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Just Over the Hill in Wine Country; Cline Cellars

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In the fall, Sonoma is a contrast of the the grapevines' fiery colored leaves against the late autumn brown hills. It is quite colorful. But in early spring, the bright green rolling hills are a feast for the eyes, and absolutely worth a drive over the hill.

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A region shared by both Sonoma and Napa, Carneros provides a cool climate due to the air off the San Pablo Bay. It is a region that has long been known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Cline Cellars does grow some of those traditional grapes. But its founder, Fred Cline, is one of the original Rhone Rangers, the group of winegrowers who brought Rhone varietals to California in the 1980's.

Cline Cellars continues to excel in the Rhone varietals, offering Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier in the whites as well as Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre in the reds. Viognier, Syrah and Mouvedre are made as single varietals. The Marsanne and Rousanne are blended as is the Grenache. Two blends offered at Cline Cellars are the Cashmere wines, made in both white and red. The Cashmere white is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Viognier. It has beautiful fruit and floral aromas with enough acidity to make it food friendly, and just enough oak to give it some vanilla notes.

While the white Cashmere is lovely, the red Cashmere is stunning. The classic southern Rhone G-S-M blend (Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre) is made even better with the addition of Petite Sirah. These four grapes together produce a wine with dark cherry and raspberry aromas with a dusting of chocolate notes. The acidity is crisp, and the tannins are velvety. Soft and rich, both blends live up to their name, Cashmere.

Cline Cellars practices sustainable, green string farming. They use organic fertilizers and have installed solar panels for sustainable energy. They also use integrated pest management as an alternative to pesticides.

The grounds themselves are lovely for touring. There are gardened walks and a shady pond. The tasting room, while quite busy when we visited, is quite welcoming and accommodating. It is well worth a visit to stroll the grounds and taste the wines, just over the hill.

Cline Cellars is located at 24737 Arnold Drive in Sonoma, Ca. They are online at clinecellars.com

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