Posted by Team Roma on

To celebrate our national birthday this year, we at Roma Wines tip our hats to ZINFANDEL - perhaps the one grape that reflects the American dream more than any other!

Early Zinfandel grapes from Croatia and Apulia in Italy found their way in the early years of the 19th century (via Vienna of all places) to a botanical nursery in Queens, New York - one famous for collecting grape varieties from around the world. These Zinfandel grapes became extremely popular as table grapes in the high society homes of Boston in the 1820s. In the 1830s they were transported by British sea captains carrying cargo from New England to the American West Coast - purely as food for the crew.

However, the Spaniards who controlled Mexican California at that time began planting these grapes and vine cuttings throughout the territory in the 1840s and by 1848, Zinfandel was one of the most prized grapes in what suddenly became the new US State of California in 1848.

1848 of course was the beginning of the great Gold Rush in the high Sierras of California and this in turn attracted immigrants from all over the world in search of gold and fortune. Among them were many Italians who quickly recognized Zinfandel as something very familiar to them from Southern Italy. They welcomed its cultivation into their extensive vineyards throughout California in the mid to late 19th century.

The many French immigrants who also came for the Gold Rush brought their own robust, sturdy southern French red grapes such as Carignane and Mourvedre. These grapes also felt very much at home in the hot sunny Mediterranean climate of California - and they were readily planted side by side with the Zinfandel vines.

The immigrant winegrowers out West soon realized that they could produce a more reliable wine crop to counter the vagaries of nature and weather by mixing these different dark grapes together in the vineyards and so, by the end of the 19th century a dark red powerful blend known as Mixed Black was very much the standard style of wine for the era and for America.

Zinfandels and Mixed Blacks were the “American” wines that represented our nation’s own unique history of cultural diversity, economic advancement, and the freedom to realize a new life on new land.

Even today, if one thinks of a uniquely California wine, it would be Zinfandel. We don't have any well-known indigenous vinifera grape varieties in the United States; but Zinfandel and Zinfandel blends would be the closest examples of wines that are about as truly, authentically American as one could imagine - wines that are a direct snapshot of our real actual American history.

And so what better wine to grab and drink in celebration this July 4th weekend than Zinfandel and it’s historical siblings!

Zinfandel pairs perfectly with grilled meats, burgers, hot dogs, and all other forms of outdoor BBQ delights. It is juicy, friendly, full of an explosion of diverse fruit flavors from cherry to raspberry to strawberry to plum to blueberry and even a hint of banana, guava, papaya and more! It's the fruit basket of wine flavors - and it tastes like our American mix in every way!


Fred Cline opened his doors in 1982 - producing remarkable wines from long forgotten vines sitting behind strip malls in the East Bay of Northern California - 80 to 130 year old Zinfandel vines and mixed plantings that had miraculously survived from the turn of the 20th century right through Prohibition - vines that had never been touched by phylloxera (the root louse that attacked and destroyed all of Western Europe's grape vines in the last decades of the 19th century.)

The soils in the not very prestigious "terroir" of Contra Costa County, East of Oakland were mostly sand; but the sand kept these vines free from pests and able to survive for a period of time longer than most other on the planet. These were the last remnants of a one time thriving and burgeoning area for wine production - shadows of a glorious past in California wine history - but in modern times entirely overlooked. This were the famous Oakley vines.

Fred Cline's maternal grandfather was one of those Italian immigrant success stories - Valeriano Jacuzzi in 1915 along with his 6 other brothers founded a wooden airplane propeller manufacturing company to help with the fledgling American Word War One war effort. The Jacuzzis were based in Berkeley, California and over several decades they expanded their work to become the first inventors of the whirlpool jacuzzi tub!

The Jacuzzis were not in the wine trade but the legacy of their Italian-American history looms large in Fred Cline’s mission to keep his California-Italian wine heritage alive and well. He alone can claim some of the single oldest longest-living truly historical vines anywhere in the world.

You can taste these original historical Oakley vines in his entire line up of Ancient Vines wines - Zinfandel, Mourvedre, and Carignane.

