Cline Family Cellars' Charlie Tsegeletos wins Sonoma winemaker category of beverage industry awards

Charlie Tsegeletos

Director of winemaking

Cline Cellars

24737 Arnold Drive, Sonoma 95476


Known for top-selling zinfandel, Cline Family Cellars has never lost sight of its values as a family winery, says Charlie Tsegeletos, winner of the Sonoma winemaker category of North Bay Business Journal's Wine, Beer + Spirits Industry Awards for 2019.

The Business Journal asked him about his three decades in the wine business and the vintner's sizable investments in environmental sustainability.

Detail your background in the industry:

I graduated from UC Davis with a degree in agricultural science and management. My first job in the wine industry was in 1981 as an apprentice winemaker for Pendleton Estate Vineyard & Winery in San Jose. I then moved to Sonoma and joined the winemaking team at Hacienda Wine Cellars. Following that, I worked at D'Agostini Winery in the Sierra foothills.

In 1987 I joined the winemaking team at Glen Ellen Winery and worked my way up to senior director of winemaking. Since joining the Cline team in 2002 I have launched a variety of new projects including the Farmhouse wines, the Cashmere wines and the Sonoma Coast series.

I am also a past president of Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers.

Describe the impact your company or you have had on the industry in the last five years:

Cline Cellars began making wine in 1982 in Contra Costa County where the Cline family owns 190 acres of ancient vines. It was here they became known for Rhone varietals and zinfandel with Fred Cline being lauded as one of the original Rhone Rangers.

Today we have a broad portfolio of wines including pinot noir, chardonnay and merlot and several notable blends such as Cashmere and Farmhouse wines.

In the past five years I have helped launch a variety of new projects including launching Farmhouse Wines, a red blend and a white blend dedicated to the values of Green String farming, a form of “natural process agriculture,” where soil and plants are kept healthy and free from pesticides and artificial chemicals stewarded by Fred Cline and acclaimed farmer Bobby Cannard.

In 2016, I helped launch the Cashmere series, three Rhone blends that are not only a dedication to our history but a testament to Cline Family Cellars' charitable work with over $650,000 donated to breast cancer and Alzheimer's research on behalf of the Cashmere line.

I have also spearheaded our Appellation series and introduced varietal bottlings of cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and riesling.

Through our Ancient Vine series, I am proud to carry on our history in Oakley, where we are one of the largest holder of 100-plus-year-old vines in California. We have protected these vines from all manner of threats including looming urbanization in the bay area. We experiment in the vineyards with dry farming and of course, all of our vineyards are farmed using the Green String method.

From a winemaking standpoint we use no fining agents or enzymes and all of our wines are gluten free and vegan. As a family-owned winery, our goal has been to keep our land and water healthy and make delicious wine.

What are the accomplishments you can list to support that impact on the industry?

Cline Family Cellars went solar in 2005 to provide 100% of our annual electricity needs. The winery's roof is roughly 50,000 square feet and supports approximately 2,000 solar panels, which has improved air quality by reducing emissions of 690,000 pounds of noxious greenhouse gases per year.

We became California Certified Sustainable in both the vineyard and winery operation in 2017.

The program acknowledges a long-term commitment to continual improvement in the field of sustainable winegrowing and business practices, from grape to glass. We are also certified Sonoma County Sustainable, helping to lead the way in Sonoma County becoming the first 100% sustainable AVA in the country.

Apart from our commitment to sustainability, Cline Cellars is recognized as one of the leading zinfandel producers in the country. For the last seven years our Lodi zinfandel has been ranked as a top five superpremium zinfandel and has grown continuously in sales each year.

The Ancient Vines zinfandel has been the No. 2 ranked zinfandel in the ultrapremium category by Nielsen for five straight years, and we continue to be recognized for our zinfandel by a variety of publications.

This year our tasting room was named "best winery tour" in USA Today's 10Best Readers' Choice Travel Awards.

What changes have you noticed in your industry in the last five years and how have you and/or your company moved to capitalize on those changes?

There has been a greater turn towards supporting wineries that are working to preserve and protect the environment and our communities. People want to know where the products they are buying come from and they want to support businesses in which they believe.

Cline Family Cellars is family-owned and we have never lost sight of our values. Both the Clines and I are very passionate about bringing high-quality wines, that are farmed sustainably, to people across the country at an affordable price.

Charlie Tsegeletos

Director of winemaking

Cline Cellars

24737 Arnold Drive, Sonoma 95476


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