Clif Notes

Organic Farming – a personal perspective

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Blog Post Written By Laura Barrett

I live on a quiet road in the heart of the Napa Valley, surrounded by vineyards. My yard is bright green with all this winter rain and the recently pruned vineyards are clean, crisp and beautiful. The view is stunning. Though, I came home one day last week to bright yellow stripes throughout the vineyards – a sure sign that Round-up was sprayed to control weed growth at the base of the vines. I couldn’t help but feel disappointment and concern. Is the air and the dirt contaminated? Will these chemicals reach our drinking water? Will I track these pesticides into my home on the soles of my shoes?

Prior to my time at Clif Family Winery, I had never worked with organically farmed grapes. There was always an interest, but the added costs and associated risks to the crop were inhibiting factors. When I joined the Clif team, I was interested and exited to begin to understand what it meant to farm grapes organically. (All three of the Clif Family Winery Estate vineyards, as well as the Farm, are CCOF certified.) With one season under my belt, I have a much broader perspective on the topic and a fond appreciation for these sustainable practices.

What does it mean to farm organically? In the most simple terms, our grapes are grown on soils that are free of prohibited substances, such as synthetic pesticides, ensuring our fruit is not contaminated. In the vineyard, we use only CCOF approved applications for mildew control, we dig up weeds rather than kill them with chemicals, and we release predatory mites to control damaging mite populations. These practices do cost more, due to higher priced products and labor intensive processes. The results – our dirt and grapes will be free of toxic pesticides, keeping you, our farm workers and our neighbors healthy.

So, after a year of working under these new, healthier and more environmentally friendly conditions, I am now a huge proponent of organic farming and organic eating. At the grocery store, I will now choose the $6 box of organic raspberries over the $4 box of non-organic. And, when I look out the window at the conventionally farmed vineyards that surround me, I know that as a community, we can do better.

Cavalo Salad

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Friday, February 12, 2016

From the Bruschetteria Food Truck
Recipe by Chef John McConnell

One of the most popular items on our Bruschetteria Food Truck menu is the farm fresh Cavalo Salad. This salad brings together kale, cabbage and apples from the Clif Family Farm, tossed with a garlic-anchovy dressing. It’s delicious as a side salad for one of our seasonal bruschetta or on its’ own as a simple and healthy lunch.

Salad Ingredients:
1 medium head kale, washed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 small head of cabbage, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 large apples, chopped into ½ inch pieces
¼ cup pecorino, grated fine

Dressing Ingredients:
5 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 TBSP: capers, drained
1 TBSP: anchovy filets packed in oil, rinsed and squeezed of excess oil
1 TBSP: plus Dijon mustard (slightly heaping tablespoon measure)
2 TBSP + 2 tsp: fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup: neutral vegetable oil (safflower, canola, grapeseed or light olive oil)
1/4 cup: Clif Family Kitchen Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 to 3 dashes: Asian fish sauce (add to taste)

Method:
Mash the garlic, capers and anchovies together, either in a mortar with a pestle or on a cutting board with a chefs’ knife. Transfer to a bowl if not using a mortar. Add the mustard and lemon juice, stir to mix well. Measure the two oils into a cup measure with a pouring spout. Slowly pour a thin stream of oil into the dressing ingredients as you stir vigorously with the pestle or whisk to create an emulsion. Once emulsified, add a few dashes of fish sauce and whisk until incorporated, taste for seasoning.

To assemble the salad, mix the kale, cabbage, and apples. Liberally dress with garlic-anchovy vinaigrette coating all ingredients evenly and sprinkle with pecorino.

Snapper Crudo with Clif Family Kitchen Gewürz Salt

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

Recipe by Executive Chef John McConnell

Ingredients:
2--8-ounce filets fresh snapper, skin removed
2 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp Clif Family Kitchen Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp Clif Family Kitchen Gewürztraminer Salt
1 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed
2 stalks celery, shaved thin
Seasonal garnishes such as shaved beets, radishes, edible flowers and micro greens


Method:
Season both sides of each snapper filet with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Set the filets on a paper towel lined plate and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, depending on the thickness of the filets. This is a quick cure or crudo that allows for the salt to increase firmness of the raw fish and rid it of taste impurities. After 2-3 hours, wash any excess salt from the snapper and pat dry. With a very sharp knife, cut thin slices of crudo and arrange on a platter. Drizzle the snapper crudo with CFK Olive Oil, and lemon juice. Sprinkle CFK Gewürztraminer Salt and crushed pink peppercorns directly on top of the fish. Garnish with celery and delicate farm fresh produce. Enjoy with a glass of chilled Clif Family Gewürztraminer or Rosé Of Grenache.

