Wine of the week: Cline, 2015 Ancient Vines Zinfandel

Charlie Tsegeletos tasted a glass of Charles Krug Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon in the early ’80s, and it was a pivotal moment for him.

“It made me think I would really like to make something like that one day,” he said.

Tsegeletos is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner - the Cline, 2015 Ancient Vines Zinfandel at $20.

This is a softer take on zin. It has ripe fruit, with notes of strawberry and mocha, and it has a seamless texture. It’s not a powerhouse by any stretch, but it’s a very tasty version of zin.

“A lot of our Contra Costa zinfandel vines were planted over 100 years ago,” Tsegeletos said. “The vines do not set a large crop which results in grapes that are more concentrated and very flavorful.”

The winemaker said the house style he’s shooting for is “mouth-filling, strawberry fruit with bright acidity, good color and a bit of brambly spice.”

The winery makes several different zinfandels and strives for each one to have its own unique style, Tsegeletos said.

Determining when to pick the grapes, type of oak to use and sugar-acid balance are the initial challenge, he explained.

Tsegeletos, 60, is the director of winemaking for Cline Cellars and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. He has been the winemaker since 1981. He grew up in San Anselmo and spent the past 30 years in Sonoma County.

The winemaker graduated from UC Davis with an agricultural science and management degree.

“I really like wine and I know what it is that I like in a wine,” Tsegeletos said. “I’ve always tried to be a good student in the sense that I listen to what other winemakers do and if it sounds like something that would benefit our wine - I try it.

“If the technique works it is added to our ‘toolbox’ … We are beyond lucky to have these amazing old vines working so hard for us, year after year.”

The winery is a draw for old vine zinfandel lovers, but it’s also a great place to bring kids.

“We have a museum that houses the models of each of the California Missions,” Tsegeletos said. “These models were built in the 1930s for the World Exhibition on Treasure Island. We also have a great collection of wild pheasants from around the world and we have miniature Sicilian donkeys to pet.”

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