Clif Notes

The History of Howell Mountain

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Blog Post Written By Laura Barrett

Clif Family Winery purchased two Howell Mountain Estates, one in 2010 and another in 2012. These two vineyards are the source for our single vineyard wines, Croquet Vineyard Cabernet and Cold Springs Cabernet, as well as our popular Kit’s Killer Cab. We have immersed ourselves in mountain winemaking and the culture and history of Howell Mountain.

Howell Mountain was the very first sub-appellation designated within the Napa Valley. It was established in 1983 and its perimeter is defined by elevation – 1400 feet and higher. Howell Mountain is located within the Vaca Range, on the northeast side of the Napa Valley.

The soil across the Howell Mountain AVA is volcanic. There are two main types – one is called “tufa,” which is decomposed volcanic ash. The other is red clay, which is high in iron. Both are low in nutrition and have low water retention. This dry, nutrient-poor environment creates vines with low vigor and deep roots, ultimately creating berries that are small in size and high in quality.

The climate on the mountain is warmer than the Napa Valley in the early part of the day due to its elevation and position above the fog. The altitude also provides a cool afternoon breeze, keeping daytime high temperatures a bit cooler than the valley floor. Overall, the soil profile and microclimate create wines with great varietal character, firm mountain tannins and superb aging potential. Howell Mountain is well known for its concentrated and structured Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

Our neighbors, La Jota, as well as Liparita, have deep roots and a long history on the mountain, dating back to the late 1890’s. Dunn Vineyards brought great attention to the area in the late 1970’s, and many other notable producers have received great accolades for their quality wines. Many of these producers band together in the Howell Mountain Growers Association, a group of Howell Mountain producers who gather to protect and promote this unique part of the Napa Valley. To learn more about this great organization and wineries on the mountain, visit their website at

Ginger “drunken” peaches in Gewürztraminer

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Recipe by Executive Chef John McConnell

4 each, under ripe peaches – blanched and peeled, cut into large pieces and pits removed
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp peeled and finely minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup Clif Family Winery Gewürztraminer wine
10 oz. (1 jar) Clif Family Kitchen Peach preserves
1 tsp fresh lemon juice (or more if necessary)
Pinch of sea salt

Bring a medium size pot of water to boil. Using a paring knife, score an “X” at the bottom of each peach. Once water boiling, carefully lower the peaches into the water for approximately 1 minute. Transfer the peaches to a plate and set aside to allow the peaches time to cool. Discard the pot of water. Carefully peel the peaches to remove their skins and cut the flesh of the peaches into larger bite-sized pieces. Using a medium to large-sized sauté pan, add butter to the pan over high heat and begin to melt butter. Quickly add the prepared ginger to the pan and sauté without browning (approx. 30-40 seconds). Add the cut peaches to the sauté pan and sauté together until the peaches begin to soften and break down, add cinnamon. Once the peaches are soft, add Gewürztraminer and reduce by half until the wine thickens into a sauce. Remove sauté pan from heat and let cool. Once the mixture has cooled, fold in peach preserves, lemon juice and pinch of sea salt. Check taste; if too sweet add a little extra lemon juice to balance the sauce. If too sour, add touch of honey to balance.

Once the sauce is made, serve at room temperature or return the sauce to a small pan to rewarm.

Serving suggestions:
Over top your favorite vanilla ice cream.
Roasted Chicken.
German or Alsatian style pork dishes.
Pork chops with wilted cabbage and grain mustard.
*all items should be paired with Clif Family Winery Mendocino Gewürztraminer

Clif Family Winery in Mendocino County

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Thursday, July 7, 2016

Blog Post Written By Laura Barrett

I made a day trip out to Mendocino County yesterday to check on our Gewurztraminer and Grenache vineyard sites. This time of year, I travel north about once a month and it’s always a spectacular day. I try to get an early start and head north through Calistoga into Alexander Valley through Geyserville and past Cloverdale before taking the windy 128 over to Boonville. Ferrington Vineyard is just north of downtown Boonville and is the home to our Gewurztraminer. It’s always a quick stop, as I walk the 4 rows in one block and 3 in another. The viticulture practices are very well managed here, so there is rarely anything to request. Yesterday, the vineyard crew was just finishing up the last of the seasons canopy management, removing leaves on the morning side of the vine. There is no sign of softening yet, which tells me harvest will be at least 10-14 days later than last year. It was foggy and cold, as usual in the early mornings in Anderson Valley.

When I leave Ferrington, I head back through downtown Boonville and northeast on highway 253. This mountain pass almost always takes me above the fog line as I head into sunny and warmer Ukiah. My first stop in this eastern part of the county is Venturi Vineyards, a new grower partner for us in 2016. This site is owned by Larry Venturi, whose family emigrated from Tuscany in 1917. Larry tells stories about his family and the history of the ranch. My favorite is when he laughs about how they built highway 101 through the middle of his ranch! I check on our small block of organic, dry farmed, head trained Grenache. I am thrilled at the opportunity to work with this fruit this year as part of our Clif Family Grenache red wine program!