Winter in the Vineyard

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Thursday, January 21, 2016

Blog Post Written By Laura Barrett

The winter months in the vineyard are quiet and peaceful. The leaves have fallen off the vines, leaving them bare, and dormancy sets in. This gives the crew some time off, Mother Nature an opportunity to saturate the ground, and Winemakers time to plan for the coming season. Here is what is happening at the Clif Family Vineyards this winter….

On Howell Mountain we are welcoming the 20+ inches of rain (and even some snow!) that has already fallen this season. The cover crops that were planted in the fall are thriving in this wet ground. We are doing some off season projects, such as maintaining the fence line and installing additional irrigation line so we can water weak sections of the vineyard separately. We are also thinning shrub in the forest area between our two blocks of Cabernet at Croquet Vineyard. During the growing season, this will improve air flow and reduce mildew pressure. And, at Cold Springs we are preparing to receive two new frost fans that will help protect our precious vines come April. Pruning will begin in just few weeks. In an effort to improve uniformity, we will retrain the vines at Cold Springs from cane pruning to cordon.

As we button up all these winter projects, the 2016 growing season is just around the corner. This is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the 2015 vintage, taste the newly made wines, and set vineyard goals for our next vintage.

Vegetable Couscous Salad

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Recipe by Executive Chef John McConnell

Ingredients:
2 cups couscous
½ cup raisins
1 1/3 vegetable stock
1/3 Clif Family Kitchen Extra Virgin Oil
1-4 ounce package Clif Family Kitchen Lemon Ginger Almonds, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, minced
2 medium zucchini, small dice
1 large red bell pepper, small dice
6 scallions cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tsp salt
4-5 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cumin

Method:
Bring all the vegetable stock to a boil. Place the couscous, raisins and one tablespoon of Clif Family Kitchen Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a bowl. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous, stir with a fork and let stand covered with plastic wrap for 5 minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped Clif Family Kitchen Lemon Ginger Almonds and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon and drain over a paper towel lined plate.

Add the minced onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the chopped zucchini and bell pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and add scallions and salt.

Add the vegetable mixture to the couscous. Stir in toasted Clif Family Kitchen Lemon Ginger Almonds, lemon juice and cumin. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

5 Steps to Finishing White Wine

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Blog Post Written By Laura Barrett

Winter months in the winery bring many different types of projects, such as restarting this year’s stuck fermentations, racking last year’s wines out of barrel, deep cleaning crush equipment or preparing wines for bottling. For me, this winter marks an exciting time as I prepare to bottle my very first wines that I made for Clif Family from grape to bottle - the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2015 Rose of Grenache. In preparation for this process, the white wines will be carefully finished in this step by step process:

1. Evaluation – At this stage, I look at each lot of wine, grouped into its individual components, such as neutral French oaks barrels, stainless steel barrels, and the press fraction. This is an opportunity to declassify any barrels that do not meet our quality standards.

2. Blending – Once I know the base group of barrels that I am working with, the blending process begins. How will these wines best fit together? It’s quite random at the start, with many trial tastes, but quickly becomes more focused and strategic. At this point, I will call in other tasters for blind evaluations and feedback.

3. Adjustments – Once I land on a final base blend, I look for any adjustments that the wine may need. I might do an acid trial where I taste the wine with slightly varied acidity. Or, I may do a color trial where I slightly adjust the pink tone of the Rose. Most often, the decision is made to do nothing at all.

4. Stabilize – Clarity in white wine can be an important factor to winemakers. Many consumers are accustomed to a clear glass of white wine, free of any solid matter or haze. Prior to bottling, wines are typically stable in their environment, which is a constant cellar temperature of 58 degrees. When the wine temperature varies much above or below that, the wine will precipitate solids. In the consumer world, this can be simply leaving the wine in your refrigerator for a week or in a hot car on a summer day. Though a highly debatable topic amongst winemakers, many will prepare the wine for these unfortunate circumstances. At Clif Family, careful fining trials are used to determine the most minimal process needed for stabilization.

5. Filter and Bottle – Final filtration prior to bottling insures clarity and stability in the bottle.

So, with the cold weather settling in, many are enjoying their big red wines with winters stews or roasts. Me, I’m working on these fine white wines, so that when the warm sun peeks through in February and we all have spring fever, the 2015 Clif Family Rose will be ready and waiting.

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