Kit Crawford and Gary Erickson are passionate about cycling. They also love good food and wine. As a result, they launched Clif Family winery in 2003 next to one of the best cycling trails in the Napa Valley. In addition, they opened the Bruschetteria food truck adjoining their tasting room. And, they developed a CCOF-certified organic farm on Howell Mountain. Most importantly, they make every product with a mindset of quality “while having the lowest impact and cost to our planet.” Read on for more details about Clif Family, the three wine samples we tasted, and their fascinating story (hint, they also make CLIF and LUNA energy bars).
Clif Family Story
In 1992, Kit Crawford and Gary Erickson created energy bar giant Clif Bar & Company (named after Gary’s father Clifford). Aside from making the popular CLIF and LUNA bars, Kit and Gary are avid cyclists. And their daytime journeys turned into evenings of good food and wine. Therefore, they decided the next adventure would be to move with their family to the Napa Valley and add wine to their portfolio.
First, they purchased a property next to one of the best cycling trails in the valley and developed a CCOF-certified organic farm, on the backside of Howell Mountain. Consequently, they now farm five acres of vegetable gardens, fruit trees and olives. More than 70 crops include fruit, citrus, olives, blueberries, peppers, tomatoes, beans, corn, lettuce and more. As well, Clif Family farms 90 acres of CCOF and Napa Green Certified estate vineyards in the Howell Mountain and Oak Knoll District AVAs.
In 2003, Gary and Kit established Clif Family with 500 cases of Kit’s Killer Cab and Gary’s Improv. They now produce 12,000 cases, almost entirely sold at their tasting rooms and on their website.
Their fruit and vegetables make their way to their tasting room’s adjoining food truck, Bruschetteria. Executive Chef John McConnell wows locals and tourists alike with his seasonal dishes such as bruschette, porchetta, rotisserie chicken, salads, sides, and dishes to complement the wines.
In addition to wine, Clif Family sells preserves, nut mixes, honey, dark chocolates, hot sauces and extra virgin olive oil. Their goal is “to craft unique, regional wine and foods using practices that care for the earth and to support growers who use sustainable and organic farming methods.”
Clif Family Wines
Each year, Clif Family bottles 16 different wines. Winemaker Laura Barrett crafts these wines with minimal intervention for a true expression of the grape’s character. “Winemaking begins in the vineyard. With careful, thoughtful farming and attention to detail, we are able to capture the uniqueness of our three Estate Vineyards in each bottle. My goal is for these wines to showcase how very different our vineyard sites are, despite being just a few miles apart.”
Clif Family The Climber Red Wine 2019 ($42)
The Climber 2019 is a classic Bordeaux-style blend, with a backbone of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, supported by 11% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot, 5% Malbec and 1% Cab Franc. Clif Family sources all the grapes from the western side of Oak Knoll District, at the mouth of Napa Valley. This is a balanced, approachable wine, but it’s still young, so we recommend decanting. As the flavors open up, there’s a textured, layered mouthfeel. Aromas of herbs, olives, spices, cedar and savory notes are mirrored on the palate, along with milk chocolate, plums and blackberries.
Clif Family Malbec 2019 ($60)
2019 is the inaugural vintage of Clif Family Malbec Napa Valley. Grapes for this impressive wine are grown organically at Yountmill Vineyards, just north of Yountville. Quality is evident in this blend of 85% Malbec. It’s topped with 15% Petit Verdot, which brings additional black fruit, spices and freshness to the wine. On the nose, we found pretty aromas of plums, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and spices. Juicy dark fruit flavors and savory notes are evident on the palate. This Malbec pairs well with blue cheese burgers, but it is so delicious, you could easily drink it without food, enjoying sips by the fireplace.
Kit’s Killer Cab 2018 ($75)
Yes indeed, this is a killer Cab. This premium, full-bodied, structured wine blends 7% Petite Sirah with Cabernet Sauvignon from Cold Springs and Croquet Estate Vineyards. Both sites are located in the Howell Mountain AVA, known for its magnificent Cabs. Add this beauty to the list. But be sure to decant it. If we had another bottle, we’d put it in the cellar for a few years, and then boom! That’s how much potential this Cab has. Indeed, Clif Family calls it “King of the Mountain,” which also refers to the best climber in a cycling road race. Winner of Double Gold in the 2021 Sunset International Wine Competition, pair this robust wine with grilled beef or a hearty pasta Bolognese.
In conclusion, Clif Family features quality wines with sustainability at the heart of their viticulture and winemaking practices. You can find these Napa Valley wines online. Or visit their tasting room or their Enoteca Private Tasting Salon. You can also participate in a virtual wine and food experience. So what are you waiting for?
Margot and Dave