When I decided to visit California’s wine country I was curious to see if there really was a commitment to sustainable growing at larger vineyards. I wasn’t there to see who had the best wine, a very subjective concept anyway, but of course it would be nice if the wine was also good where the grapes were being grown in a responsible manner.
I didn’t have a lot of time in the area on my first visit, I am eager to go back, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I encountered. The owners of Cline Cellars are involved in more than just growing grapes. Fred Cline was one of the founders of the Green String Institute and Farm along with Bob Cannard, one of the pioneers in the organic movement in Northern California, so it is no surprise that Cline utilizes sustainable practices.
Cline Cellars was founded in 1982 and since 2000 grapes have been grown the ‘Green String’ way, which means that the methods used are healthy, local, and socially responsible. The philosophy is to create a nourishing system that is naturally resistant to pests and gives back to the soil rather than depleting it. This is the basic theory in sustainable farming practices and thankfully many farmers are finally recognizing that this is the most beneficial, and efficient method to grow any crop. Luckily for us grapes are being grown this way producing excellent wines.
The Vineyards that produce Cline’s wines are located in three areas. The Oakley Ranch is home to some of California’s oldest and rarest grapevines ranging in age from 80-120 years old. This is where Mourvèdre, Carignane and Zinfandel are harvested. The actual estate is located in Sonoma within the Carneros appellation, here Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne varieties are grown. The third vineyard is in Petaluma, closer to the coast offering a completely different climate and an opportunity to create another variety of wine. You will find a great deal of varietal information on the Cline Cellars website.
The grapes at Cline are grown the ‘Green String’ way-naturally and sustainably, which incorporates some organic and bio-dynamic methods. While not marketing themselves as a sustainably grown wine, many of them such as the Marsanne Roussanne, the Cool Climate Syrah and the Big Break Zinfandel are labeled as such.
And now for the big question, how is the wine?
Really good. I only had a chance to taste a few, it was late in the day when I was at the estate, but I enjoyed them all. On my next visit I will have time to get into more specifics on which ones are my favorites. But to bring in some professionals, Cline’s 2004 Sonoma Zinfandel was rated 91 points in 2007 by the Wine Spectator, and their 2004 Bridgehead Zin was rated 90 points. In Wine and Spirits June 2007 issue their 2004 Ancient Vines Mourvèdre was hailed as “One of the top 100 values of the Year”.
Looks like taking care of the soil brings successful results.
I will also add that their tasting room is really visitor friendly. The grounds are beautiful with ponds and willow trees as well as rose bushes overlooking some of the grape vines. They welcome visitors to bring a picnic and enjoy sitting in the lush surroundings, while of course enjoying a glass of wine. Cline Cellars is also one of the easiest wineries to reach coming from the San Francisco probably less than 15 minutes from Highway 101.
While it looks like a beautiful estate, which it is, Cline’s vineyards offer so much more, a conscious, committed approach to growing that is nurturing the soil, contributing to the community and giving us delicious wine. Now that is something that SmartLifeways supports.
Cline Cellars is open daily from 10 am-6 pm for tastings.
Tours are at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm
24737 Arnold Dr/Hwy 121
Sonoma, CA 95476
a few shots from around the estate…..