Cline Cellars

Cline CellarsYes, We Have No Cabernet

As you enter Sonoma county from the south on California 121, one of the first wineries you encounter is Cline Cellars, and there could hardly be a better introduction to the Carneros AVA.

Even as a young teenager, Fred Cline learned to make wine from his grandfather, Valeriano Jacuzzi (yes, he of the hydrotherapy tub, as well as many other innovations). With a $9000 inheritance from Valeriano, in 1981 Cline founded the eponymous Cline Cellars in Oakley, California.

The winery was relocated to its current location in 1991. The property is the original site of the Mission San Francisco de Solano, the 21st and final of the historic California missions. Although the mission was moved in 1823, the Cline tasting room is located in a rustic 1850s farmhouse that is original to the property, surrounded by spring-fed ponds and thousands of rose bushes. The vineyards also reflect this history, with vines ranging from 80 to 120 years old.
Cline is one of the first of the pioneering Rhone Rangers, a group dedicated to wines from the grapes of the Côtes du Rhône in France (ironic for a boy with an Italian grandfather, no?)

Cline also has been a pioneer in sustainable farming. It is the second-largest completely solar-powered winery in California. Natural cover crops are used to nourish the soils, sheep and goats roam freely as they graze on weeds, and compost teas are used as fertilizer. “We’d be considered ‘organic’ if we wanted to follow the rules of the government,“ said Cline. “We are actually more sustainable [than the law calls for] by not following their organic rules.“ He calls his methods “beyond organic.”

Viognier 2017

Ah, Viognier [vee-oh-NYAY], such an elusive and underappreciated wine. The grapes are finicky to grow, and once vinified exhibit a wide range of floral qualities, some more delightful than others.

This expression is pale reddish-golden in the glass, with a BAM! nose of honeysuckle. This is followed on the palate by the expected flavor of peach, as well as mango and sour orange. This unoaked wine tastes dry, but has a surprising, slightly sweet finish. To enjoy its nuance, do not overchill.

Drink this tipple with braised tuna in white wine, oven-braised halibut steaks, or Provençal seafood with aioli.

Heritage Zinfandel 2015

The provenance of this Zin are the 100-year-old Big Break, Live Oak, and Bridgehead vines in Oakley, which are dry-farmed in deep, sandy soil. It is crystal ruby in the glass. Flavors of cola, blueberry, and coffee greet you on the tongue. There is just a hint of Zinfandel’s characteristic pepper. The body has a nice satin quality, supported by nicely balanced medium tannins and acidity. An eminently drinkable wine.

Enjoy this red with braised pork with sweet and hot peppers, Niçoise chicken with tomatoes and black olives, or lamb with artichokes.

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