Cline Cellars: Hidden Jewel of Carneros

Charlie Tsegeletos is the kind of guy I’d invite to my next party. Sure, he’s a great winemaker who would probably bring along a nice bottle or two along with him, but that’s not all.

Take a Peek at Cline Cellars

Take a Peek at Cline Cellars

He’s a genuinely nice man with a twinkle in his eye and a ready grin on his face. Charlie leads the winemaking operations at Cline Cellars, a hidden gem in the Carneros region of southern Sonoma County which is known for its zinfandel and Rhone-style wines.

All Bases Covered

This winery has all the basics down pat — a comfortable tasting room, friendly staff and delicious wines.

Cline Cellars Tasting Room

Cline Cellars Tasting Room

The grounds are studded with lovely flowers and a vegetable garden sits near a series of ponds stocked by a previous owner with German carp and a cadre of turtles. There’s an exotic bird collection on the 350-acre property, a pair of miniature Sicilian donkeys, and a Pullman train dining car that’s been converted into a special tasting room. Owner Fred Cline — who started Cline Cellars in 1982 — built a museum behind the winery to showcase scale models of each of California’s 21 historic Spanish missions.

Powered by the Sun, Flavored by Nature

This eco-friendly winery generates its own electricity from a bank of 2,000 solar panels mounted on the winery’s roof. Cline also follows the tenets of Green String farming, which is akin to organic methods that avoid the use of chemical pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers. Instead, the winery uses crushed volcanic rocks, oyster shells and a compost tea — made from natural ingredients like molasses and fish emulsion — to supplement the soil.

Cline Wine Line-up

Cline makes a very popular line of zinfandels. There are seven different bottlings from the 2007  vintage, including the Big Break zin ($30) from Oakley that garnered a score of 89 from the Wine Spectator. They make a couple of tasty syrahs, too, but I’m drawn to the more unusual wine varietals, including mourvedre, a red grape Tsegeletos says originated in Spain, was transplanted to France and later took root in California.

Ancient Mourvedre Vines in Oakley

Ancient Mourvedre Vines in Oakley

Mr. Cline’s grandfather, Valeriano Jacuzzi (yes, it’s the same family that invented the bubbly hot tub) grew a variety of exotic grapes on a ranch near Oakley (Contra Costa County), and that’s where the young winery owner-to-be learned to love those special varietals. Today, that same ranch supplies Cline with some of  those very same grapes — along with other exotics like carignane — that Tsegeletos turns into lovely wines.

The 2007 Ancient Vines Mourvedre ($18) is delicious with a taste Tsegeletos describes as a mixture of chocolate and cherries with an ultra-smooth finish that works well with red meats but can also complement something more exotic like pepper-crusted Ahi tuna.

The winery is open every day for tours and tasting, but if you want a very special treat, drop by on Saturday July 18 for Cline’s annual Dixieland  jazz festival.  Cline is located off Highway 121, about five mileson  from Infineon Raceway.  Across the highway you can visit Cline’s sister winery, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, which focuses on Italian varietals made with a California twist.

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One Response to “Cline Cellars: Hidden Jewel of Carneros”

  1. Sonoma Vacation Rental Says:

    Another interesting thing about Cline are the woolly weeders:

    When visiting the area, you might consider staying here:

    You don’t wanna be driving all over the place when you’ve been enjoying all that wine!

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