Cline

Our Roots Run Deep

Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay may seem ubiquitous in Northern California’s wine industry, but it wasn’t always that way. Seeing the old vineyards near his grandfather’s ranch in Oakley, California, Fred Cline learned that wine growers 100 years ago preferred Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mataro (Mourvedre) and Carignan – often planted together in one vineyard as a “field blend.” Because this pattern is found in old vineyards throughout the state, it must have been a conscious choice among winegrowers back then. They must have understood that Zin and the Rhone varieties perform better under California’s dry but variable conditions than the finicky, slow-ripening Cabernet. These vines can thrive without irrigation (a.k.a. “dry-farming”) and the blending of grapes with different qualities would have ensured that the finished wine attained a proper balance of sugar, acid, ripeness and tannin.

In order to pursue his interest in Zinfandel, Rhone grape varieties and old vineyards, Fred Cline founded Cline Cellars near Oakley in 1981. The Ancient Vines bottlings are made from grapes grown in these low-yielding, Contra Costa County vineyards. In 1991, Cline moved his winemaking facility to a large ranch in Carneros, the cool, wind-swept district just north of San Pablo Bay between Napa and Sonoma counties. Even though Chardonnay and Pinot Noir dominate the vineyards here, Cline decided to plant Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussane and has proven that even in a cool climate these varietals can develop intense but elegant fruit and perfume. A more recent acquisition lies near Petaluma, in Sonoma County, and Cline Cellars has now added Pinot Noir to its roster of Zinfandel and Rhone reds and whites.

A focus on Zinfandel and Rhone varietal wines has not always been easy, but Cline Cellars has repeatedly earned accolades and critical acclaim. Over the years, many of the Zinfandels and others have earned 90 points and up in the Wine Spectator, and Wine & Spirits has called the Ancient Vines Mourvèdre “one of the top 100 values.” It doesn’t get much better than this: hand-crafted wines from sustainably-farmed vineyards that are intimately connected to California’s winemaking history. The wines of Cline Cellars are deep and rich with elegance, complexity and flavor AND available at reasonable prices.

Wine Maker

Tom Gendall

Country

USA

Region

California


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Wines from this Winery


2020 Cline

Cline Cellars’ 2020 Farmhouse White is an intriguing blend of Pinot Gris, Muscat Canelli, Palomino, Marsanne, and Viognier. And don’t be fooled into thinking the low price reflects character; it’s as rich, complex, and tasty as many a prestige label. The Farmhouse brand honors the Green String Farm in Petaluma (about 15 km from Cline Cellars), where a “beyond sustainable” philosophy of agriculture is taught to students from around the world. Since 2001, Fred Cline has been farming the Green String way, using no pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers; controlling weeds with sheep and goats, and encouraging friendly insects to prey upon harmful ones. It’s a crisp, bright wine that delivers great value for the price. Farmhouse White pairs well with appetizers such as ripe tomatoes and mozzarella, salads with extra-virgin olive oil, Asian cuisine, and fish dishes.

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¥2,200 (incl. tax)
2019 Cline Sonoma Coast Syrah

With years of practice, Cline Cellars has clearly mastered the secret to making gorgeously aromatic and succulent Syrah. The violets, coffee and black pepper on the nose - not to mention the structure and savory meaty notes on the palate — could suggest a coveted vintage from the Northern Rhone. But this is a California wine that’s priced to enjoy everyday. Cline Cellars sources its Syrah exclusively from estate vineyards in Sonoma’s newest AVA, the Petaluma Gap, where the climate gives the wine fresh acidity, pure fruit and a vibrant mouthfeel. A light but deft hand at winemaking maintains the purity of the fruit with just a short period of time in oak. Take in the aromas of black pepper and savory herbs, flavors of licorice, olive and boysenberry, and try not to pour a second glass!

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¥2,530 (incl. tax)
2020 Cline

Lodi may be less familiar than Sonoma County or Napa Valley, but this laid-back district east of the Bay Area has been producing wine since the 1850s. Responsible for over 40% of California’s premium Zin, Lodi is the true Zinfandel Capital of the World. Zinfandel thrives in Lodi’s summer climate of hot days and cool nights. And because of the unique sandy soils, vines in the older vineyards escaped being ravaged by phylloxera and remain planted on their own vinifera roots. The grapes for this rich and complex red wine come from several vineyards planted in the 1940s and 1960s in the Mokelumne River AVA, one of Lodi’s seven sub-AVAs. By carefully selecting and blending the fruit, Cline produces a lush and juicy Zin in which fruit, acidity and tannin are in excellent balance. The rich berry flavors and smooth structure suggest excellent pairing with bold-flavored foods such as penne putanesca, grilled meats or chili con carne. 

