Specializing in Zinfandels, Rhône-style wines, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
One of Sonoma’s most storied wineries is Cline Family Cellars, once the home of a Miwok village and later the site of the first Sonoma Mission, San Francisco de Solano. It’s easy to see why this property drew California’s earliest inhabitants.
Thermal springs bubbled up from the soil, providing healing waters and irrigation for the gardens that still grace the grounds today.
Visitors to Cline Family Cellars don’t need an appointment, which makes visiting very convenient.
A lush lawn in front of the 1850s farmhouse tasting room invites guests to enjoy a wine and cheese picnic. For more outdoor experiences, relax in their newly-remodeled cabanas overlooking the pond and gardens. Enjoying wine inside their tasting room is also an option, especially in the cool fall or winter months.
The Cline Ranch Tasting takes place in the garden patio, where you can choose from a curated flight of their Sonoma AVA wines, or wines produced from Cline Family Cellars’ Oakley vineyards and Rhone varietals. An optional cheese plate can be added for pairing.
Club members who choose the Pendulum Club Tasting will enjoy a selection of newly released and limited-edition wines from Cline’s Single Vineyards.
On Saturdays and Sundays, visitors can book Sip and Stroll, a 30-minute hosted tour of the gardens, grounds and winemaking facilities.
The Garden Cabanas tasting is a two-hour experience in a private cabana that includes a provision basket and two bottles of Cline wine.
Lastly, the Pondside Sips and Bites lets guests relax by one of the spring-fed ponds and enjoy a bottle of Cline wine with an optional cheese and charcuterie board or picnic basket.
Tom Gendall joined Cline Family Cellars in 2016, bringing his expertise as a winemaker in his home country of New Zealand. His assistant winemaker Katie Hoggins is also a New Zealander.
Gendall likes to think of his wines as transparent. His philosophy is that of a farmer; he gives the vines what they need to produce great fruit. “We’re not doing crazy stuff back in the winery. We farm sustainably and produce clean, classic, fresh wines,” said Gendall.
Cline Family Cellars Classic Collection features Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made with grapes from the family’s Petaluma Gap vineyards and the Carneros vineyard at the winery.
Gendall says the vines in the Petaluma Gap produce intensely flavorful fruit thanks to the cool corridor of wind that gusts from the Pacific Ocean through the gap in the Sonoma Mountain range.
The Classic Old Vine Zinfindel, Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon round out the offerings of Cline Classic wines that are sold in stores but not online or in the tasting room.
Cline Family Cellars AVA Series showcases varietals from Sonoma’s best growing regions.
Hat Strap Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in the J. Poppe vineyard at the winery. (Poppe owned the property in the mid-1800s). The wine’s name comes from the strong winds that force owner Fred Cline to hang onto his hat strap when he walks the vineyards.
Fog Swept Pinot Noir is sourced from vineyards where the summer evening fog acts like a cold blanket on the vines. The Dry Creek Valley yields the grapes for Cline’s Eight Spur Zinfandel and the winery’s Rock Carved Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from one of the wettest and warmest microclimates in the Alexander Valley.
“This is a new proposition for us,” says Gendall. “We’ve got two vineyards there, one on the valley floor – really, really hot and gravely soil. It actually soaks up the sunlight during the day and then reflects it at nighttime. Then, on the southern end of the valley we have another vineyard – a cooler spot that takes a little bit longer to ripen. It also gives us a lot of tannin, a lot of structure and a lot of acidity.”
He says when you marry the two together you get a rich, vibrant cab that tastes great now and years from now.
Cline Family Cellars also has a Single Vineyard Series, Farmhouse Series, Heritage Collection, Seven Ranchhands (in homage to the Cline family’s seven children) and its Gust collection – wines from the windy Petaluma Gap appellation known for excellent Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.
The Gust wines highlight the second-generation at Cline Family Cellars – the brainchild of sisters Megan and Hilary Cline and winemaker Tom Gendall.
Cline Family Cellars opened in 1991 after Fred and Nancy Cline purchased the 350-acre horse farm and moved their winery from Oakley, California. Fred had been making wine in the warm East Bay region for several years, cultivating vines dating back to the 1880s.
In fact, he was one of the original Rhone Rangers, planting Rhone varietals including Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. Today, Cline Family Cellars is also known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Children are also welcome at Cline Family Cellars, with plenty of room to romp and a pair of donkeys (Pudding and Fancy) to visit, reminiscent of the animals used at the mission until it moved to its current site in Sonoma Plaza.
The winery even has a whimsical map (color crayons included) that highlights the property’s 3000-plus rose bushes, dozens of turtles and carp in the pond, the old mission bell in the garden and more.
As the historical first location of Mission, San Francisco de Solano, an authentic Adobe Mission was built on the site in 1996. The property is officially sanctified by the Catholic Church for weddings and other religious observances.
The mission can hold up to 100 guests and features an arched stone bridge leading to a flagstone patio punctuated by lotus ponds, gardens and vineyards. There is also an expanse of green lawn that can seat up to 500 guests for outdoor events.
Cline Family Cellars even offers overnight accommodations on its 160-acre property for up to 10 guests. The Vineyard Estate sleeps up to 10 guests and includes an outdoor swimming pool and firepit.
From its beautifully manicured grounds to its celebrated wines and reverent nod to history, Cline Family Cellars is not just a winery – it’s a destination.