Headed back on Highway 101 south, I pass through the town of Ukiah and head east to the Talmage bench to see Rory Bartololmei. The Bartolomei brothers are 4th generation in the family, who have farmed the land since the early 1900’s. We have been purchasing this Grenache block for several years now, and it is the site of our sought after Rose´. Rory and I chat about fruit set, politics and Clif Bar as we walk the rows. I’m always asking for more grapes, but I’m forced to look to the newly planted Grenache vines in the neighboring block and think wishfully to 3 or 4 years down the road. On my way out of the ranch, I stop to pick some blackberries on the side of the dirt road.

So, after about 200 miles round trip, I return to St. Helena. A bit groggy from the ride, I am thankful to have these wonderful sites in Mendocino County that offer diversity to our wine program. I am also thankful for these grower partners, who care so deeply about their land. I enjoy working with their grapes, appreciate their friendship and cherish these out-of-county days.

Layered Parfait with Meyer Lemon Marmalade Curd

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Recipe by Executive Chef John McConnell


6 eggs
1 cup sugar
Zest of 3 lemons
1 cup lemon juice
4 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
½ tsp kosher salt
1 10 ounce jar Clif Family Kitchen Meyer Lemon Marmalade
1 16 ounce container Mascarpone
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 package of Granola

Cook the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium saucepan, whisking continuously, over low heat for 10 minutes or until thickened. Do not overcook, as the eggs will curdle. Set aside. In a blender, blend the 10 ounces of Clif Family Kitchen Meyer Lemon Marmalade until larger pieces of Meyer lemon rind are chopped. Inside the blender atop the chopped marmalade add the curd mixture and blend on low speed. Add one tablespoon of cold butter at a time, until butter is incorporated, add salt. Pour the Meyer lemon curd into a glass container, cover surface with plastic wrap and allow mixture to cool in refrigerator.

While mixture cools, whisk the mascarpone, buttermilk, vanilla and powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Mix well until combined and slightly thickened. Refrigerate until the parfait is ready to be assembled.

In a clear jar layer ingredients starting with granola, then mascarpone cream, and Meyer lemon curd. Continue layering ingredients until desired height is achieved. Finish top layer with granola.


Vietnamese Style Noodles

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Recipe by Executive Chef John McConnell

Vietnamese Style Noodles with Grilled Sweet and Spicy Beef

1 10 ounce jar Clif Family Kitchen Green Pepper Jam
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup lime juice
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
1 lb skirt steak or hanger steak
2 (3 ¾ oz) packages of Cellophane (soybean thread) noodles
1 red bell pepper (julienned thinly)
2 medium carrots (julienned thinly)
¼ cup torn basil
¼ cup torn mint
½ cup chopped peanuts

In a large bowl whisk Clif Family Kitchen Green Pepper Jam with fish sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, and Sriracha. Divide mixture and set half aside for the noodles and the other half for marinating the steak. In a large gallon size baggie place steak inside with half of the green pepper jam mixture. Marinate the steak overnight.

In a large pot, bring six quarts of water to a boil. Boil cellophane noodles for three minutes and allow noodles to sit in hot water for another 2 minutes before draining. Drain noodles and immediately mix noodles with reserved green pepper jam mixture and set aside.

Remove steak from refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature. Season steak with salt on both sides. On a very hot grill or grill pan, grill the steak to your desired temperature. Do not remove any of the pepper jam marinade from the steak before grilling, as it will caramelize nicely on the steak. Rest meat at least five minutes before slicing against the grain.

Serve noodles on a large platter surrounded by julienned bell pepper and carrots, basil, mint and chopped peanuts. Place sliced meat on the noodles just before serving.

Auction Napa Valley

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Friday, May 27, 2016

Blog Post Written By Laura Barrett

The annual Napa Valley Wine Auction is a highlight in our cyclical season of wine growing. It comes each year during the first weekend in June, where wine collectors, tasters and vintners gather to raise money for the non-profit organizations of the Napa Valley. Vintners provide unparalleled hospitality to wine auction guests in a weekend of dinners, parties, unique wines and unforgettable experiences. In return, the Napa Valley Vintners Association donates proceeds to our community health organizations and children’s education. It’s a weekend where we all dress up, feel good, and have a grand time.

In our 7th year at the Napa Valley Wine Auction, Clif Family Winery will showcase the 2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from our Cold Springs Vineyard at Friday’s Barrel Auction, where 10 lucky bidders will win a case of the wine in barrel (to be collected at bottling time – June 2017.) I have carefully selected this wine from our Foza Block, named after a 50 mile, steep ride that Gary and Kit enjoyed during their year in Italy in 2015. And this wine shows the same kind of muscle is takes to ascend its namesake. With loads of dark fruits – black berry, blueberry and plum - the aromatics are so well integrated with the 80% new French oak (especially for just 8 months in barrel.) The palate has great depth and richness, with well-balanced tannins throughout.

To our auction guests – be sure to visit us at the barrel hall and get a sneak-peak into what the 2015 vintage has to offer from Clif Family Winery!

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