Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Clif Family Winery at Velo Vino

With a combination of very good, reasonably priced wines and an extraordinarily friendly, unpretentious atmosphere, Clif Family Winery is definitely worth a visit. Clif Family Winery at Velo Vino is a cycling oriented, small Napa Valley winery that is located on Main Street in St. Helena, on the left as you are heading toward St. Helena from Napa.  The sign also reads Velo Vino, which is the name of their tasting room.  In addition to wine, they have their own olive oil, gourmet nuts, Clif bars, (Yes, the same family makes the famous Clif bars.) espresso, a gift shop and an outdoor patio.  They use to purchase their grapes from other vineyards but began growing some of their own in 2011 and have also purchased Howell at the Moon Winery which they renamed Cold Springs Winery.

Clif Family building

From the moment we entered the winery everyone there was extremely down to earth, welcoming and friendly, especially Caroline, our host.  It is always nice to start a tasting off with staff members who are this courteous, helpful and enthusiastic.  Our tasting began with a Clif Family 2010 Sauvignon Blanc at $20 that had some lemon and melon on the nose, with a crisp, dry, well-balanced palate of lemon with a hint of nectarine.  It is blended with 2% Chardonnay and is not oaked. The Clif Family 2008 Gary's Improv Zinfandel at $28 had a raspberry and blackberry aroma with refreshing red fruit and well integrated tannins on the palate. My favorite was the Clif Family 2007 Kit's Killer Cab at $38 that was rated 92 points by Wine Enthusiast.  It has some Cabernet Franc in addition to the Cabernet Sauvignon, with a nice cherry nose and cherry with good tannins on the palate.  My friend slightly preferred the Clif Family 2009 Climber Limited Release at only $28 that was rated 89 by Wine & Wine Spirits.  It, too, is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon but has some Merlot and Petit Verdot blended in.  The tannins were softer than the Killer Cab, and it had a really nice finish.  It is very drinkable and would does not need to be paired with food to be fully enjoyed.

Clif Family entry sign

Very bike friendly

All of these wines were quite good for the price and become even more affordable (20% off) if you join their wine club, which is free and can consist of as little as two bottles of wine three times a year. Unlike some wine clubs, there is no required time limit; you may quit without penalty after even only one pick up or shipment. Tastings, which were  $15, come with a plate of flavored almonds.  They even offer coffee and espresso.

Clif Family tasting bar

Clif Family also offers a Climber White and a Climber Red wine at only $14 and large pouches of Chardonnay and Cab at only $17.  These pouches are the equivalent of two bottles of wine so are the same as $8.50 a bottle and can last up to a month after being opened, making them ideal for hikers or those who like a glass of wine only now and then.  According to their website, "Clif Family Winery at Velo Vino is a unique place where the passions of cycling and wine are celebrated and blended."  It is an upbeat and fun winery to visit.

Clif Family patio

Clif Family Winery
709 Main St
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 968-0625
Date of visit: February 8, 2012 

Clif Family outdoor tables

Clif Family indoor tables

Clif family outdoor fireplace

Clif Family outdoor tables

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