All three grapes share their common history as historical neighbors and you can taste them singly in the case of the Mourvedre and the Carignan, or blended in small parts alongside the Zinfandel in the Zinfandel Ancient Vines bottle.

You can taste a more modern blend of these grapes minus the Zinfandel in the Black Cashmere bottling which we also have in the store - Cline’s updated version of the traditional Mixed Black style of wine.

And you can try some slightly "younger" vines - only dating back to the 1920s and 40s! - in the Lodi Zinfandel bottling - an area to the north and east of the Ancient Oakley Vines where another historical early planting of Zinfandel was prevalent in California - these are much hotter, drier and more powerful expressions of the grape.

In 1991, the Clines moved their winery to their gorgeous setting in southern Sonoma in the famous Pinot Noir growing region of Carneros - and they began to dabble in the production of this grape that is today so closely associated with that tiny corner of California wine country - but again, in pioneering fashion, the Clines were one of the first to jump deep into the PInot Noir camp there, quickly recognizing the area's ideal climate and soil conditions for producing elegant, balanced Pinot Noirs.

And of course - we have a Cline Pinot Noir in the store too!
These are all big, plush, bold wines (with the exception of the Pinot Noir).

They are juicy, dark fruited, forward, approachable wines - ripe, fleshy, and mouth filling for sure - and they are also suave, velvety, supple and soft. You can enjoy them without thinking about them, or you can take a little time to focus on their serious side too.

For wines SO affordable and well-priced, they are amazingly complex and even age-worthy. The Cline wines proudly represent the very best of what California and America can offer and they are absolute stunners for this 4th of July weekend and week of celebrations to come.


CLINE CELLARS - Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2017, Contra Costa County
Classic blueberry, raspberry and cherry notes here with layers of taste and texture to delight your senses. This wine comes from a selection of those old Oakley Zinfandel vines in the East Bay - concentrated focused fruit flavors, plenty of freshness too and the added mix of small amounts of dark earthy Petite Sirah, meaty Mourvedre, lively Alicante Bouschet, and pepper Carignane all make for a concoction that is hard to pass up! This wine sees some aging in American oak barrels which give it a hint of vanilla to round everything off.

CLINE CELLARS - Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel 2018
Dark, licorice, black cherry, smoky notes inform this hedonistic bottle - here in the hot dry conditions of Lodi, at the southern edge of the Sierra Foothills, Zinfandel is powerful, pronounced and assertive. For those who like a big blast of red wine.

CLINE CELLARS - Cashmere Black 2016, California
This is the old field blend of mixed grapes without the Zinfandel - it is replaced by Grenache and a majority of Petite Sirah. A more modern take on the old world mixed black - with lots of new oak, deep roasted coffee and mocha flavors, rich, heady, very forward and broad. Sweet tones of toasted oak give the wine lots of structure and grip in the mouth.

CLINE CELLARS - Ancient Vines Mourvedre 2017, Contra Costa County
These are the prized very old ancient Mourvedre vines from Oakley - powerful, assertive, full of energy with dark plum, meaty, spicy and chocolate essences all combined. A dazzlingly delicious wine - intense and pleasing at the same time. Dont miss this one.

CLINE CELLARS - Ancient Vines Carignane 2017, Contra Costa County
Carignane is the workhorse grape - able to withstand all kinds of extreme heat and climate stress - it offers up a very dark black berried and peppery character with a hint of tobacco leaf - it's rustic, a bit gnarly, and absolutely perfect for burgers and bbq flavors. These are some of the oldest vines Cline has access to - several plots date to 1900! If you want to drink a very real taste of history - drink this!

CLINE CELLARS - Pinot Noir 2018, Sonoma Coast
This is the outlier of the group - a more refined, gentle sensory experience - beautiful cherry pinot flavors are framed perfectly with a judicious use of American and European oak barrels. You'll find a hint of sweet herbs and flowers lingering on your palate here mingled in with the famously alluring Carneros pinot noir fruit.

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