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¥2,530 (incl. tax)
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2019 Cline Rose

Known as Monastrell in Spain or as Mataro in Australia and (sometimes) California, Mourvèdre thrives in hot, dry climates, such as Provence in Southern France. Because Mourvèdre has thick skins the wine can be inky black and tannic, but if pressed quickly and gently (like a “blanc de noir”), it produces beautiful rosé with appealing color but no astringency. The Mourvèdre in Cline’s Oakley Vineyard was planted over 100 years ago and grows in well-drained, deep sandy soils. The head-pruned vines may yield little fruit, but the flavors are bright and intense. Served well-chilled, this Rosé Mourvèdre will perk up a weekend lunch or refresh parched throats on hot summer evenings. Try it with tropical fruit salad, Provencal-style chicken, or grilled salmon. 

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¥2,860 (incl. tax)
2019 Cline

Vines in a heritage vineyard look so twisted, short and stubbly, it’s hard to believe they can produce a wine that’s lush, bright, fruity and spicy. The Carignane vines that produced this gem were planted in the sandy soils of Oakley in the first half of the 20th century. Found widely in Southern France and Spain, Carignane is seldom bottled as a varietal wine. Naturally high in tannins and acidity, it tends to be used to add color and body to red blends in both the old and new worlds. But because these old head-pruned and dry-farmed California Carignane vines produce fruit with such stunning concentration, ripeness and dimension, Fred Cline chooses to be one of the few winemakers anywhere to bottle Carignane as a varietal wine. With dark berry and plum flavors, spicy aromas, this Carignane is rich, ripe and full-bodied; an excellent match with for grilled meats or pizza with goat cheese.  

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¥3,520 (incl. tax)
2020 Cline

Affordable yet extraordinary – that’s Cline’s Ancient Vines Mourvèdre, a fine wine with a great story. An important component in Spanish and Southern French blends, Mourvèdre's heyday in California was in the early decades of the 20th century. Cline's Mourvèdre vineyards in Contra Costa County are relics of that bygone age. Sandy soils allowed the vines to be planted on their own European roots without succumbing to the Phylloxera louse. The warm but windy climate around the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers allows these grapes to get fully ripe while retaining acidity and freshness. The wine is full-bodied, luscious, and bursting with juicy black fruit and gorgeous spice notes. Try it with grilled lamb, wild mushroom ragout or peppercorn crusted beef tenderloin.

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¥3,520 (incl. tax)
2020 Cline

While no accepted standard exists for such terms as Vielles Vignes, old vines, or heritage vineyards, Cline Cellars “Ancient Vines” would satisfy any definition. Not only are the vines 80 to 100 years old, but they were planted on their own roots because the sandy soils in eastern Contra Costa County safeguard against the phylloxera louse. “Own-rooted” vines, head-pruned and organically dry-farmed, are a rarity anywhere in the world. In these soils and the moderate climate of the Sacramento River delta, the gnarled vines struggle to produce but a few grape clusters. But this fruit reliably comes in with great balance of acid and flavor. Add to organic farming a hands-off approach to winemaking, and you get Zinfandel of stunning depth and concentration. The 2020 is medium-bodied and delights with bright red fruit and spice, framed by smooth tannins and juicy acidity. Try it with slow-cooked BBQ pork, spare ribs, grilled sirloin steak, or a spinach mushroom casserole.

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¥3,520 (incl. tax)
2020 Cline

“An indulgence you can afford” is how Cline Cellars describes this silky Rhone-style blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Grenache. Sourced from the cool hills of the Sonoma Coast as well as dry-farmed vineyards in the Oakley region of Contra Costa County, Cashmere enchants with juicy black and red fruit and notes of spice and pepper. Cline Cellars developed this wine as a way to donate funds in the fight against Breast Cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. In the 21 years since the first vintage of Cashmere, the winery has been able to donate $792,000 to the cause. While modeled on the soft, juicy-ripe, perfumed reds of the Southern Rhone, it nevertheless asserts its California identity with its seductive color and intense fruit flavor. Food pairings include pork, chicken, or duck – especially featuring Mediterranean spices including red pepper, sage, rosemary, and olives.

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¥3,520 (incl. tax)
2019 Cline Sonoma Coast Marsanne Roussanne

Rare in California, Roussane and Marsanne feature prominently in the Rhone Valley, where they are typically combined into a white wine that’s delightfully aromatic yet rich and well-bodied. While Marsanne provides depth, body, richness and nuttiness, Roussanne adds acidity as well as floral and fruity aromatics. The result is a rich and elegant wine to be enjoyed with meals. The Marsanne (78% of the blend) comes from a small corner of Cline’s Carneros estate while the Roussanne (22%) is sourced from vineyards in the Sonoma Coast and the cool Petaluma Gap. Despite spending no time in oak, the wine has body along with fresh citrus and tropical fruit flavors. Try it with smoked fish, grilled salmon, or even curried or stir-fried dishes. Cline is one of a handful in California making wine from Marsanne and Roussanne. If you are looking to move beyond the typical whites, you should check this one out!

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¥3,740 (incl. tax)