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The New Black

Getting back to red-blend roots with Cline Cashmere

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The way craft beer goes, as soon as there was Double IPA it was inevitable there'd be Triple IPA, followed by Black IPA, Imperial Peanut Butter Bourbon Barrel IPA—and off to the races.

With wine, the options are generally more limited. For example, how to one-up the red blend? Easy: The dark red blend. The knobs don't exactly go to eleven, you see, though I'm watching the wine aisle for the arrival of the "even darker red blend."

Meanwhile, Cline Cellars has dialed back on the category-chasing reboot of their Cashmere label, rebooting once again in mid-vintage. And the novelty is only label-deep.

Cline 2016 Cashmere Red ($14.99) This label began as a single barrel sold at the 1998 Hospice du Rhône, a wine event and auction in Paso Robles that promotes Rhône-style wines. Fred and Nancy Cline added this Côtes du Rhône style blend (more economically termed in the Australian fashion as GSM, for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) to their regular releases, and for a decade-plus the label's prominent pink ribbon signified charitable donations to causes they support, via a portion of sales: some $325,000 for breast-cancer awareness and support organizations, and $100,000 more for Alzheimer's care and research and other causes.

The new look makes me have to look for that ribbon, now a tiny gray logo on the back label, adjacent some mention of "important causes" rather than any specific vicissitudes of life. I miss the old bottle—what, was it too startling? This GSM is heaviest on the M, and if maybe a touch rustic for the targeted red-blend shopper—barn-yardy Mourvedre leads the way, brightened with crisp fruit and minty herbal aromas of Grenache, like raspberry compote presented on a bed of horse stall hay. This is an enjoyable representation of a classic regional style, not some kitchen-sink stew.

Cline 2016 Cashmere Black ($14.99) This debuted as Cashmere Black Magic, subtitled "alluring dark red blend" in case you didn't get the nudge that if you like Apothic Dark or Bogle Phantom, this is for you. This Black is a classic California blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Mourvedre and Carignane, and like the red, is also sourced mostly from Cline's old vines in Contra Costa County. Both labels now bear a metallic disk to represent Cline's heritage as "original" red-blend makers, and to get back to a more serious, less trendy look, I'm told. I didn't get it—but I do get the wine, which finds Zinfandel sweetening up the tannic Petite Sirah, and is more likable than the 2015 version with its flavors of blackberry pie filling, vanilla and chocolate. Dark chocolate.

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