One of the wineries that was on my "must see" list while I was in Sonoma was Cline Cellars, and this was due in large part to that red truck in the picture, parked in front of the vineyard. While Red Truck has been sold off from the main Cline operations, it was my first introduction to the winery, and the wines were fun to take to family gatherings where the crowd was perhaps more familiar with antique vehicles than red wine. It was an approachable, enjoyable wine at a good price. I haven't had a bottle in years, but I still appreciate its role as an excellent gateway wine.
The winery was founded by Fred Cline in 1982 but in Oakley, California. In 1991, Fred relocated the operations to Sonoma, site of the facility pictured here. The focus is primarily on Rhône grapes and Zinfandel, and I'm glad to see them growing things like Carignane and Roussanne. There's more to Southern French grapes than just 15 different bottlings of Syrah.
In one of the odd conflicts that can arise over the various meanings and philosophies of various green movements (and public/private certifications), Cline developed its own program known as Green String. It fits in well with similar methods of sustainable agriculture: all natural farming methods, use of sheep to trim the weeds, ethical integration with the surrounding community, etc. The website includes more information on topics such as irrigation and cover crops.
Cline was an interesting winery to visit, because it's a large operation but you don't just stroll into one monolithic building. The tasting room, pictured above, is modeled on an old farmhouse and has a porch that wraps around the building. There are ponds and walking paths and other buildings hidden among the trees, and I doubt I saw 10% of the property. So while there are the facilities to accommodate large groups or weddings, it's also possible to enjoy your visit on a smaller, more individual scale. I arrived a bit early and spent a peaceful half hour relaxing on the porch, going over my notes from the previous day.
I brought home a bottle of the 2008 Mourvèdre Rosé. $15, 13% abv. You don't often see this grape by itself, but in a rosé to boot? I couldn't pass it up, and deliberately didn't taste it at the winery so I'd have a surprise when I got home. It's got a plum aroma, with hints of cranberry. Crisp and acidic, with a tart finish. It's a fuller bodied pink wine, and works pretty well for lunch if you've got something like a roast beef sandwich.
Wines Sampled at the Vineyard
Further details and ordering information can be found at the Cline Website.
2007 Pinot Gris. Touch of Chardonnay. Apricot and peach, floral, more body, more punch than I usually see in this grape.
2007 Viognier. Various northern California vineyards. Musky, peach, and pear.
2007 Los Carneros Viognier. Very delicate, touch of herbal flavor.
2007 Cashmere. Rhône-style Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre blend, and part of the proceeds go to a breast cancer charity ($20,000 donated in 2008). Developed as a natural pairing for poultry, such as Thanksgiving dinner. Smoky, touch of blackberry, smooth and mild. My favorite of the tasting.
2007 Mourvèdre Ancient Vines. Firm aroma, full vegetal, earth, barnyard.
2007 Ancient Vines Zinfandel. Black cherry, raspberry, mild spice flavors.
2007 Heritage Zinfandel. Contra Costa. Nice spice and light berry flavors.