For tourists who love visiting wineries that have a little bit of everything, spending time at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards has to feel like hitting the proverbial jackpot.
Located in the southern Sonoma-Carneros area, across the road from its sister winery, Cline Cellars, Jacuzzi opened the doors to its 18,000 square-foot facility in 2007, but the production of Jacuzzi wines, under the auspices of Cline, goes back to 1994.
When people first hear of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, one of their first questions is, “Is that the same Jacuzzi who…?” The answer is yes. This is the same Jacuzzi family who came to America from Italy in the early 1900s and quickly became prominent in Southern California’s budding aviation industry. Their “Toothpick” propeller was instrumental in Allied air power in World War I and is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.. Their success allowed the family to purchase land in Contra Costa County in Northern California, and the vineyards planted there in the mid 1930s continue to bear the fruit that helps Jacuzzi and Cline produce their award-winning wines. Years later their ingenuity in plumbing design brought about the pumps, baths, and spas that bear the family name.
If you didn’t know that Jacuzzi was a destination winery dedicated to the tourist and event trade, you could easily believe it had been airlifted straight from the hills of Tuscany and dropped unchanged into the rolling landscape of Sonoma. Composed of Italian stonework, wrought iron, and oak, it has an ancient appeal. Behind the main winery building and hospitality center are wide lawns and picnic areas overlooking vineyards. It might be geared for tourism, but the beautiful grounds and striking architecture go a long way towards making it feel less touristy.
Visitor to Jacuzzi have a choice to make the minute they walk inside: head for the Olive Tasting Room, or take a left and make a beeline for the long bar that anchors the wine tasting side of the house. For those visitors who have little interest in tasting wine or olive oil, both areas are loaded with merchandise related to wine, food, cooking, and housewares, as well as the clothing items found at most wineries. In the wine room there is even a collection of jewelry available for the more ambitious shopper.
When I visited, it was a bit early in the day for olive oil, so off to the wine bar for me. The wines offered by Jacuzzi are an homage to the family’s history and heritage, with Italian varieties, both red and white, dominating the complimentary tasting menu. Apart from some prosecco that is imported from Asolo, Italy, all the grapes for their varietals and blends are grown in California.
For my five wines, I chose tocai friuliano, arneis and pinot grigio from the whites, and barbera, primitivo, and sagrantino from the reds. Yes, that’s six. The fellow pouring for me that quiet morning was feeling generous and so threw in the sagrantino. Actually, he was hoping to sign me up for the wine club, and kept pushing me despite my telling him no every polite way I could. Given his insistence and inability to take blunt social cues, pouring me some sagrantino was the least he could do.
The whites showed reasonable typicity, and all were fresh, crisp, and pleasing on the palate. The pinot grigio was a welcome surprise, with more complexity and body than is often found with this variety. The reds were solid as well. The barbera is Jacuzzi’s top seller, and it’s easy to see why. Aromatic, with bright fruit flavors and a long, subtle finish, I knew once I tasted this I’d be going home with a few bottles, which I did, despite my annoyance with the fellow behind the bar. The sagrantino was a great finish to the morning, full of red fruit notes and wrapped up in just a hint of vanilla and oak. This is the kind of production that, once the word gets out, could spur additional plantings of this variety in California, which has not always been so hospitable to Italian grapes.
Apart from my inexperienced staffer, my visit to Jacuzzi was a real treat. The winery is fast becoming a must-see on local tours and with plenty of good reasons. Fred Cline has added a jewel to the Sonoma wine industry and tourist trade. But don’t take my word for it. Go and see for yourself. Jacuzzi has a little bit of everything. Odds are they have something for you.