written BY CHARLENE PETERS | PHOTOS COURTESY OF CLIF FAMILY
If imitation is the best form of flattery, Clif Family has proven so by its emulation of the Rifugios of the Italian Alps. Guests at their St. Helena tasting rooms typically arrive by automobile, but there are also bicyclists, motorcyclists, and visitors who take the stroll a bit further from the main downtown shopping area to stop for a food and wine tasting experience or lunch and a glass of wine from their Bruschetteria Food Truck (Wednesdays through Sundays, 11:30 am to 4 pm).
In true Rifugio style, Clif Family’s entrance leads to a welcoming and lively experience— with coffee service, small bites, and the opportunity to enjoy group conversations while sipping on a Rhone-style Bici red wine with a label depicting cyclist and co-owner Kit Crawford en route to the summit of Paso Giau in Dolomiti, Italy. The label itself is a conversation starter amongst tasters, especially once they learn the Clif Family brand began with a bicycle ride.
In 2004, Clif Bar & Company co-owners Kit Crawford and Gary Erickson brought their love of adventure to Napa Valley, creating wine-tasting experiences that highlighted their love of organic food and farming. At their tasting room, you can experience wine and food pairings created by their culinary team that highlight their delicious and organic savory nut mixes, fruit preserves, and extra virgin olive oil. The newest offering of Solar Grown™ Honey products proves Clif Family’s forward-thinking in sustainability. Using honey gathered from partners with hives on solar farms creates a pollinator-friendly habitat proven favorable to help control stormwater, improve soil, and provide diverse food sources and nesting for surrounding wildlife. It’s also tasty as a spread or stirred in tea.
IN THE RIFUGIO
Since the most favorable time of day for the palate to appreciate a wine tasting is late morning, Clif Family offers a Rise & Wine brunch experience of lighter wines to taste with breakfast bites prepared using ingredients grown on the Clif Family organic farm. The farm harvests various fruits, citrus, olives, and seasonal vegetables to create bites prepared by Executive Chef John McConnell.
IN THE ENOTECA PRIVATE TASTING SALON
In lieu of the view of the Dolomites of Italy, tasting experiences in the Enoteca Tasting Salon overlook the Mayacamas Mountain Range of Napa Valley. Seating in front of a roaring fireplace sets the stage for an elevated private tasting of some of the best Howell Mountain wines crafted by Winemaker Laura Barrett. The wines are paired with sweet and savory—and seasonal bites prepared by Executive Chef John McConnell.
“Winemaking begins in the vineyard,” said Barrett. “With thoughtful, organic farming and attention to detail… from Howell Mountain to the Oak Knoll valley floor, our wines have a sense of place and balance.”
Guests who sign up for the Pasto E Vino wine-pairing lunch are advised to arrive hungry. They’ll leave with a belly full of eco-consciousness and, most likely, with a few bottles of wine made from Clif Family’s 90 acres of CCOF-certified vineyard land in the Howell Mountain and Oak Knoll Districts of Napa Valley.
At both tasting rooms, guests can opt for a plant-based tasting experience. In addition to using the Clif Family organic farm harvested ingredients, the winery has partnered with local plant-based food partners such as Miyoko’s Creamery.