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In the latter part of the 1800s, Oakley, Contra Costa County was a booming farming community with thousands of acres of orchards and healthy vineyards. Fred Cline’s maternal grandfather, Valeriano Jacuzzi of pump and spa fame, called this place home. On summer visits to his grandparents, Fred learned both the love of agricultural life and the mysteries of vinifying grapes into wine. These lessons led Fred to obtain a degree in Agriculture Management from U.C. Davis. In 1982, with an inheritance from his grandfather that included 480 acres of beautiful old vineyards, Fred founded Cline Cellars near Oakley, Calif. Here, he preserved and restored many ancient vine sites to their rightful reign as premier California wine lands.
In 1991, Fred and his wife Nancy relocated the winery from Oakley to the Carneros region of Sonoma County on a historic 350-acre estate with new vineyards and facilities. While much of the cool Carneros region is planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot, Fred pioneered the planting of Rhône varietals including Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. With plantings now running through the Sonoma Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA), Cline Cellars now consists of 1,800 acres of some of the most prime vineyard locations in California.
Over the years, Fred’s innovation has consistently resulted in some of northern California’s most distinctive Rhône-style wines and intense, flavorful Zinfandels, many with 90+ point ratings from Wine Spectator. Wine & Spirits called Cline’s Ancient Vines Mourvèdre “one of the top 100 values,” and in 2011 Robert Parker Jr. wrote in the Wine Advocate, “This is the finest portfolio of value-priced wines from Cline Cellars that I have tasted to date.”
>> Cline Viognier is one of the true white wine gems of California, but is an extremely tricky grape to grow. Its natural low acidity requires it to be picked at just the right moment. With this blend, the winemaking team chose grapes from vineyards that offered flavors indicative of the appellations from which they came. The vines basked in the sun during the day and were cooled at night, which contributes to this Viognier’s full-body weight. This powerhouse, full-bodied flavorful wine shows pineapple and apricot flavors mixed with citrus and floral notes, and is an excellent match for Mediterranean stews, Thai curry and spicy Mexican dishes.
>> Contra Costa County provides the lion’s share of the grapes for the Cline Cashmere. Mourvèdre, sourced from 30-year-old vines planted in sandy soil, is dry-farmed and head-pruned to develop flavorful fruit. Careful attention to the Grenache vineyards in Oakley involves cluster thinning and leaf pulling, which increases fruit concentration. The bulk of the Syrah for the blend is also from Oakley, where the warm days and cool nights result in lush fruit and significant tannins. Cashmere is a very flavorful, smooth wine offering bright cherry, raspberry, chocolate and toast with hints of cracked black pepper and plum. One of the most versatile reds Cline produces, it’s a great accompaniment to grilled salmon, pork roast or duck. Also, Cline Cellars proudly supports Living Beyond Breast Cancer, and over the years has contributed proceeds from the sale of each bottle of Cashmere to the tune of over $200,000 to breast cancer foundations.
Both of these wines retail for around $15. They can be found at local wine retailers such as Giant Eagle, Acme, West Point Market, 750 ML, Regency Wines, Papa Joe’s, Wine Reserve of Medina, North End Market, Mustard Seed, Riverside Wine & Imports and other fine beverage retailers in the Greater Akron area.
/ Rob Hawk is a regional sales manager at Cline Vineyards.