Clif Notes

A Day on the Truck

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Friday, April 22, 2016

Blog Post Written By Laura Barrett

My grandparents owned a restaurant when I was growing up and I was one of the few family members to not work there. After working a day at the Clif Family Bruschetteria, I’m not quite sure why I passed up this great opportunity!? I loved being in the kitchen! As part of a team building effort, we were all invited to work with our culinary team for a morning. Today was my day.

I arrived at 8AM and the kitchen was buzzing. Music was loud, coffee was brewed and everyone was hard at work. I started with assembling a 4lb cookie kit. For those of you who have had Chef John’s salted chocolate hazelnut cookies, you know this was my lucky day. I measured out all the ingredients, placed carefully on a sheet pan, labeled, and put away for another rainy day baking project. Do you know that even the brown sugar is organic? The eggs where the most delicate and beautiful I have seen, similar to what you would find being laid at your neighbors coop. As I snapped a photo of the recipe, I knew that it was these quality ingredients that I really needed in order to have these delicious treats at home.

Next, I made hummus – two batches of what goes into our Dip Duo. Fresh squeezed lemon juice from the farm. Sonoma Vinegar Works red wine vinegar. Again, the highest quality ingredients sourced from local farms and vendors.

After my prep cook training, I then helped the truck crew get the truck set up and loaded. We put all the beautifully prepared foods in their designated spot and turned on all the equipment before I got to sit co-pilot on the very slow 0.10 mile drive into position at Velo Vino. At this point I got to work on the truck, and I grilled the first 20 or so pieces of Model Bakery bruschetta bread. 35 seconds at a 45 degree angle, another 35 seconds at the opposing 45 degree angle, flip it and do it again. My grill marks were superb (at least by the 20th piece.)

By the time the lunch crowd showed up at the truck, it was time for me to head back to the winery. It was truly a feel-good kind of day. I enjoyed spending time with my co-workers that I don’t see on a daily basis. I now have a greater understanding of what goes into each delicious item that I so frequently eat for lunch. And, I have a much greater appreciation for food truck operations and what it means to bring fine dining to a street corner near you.

Grilled Halibut Kabobs

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Friday, April 15, 2016

Recipe by Executive Chef John McConnell

Grilled Halibut Kabobs with Toasted Pistachio Dukkah

1 lb. Halibut fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces (purchase large center portion measuring at least 1 inch, no tail piece)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pint pitted green olives (we used Castelvetranos)
1 small red onion, cut in ½ inch pieces
1 lemon, juiced
4 tbsp Clif Family Kitchen Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
2 tbsp Clif Family Kitchen Toasted Pistachio Dukkah
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper to season

Marinate cubed halibut pieces in juice of one lemon and 2 tablespoons of CFK extra virgin olive oil for about 15 minutes. Thread ingredients onto the skewers (if using bamboo skewers soak in water prior to using) starting with red onion, then halibut, cherry tomato, and green olive. Repeat this pattern twice per skewer, ending with more red onion. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

On a very hot grill or grill pan, grill kabobs until the fish is completely cooked through, about five minutes per side. Remove kabobs from grill and season all sides with CFK Toasted Pistachio Dukkah.

Serve the halibut kabobs over Greek yogurt seasoned with salt and pepper and garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons CFK extra virgin olive oil.


Porcini Beef Chili

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

Recipe by Executive Chef John McConnell

The best chili depends on the slow, careful stacking of flavor, building tons of complexity and ultimately ending with a kind of can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it smoky spiciness that your guests won’t quite be able to figure out. Think of our Clif Family Kitchen Porcini Spice Rub as your secret ingredient adding a dose of rich, mysterious savoriness to this easy-to-make chili or your own favorite chili recipe.

3 Tbsp Clif Family Kitchen Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 lbs ground beef
1 ½ cup onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 Tbsp Clif Family Kitchen Porcini Spice Rub
3 Tbsp Chili Powder(s)*
2 - 28 oz cans diced tomatoes, with juice not drained
1 cup water, beef broth, brewed coffee or lager beer - depending on taste preference
1 - 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 15 oz can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Suggested garnishes: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced scallions

In a large, heavy pot or a medium enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add half of the ground beef and cook over high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes; transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Brown the remaining ground beef. Return the first batch of browned beef to the pot. Add minced onions to the pot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, 8-10 minutes. Add minced garlic, porcini spice rub and chili powder(s). *To increase taste complexity, consider using a blend of standard spice-shelf chili powder, ancho powder-a bit sweet and chipotle powder- adds smokiness, blended to amount to 3 Tbsp. total. Cook stirring occasionally until the spices are aromatic about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the canned tomatoes and water or liquid of choice, bring to a boil, then quickly turn down heat and simmer the chili over low heat until reduced by 1/3, about an hour. Stir occasionally. Add the beans and heat through. Season with salt to taste. Garnish and enjoy!

Spring in the Vineyard

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

Blog Post Written By Laura Barrett

Spring is in the air in the Napa Valley. The patio at Velo Vino is buzzing with people out to sip wine, the days are longer, and the vines are beginning to push green growth. For winemakers and viticulturalists, bud break is our new beginning, a new opportunity to make another vintage of great wines.

As the buds break, we have a lot of exciting happenings at the Clif Family Estate. First, we are thrilled to welcome spring after a fairly wet winter. During drought times, spring often comes with apprehension, with hope for one more wet weather pattern before summer sets in. However, the winter of 2016 brought more than 42 inches of rain to the Howell Mountain AVA. With 5 inches above normal, we feel confident that reservoirs are full and wells are replenished.

Though, we continue to be completely obsessed with the weather! This winter, we installed two weather stations – one at the Cold Springs Estate and one at the Home Farm. These stations will allow us to remotely monitor temperature, humidity, dew point, rainfall, and the accumulation of degree days. So, from now until early June, we will carefully watch the weather stations for early morning frost. Our phones will ring in the wee hours of the morning to let us know that it’s near freezing. With those alarms, the frost fans turn on to push the cold air up to mix with the warmer air above, raising the temperature at ground level. This effect will help protect the new growth from any frost damage.

Finally, this week marked our very first regular vineyard meeting to monitor vine progress. We will begin to mow the cover crops, then start our organic spray cycle for mildew control. We will quickly progress to cultivation and weed control before moving on to sucker removal.

And so begins another season and the start of the 2016 vintage for Clif Family!

Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Balls

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Monday, March 7, 2016

Recipe by Executive Chef John McConnell

Chef John created these delicious Cheese Balls using our Clif Family Kitchen Smoked Paprika Almonds to pair with our Clif Family Petite Sirah.They quickly became the star of the party at our recent wine club release weekend.


  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 oz aged cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 Tbsp fresh red pepper, diced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup Clif Family Kitchen Smoked Paprika Almonds, chopped

Spread softened cream cheese into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle on the shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, diced red pepper, salt, Worcestershire and lemon juice. With a sturdy spatula mix ingredients until well blended. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding salt to taste.

To achieve a higher nut-to-cheese mixture ratio we prefer to make 3 varying size cheese balls instead of one large one. Scrape the mixture into small plastic wrap-lined round bowls; gather up plastic around cheese, shaping into balls. Chill until firm, 3-12 hours. Just before serving, unwrap cheese ball and roll in chopped smoked paprika almonds until covered. Serve with crostini.

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.

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