Clif Notes

A mid harvest pause

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Blog Post Written by Laura Barrett

After a few busy weeks of white winemaking, we have paused to catch our breath, and wait for the reds to ripen. Hats off to the crew at Palisades Wine Company who have been working night and day to get my white grapes pressed! For now, the Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier are quietly finishing fermentation in barrel. The Gewurztraminer is about mid-ferment and will go to barrel shortly.The Chardonnay and Rose´ of Grenache were just inoculated yesterday and will be rolling in the coming days. Everything is tasting and smelling great and my overall observation on white wine quality is this…. Great flavor with low sugar and high acidity early. It’s a year to ignore the calendar and follow your instincts.

In the vineyard, we have at least 10-14 days before considering the next pick. Croquet Vineyard Cabernet is sitting at 24.5 Brix. The weather is mild this week, so we have some time. In the meantime, we will give our white wines all the love and attention they need to finish fermenting. And perhaps we will enjoy a Saturday or Sunday off!

Harvest has begun!

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Monday, August 24, 2015

And just like that, we’re in the thick of it! We had a burst of picking last week after a few very hot days. We brought in 8.9 tons of Sauvignon Blanc, 2.5 tons of Viognier and 4 tons of Gewurztraminer. The quality of the white wines is excellent so far. I’m seeing great flavor development at low sugar and high acid. We’ve seen a brief cooling pattern with some early morning fog and highs in the mid 80’s. This weather has slowed things down a bit and allowed us to catch our breath at the winery. On the harvest horizon is Oak Knoll Chardonnay, Mendocino Rose of Grenache and perhaps some Zinfandel within the next week or so.

Have a Hearty Harvest

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Tuesday, August 18, 2015

(Serves ten people for $150)

Harvest Meal to include:
Three Mary’s organic roasted chickens with rosemary and lemon
Kale Salad with cabbage, apples, Pecorino cheese and vinaigrette
Fagoli e Grano – grain and bean salad with veggies from the farm
Homemade Cookies

Orders must be placed 48 hours in advance by calling Michelle or Meg at (707)968-0625 or e-mailing at
We are delivering for Harvest! Complimentary delivery, as available, for orders of $300 or more north of the Oakville Cross Road and South of Lincoln Blvd. in Calistoga, including Howell and Spring Mountains. There is a $25 delivery charge for harvest orders under $300.

Also, keep your harvest team hard at work and energized by adding Clif Bar products to your order or by visiting Velo Vino. Mention the code “HARVEST CLIF” to receive a 30% discount on your Clif Bar order.

This harvest meal offer is good until November 1st.

Hours of Operation
Clif Family Bruschetteria, Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30AM – 4PM most days
Velo Vino, 7 days a week, 10:00AM – 5:00PM

Three Sisters Planting

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Farm is bursting with activity this summer! Aside from the normal hustle and bustle of Farm life, Drew and I have been busy harvesting an amazing bounty that we have been sharing with you via Clif Family Kitchen jams, olive oil, and vinegars, the Bruschetteria Food Truck, and the St. Helena Farmers’ Market! Despite the full days, I have been enjoying playing mad scientist at the Farm. Inspired by Dan Barber’s book, THE THIRD PLATE, I got to thinking about how and why we Farm the way we do. In this day and age of monoculture, the importance of plant diversity couldn’t be more apparent and we are exploring this through our work with the Seed Matters initiative and the “Three Sisters” planting technique.

Barber’s book discusses farming in traditional Iroquois fashion, “The Three Sisters”, stemming from a Mohawk legend about sisters who were reliant on each other, but were sadly separated. Each sister in this legend represents a planting. The little sister in green is the bean. Her sister in yellow is the squash, and the elder sister with long flowing hair of yellow and the green shawl is the corn. The logic behind this technique is to group crops together to create a symbiotic relationship that benefits the plants, the soil and the farmer. The beans enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen, the corn provides a trellis for the beans to climb, and the squash provides ground cover to control the weeds and also produces tasty vegetable to harvest. Watering is all that’s needed to keep this system running. Watching the Clif version of the “Three Sisters” planting has been a real inspiration. The corn is beautiful, beans are sprouting, and squash flowers are covering the ground with bright colors. This planting in conjunction with our seed saving is creating a vibrant ecosystem at the farm, which is evidenced by happy pollinating bees buzzing everywhere.

