Cline shines above the pack in generosity

May 6, 2013

I was called in to attend a large wine tasting in Ocean City at Jive- Frescos. There were two presenters and the tasting was done by appointment. So, it wasn’t the normal cattle call type event. There were 42 wines and several fancy schmancy liquors presented. I’m sure glad I had a driver. No matter the quantity you actually consume at a tasting, the inhaling alone will get me gobsmacked.

Terry Andrews, who was representing Cline and Jacuzzi, is very knowledgeable. Due to his longtime association, he had a wealth of anecdotes to tell concerning the history of the vineyards, the Cline and Jacuzzi families, the scope of their impact on the wine community and their charitable works. In addition to a wonderful selection of wines, he also had the generosity to provide, from his own cellar, a Bridgehead Zin 1996 and a 2006 Cashmere (a blend of 67 percent Grenache from Massoni and Big Break Vineyard in Oakley, Calif., where it all got started, plus 22 percent Syrah from their cool-climate Sonoma Coast vineyards and the balance Mourvedre, also from Oakley. Constraints on space prevent me from delving further into the history lesson, but I must add that Mr. and Mrs. Cline have dedicated a bunch of their proceeds to Living Beyond Breast Cancer. They also are involved in many of the area's historical museums and sites. That charity alone makes my wine taste quite a bit better.

I did a little research via Charity Navigator, where I learned that Living Beyond skims almost nothing. Most of the proceeds go to the afflicted. Terry had mentioned the service and, to tell the truth, I was amazed at the veniality of the managements for many of the better-known charities.

A president or CEO of a charity earning high six- to seven-figure $$, plus perks, for running a charity is beyond my understanding. You can bet I will be doing a Charity Navigation look upon all future donations.

Cline produces many of its best wines from blends of grapes from vieilles vignes (old vines). Others claim to do so also, and they get away with it because there is no clear-cut definition of which age constitutes old. I’m here to tell you, many of Cline's vines look like small, fat, gnarly trees. They were planted more than 100 years ago and were spared the blight of phylloxera which laid waste to many Cali vines in the past.

I strongly recommend these from Cline: Ancient Vine Zin 2011; Big Break Zin 2011; Live Oak Zin 2011 and Small Berry Mourvedre 2010, all top-flight product, but I was especially impressed with a Late Harvest Mourvedre 2011. You should be able to buy them under $30. As you know, I am a fan of late-harvest wines and think that naming them dessert wines does them a disservice. A talented chef can make these lovelies sing with the proper use of ingredients. Try this LH Mourvedre with a dollop of foie gras, some tournedos with a coffee cinnamon rub and a medium demi glace then finish up with a dense chocolate torte or some black cherries and semisweet chocolate sauce and you will see the versatility of these wonderful wines..

Finally, for my friends who wear contact lenses, I have been afflicted with an eye issue since I was a teenager (57 years) where the cornea grows to a cone. The diagnosis is easy, but the correction is very difficult. During my life I have searched for a person who could solve this issue for me, visiting many “eye wash experts.”

A few years ago I was fortunate to meet Dr. Hayley Sprague at Sussex Eye Center. She spent the time to fix my problem. I did not want to jump on this bandwagon too quickly, but after five regular exams and a few fittings, all of which were top flight, I thought it time to pass along this recommendation.