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Restaurant & Hotel Exclusive sourced from Cline's California Estates
Exclusive Interview with Winemaker Tom Gendall

Interview By Lisa Gmur, CSW

Cline Cellars was originally founded by Fred and Nancy Cline back in 1982 in Oakley, California after Fred received a small inheritance from his grandfather.

Cline continues to farm their historic vineyards in Oakley, where Rhône grape varietal flourish, but in 1991, Cline relocated the winery to a 350 acre historic property in the Carneros District of Sonoma Valley. These two properties form the backbone of their total of seven estates in California; aptly named “Seven Ranchlands.”

Seven Ranchlands is Cline’s new On-Premise exclusive offering, which has been specifically produced for consumption within restaurants & hotels across the United States. The five core varietals of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, & Cabernet Sauvignon are sourced predominantly from the Seven Ranchlands, and offered with exceptional value for high quality by the glass pours.

We talked with Cline Cellars winemaker Tom Gendall about this new project from the story of the name to his favorite food & wine pairings.

Tom Gendall, Director of Winemaking & Viticulture

The Interview

The Mark Wine Group

So, the name; Seven Ranchlands. What’s the story?

Tom Gendall

Well, we have Seven Ranches in California:

J. Poppe where the winery is in Carneros. 22 varieties are planted here.

Catapult, our showcase vineyard in the Petaluma Gap, making wines of pure fruit, power and structure.

Diamond Pile, our Diamond in the rough in the Petaluma Gap, making stunningly exquisite, detailed wines with finesse and elegance.

Meadowbrook Ranch in Tehama County, we grow stunningly pure and rich Zinfandel that goes into a Single Vineyard bottling along with Grenache and Alicante Bouschet.

Jacuzzi Vineyard which grows Sauvignon Blanc and Italian varieties in Carneros. Big Break in Contra Costa, where it all began, renown for amazing Zinfandel, Grenache and the home of our small berry Mourvedre.

And lastly Bridgehead, where we grow an elegant single vineyard Zinfandel, along with Palomino, Grenache and Mourvedre for our Late Harvest.

Together these make our Seven Ranchlands and we wanted to show them off and share the wines we produce from these amazing properties.

The Mark Wine Group

Wow! That really puts a face to the name, so to speak. We love that they are exclusively On-Premise!

Tom Gendall

We wanted to produce great wines specifically for restaurants. After the challenging year we just had it was a perfect time to launch our new wines from our fantastic vineyards here in Sonoma & California.

We saw an opportunity to put our favorite sites in bottle from our Seven Ranches that we own throughout California and it was a great time to put specific wines in bottle for our partners in the restaurant industry.

We also wanted to keep our theme of giving back so we used the launching of this brand to help the restaurant industry by giving back to local restaurant relief funds.

Cline gives back; Restaurant Relief Fund

The Mark Wine Group

We absolutely love that. What else do you want our buyers to know about Seven Ranchlands?

Tom Gendall

From our seven vineyards we tag specific blocks to make the foundation of these wines, selecting the choicest blocks to give the best example of the site.

In the winery, we craft each of these wines to suit the character of the varietal with just the right amount of age to enhance the fruit and to be enjoyed with many types of cuisines.

The Mark Wine Group

How does Seven Ranchlands fit into the Cline Story?

Tom Gendall

Seven Ranchlands showcases the diversity and amazing ranches that we have the privilege to be custodians over. Our vineyards are all certified sustainable and it was a great opportunity to start telling that story more widely.

We grow lots of different varieties in the best spots in California and the world. We also wanted to produce a special wine just for the On-Premise industry and help them after the difficult year we all just experienced.

The Clines have a history of giving back and this provided another great opportunity to do so.

The Mark Wine Group

What’s your favorite part of the Cline story?

Tom Gendall

That is the problem, there are too many, so I’ll keep it to two stories, both about the Ranches.

The first time I met Fred was when I interviewed for the job. Afterwards he told me to jump in his truck and he took me for a tour through his vineyards in Sonoma. I had no idea about them but when he took me through Catapult, Diamond Pile and J Poppe vineyards I was blown away by where they were, the diversity and their huge potential.

I was sold immediately and have had a blast making wines from these vineyards ever since. The second was when I went down to Contra Costa for the first time, seeing 100 year-old rooted vines at Big Break and Bridgehead vineyards.  All I could think was why did I not know about these amazing sites, and we need to tell more people about them.

The Mark Wine Group

How have you developed the flavor profiles for the Cline Seven Ranchlands wines? 

Tom Gendall

The goal is to strike a balance between being food friendly and ready to drink now.

Our whites need to be extremely concentrated and have a solid fruit core to balance the acidity and phenolic structure to be great pairings with a variety of foods. Getting the fruit right and having great concentration are the keys to handling the acidity and phenolics.

In the reds it is the same except trying to balance the tannin, picking at optimum ripeness obviously but more importantly giving the wines a little more air during the winemaking process to build a richer and rounder tannin profile.

These components are very important to making great wines that can also handle a variety of foods.

The Mark Wine Group

With the Seven Ranchland wines all about food affinities, we are wondering what are some of your favorite food & wine pairings?

Tom Gendall

Everything! I love Sauvignon Blanc with scallops, mind you our Chardonnay has the brightness to go with scallops too depending on how they are prepared.

Any scallop dish will make me happy.

I have a fondness for Wellington’s so a pork Wellington and Pinot Noir or a beef Wellington and Cabernet.

Those are all my favorites.

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J. Poppe Vineyard

Catapult Ranch Vineyard

Diamond Pile Vineyard

Big Break Vineyard

Meadowbrook Ranch Vineyard

Jacuzzi Family Vineyard

Bridgehead Vineyard


The Mark Wine Group

We love the screw cap closures and so do our buyers. Is this why you decided to use them?

