Wine. Food. Reviews. Recipes. Lap it up.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cline's fine wines

Last week a rep from the recently revitalized Jacuzzi Family Vineyards came by. He was a pleasure to talk with — he wasn't one of those guys who just runs through the facts and figures about each wine in his portfolio, but a real wine enthusiast who obviously enjoyed having conversation about wines, the wine business, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, among other things.

I learned quite a few things from him, some interesting, some surprising.

For starters, I learned that Jacuzzi Family Vineyards makes very nice, all from Italian varietals grown in California. We tried several, including a Pinot Grigio, a Primitivo, a Nebbiolo and a Sangiovese. I look forward to ingesting all of them when they hit our market, with the possible exception of the Primitivo, which I'll have to sample again before passing judgement. It wasn't a bad wine at all — it just wasn't what I had hoped it would be; once I rid myself of that expectation and appreciate it for what it is, I may decide I like it.

The Jacuzzi Family Vineyards are a spinoff of Cline Cellars, which found itself with a huge infusion of cash to do something with after making a lot of money with the wildly successful Red Truck wine, and then selling the brand. Fred Cline's maternal grandmother was a Jacuzzi (yes, that kind of Jacuzzi), and he decided to build a new winery just like her family used to have back in Italy, before they moved to the United States. As it happened, the architectural drawings for the original winery still exist, so the new winery will be a reasonably accurate reproduction, updated for the 21st Century.

Cline makes some consistently excellent wines at reasonable prices. I'm particularly fond of their Zinfandels, and their $10 Pinot Grigio-Chardonnay blend is a refreshing, easy-to-drink, warm-weather crowd pleaser. Their Oakley-labeled wines (fourWHITES and fiveREDS) are hearty, flavorful blends, and the fact that they make four different kinds of Mourvèdre (but no Merlot) should tell you Cline is a winery that doesn't run with the pack.

I already knew that Cline's winery was solar powered (they even sell electricity back to their power company), so it didn't surprise me to learn that all of their grapes are produced using organic, sustainable farming methods. What did surprise me is that they don't mention that on their labels because it's been shown to be a "marketing negative." (!) That may be because many of the wines that trumpet their organic origins are mediocre at best, but whatever the cause it's an unfortunate association. It's been my experience that organically-produced foods are more fragrant and flavorful, and such should be the case with wine — it certainly is with Cline's.
M. Zane Grey, 8:00 PM