country and in every grocery store in Northern California, including Trader Joes. Some of their Zinfandels have a little acidity but most of them are pretty soft and juicy on the palate.

One wine they offer called the Cashmere tastes exactly as the name would suggest: soft and rich, but its rather pedestrian. On a recent visit (when I picked up the Cool Climate Syrah) I overheard a visitor talking about how he didn’t like tannins in wine and wondered what the pourer would suggest. I would have pointed him towards the door but instead the Cline employee offered the Cashmere.

Now, I know that wineries probably deal with questions like these from novices all the time but I think Cline does even more so just because of its location right off of the main road into Sonoma. And they know their audience and this dry and rustic Syrah seems like a little off message, which from my perspective is a good thing. Even though I didn’t love this wine, I hope Cline continues making it and hope they can tame some of the rusticity to make it more palatable, or possibly some bottle age will calm the wine down a bit. If they do continue to make it, I’ll keep coming back to taste the superseding vintages.


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