Winemaking Practices

At Cline Family Cellars we seek complexity, elegance, power and sense of place in every wine we make.

We craft our wines combining timeless techniques and modern technology that work in concert with each varietal, utilizing thoughtful wine growing, gentle handling, attentive sorting, and meticulous blending to achieve wines of great flavor at a great price.

Our star winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos is a master at the art of making stylish Zinfandel, Rhône and cool-climate varietal wines. He works with his team to monitor the vineyards throughout the year and make decisions that affect the the winemaking process and brings out the best varietal character in the fruit.

Weather

Our vineyards exemplify the miracle that is the northern California mesoclimate. Oakley, home of our ancient vines grapes and only 40 miles East of Sonoma County, can experience a diurnal temperature change of up to 50 degrees during the growing season. The Los Carneros vineyards in Sonoma County experiences moderate temperatures, rarely reaching 100 degrees with cool nights and mornings. A few miles away, in our Sonoma Coast vineyards, the ever-present morning fog, chilly nights, and more abundant rain, creates even cooler weather, ideal for varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Soil

With a fervent devotion to the long-term health and vitality of the land, Fred Cline and Bobby Cannard have developed a method of soil management called Green String. Pest and weed control employ helpful insects and animals instead of toxic chemicals. Careful crop management can mean smaller harvests but ultimately higher fruit intensity and flavor. Our soils are as versatile as the weather, ranging from shallow clay to deep sandy loam.

Picking

We pick to achieve the optimal flavor intensity and ripeness that captures each varietal’s essence and the conditions of each region where we tend to our vineyards. Whether it’s farming sandy soil in a warmer climate such as the Contra Costa AVA, or finessing cool climate varietals grown along the Sonoma Coast, we are determined to bring out the best nature has to offer in each vintage. Most of our grapes are picked into two ton bins with select lots picked into half-ton 4x4 bins early in the day when it’s cooler and delivered to the winery where they are gently guided into the vinification process.

Equipment & Facilities

Our Sonoma winery has evolved to combine timeless winemaking techniques with modern technology, resulting in well balanced and flavorful wines with every vintage.

We use a pneumatic tank press, that applies gentle pressure to the grapes while reducing tearing and scouring of the seeds and skins. This minimizes the extracted phenolics and solids in the pressed wine. We are able to choose the amount of whole berry and whole cluster that go into each program.

Our modern cooling system is integral to maintaining consistency throughout the fermentation process. We also monitor oxygen throughout the vinification process up to bottling using a fiber optic oxygen analyzer.

We constantly look for ways to combine our modern winemaking equiptment and talent with tools such as concrete eggs and clay amphoras to create side-by-side fermentation tests. These comparisons allow us to look at new ways to innovate in our wine styling.

Our operations are run entirely from sun power created from the solar array on the roof of the winery.

Fermentation & Oak

Our overarching philosophy is to express each specific vineyard and varietal as close as possible to the true color and character of each varietal. To accomplish this, we never add enzymes, color concentrates or fining agents. We rely primarily on indigenous yeasts for the red wine fermentations at Cline.

The red wine fermentations begin with pump-overs, we use gentle equipment to spread the juice over the top of the grape skins. We punch-down at the start of fermentations in the 4x4 bins. The red wines are kept on skins for 7 to 14 days. We taste each fermenter each day to make the press call that will achieve the desired fruit flavors and tannin levels.

The wines are then aged in tanks or oak barrels for 6 to 20 months depending upon the wine, and are later racked at bottling.

The white wines typically undergo cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks to bring out the fresh, bright fruit of each varietal and maintain the crisp acidity.

We use different types of oak with varying toast levels for each wine, always looking for a harmonious balance of oak and toast level to express each varietal’s flavor, level of complexity and texture.