Clif Notes

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Friday, November 13, 2015

Recipe by Chef John McConnell

With Thanksgiving around the corner, we are busy planning our dinner menus. Chef John has created some delicious side dishes using our Clif Family Kitchen preserves, spice blends and savory nut mixes. One of our favorites is his take on Brussels Sprouts using our Roasted Pistachio & Almonds. It is just the right amount of sweet and savory and if you are not careful, it may steal the show on the dinner table.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Sugared Roasted Pistachio and Almonds


1-4 ounce package Clif Family Kitchen Roasted Pistachio and Almonds

1 egg white, beaten well by hand with whisk

1/4 cup sugar

1 pinch cayenne pepper

1 pound brussels sprouts, cleaned and cut in half

2 Tbsp butter, small dice

2 Tbsp. Clif Family Kitchen Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt, to taste

1 fresh orange, zest only


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a small bowl, toss Clif Family Kitchen Roasted Pistachio & Almonds in the beaten egg whites. Transfer nuts to the sheet pan, discarding any excess egg whites. Mix sugar with cayenne pepper and sprinkle nuts with sugar/pepper mixture, tossing until completely coated. Bake 15-20 minutes, stirring mixture halfway during baking time. Remove from oven, allow to cool completely.

While nuts are cooling. Place oil and diced butter in a large skillet, do not turn on heat. Into cold skillet add brussels sprouts atop the oil and butter cut side down into the pan. Turn heat to medium high and cook the brussels spouts until cut side is golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Turn each brussels sprout over and continue cooking to desired tenderness about 2-3 minutes. Coarsely chop a portion of the cooled nuts. Transfer to serving dish and toss with nuts. Season with flake sea salt and orange zest.

Wine Pairing: Clif Family Kit’s Killer Cab Howell Mountain Cabernet


The Chardonnay Challenge

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Friday, November 6, 2015

Blog Post Written By Laura Barrett

The Clif Family Winery Chardonnay program has been very successful. With many boutique bottlings from the Oak Knoll AVA, Clif has created a great following for this Napa Valley benchmark varietal. When I came onboard one year ago as Winemaker, I had some big shoes to fill. How was I going to accomplish this, given that the previous grape source was no longer available?!

My first task was to start tasting. As a group, we looked at a vertical comparison of Clif Family Winery Chardonnay and determined that we loved our style, described as fruit forward, food friendly and not overly masked by butter or oak. Then we tasted a comparative set of local wines to unveil what our neighbors were doing.

My second, and greatest task, was to source the grapes. This was easier than I ever imagined, perhaps just downright lucky. In prior years, we had been sourcing from the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley and given that the goal was to maintain style, we decided to aim for that same AVA. After a few phone calls to old friends and colleagues, I landed a grape contract with Steve Matthiasson, who leases, and organically farms, a small Chardonnay vineyard on Orchard Ave in Napa. Not only is this a very popular Chardonnay neighborhood within the Oak Knoll District, but Steve is considered one of Napa Valley’s top viticultural minds with a commitment to organic farming. This was a perfect match.

My final challenge was to establish the winemaking plan. I needed to consider how ripe to pick the grapes, the percentage of new oak and which cooperages to use, and the amount of malolactic fermentation to encourage (this is the secondary fermentation that converts malic acid to lactic acid, creating the “buttery” character in Chardonnay.) Again, I needed to maintain style and quality, but what if I could improve it? The only way to find out is with experimentation.

So, after a successful first harvest from our new Chardonnay source in 2015, I now have a palette of wines to use in making the final blend. I have new oak barrels from 4 difference cooperages. I have some barrels going through malolactic fermentation and some that will not. I have some barrels being lees stirred and some not. I have oak barrels and stainless steel barrels. All of these tools will help me determine our best approach moving forward.

With the upcoming release of our 2014 Chardonnay and Thanksgiving right around the corner, I encourage you to stop into Velo Vino and grab a few bottles. Then, next year, you’ll be able to compare the 2014 and 2015 vintages and tell me…. did I succeed?

Savory Onion Jam Dip

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Recipe by Chef John McConnell

With fall in the air, it’s time to pull out a jar of our Savory Onion Jam. Perfect for adding to a grilled cheese sandwich or spreading on crostini for an easy appetizer, our Savory Onion Jam makes a great staple for holiday entertaining.

