Family Friendly Wineries: Cline Cellars in Sonoma
November 30, 2011Posted by pamela |
If there's a winery out there that strikes the perfect balance of Wine Country sophistication and family-friendliness, it's Cline Cellars. Located on the south end of Sonoma Valley on Highway 121, Cline is a kind of wonderland that has a ton of things to see and do for wine tasters and children alike!
Cline looks pretty unassuming from the highway, where most of the grounds are obscured by vineyards and a low fieldstone wall. Turn into the entrance and you'll realize the expansiveness of the place, which is sited on 350 acres. Park around back or up front by the tasting room, which is housed in an cute 1850s farmhouse. You'll probably want to take a moment to walk around the park-like grounds, which feature lawns, six spring-fed ponds, paths, rose bushes, fountains, and even some vintage Pullman dining cars.
In the lawn area to the right of the tasting room you'll find large bird cages housing a number of brightly colored exotic species of pheasant and pigeon. Behind the tasting room on the other side is a large pond filled with huge fish—you'll see them jumping up to the surface if you wait long enough. There's a machine back there near the pond that dispenses fish food that you can toss to them, if you like.
The tasting room itself is small, laid back, and usually busy. This is one of the few wineries in Sonoma and Napa that still give you a free tasting of non-reserve wines. You can sample five. (Make sure you try the 2010 Ancient Vines Mourvèdre, which I think is my new favorite red wine.) The tasting room also houses a small gift shop, and you can buy soft drinks, and picnic supplies like cheese, salami, and grapes. You're free to take your wine glass and sit out on the porch or wander around the grounds; there are plenty of places to leave your glass for the staff to pick up.
Cline pretty much begs you to stop and have a picnic, whether you pick up food there or pack it in yourself. Dozens of picnic tables abound on the grounds, and I can't imagine a more pleasant spot to take a break and have lunch al fresco.
The Cline property was the site of the first camp of founders of the Sonoma Mission, and pays tribute to that historical fact by hosting the California Missions Museum on its grounds. This two-story building can be found behind the tasting room, and houses scale models, originally created for the 1939 World's Fair on Treasure Island. The Cline family saved these remarkably detailed models from being auctioned off individually, and put them in this museum for all to see. Other exhibits include a life-size figure of Father Junipero Serra, mission paintings, and historic artifacts.
You can also go socialize with two adorable miniature Sicilian donkeys, Pudding and Fancy, who live in an enclosure near the museum. They're friendly and will come over to meet you at the fence.
If you go
Cline Cellars is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. The California Missions Museum is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm; admission is free. You can take a free guided tour of the grounds daily at 11 am, 1pm, and 3 pm. Public restrooms are available, and food is sold on site.
Cline is located at 24737 Arnold Drive (Highway 121) just south of the town of Sonoma. To get there from Marin, take Highway 101 to Highway 37 east, and turn left onto Highway 121 (Arnold Drive) at Sears Point. Follow 121 over the hill past Viansa Winery on your right, and look for the turn into Cline at the bottom of the hill.