Tom Gendall

Yes, I love screw-caps too coming from New Zealand where everything is screw-cap but also ease of use, better seal for multiple days etc. It’s a great way to close our wines for everyday drinking.

The Mark Wine Group

We would love to hear more about growing up in New Zealand?

Tom Gendall

Growing up in New Zealand was great.

Small country obviously, but lots to do. I grew up in Christchurch in the South Island and wine was not part of my life at all. I played lots of sports. Everything from rugby to soccer, cricket, tennis, basketball. Everyone had to play a sport or a music instrument so lots of teams and experience, tournaments etc. No pressure to perform, just to participate which is nice growing up.

We had holidays all-round the country, Kiwi’s (as we call ourselves) love a good road-trip so lots of those. The ski fields were only a couple of hours away and the beach was 10 minutes away so really a blessed life for a kid.

We all swam in the ocean and summer was all about water, Christmas was barbecues and pool parties because its summer at that time, but winter was cold and rainy and miserable, I do like Christmas and New Year’s breaking up winter a bit.

The Mark Wine Group

So, how did you get into wine?

Tom Gendall

I went to a great school and part of our final two years we had to do Monday afternoon ‘options’ as they were called.

You could do anything, from scuba-diving to 4-wheel driving to yoga. The list was long and it was designed to give you a taste of things other than academics.

One of them was wine tasting so as any 17-year old boy who was given a chance to drink at school, I signed up and loved it.

I had a friend at Lincoln University who drew up my three-year degree schedule a week or two later and that was it, I was set.

The Mark Wine Group

That is so incredibly cool. I would have loved to have grown up there. How do you think being a New Zealander has contributed to your winemaking style?

Tom Gendall

I was lucky to learn lots of great things from lots of great people.

The New Zealand wine industry is young, small and tight knit so always fun to go back and see friends. We made great wines from great spots in a very matter of fact way, but also knowing there is always more to learn and you can always learn something from everyone.

It has been amazing trying new things and watching the results, I saw a bit of that in Germany when I was there too and have seen a lot of that in California too.

I guess if you work hard and stay open minded great things will come.

The Mark Wine Group

What's your life like now?

Tom Gendall

I am married, coming up 10 years, to an amazing woman.

We have a great dog, Prim, who is 9 and a joyful son who is 3 years old and makes me laugh all the time.

We live in Glen Ellen and lead fantastic lives! My wife’s family is local so lots of support in raising our son and we have lots of friends and share lots of wine and lots of laughs.

If you are not having fun in California, you are doing it wrong.  We have lots of fun.

The Mark Wine Group

Completely envious. Absolutely love Glen Ellen. We’d love to hear what's one thing about Cline that you find really interesting?

Tom Gendall

The diversity of wines.

We have a wine for every table and it’s fun to show people new things, or old favorites or something they have never heard about and we can teach them more about wine.

Wine is a tool to connect with people and to share good times and Cline wines do that in bucket loads. I really enjoy being part of it all.

The Mark Wine Group

There is another new wine project you are part of and the wines are pretty killer.

Tom Gendall

That's correct! We are very excited about "Gust" wines, they are the brain child of Hilary & Megan Cline.

Megan & Hillary Cline; Second Generation

They started that back in 2017 and I helped them with it from the beginning. Cline has over 500 acres of vineyards in the Petaluma Gap, Catapult and Diamond Pile ranches and Megan and Hilary wanted to make luxury wines from these sites, so Gust was born.

They went through and graded every block and then chose the best rows within those blocks. They farmed them exactly as they wanted and dialed in the characters they wanted. It was a huge opportunity to do something special, and they wanted to set the sites apart, give them the care and attention they deserve, and take quality to the next level.

It’s really fun to help them make stunning wines. My part is just to help translate their thinking and aid in the steps where I can, to get the best out of the sites and grapes.

Gust; a breath of fresh air

The Mark Wine Group

Thank you so much!

Tom Gendall

This was really fun!

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Seven Ranchlands Sauvignon Blanc

This Cline Seven Ranchlands Sauvignon Blanc is a treat! Grapefruit grabs you at first, as aromas of lemon and orange zest follow. Bright flavors of lime, melon, and guava are vibrant and juicy. Wet river stones reveal the depth of this wine and zingy acidity balances and ties the wine together.

Seven Ranchlands Chardonnay

This alluring Seven Ranchlands Chardonnay has plenty of ripe fruits from meyer lemon to apple to peach with a touch of pineapple in the mix too. On the palate, the texture is rich with notes of brioche and bread pudding with vanilla spice on the long, satisfying finish.

Seven Ranchlands
Pinot Noir

Our Seven Ranchlands Pinot Noir has an enticing nose, layers of cherry, strawberry, and raspberry, with secondary notes of oak, bramble, and mushroom. The palate is smooth and refined, elegant and enthralling, with bright flavors on the entry and layers of complexity on the finish.

Seven Ranchlands

This delicious and well-balanced Seven Ranchlands Merlot wine will go great with medium-bodied fare from spaghetti to roast beef. It has notes of Santa Rosa plum, chocolate, and dried herbs. With a velvety mouthfeel, and luscious tannin, this is a wine that will please everyone who tries it!

Seven Ranchlands
Cabernet Sauvignon

Our Seven Ranchlands Cabernet has layers of brooding blackberry, blueberry, and plum notes plus wafts of chocolate mocha, vanilla, and black olive. With a long finish and fine-grained tannins and invigorating freshness, this wine is perfect to drink now or to age for the next 5-7 years.