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Raise a glass to Jacuzzi family

Picture yourself sitting in the Jacuzzi on your back deck, sipping a glass of barbera from California's Jacuzzi Family Vineyards.

Know what? They both come from the same family.

It all started when the seven Jacuzzi siblings, Francesco, Rachele, Valeriano, Gelindo, Candido, Giocondo and Guiseppe, left their home in Italy's Friuli region and emigrated to America over the first decade or two of the 20th century.

Here's where it gets complicated. Clever inventors, the Jacuzzis quickly turned out a new, better airplane propeller that was adopted by the U.S. Army. To broaden their product line, they adapted the propeller into a jet pump able to pull up water from the region's deepest wells.

Fast-forward to 1956, and Candido's son, Ken, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, is told by doctors he needs hydrotherapy. The family modified their jet pump into an indoor tub with rushing water to soothe his aching joints.

Thus was born the Jacuzzi spa in which you're sipping that barbera.

So where does the wine come in? It seems Valeriano, in the Italian tradition, always made a few barrels of wine for his family and friends. It might have ended there, but his maternal grandson, Fred Cline, who grew up watching him crush the grapes, used a $10,000 inheritance to found Cline Cellars, a 350-acre winery in California's Carneros district.

At Cline Cellars, he made a lot of zinfandel, plus French varietals like chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, carignane, mourvedre, syrah, viognier and pinot gris. And in 1991, to honor Valeriano, Cline and his wife, Nancy, started making Jacuzzi Family wines at an 18,000-square-foot winery beside Cline Cellars on Highway 121 in the Sonoma side of Carneros.

At their Jacuzzi property, the Clines make pinot noir and merlot, but mainly old Italian varietals like arneis, an ancient white from Italy's Piedmont region; primitivo, a native of Italy's Puglia region closely related to zinfandel; and barbera, another old Piedmont favorite.

It's a complicated story, but the upshot is that wine fans have a new place to find great old Italian wines that until now have been pretty scarce. And that's a good thing.

> Recommended:

2010 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Arneis, California: light, crisp and tart, with citrus flavors; $16.

2009 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Barbera, Mendocino County, Calif.: tart cherry flavors, medium body, crisp and bright; $18.

2008 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Merlot, Sonoma-Carneros, Calif.: black cherries and dark chocolate, soft acids and tannins, smooth and round, $16.

2009 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Calif.: black plums and chocolate, soft tannins, smooth; $20.

2009 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Primitivo, Lake County, Calif.: black cherries, earth and coffee aromas and flavors, crisp and light; $18.

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