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





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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 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 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

“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)