In The Vineyard With Laura

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Friday, August 7, 2015

With harvest only a few short weeks away, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the vineyards. I thought this would be a great time to introduce you to our Estate Vineyards and Grower Partners. Here they are…..

Amendola Vineyard – Our Sauvignon Blanc comes from this 1.5 acre, dry- farmed vineyard on Fulton Lane in downtown St. Helena.
Fortuna Vineyard – Turnbull’s Fortuna vineyard is located on the Silverado Trail in Oakville. We source a young block of Viognier from here. With their impeccable farming techniques, this is sure to be a special wine.
Ferrington Vineyard – Located just outside of Boonville in the Anderson Valley AVA of Mendocino County, the Ferrington Vineyard is home to our Gewurztraminer.
Bartolomei Vineyard – The Bartolomei family has lived in Talmage, just east of Ukiah, since the early 1900’s. Today, the fourth generation brothers farm the vineyards and have great knowledge of the land. Our Grenache comes from the Bartolomei Brothers, from which I make both red wine and Rose.
Matthaisson Vineyard – Steve Matthaisson has a 7-acre parcel of Chardonnay on Orchard Avenue in Napa, a popular neighborhood for high end Chardonnay. This vineyard is organically farmed.
Yount Mill Vineyards – The Hoxey family is another family with long history in the grape and wine business. Their ranch is located on the valley floor in Yountville and here we source organically farmed Grenache for our Bici Blend.
Beatty Ranch – Our Zinfandel comes from this 34 acre vineyard, nestled at 1800 ft elevation in the Howell Mountain AVA.
Nichelini Vineyard – If you have ever taken the windy drive out to Lake Berryessa on highway 128, you have surely passed below the Nichelini Vineyard. At approximately 1200 ft elevation, the view of the Vaca Mountains is stunning and so is the Petite Sirah.
Cold Springs Vineyard – Located in the Howell Mountain AVA at the very end of Cold Springs Road is Clif Family Winery’s first Estate Cabernet vineyard. Purchased in 2010, the 5.5 acres of clone 4, 7 and 337 grow on decomposed volcanic ash-like soil. This property is CCOF certified organic.
Croquet Vineyard – Also in the Howell Mountain AVA, the Croquet property was purchased by Clif Family Winery in 2012. It is home to a professional croquet court and 3.3 acres of CCOF certified Estate mountain Cabernet.
The Home Vineyard – Located just below the Howell Mountain AVA line at 1170 ft elevation, the Home Vineyard is where we grow our Estate Zinfandel, adjacent to the Clif Family Farm.

So, with all that information in your pocket, you’ll be well versed as I talk about each of these sites throughout the course of harvest. I expect to schedule our first pick within the next 10 days, so stay tuned!

Meet Laura Barrett

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Tuesday, August 4, 2015

For those of us who have not met, I am Laura Barrett, Winemaker for Clif Family Winery. I began this position in November of 2014, just after the last grapes of 2014 were harvested and fermented. What an interesting time to begin! I had so many exciting winemaking projects to tackle – bottling the 2014 white wines, blending and bottling the 2013 red wines, finishing and aging the 2014 red wines, sourcing fruit for 2015 and getting to know our three Estate Vineyards: Croquet, Cold Springs and the Home Vineyard – all before I actually made a drop of wine! I’ve had almost a year now to get to know this great group of people, the wines and the company’s goals… all in preparation for my very first vintage in 2015.

We are now gearing up for harvest in the Napa Valley. What a perfect time to start a blog! My hope is to bring you along on my winemaking journey and to share what it’s like to be in the thick of it. We’ll talk about updates we’re making in the vineyard and in the cellar, and what it’s like preserving style while making your first wines within a new project. I look forward to having you follow me during this journey and the opportunity to share the fruits of my labor in the coming years!

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