Chef John recently whipped up this delicious onion dip using our Savory Onion Jam. It didn’t last long in the Clif Family Kitchen!

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
½ cup Clif Family Kitchen Savory Onion Jam, plus 1 Tablespoon for garnish
½ tsp salt
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp chives, chopped

Beat softened cream cheese using a stand or hand held mixer until smooth. Add sour cream and mix until combined. Measure ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon of Clif Family Kitchen Savory Onion Jam and spread onto cutting board and chop both directions. Add chopped onions (reserving 1 Tablespoon), salt, onion and garlic powders to cream mixture and mix on low speed until combined thoroughly. Stir in chopped chives. Refrigerate at least one hour, more flavorful if made a day ahead. Garnish chilled onion dip with reserved chopped onion jam and additional chives. Serve with chips or veggies.

Harvest comes to a close

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Thursday, October 8, 2015

Blog Post Written By Laura Barrett

As we end week 8 of the 2015 Clif Family Winery harvest season, we are smiling with delight. The last of our Cold Springs Estate Cabernet was picked today, marking the finale. We did it, we made it to the finish line!

Over the last 2 weeks, it was difficult to resist the temptation to pick this block. As I drove around the Napa Valley, it looked like late fall. There was not a grape to be seen on the valley floor and friends and colleagues were all talking about how they were finished with harvest. Peer pressure at its worst! But, each time I visited the Cold Springs Estate, I dragged my boots through the vineyard yet again and knew I needed to wait. This block will always be the test…. are you patient?

So, as we tend to the last of this year’s fermenters, we welcome winter with open arms. Bring on the rain now, Cold Springs is in.

Cabernet Time

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Monday, September 28, 2015

Blog Post Written by Laura Barrett

It is September 28th, 2015 and I have already harvested more than half of our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain. These very same blocks were picked in mid-October of 2014 (which was considered an early year!) The 2015 vintage will be noted for early ripening and low yields. So, what will the results be with respect to quality? In my opinion, there is great potential for very high quality wine. The berries are tiny with deeply concentrated flavors. We are seeing high sugars without any over ripe character. Pyrazines (the vegetal aroma in red grapes, particularly in Cabernets) have dissipated and the skins taste great. Though seeds are lagging a bit behind and, even in the ripest blocks, I am still seeing some green seeds. We will account for this in the cellar by keeping the heavy press wine separate. Overall, I expect the 2015 vintage will live up to the very high standards of Napa Valley Cabernet.

The Valley Fire

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Monday, September 21, 2015

Blog Post Written by Laura Barrett

The Valley Fire has had a powerful impact on this year’s harvest, not by its effects on the wine, but the impression that it has left on us personally and on our community. We will always remember the 2015 vintage as one that was struck with disaster, leaving our neighboring community devastated. Many of us in the Clif Family have friends, teachers, or colleagues that lost their homes in the Valley Fire.

I can tell the story first hand from our Howell Mountain property because I was staying at the Clif Family Croquet Vineyard the night the fire began. Around 6PM an enormous, dark and low cloud of smoke slowly crept toward our site from the northwest. It was disturbing, not only because of the gloomy darkness around sunset, but also because of the powerful gusts of wind that were carrying large pool and garden items into the olive grove. By 9PM there were large pieces of ash falling onto the croquet court. At 10PM the smell of smoke was inside the house and we voluntarily evacuated and headed home to St. Helena. By 2AM the police were notifying residents of a formal evacuation advisory and the road was closed until Monday. During this time, there was great concern amongst the rural community. The fire crept very close to our Croquet Vineyard and Farm, dangerously close. But firefighters were able to hold it off near Aetna Springs, just about 7 miles away.

As of today, the fire is 75,781 acres and 70% contained. Last week’s rain brought some much needed cooling and humidity to the air, helping firefighters gain some control. The roads have re-opened and residents are returning to the area.

Overall, the Valley Fire has been a terrible tragedy for the Lake County community. For the Clif Family, it has been a threat and a scare, but not damaging to our land, homes or vineyards. It has served as a strong reminder of the dangers associated with the California drought and the impact that it has on our industry. Our hearts go out to the Lake County community as they begin to rebuild.

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