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Posted by on May 1, 2023 in Essays, Personal, Wine Reviews | 3 comments

Cline: My First Wine Love




We’ve bought more cases of Cline than I can remember. We branched out and tried Cline’s Zinfandel and Cline’s Ancient Vines — both outstanding.

I made a wonderful discovery about 30 years ago. My new discovery was an appreciation and fondness for wine.

When I’m lucky, sometimes I make new wine discoveries. However, some of the very best experiences include revisiting old friends and places I already know, rekindling those memories, and continuing wine adventures that can last a lifetime.

When Marieta and I got married, we lived in the Crystal City area, between the Pentagon and National Airport, named that way for the clustermatrix of glass buildings. The district of mid-rises was dominated by condos and defense contractors. You couldn’t look over your shoulder in Crystal City without seeing a policeman or a military colonel. It was probably the safest, but also the most boring area in Washington. The most exciting thing in the neighborhood was the happy hour next door at the Marriott.



Marieta saw a flyer in our building advertising a wine class. That sounded interesting. Marieta is European, so she basically crawled out of the crib with wine in her baby bottle. I wasn’t into wine, so much. So, this was a great opportunity for me to learn new things and do something fun together. We signed up.

Well, that “wine class” changed my life. It cost $20 per person, but when we arrived we also found out the fee covered, not just one, but TEN wine classes. Each class lasted about an hour and included three tastings. The teacher was a man named Henri. Come to find out, Henri was a protege of Robert Parker (The Wine Advocate), one of the most respected wine reviewers in the world. Henri was certainly losing money on the deal. He just did it for the love of wine and sharing. He simply loved wine, loved to talk about wine, and he ended up writing lots of articles for the wine trade. Meeting him was an incredible and bountiful blessing.

Each class was held in the penthouse community room on the 25th floor of the condo. It overlooked the airport, the Pentagon, and Washington. Pretty amazing deal for $20 — ten classes, 30 samples of wine, a lecture on winemaking and history, plus the view and great company. Oh, and at the end of the classes, Henri and his wife cooked us all a giant dinner (lamb stew). It was an amazing experience.

Oh, and I have to tell you one more thing. After the ten-week course, Henri decided to do it again. He asked if anyone minded taking *another* ten-week course, but this time it would cost $50 per person. The tradeoff was the Henri would bring in much more expensive wines. Marieta and I couldn’t sign up fast enough.

So, over a 20-week span, we enjoyed exquisite wines from all over the world, presented by a wine expert, all for $70 a person. It might have been the best investment in education I ever made.

After being exposed to so many wines, naturally, I was curious to go out on my own and buy wines and enjoy them. A new Total Wine store had just opened in Alexandria, and we made what would become the trip to wine Mecca. That was in 1994, and today in 2023, we still go to Total Wine, but the one here in Las Vegas.

Way back then, we bought several bottles. Each time, we’d try new things. However, one winemaker really hit the sweet spot. It was CLINE (a.k.a. Cline Family Cellars in Sonoma). We fell in love with Cline Cabernet Sauvignon. A few months later, we made our biggest wine step, when we decided to buy a case. A case of wine! That seemed like a lot of wine at the time. It cost $5.99 a bottle, and the case price added another 10 percent discount.

Over the next several years, we bought more cases of Cline than I can count or remember. We branched out and tried Cline’s Zinfandel (outstanding) and Cline’s Ancient Vines (which cost about double the usual price). All of these wines are still available today. And even though I’ve moved on to other wines and have some new favorites, nothing can nor will ever replace the memory of your first love. Cline was my first love.

Today, I decided to open a Cline Viognier. We saw this at the store, but have never tried it. They didn’t even need to say hello — they had me at CLINE.

Sometimes being with old friends again can lead to amazing new discoveries.



  1. Ah, dragged back in time to the 90’s, when I was working in Crystal Plaza 4 (and later Crystal Park 3). The dining and wine destination with my new wife from 1990 on was Chez Froggy, on 23rd Street. I recall there being a quite decent wine shop in the Crystal City Underground, very near the top of the Metro escalators and to the left.

    It’s a shame you didn’t also venture a bit further south into Old Town, where Rick Raunswinder of Rick’s Wines used to hold excellent free weekly tastings. Rick was a personal friend of several Italian wine importers, including the Viettis, and had access to many exceptional small batch imports. I also blame him for our still current addiction to Ridge zinfandels and those hundreds of bottles in the den…

  2. Great story !

    Back in the late 1980s, my wife and I were finishing graduate school at UW-Madison and took a trip out to wine country and drove up and down the highway stopping at many of the vineyards and came across the Cline Vineyard.

    We stopped in and they were not having any tastings offered at the time but starting chatting with a gentlemen, Fred I think was his name, and he offered to do a barrel tasting with us of some Zinfandel and provide us a wonderful experience. We ended up purchasing a case and having it sent back to us. Was a wonderful time and will always remember his kindness and the time he spent with us.

    As you, we still enjoy Cline wines today, and remembrance of our time at the vineyard.



      Wonderful story! Really amazing that out of all the vineyards, you also came across Cline Thanks for sharing.

      — ND

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