Cline Chardonnay 2015, Sonoma Coast
Cost: $14-16
W ines under $20 generally are among the best sellers across all age groups. Especially if you drink wine with dinner every night, you can’t afford to drink the pricier wines very often.
So it is especially nice to find a wine as good as the Cline Chardonnay in that category. It is one of those wines you could just describe as delicious.
It’s a beautiful golden yellow in the glass with mild, pleasant citrus aromas. It is dry and crisp with flavors of tropical fruit, pineapple and citrus with a smooth vanilla finish. There is a delicate balance between fresh fruit notes and crisp acidity. The finish is long and complex.
The grapes for this wine come from Cline’s estate vineyard on the Sonoma Coast, the Lazy C, in an area known as the Petaluma Gap. It is an ideal spot to grow Chardonnay, with a long growing season. Cool Pacific fog rolls in most days during the growing season, burning off with the warm sun. The fog protects the grapes and keeps acid levels high.
The grapes are hand harvested in early mornings and cool evenings to preserve the fresh fruit flavors. At the winery the grapes are gently destemmed with minimal tannin extraction. They are gently pressed.
The juice is chilled to 50 degrees and allowed to settle for two days before it is racked to stainless steel for cool temperature fermentation. The wine then is stirred on the lees for several months before moving into French oak, 40 percent new, for six months. There is no malolactic fermentation.
The minimal use of oak puts all the emphasis on the grapes and their fresh fruit characteristics.
The Cline family has been growing grapes in the Petaluma Gap since the early 1990s, but they didn’t start making their own wine from the grapes until 2013. Lovers of bright, fresh Chardonnays are glad they decided to make their own wine.
You may be familiar with Cline for their Red Truck Wines, but they sold off that brand several years ago. They used to have an old red truck at their Carneros winery, which is a fun place to visit. Red Truck is an independent label now, but Cline still produces the grapes for their great $10-12 blends.
Winery: Fred and Nancy Cline both come from longtime California families. Fred had become fascinated with wine when his immigrant grandfather Valeriano Jacuzzi showed him how to turn grapes into wine. (Yes, he was one of the brothers from the famed spa family.)
Fred and Nancy met when they were students at UC Davis. When they married they started a small winery in Oakley in 1982 with Fred’s inheritance. Ignoring the trends of the day, they restored acres of 100-year-old vines to make Rhone-style varietals such as mourvedre, russanne, carignane, viognier and marsanne. They also planted zinfandel, which would become one of their signature wines.
They moved the winery to a 350-acre ranch in the Carneros Valley in Sonoma County in 1993. They planted merlot, pinot noir and syrah and opened a tasting room in an 1853 farmhouse.
Today the Clines own property throughout Sonoma County, in Oakley/Contra Costa and Tehama County. They practice sustainable farming. Solar panels provide all the winery’s electricity. They also use 1,500 sheep and 500 goats to remove harmful weeds from the vineyards.
The Clines own the nearby Dillon Beach Resort, the Mizpah Hotel and Tonopah Brewing Company in Tonopay, NV, and the Villa Laura in Tuscany. They also operate Green String Farm which produces fruits and vegetables without toxic chemicals.
In 2007 they opened the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards across the street from Cline Cellars. The winey is modeled on the Jacuzzi family home in northern Italy. It specializes in Italian varietals such as montepulciano, sangiovese, lagrein and barbera.
Michael enjoyed the Chardonnay with the chicken soup.
Goes with: We had this nice wine with a tasty chicken soup. Usually I make chicken soup with just celery, onions and herbs, but this one added carrots, tomatoes, corn and spaghetti sauce.
When I served it at Wednesday church lunch it had rice, and that was good, but I tried it at home with noodles and liked it better that way.
The complex flavors from the herbs and vegetables are nicely matched by the layered flavors in the crisp chardonnay. A lush, flabby chardonnay would dull the tastes of the soup, but this wine seems to bring all the flavors into focus. It really was a perfect pairing.
This wine also would pair well with shrimp and other shellfish, chicken or roast pork. It also would make a good aperitif to sip before dinner.

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