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01.06.10

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Phaedra

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

By James Knight

The free association the name of this winery inspires is so predictable—redwood decks, California sunsets and two conveniently placed glasses of wine—that the mere mention of it to people unfamiliar with this two-year-old winery is met with incredulity, even offense. "But how can they? That's so . . ."

That's so Italian, is what it is. Relax, have a Pinot Grigio and take in this story. Before the warm water jets that we all know and our lower backs love, there was a real family that, after a brief career in aviation manufacturing, was already growing grapes in the 1930s. The Jacuzzis then made wine filters, well pumps and an initially mundane therapeutic water pump that became a household name and sold in the 1970s for a tidy sum. Wine drinkers already know them by their other family name, having operating Cline Cellars across the road for 26 years.

While Cline is a rambling collection of old farm buildings, Jacuzzi is a brand-new replica villa with tour bus parking. Stone terraces beckon would-be brides from above, while below, a few historic Jacuzzi pumps loiter in an alcove on the way to the rest rooms. Holding down Catholic piety in the courtyard, old St. Francis ministers to a dove and a broken alligator, while cellar visitors are greeted by a barrel-chested Bacchus erupting from a marble pillar, his buxom female associate popping out from the other side to pair him.

Dual tasting rooms offer both wine and oily goods from the Olive Press, as tchotchke-choked as can be, but the bar is well-staffed with a cadre of older gentlemen and women. Our man was the quintessential wine host: personable, professional and just a little puckish.

Jacuzzi's winemaker also reports to Cline, but the wine styles couldn't be more different. Jacuzzi is all Italian varietals, Merlot and Cab being now honorary members. The 2008 Paicines Arneis ($22) could swap for Sauvignon Blanc, with ripe fruit skin, uncut pineapple and white raisin aromas. The 2008 Carneros, Gilia's Vernaccia ($22) had that uncommonly balanced, weighty but clean sensation of mineral water. The 2006 Sonoma Valley Aleatico ($20), an enticing red variation of Muscat Canelli, had floral, muscat aromas that have no other fruit corollary, finishing fine and dry.

A lighter style of a sometimes tarry wine, the 2007 Carneros Nebbiolo ($28) had nuances of toasted nut and cranberry astringency, while the 2007 Mendocino County Barbera ($25) displayed Petite Sirah-like paint, tar, licorice with a wide, dry palate of rubbery tannin. Even the 2006 Rosso di Sette Fratelli, Carneros Merlot ($20), in an old-fashioned fat-bottomed flask, shares the same Italian style—nearly every red is medium bodied, with a touch of bright cranberry-cherry, varnished-pomegranate fruit, astringent in that distinctly Chianti-like, appealing but food-dependent, fashion. These are wines surely made for that hot tub of the old school—a great, steaming bowl of linguini and marinara.

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, 24724 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. Open Daily 10am to 5:30pm. No fee for most tastings; $1 reserves. 707.931.7575.


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